Terry Maxwell: Making Models and Memories, June 20, 2017

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Terry Maxwell

Aboard R/V Hugh R. Sharp

June 6 – 21, 2017

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographic Area of Cruise: Northeast Atlantic Ocean
Date: June 20, 2017

Weather Data from the Bridge
Latitude: 41 18.06 N
Longitude: 68 42.35
Wind Speed: 20.3 knots
Air Temperature: 15.3 C

Science and Technology Log

I’ve had a lot of people ask “So what is the purpose of this trip?”  I thought it would be fitting to answer that question in this last blog from sea.  I’ve explained the process of collecting the data out here at sea.  I’ve explained the technology and methods we’ve used to collect it.  But the logical question now is, what happens once this data has been collected?

I’ve had the pleasure serving on the second half of this trip with NOAA Mathematical Biologist, Dvora Hart.  Dvora is the lead scientist for the scallop fishery.  She is well known in the New England area for her work with scallop fisheries.  To many of you in the Midwest, scallops may not seem like a big deal, but did you know that scallops are the second largest commercial fishery market in America?  In 2016 scallops were a 485 million dollar industry.  They are second only to the lobster market in terms of commercial fisheries value.

NOAA has been completing scallop surveys with lined dredges since 1978.  The methods have changed over the years as the technology and research methods have advanced, and these methods have yielded success.  However the scallop fisheries have not always been as plentiful as they are now.  In 1994 several measures were put in place to help a struggling scallop fishery.  The changes were larger dredge rings so smaller scallops would pass through, less crew members on board a vessel, and sections of one of the most productive fisheries in the Atlantic, Georges Bank, would be closed for portions of time to scallop fishermen.

These kind of changes come from a Regional Fisheries Management Council.  This council has appointed members from the governors of the New England states involved, head of NOAA Greater Atlantic Fisheries gets a seat, and then 3 more members from each state are nominated.  The end result is 19 members who make up this council to decide how to best run a variety of commercial marine organisms in the Northeast Atlantic.  There is also a technical committee, which advises this council.   This is where Dvora Hart and the data from the scallop survey come in.

habcam survey charts
Data from the HabCam surveys are very effective at adding a layer of depth to the knowledge of the population of scallops in the Northeast Atlantic Ocean.

The scallop survey, which started May 16th, has been meticulously planned out by NOAA Fisheries.  The area where the scallop survey has been preformed has been broken up into regions called strata.  These strata areas are determined by their depth and their general geographical area.  Once scallops are collected in a strata, a weighted mean, a size frequency, shell heights, and a mean number of scallops of each size category are taken.  From the meat weights that were collected, a total biomass of scallops for the area is taken.  There is a relationship between the meat weight and the shell height which gives researches an idea of the total biomass of scallops in the area.  At any given depth there is a conversion of shell height to meat weight.  These numbers can be plugged into software which can model the biomass for an area.

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Scallop biomass modeling from the 2016 survey.

All of the data collected during the NOAA scallop survey is combined with the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) scallop survey.  Dvora and the NOAA scientists created forecasting models for 19 different areas in the Northeast Atlantic.  Forecasts are made using the predicted biomass for the strata areas, by aging the samples of scallop shells collected, fishing mortality (amount of caught by fishermen), and natural mortality rates.  Models are then created to forecast 15 years out to predict the consequences of fishing an area heavy.  Dvora is part of a technical team that advises the Regional Fisheries Management Council using the data collected in this survey and the models her and her team have created.  Scallop fisheries are very healthy currently due to the data collected, data interpreted, and models created by NOAA scientists, commercial fishermen, and Regional Fisheries Management Council.

Personal Log
These 16 days have been quite an experience.  I’d like to share just 5 of the more memorable moments from this trip.

5. Amazing sites of nature.  What a unique experience to be out only surrounded by the vast Atlantic Ocean for over two weeks.  I’ve seen so many awe inspiring moments.  Sun rises, sun sets, full moons over the ocean in a clear sky, rainbows that span the horizon, thousands of stars in the sky, and thick ominous fog which lasts for 24 hours.  Truly once in a life time sights.

 

 

4. The 12 hour shifts.  Whether it was running the Habcam and joking around with the crew while we watched computer screens for 12 hours or working the dredge station in all kinds of conditions, the work was fun.  Being out on the deck working the dredge was my favorite type of work.  To be out in the open air was awesome regardless of how hard the work was.  The last day the waters were crazy as we worked on the deck.

 

 

3. The awesome animals that came up in the dredge.  Too many pictures to post here, but my favorite animal was the goosefish.  That fish looked like it wanted to take a bite out of your arm even if it was out of water.  Such an awesome animal.

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Seeing these goosefish come out of the dredge never got old.  Such an amazing fish.

2. The awesome animals that would come near the boat.  Crew members saw whales, dolphins, sharks, sunfish, and mola mola.  Though my favorite was my first day out when the humpback whales surrounded the boat, the dolphins riding by the boat is was a close second.

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One of our last days a group of about 4 dolphins followed the ship for about 10 minutes.

1. General life about the Hugh R. Sharp.  What a great group of people to be with for 16 days.  I felt accepted and looked out for the whole time I was here.  Mike Saminsky dropping what he was doing the first day I got to the ship to show me around and grab some dinner, TR sharing his hidden stash of snacks with me, a variety of crew members trying to help me through my sea sickness, and every body on the cruise allowing me to ask questions and interview them.  Just the general down time and laughs had will be very memorable.

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General life aboard the Hugh R. Sharp will be a lasting memory for me.

Thank you to the people of NOAA, the Hugh R. Sharp, my wife and kids (Hannah you are amazing for shouldering the extra load at home!), and family, friends, and students that followed the blog at home.  This has been an experience of a lifetime, and I’m grateful to all of you who made it possible.  Specific thanks to my work crew chief Nicole Charriere who was an awesome leader during this cruise.  I learned a lot about how to lead a group watching her.  Thank you to Larry Brady and Jonathan Duquette the Chief scientists for this cruise.  Their organization and decision making made this a smooth experience for me.  Thank you to Katie Sowers, Emily Susko, Jennifer Hammond, and Huthaifah Khatatbeh for help with the trip arrangements and all of my blog questions, you all made this experience much easier.

Did You Know?

I will travel over 1,000 miles to go home today.  Yes that’s crazy to me.  But I have traveled over 1,000 nautical miles on the Hugh R. Sharp since this cruise has began.

 

Terry Maxwell: Time is Not On Our Side, June 14, 2017

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Terry Maxwell

Aboard R/V Hugh R. Sharp

June 6–21, 2017

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographic Area of Cruise: Northeast Atlantic Ocean
Date: June 14, 2017

Weather Data from the Bridge
Latitude: 41 31.54 N
Longitude: 70 40.49 W
Wind Speed 10 Knots (11.5 mph)
Air Temp 20.2 C (68.4 Fahrenheit)

Science and Technology Log

Contrary to the popular Rolling Stones song “Time is on my Side,” time is not on our side while we are taking survey of the scallop population in the Northeast Atlantic Ocean. This survey has been meticulously planned for months leading up to the actually event. There is no time budgeted to sit at a dredge station longer than you have to.

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The Nobeltec Cruise Track for the 2nd and 3rd legs of the 2017 Scallop Survey.  You can see this survey has covered 1000’s of nautical miles, and stopped at over 100 dredge stations.

For seven days our noon to midnight science crew has been working at a blistering pace to dredge the ocean floor or take pictures with the underwater camera, HabCam.  We are on a tight schedule, and in a twelve hour period we are able to work through 10 dredge stations.  There has been little down time, and because some of the dredge stations are so close together, there is no time to be unproductive while we are at a station.  Because of this, there are often stations where we simply are not able to individually count all the organisms we collect.  There are many situations where our crew must use the method of subsampling.

For you in the Midwest, imagine you wanted to know how many dandelions were in your yard.  Now if you are anything like me, you have way too many to count.  If you went to count them all individually, it would literally take you all day if not more.  It is just not time efficient to do such a thing.  But if we took a population sample of some random areas in the yard, we could come up with an answer of how many dandelions were in the yard, and get a very close answer to actually counting them individually.

A similar example I can give you is with a recent dredge catch that was full of sand dollars.  In one of our massive dredge catches composed of about 99.5% sand dollars, I completed an estimate sand dollars in a similar manner.  I filled 2 liter pail full of sand dollars.  My count for that pail was 188 sand dollars per 2 liters.  In this catch we had 46 baskets each with a volume of 46 liters.  So at 94 sand dollars per liter with there being 2,116 liters total, you can estimate there are about 198,904 sand dollars in that dredge catch.

sand dollars
A dredge catch that was almost 100% sand dollars.  These sand dollars are dripping with a green algae and cover our buckets and wet gear in a green coating.

We are faced with similar tasks while sorting through the dredge.  When we face those situations, we turn to the method of sampling, and we take a representative sample of our catch.  At most stations we are taking count of sea stars, crabs, waved whelks, all fish, and scallops.  When we collect the dredge, most of the time it would not be time efficient to totally count up all the sea stars, so we turn to subsampling.

Here’s how subsampling works.  Once we have sorted our dredge catch into various pails, we count up our specimens.  For sea stars however we always take a subsample.  To do that our watch-chief takes a scoop full of whatever is in our discard pails, and she does this randomly.  She puts the random sample in a 4.5 liter pail.  From here, she can begin to estimate the number of sea stars in our dredge catch.  For example, if she goes through the 4.5 liter pail and finds six sea stars, and she knows there are four 46 liter pails of discard from the dredge, with a little math work she can figure out how many stars are in the dredge.  If there are four 46 liter pails of discard, then there is a total of 186 liters of discard.  She knows from her random sample that there are 6 sea stars per 4.5 liters which would come out to 1.3 sea stars per liter.  By multiplying that number by 186, you can determine that an expanded estimate for the sea stars in the dredge collection would be 242 sea stars.

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An example of our discard baskets from our dredge catches.  This catch was sea star heavy, and this shows it would have taken too much time to count each sea star individually.  Since many sea stars are predators of scallops, a count needs to be recorded.

We also use this method when we have a large catch of scallops.  When we have an overly large scallop catch on the dredge, we are not able to count and measure every single scallop from the catch.  In these cases we use a representative amount.  In one case we caught 24 baskets of scallops, each basket able to hold 46 liters.  If we were to measure all of those scallops we would be at that station far too long to move onto the next dredge.  When we caught enough scallops to fill 24 baskets, we used 3 baskets of scallops as a representative amount.  All of the scallops in the 3 baskets were measured for their shell height.  We would then take a mean average from these scallops to represent the 21 other baskets.  We are also able to estimate the number of scallops in the 24 baskets the same way I estimated the number of sand dollars in a dredge catch.

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A large catch of scallops from one of our dredge stations.  In this case a representative sample of shell heights was taken.

 

Representative samples and population estimations through sampling are valuable tools that scientists use to collect a lot of data in a more efficient amount of time.  From this data, mathematical models and predictions are developed.  By implementing these methods, we are able to get more data from more locations.

Personal Log

It has been 9 days since I arrived in Woods Hole, Massachusetts to be a part of this journey.  As I shared in my last blog, it is hard to be away from home, but many of the people here are gone more than 100 days per year.  There is one thing that makes that time away easier….eating!  Here on the Hugh R. Sharp, I would imagine I’ve put on some extra pounds.  Most days I feel like a cow grazing.  There are so many snacks on board, that it is so easy just to walk by the galley and grab a mini candy bar, chips, pop, or ice cream.  I have discovered there is no better candy bar than a Baby Ruth.  On top of the snacks and sweets, the cook, Paul, cooks up some mean dinners.   Though I miss my wife’s home cooking, Paul’s cooking is a good substitute.

paul and candy
Lots of candy and snacks and some good dinners is probably leading to some extra poundage!  There are two drawers always full of candy, and a freezer always full of ice cream.  Pictured on the left is the ship’s cook, Paul.

Outside of eating, there is not much recreational time on the ship.  I do try to get up a couple hours before our shift begins to just enjoy being out on the ocean.  I haven’t been able to make myself get up yet for sunrise at 5:05 AM.  After working a twelve hour shift sorting dredge catches, there’s not much you want to do but sleep.  Sleeping on the boat has been good.  Probably some of the deepest sleep I’ve had since our kids were born.  I’ve gotten used to the motion of the boat, the sound of waves hitting the bow, and the boat stabilizers which sound like a giant snoring.  I’m a sleep walker, so that was a concern coming in that I would find myself on deck, sleep walking.  But I’m sleeping so sound, I don’t think it’s possible.  However I did warn my roommates to stop me if they saw me up in the middle of the night.
Part B of the survey has started, and with that most of my crew got off the ship, and I will have a new crew starting today.  It was a great group of people to work with.

crew
Part A of the survey the day crew from left to right: Crew chief Nicole, myself, Dylan, Sue, and Nancy.  Then the night crew of Lauren, John, Jill, Han, and crew chief Mike.

 

Did You Know?

Living in Illinois, there are not many times where knowing your parts of a ship come in handy.  However, as I have been living on the Hugh R. Sharp for over a week now I have picked up some terms.  I did not know many of these coming on, so this is a “Did you know?” moment for me.

Front of the ship: bow
Back of the ship: stern
Moving to the front of the ship: forward
Moving to the back of the ship: aft

bow
The left of this picture is port, and the right is starboard.  It took me awhile to figure out what our turn would be like if we were making a turn to starboard.

If you were on the bow, your left would be the: port
If you were on the bow, your right would be the: starboard
Fathom: 6 feet
A heading of zero: North, a heading of 90: East, a heading of 180: South, a heading of 270: West
Heading to a location quickly: steam
Kitchen (where I constantly graze in between dredge stations): galley
Location of the ship’s navigational equipment is: bridge
Bathrooms: the head

Not much use for these terms in the Midwest!

 

Terry Maxwell: Scallop Pails and Humpback Whales, June 7, 2017

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Terry Maxwell

Aboard R/V Hugh R. Sharp

June 6 – 21, 2017

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographic Area of Cruise: Northeast Atlantic Ocean
Date: June 7, 2017

Weather Data from the Bridge
Latitude: 41 30.90 N
Longitude: 69 18.76 W
Air Temp 14.1° Celsius ( 57.3° Fahrenheit)
Wind speed 4.7 Knots (5.4 mph)

Science and Technology Log

Due to the poor weather delay on the 6th, June 7th was our first day out for the crew I am working with. Our ship is divided into two crews so we can work our operations around the clock.  The crew I am working with works from noon to midnight, while the other crew works midnight to noon.  On the 7th, were able to drop the dredge and attempt to collect scallops to assess the health, size, and population of those organisms.

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Sometimes the dredge brings up more than scallops!  This goosefish uses it’s illicium which act like fishing lures to attract fish close enough to be gulped by its large mouth.

We work those hours mainly using the collection process of dredging the ocean floor for scallops, but along the way, several other bottom dwelling ocean creatures are caught in the dredge.

A crane operator with the help of two deck workers lowers the dredge into the water.  Once the dredge is in place to go into the water the crane operator releases cable until the dredge reaches the ocean floor.  Depth readouts are calculated beforehand to determine how deep the dredge will need to drop.  With this information the dredge cable is let out at a 3.5:1 ratio, meaning for every meter of ocean depth we are in, 3.5 meter of cable is let out.  With this ratio the dredge is dropped with an angle that keeps it flat to the ocean floor.  The crane operator is also reading a line tension readout in the crane booth to determine when the dredge has hit the ocean floor.  We are typically in 200–350 ft of water when these dredges occur.  The dredge travels behind the boat for 15 minutes, and is then pulled in.

On the dredge is a sensor called the “Star-Oddi.” This sensor detects the pitch and roll to make sure it was lying flat on the bottom of the ocean.  The Star-Oddi also collects temperature and depth information as the dredge is traveling.  The sensor is taken out of the dredge once it is brought up so watch-chief can see if the dredge was functioning properly throughout the tow.

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University of Maine student Dylan Benoit is taking out the Star-Oddi after a dredge.

Once the dredge is hauled up, it is dumped onto a large metal table that the science crew stands around.  Two of the Hugh R Sharp’s vessel technicians then scoop the collected haul to an awaiting science crew.

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The dredge is unloaded with a good haul of scallops.

The science crew will then divide the haul into several different collection pails.  The main objective of this crew is to collect scallops.  Scallops collected are organized into different sizes.  Fish are also collected and organized by a NOAA scientist who can properly identify the fish.  At some of the dredge stations we collect numbers of crabs, waved whelks, and sea stars as well.

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This dredge was especially sandy.  In a typical day we reach around 6-8 dredge stations during our twelve hour shift.  Here I am sorting through the sand looking for scallops, fish, crabs, and wave whelks.

Once the haul is collected and sorted, our science team takes the haul into a lab station area.  In the lab, several pieces of data are collected.  If we are at a station where crabs and whelks are collected, then the number of those are recorded as well.  Fish taken from the dredge are sorted by species, some species are weighed and measured for length. Some of the species of fish are measured and some are counted by NOAA scientists.

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In the dry lab the midnight to noon science crew takes measurements and records data.

 

Also in this lab station, all of the collected scallops are measured for their shell height.  A small sample of scallops are shucked (opened) to expose the meat and gonads, which are individually weighed and recorded.  Once opened we also identify if a scallop is diseased, specifically looking for shell blisters, nematodes, Orange-nodules, or gray meats.

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Scallop disease guide posted in the dry lab.

Also at this station, the gender of the scallop is identified.  You can identify the gender by the color of the gonad.  Males have a white gonad, while a female’s looks red or pink. Finally at this station, commensal organisms are checked for.  A common relationship we have seen during this trip is that of the scallop and red hake.  The red hake is a small fish that is believed to use the scallop shell as shelter while it is young.  As they get older, red hake have been identified to be in the depression around the scallop, still trying to use the scallop for shelter, even though it can no longer fit inside.

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A shucked clam that had a red hake living inside of it when it was collected in the dredge.

After that has happened the shells are cleaned and given an ID number.  These scallop shells are bagged up, to be further examined in NOAA labs by a scientist that specializes in scallop aging.

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These scallops have been shucked, and now their shells will be researched by a scallop aging expert at NOAA.  My job is to be the recorder for the cutter.  I do the final cleaning on the scallop shells, tag them, and bag them.

If you’d like to know how this process works, watch the video below.   The watch-chief, Nicole Charriere, of the science crew members I work with, explains the process in this short clip.

 

Transcript:

(0:00) Nichole Charriere. I’m the watch chief on the day watch, so working with Terry. I’ve been working at the Northeast Fisheries Science Center for about 6 ½ years. When we’re out here on deck, basically, we put a small sensor on the dredge that helps monitor the pitch, the roll, and kind of whether the dredge is fishing right side up or upside down. And we offload that sensor after every tow, put a new one on, and that sensor will tell us basically how that dredge is fishing, because we always want the dredge to be in contact with the bottom, fishing for the entire 15 minutes if we can.

(0:45) The dredge is deployed 15 minutes for the bottom and then it comes back up and then the catch is dumped on the table. Then depending on how far away the next station is, sometimes we take out crabs and whelks, and we account for the amount of starfish that are in each tow because those are predators of scallops. So we want to make sure that we’re kind of tracking the amount of predation that’s in the area. And you usually find if you have sometimes a lot of starfish, a lot of crabs of certain sizes, you’ll find less starfish. I mean you’ll find less scallops. 

(1:22) After the entire catch is sorted, we’re bringing it to the lab. We have scallops, we have scallops “clappers,” which are dead scallops that still have the hinge attached, and that’s important for us because we can track mortality. Once the hinge kind of goes away, the shell halves separate. Can’t really tell how recently it’s died. But while that hinge is intact, you can tell it’s basically dead recently. So you kind of get a decent idea of scallop mortality in that area like that.

(1:52) Scallop, scallop clappers, we kind of count fish, we kind of measure usually commercially important ones as well. Then we take scallop meat weights, so we open up the scallop– Terry’s been doing a lot of that too– open up the scallop, we kind of blot the meat weight so it’s like a dry meat weight, and we measure, we weigh the gonad as well, and that kind of tracks the health of the scallop.

(2:21) And then the rest of us are doing lengths of the scallop, and that’s so that we get a length frequency of the scallops that are in the area. Usually we’re looking for about… if you look at the graph it’s like a bell curve, so you kind of get an average, and then you get a few smaller scallops and a few larger scallops. And that’s pretty much it. We’re taking length frequencies and we’re looking at the health of the scallops. 

 

Personal Log

From the time I woke up on Tuesday till about the time I went to bed that night, sea-sickness was getting the best of me.  I listened to the advice of the experienced sailors on board, and kept working through the sickness.  Even though I felt sick most of the day, and I just wanted the day to end at that point.  However, I was rewarded by sticking it out, and not going to my room to lay down, by one of the most incredible sites I’ve ever seen.  From about 4pm til about 8pm, many humpback whales were all around our boat.  We had a little down time waiting to get to the next dredge spot, so I was watching the horizon just trying to get my sea-sickness in check.  As I was sitting by the side of the boat, I saw a whale towards the bow of the ship.  I got out my camera and was in the right place at the right time to get a video of it.   It was one of the most amazing sites I’ve ever seen.

 

Video of a humpback whale diving near R/V Hugh R. Sharp

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Fluke of a humpback whale diving next to R/V Hugh R. Sharp

Did You Know?

The typical bleached white sand dollars that most people are accustomed to seeing as decorations are not the actual look of living sand dollars.  In one of our dredge catches, we collected thousands of sand dollars, and only a couple were bleach white in color.   Sand dollars are part of the echinoderm family.  They move around on the ocean floor, and bury themselves in the sand.  The sand dollars use the hairs (cillia) on their body to catch plankton and move it towards their mouth.  The bleached white sand dollars that most people think of when they think of a sand dollar is just their exoskeleton remains.

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Sand dollars brought up in the dredge

 

Terry Maxwell: An Incomparable Experience Approaches, May 30, 2017

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Terry Maxwell

Preparing to board R/V Hugh R. Sharp

June 5 – June 21, 2017

Mission: Sea Scallop/Integrated Benthic Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise: Northeastern U.S. Atlantic Coast
Date: May 30, 2017

Personal Log

How do you prepare yourself mentally for something to which you have no comparison? I, Terry Maxwell, have wrestled with this question since I was notified on February 1st, 2017 that I would be a part of a research cruise in the NOAA Teacher at Sea Program.  Do not get me wrong, the people at NOAA have been awesome in answering my questions and providing resources to interact with to prepare for this mission.  However, I have lived my whole life in the flat land of Illinois.  I am used to seeing for miles in all directions, but cannot imagine the views out on the ocean.  I have taught science now for 13 years, but have never had an opportunity to work with scientists doing actual fieldwork and research.  My mind is trying to process this upcoming incomparable experience right now.

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My flat land views will soon be exchanged for a view from the Hugh R Sharp.

About Me

I am a science teacher at Seneca High School in Seneca, Illinois.  I will be starting my 6th year at Seneca High School next year, and going into my 14th as an educator.  I mainly teach freshman physical science, but occasionally get the opportunity to teach a junior/senior environmental science class.  Along with teaching I also am an assistant

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Teaching and coaching leads to a full year.

football coach, assistant track coach, science club sponsor, and FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) huddle leader.  I wear many different hats throughout the year, and have the support of an awesome family at home.  It will be difficult to be away from my family for a couple weeks after a busy school year, but this is an amazing opportunity I had to apply for.

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It will be hard to leave my wife and kids for a couple weeks, but they have been supportive.  In the background, you can see the type of “vessels” I am used to!

Why did I apply for Teacher At Sea?

I attended a NOAA workshop at Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, Illinois titled “Why and How We Explore the Deep Ocean.”  I went to the workshop to see if there was any ocean content I could work into my Integrated Physical Science class.  At the workshop, I discovered the amount of ocean content that fits in with the physics and chemistry content I currently teach is numerous.  The workshop was fantastic (if you are a teacher reading this I highly recommend you attend this workshop if it is available at a nearby location).  Towards the end of the workshop, the presenter discussed the Teacher at Sea opportunity.  I instantly knew I wanted to apply.  I came home from the workshop and told my family, “I’m going to apply to go on a research vessel with NOAA this summer.”  To which my wife (who has heard so many crazy ideas come out of my mouth) said, “Uh huh…okay.”  My oldest daughter responded, “Only if I can go with you.”  My son responds, “As long as it’s not over my birthday.”  My youngest just put the free NOAA bag from the workshop on her head like a helmet, and ran around the room.  So, with the obvious support of my family, I applied.

I had never felt so strongly about something.  I wanted to be a part of this experience for many reasons.  A) I wanted an experience working on an actually research mission.  I consider this extremely valuable for my classroom moving forward.  I envision taking research methods I learn from this trip and emulating them in my classroom.  B) I seek to strengthen my weaknesses.  My knowledge of ocean ecosystems is weak.  Part of this is being land locked in Illinois.  What better way to gain knowledge and appreciation for ocean ecosystems than to be a part of a team researching them?  I think when you lack understanding about something it is much easier to disregard it.  Ocean ecosystems are far too important to give little attention to them.  C) Being about a 1/3rd of the way into my teaching career I am looking for an experience that can ignite new ideas, and help me grow as an educator.  I am motivated and inspired by all kinds of simple things; I cannot imagine what this opportunity could do for me.  D) I like fish.  Simple I know, but its true.  The science club I run is called Conservation in Action (yes the CIA), and one of the projects we currently have running is keeping cichlids that are endangered or threatened in the wild, in our classroom.

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A male Lipochromis melanopterus that is housed in an aquarium in my classroom and cared for by members of our science club.

We currently have about 15 aquariums that some of our club members maintain with the goal of informing people of the plight of the Lake Victorian cichlids and other endangered fish, and keeping their population numbers in captivity healthy.

 

 

 

How can you prepare with me?

I would like to leave you with some resources that you can prepare for this trip with me.  There have been several sources given to me by NOAA, and some others I have found to be valuable as well.

A) What ship will you be on?  I will be on the Hugh R Sharp.  You can find out more about this vessel here.  This site from the University of Delaware even includes a video tour of the ship.  This will answer a lot of questions about what day to day life may be like for me on the trip, though I will be posting more about that in the coming weeks.

B) What is a scallop survey?  From what I understand, we will be collecting large amounts of samples from the ocean floor through dredging.  The samples would be brought on board and counted.  A record of overall population and populations at different life cycle stages is taken.  A report from a past survey is found on the NOAA website, and that is linked here.  This report by Dvora Hart is a great look at some of the technology and methods that may be used on this upcoming mission.

Did you know?

NOAA is predicting a more active than normal hurricane season in the Atlantic in 2017.

FINAL 0523 Hurricane Graphic_pie chart-700x400
Always a good article to read right before heading out for a couple weeks into the Atlantic Ocean!  However, I am not worried by this because I am in the hands of experts.  It is always good to be prepared and aware though.  The article is a good read with lots of links about NOAA’s weather predicting capabilities.
Above-normal Atlantic Hurricane Season is Most Likely This Year

 

 

 

Donna Knutson: Last Leg of Leg III Atlantic Sea Scallop Survey 2016, June 24, 2016

NOAA Teacher at Sea Donna Knutson
Aboard the Research Vessel Sharp
June 8 – June 24, 2016

2016 Mission: Atlantic Scallop/Benthic Habitat Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise: Northeastern U.S. Atlantic Coast
Date: June 24, 2016

Last Leg of Leg III Atlantic Sea Scallop Survey 2016

Mission and Geographical Area: 

The University of Delaware’s ship, R/V Sharp, is on a NOAA mission to assess the abundance and age distribution of the Atlantic Sea Scallop along the Eastern U.S. coast from Mid Atlantic Bight to Georges Bank.  NOAA does this survey in accordance with Magnuson Stevens Act requirements.

Science and Technology:DSCN7770 (2)me best

Latitude:  41 29.84 N

Longitude:  070 38.54 W

Clouds:  partly cloudy

Visibility: 5-6 nautical miles

Wind: 3.58 knots

Wave Height: 6 in.

Water Temperature:  53  F

Air Temperature:  67 F

Sea Level Pressure:  30.0 in of Hg

Water Depth: 26 m

 

It has been an action packed two weeks.  The men and women who dedicate themselves to the scallop survey are extremely hard working scientists.  It is not an easy job.  The sorting of the dredged material is fast and furious, and it needs to be in order to document everything within the catch before the next one comes in.  The baskets are heavy and it takes a strong person to move them around so quickly.

DSCN8159 (2) dredge team
Han, Jill, Mike, Vic, Me and Ango

In small catches every scallop is measured.  In dredges with many baskets of scallops, a percentage is measured.  It is a random sampling system, taking some scallops from each of the baskets to get a general random sample of the whole.  Mike led an efficient team, he told us what to look for and oversaw the measuring.

DSCN7780 (2)mike and nicki
Mike and Nikki

He often set samples aside to show me later, when we were not as busy. A few examples were how to tell the difference between the red and silver hake or the difference between the Icelandic and Atlantic sea scallop.  He showed me how the little longhorn sculpin fish, “buzz bombs” known to fisherman, vibrate when you told it in your hand.

DSCN8008 (2)buzz
Longhorn sculpin

Mike even took the time to dissect some hake and to show me the differences in gonads, what they were feeding on by opening their stomach, and the otolith within the upper skull.  The otolith is a small bone in the inner ear that can be used to identify and age the fish when in a lab looking through a microscope.  Mike answered my many questions and was always eager to teach me more.

Another helpful team member was Vic.  Vic taught me how to run the HabCam.  He has been involved in the HabCam setup since it started being used four years ago.  There is a lot of work to do to set up the multiple monitors and computers with servers to store all the images collected by the HabCam.  Vic overlooks it all from the initial set-up to the take down.  I admire Vic’s work-ethic, he is always going 100% until the job is completed.  Sometimes I just needed to get out of his way, because I knew he was on a mission, and I didn’t want to slow him down.

DSCN8132 (2) monitors
Control center for Habcam and Dredging

When we weren’t dredging, but rather using the HabCam, there was a pilot and copilot watching the monitors.  The HabCam, when towed behind the ship, needs to be approximately 1.7 m off the ocean floor for good resolution of the pictures, and keeping it at that elevation can be a challenge with the sloping bottom or debris.  There is also sand waves to watch out for, which are like sand bars in a river, but not exposed to the surface.

When not driving HabCam there are millions of pictures taken by the HabCam to oversee.  When you view a picture of a scallop you annotate it by using a measuring bar.  Fish, skates and crabs are also annotated, but not measured.  It takes a person a while to adjust to the rolling seas and be able to look at monitors for a long period of time.  It is actually harder than anticipated.

DSCN7768 (2)skate
HabCam Picture of a skate.

Han was making sure the data was collected from the correct sites.  She works for the Population Dynamics branch of NOAA and was often checking the routes for the right dredges or the right time to use the HabCam.  Between the chief scientist Tasha and Han, they made sure the survey covered the entire area of the study as efficiently as possible.

DSCN7839 (2)tash han mike
Tasha, Han and Mike discussing the next move.

Dr. Scott Gallager was with us for the first week and taught me so much about his research which I mentioned in the previous blogs.  Kat was with us initially, but she left after the first week.  She was a bubbly, happy student who volunteered to be on the ship, just to learn more in hopes of joining the crew someday.  Both vacancies were replaced by “Ango” whose real name in Tien Chen, a grad student from Maine who is working on his doctoral thesis, and Jill who works in Age and Growth, part of the Population Biology branch of NOAA.  Both were fun to have around because of their interesting personalities.  They were always smiling and happy, with a quick laugh and easy conversation.

DSCN8131 (2)the three
Jill, Ango and Han after dredging.

The Chief Scientist, Tasha, was extremely helpful to me.  Not only does she need to take care of her crew and manage all the logistics of the trip, plus make the last minute decisions, because of weather or dredges etc, but she made me feel welcome and encouraged me to chat with those she felt would be a good resource for me.  On top of it all, she helped me make sure all my blogs were factual.  She was very professional and dedicated to her work, as expected from a lead scientist leading a scientific survey.

DSCN8146 (2)tash and jim
Evan, Tasha and Jimmy discussing route.

I spent as much time as possible getting to know the rest of the crew as well.  The Master, Captain James Warrington “Jimmy” always welcomed me on the bridge.  I enjoyed sitting up there with him and his mates.  He is quick witted and we passed the time with stories and many laughs.  He tolerated me using his binoculars and searching for whales and dolphins.  There were a few times we saw both.

He showed me how he can be leader, responsible for a ship, which is no small feat, but do so with a great sense of humor, which he credits he inherited from his grandmother.  The other captains, Chris and Evan, were just as friendly.  I am sure all who have been lucky enough to travel with them would agree that the RV Sharp is a good ship to on because of the friendly, helpful crew and staff.

DSCN7785 (2)KG
KG, oceanic specialist, helped with dredges.

Because this was my second experience on a survey, the first was a mammal survey, I have really come to appreciate the science behind the study.  It is called a survey, but in order to do a survey correctly, it takes months of planning and preparation before anyone actually gets on a ship.

There is always the studying of previous surveys to rely on to set the parameters for the new survey.  Looking for what is expected and finding, just that, or surprising results not predicted but no less valued, is all in a scientist’s daily job.  I admire the work of the scientist. It is not an easy one, and maybe that is why it is so much fun.  You never know exactly what will happen, and therein lies the mystery or maybe a discovery to acquire more information.

DSCN8127 (2)big goose
I had to hold the largest goose fish we caught!

It was a challenging two weeks, but a time I’m so glad I had the opportunity to have with the members of Leg III of the 2016 Atlantic Sea Scallop Survey.

Donna Knutson: The Atlantic Sea Scallop – More Than Meets the Eye, June 21, 2016

NOAA Teacher at Sea Donna Knutson

 Aboard the Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp

June 8 – June 24, 2016

 

2016 Mission: Atlantic Scallop/Benthic Habitat Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise:
Northeastern U.S. Atlantic Coast
Date:
June 21, 2016

The Atlantic Sea Scallop – More Than Meets the Eye

Mission and Geographical Area: 

The University of Delaware’s ship, R/V Sharp, is on a NOAA mission to assess the abundance and age distribution of the Atlantic Sea Scallop along the Eastern U.S. coast from Mid Atlantic Bight to Georges Bank.  NOAA does this survey in accordance with Magnuson Stevens Act requirements.

Science and Technology:

Latitude:  41 16.296 NIMG_3250 (2)better me

Longitude:  68 49.049 W

Clouds: overcast

Visibility: 5-6 nautical miles

Wind: 21.1 knots

Wave Height: 4-6 occasional 8

Water Temperature:  59 F

Air Temperature:  64 F

Sea Level Pressure:  29.9 in of Hg

Water Depth: 101 m

Science Blog:

Sea scallops are unique from clams, molluscs and other bivalves.  All of them are filter feeders, but the sea scallop filters out larger sized particles such as diatoms and large protozoans that are larger than 50 micrometers. Clams filter feed on smaller animals and particles that are too small for the scallop to retain and therefore flow right through their digestive system.

Older scallop found in a protected area.
Older scallop found in a protected area.

Dr. Scott Gallager is looking inside the stomachs of scallops.  His hypothesis is that microplastics are traveling down to the bottom of the ocean, and if they are, the scallop will siphon them into their stomach along with their food.

Microplastics are, as the name suggests, small pieces of plastic measured in micrometers.  They may enter the ocean as an object such as a plastic water bottle, but over time with the turbulence of the ocean and the sun’s ultraviolet radiation break down into smaller and smaller pieces.

Another way microplastics are entering the ocean is through the cleaning products we use.  Many shampoos, detergents and toothpastes have small beads of plastic in them to add friction which aid the products cleaning potential.  Untreated water, such as runoff, has the likelihood of flowing into the ocean bringing microplastics with it.

Small colorful scallops.
Small sea scallops.

If a sea scallop ingests microplastics the same size as its food, the scallop will not be getting the nutrients it requires.  Large quantities of micro plastics falling to the bottom of the ocean would obviously cause the health of scallops to deteriorate.

Another interesting story of the sea scallop is its “attachment” to the red hake.  It is not a   physical attachment.  There appears to be a sentimental attachment between the two even though that is obviously not possible.

The red hake is a fish that starts out its life as a small juvenile without any protection.  It finds a home and refuge inside a sea scallop shell.  The sea scallop almost befriends the little red hake and allows it to live behind its photoreceptive eyes, next to the mantle.

The fish curls its body into the same contour shape as the scallop.  The little fish can swim in at times of danger and the scallop will close its shells to protect them both.  After the threat has passed the scallop opens its shells and the little red hake can swim out.

Red hake did not make it in before closing time.

There seems to be some commensalism between the two.  Commensalism is the relationship between two different species where each live together without any one feeding off of the other.  They live in harmony with each other neither hurting the other.  It is not known whether the fish feeds on the scallops’ parasites or if they just coexist together.

It is clear something is happening between the two, because after the red hake grows and no longer fits inside the shell, the fish will still live next to the scallop.  It now will curl itself around the outside of the shell.  Looking at HabCam pictures, it appears to curl around a scallop even if the scallop is no longer alive.  Could it really be the same scallop it lived in as a minnow?

DSCN7843 (2)RED HAKE AND SCALLOP
Red hake curled around its scallop. Picture taken from the HabCam.

Red hake numbers increase in areas where there are larger, more mature, sea scallops present.  What connects two together?  Is there some chemical connection where the fish can identify the scallop it “grew up” with? 

Why is the red hake red?  The red hake is part of the cod family.  The other fish such as the silver hake, spotted hake, white hake and haddock do not act like red hake.  Red hake are the same color as the scallop. Coincidence?  Maybe.

Is the red hake now protecting the scallop as it curls around it?  The scallop protected the young fish for as long as it could, so now is the Red hake returning the favor?  The main predator of the scallop is the starfish.  A starfish would have to climb over the fish to get to the scallop.  The red hake would not allow the starfish to get that far.

Red hake have a swim bladder that erupt when brought to the surface.
Red hake have a swim bladder that erupt when brought to the surface.

Is the red hake still just protecting itself?  When curled around the scallop, the fish blends in with the scallops red color and is in a sense camouflaging itself from its enemies. In this sense, the scallop is still allowing the red hake to hide, but this time in plain sight.

The Atlantic sea scallop is more interesting than expected.  It is curious how the scallop seems to realize how close it is to other scallops.  Without having a fully functioning brain, just groupings of neural ganglia, acting as a control center for a bodily functions or movement, how can the scallop decide the best place to live?  Do they move in search of a better habitat?  How do they know to disperse within their area so they are relatively the same distance apart as seen on the HabCam?  Is it competition for food?

Could it be their photosensitive eyes can’t tell the difference of movement of a predator to that of another scallop?  They seem to be able to tell the difference between a sea fish predator and one that is not.  Why are they so tolerant of the red hake?  More questions than answers.

The HabCam is a wonderful tool for studying these questions and more.  So little is understood about the habitats within the oceans.   It has been easier to study space than to study the depths of our own planet.  This is a very exciting time in oceanic research.  The HabCam will reveal what has been covered with a blanket of water.

Personal Blog:

We spent a little more time at Woods Hole.  Jim, the ship’s captain, hired a crew of scuba divers to scrub off the barnacles growing on the rudder.  I was lucky enough to find a tour of some of the labs at Woods Hole.  Scott called around to his colleagues and discovered there was a tour for teachers occurring at that moment when we arrived.

Alvin the deep sea submersible in dry dock.
Alvin the deep sea submersible in dry dock.

I quickly was sent on a campus bus with Ken, a man working in the communications department, also with a science degree.  I think he said it was in physical geology.  Everyone around here has multiple degrees and they are often opposite what you would imagine.  Such diversity makes some very interesting people to chat with.

In the teacher tour was a former TAS (Teacher at Sea). She was here because she won a touring trip to Woods Hole, so we had some time to chat over lunch about our experiences.  We agreed the TAS is one of the best teacher development opportunities out there for all teachers and I think we convinced a third to apply for next year.

I never got the long walk I had planned on, but a much better one learning more about Woods Hole.  Ken even took me to see Alvin, the deep sea submersible that lives on the Atlantis.  The Atlantis was leaving Alvin behind on its latest mission so Ken showed it to me.  The navy is using it this time.

I’ve been feeling great and even got on the exercise bike.  Today we will be HabCaming the entire day.  It is a nice rest compared to the physical work of dredging from the last two days.  Both HabCam and dredging have their benefits.  Together they create a much better understanding of what’s below us.DSCN7966 (2) lobsters

While I’ve been writing this the wind has picked up 10 knots.  The waves are 4-6 ft high with an occasional 8ft and it doesn’t look like it will let up.  The HabCaming continues but it is harder to keep it level.  They are considering going in early if the weather continues to get worse.  I believe Tasha said we were a bit ahead of schedule so that wouldn’t be so bad for the survey.  Before that happens, there is more dredging to do.

Donna Knutson: Atlantic Sea Scallop Research Progressed into Habitat Modeling, June 13, 2016

NOAA Teacher at Sea Donna Knutson
Aboard R/V Hugh R. Sharp
June 8 – June 24, 2016

 

2016 Mission: Atlantic Scallop/Benthic Habitat Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise: Northeastern U.S. Atlantic Coast
Date: June 13, 2016

Mission and Geographical Area:  

The University of Delaware’s ship, R/V Sharp, is on a NOAA mission to assess the abundance and age distribution of the Atlantic Sea Scallop along the Eastern U.S. coast from Mid Atlantic Bight to Georges Bank.  NOAA does this survey in accordance with Magnuson Stevens Act requirements.

Science and Technology:

Weather Data from the BridgeTas habcam 055 (4) color

Latitude:  40 43.583 N
Longitude:  67 04.072 W
Clouds:
50% cumulous
Visibility
: 6 nautical miles
Wind: 296 degrees 11 knots at cruise speed of 6.5 knots
Wave Height: 1-3 ft.
Water Temperature:  52 ºF
Air Temperature:  56 ºF
Sea Level Pressure:  29.4 in of Hg
Water Depth: 107 m

Scientific Blog

During the 1970’s fishermen made the observation that the Atlantic sea scallop was becoming hard to find.  Overfishing had depleted the numbers and they were not repopulating at a steady rate.  In the early 1980’s after noticing that nature wasn’t going to be able to keep up with man’s demands of the scallop, programs were set up to monitor the scallop fishing industry and to also set catch limits.

Live video from rear sonar devices
Live video from rear sonar devices

In 1997 NOAA and the New England Fishery Management Council determined that the Atlantic sea scallops were still being overfished and by 1998 a new plan for allowing the scallop to increase their numbers was implemented.

The guidelines for fishermen proved to be useful and the scallop industry had great success.  It was reported that the scallop biomass harvested had increased eighteen times higher than the previous level between 1994 – 2005.

The demand for the Atlantic sea scallop did not decrease.   The sea scallop adductor muscle, the muscle that holds the two shells together and allows the animal to open and close the two shells, is harvested for food.  The muscle is typically 30 – 40 mm in diameter in adult sea scallops.  The demand for this tasty muscle has made the Atlantic sea scallop fishing industry into a very powerful and prosperous billion-dollar industry.

Live forward sonar scanner
Live forward sonar scanner

Fisherman will agree that science is essential to the health of their industry.  It was determined that rotational management was needed for the scallops to replenish, much like crop rotation on land.  After a period of time, areas need to rest without any activity and other areas can be reopened to scallop fishing after a period of time.

 

What that time period for rest is and what areas need to rest while other areas are opened to fishing is the science behind the industry.  The industry recognizes that the science is essential to keep a healthy population of Atlantic sea scallops and, through a special research set-aside program, invests 25% of the scallops to research.  The market value of the scallop, usually $10 -$14 per pound, determines the funding scientists can invest into research.

Resource management is not a new idea.  Resources are managed at all levels whether they are animals such as scallops or deer, minerals or elements mined such as aluminum or coal, or even plants such as trees. Without management practices in place, there is a good possibility of endangering the resource for later use, and in the case of living animals, endanger their future viability.

RSCN7757
Dr. Scott Gallager

Some of the “Research Set-Aside” monies given by the commercial fisherman have allowed the development of a special habitat mapping camera, affectionately called the HabCam.  Dr. Scott Gallager has combined his two areas of expertise, biology and electronics and developed a series of cameras used for studying underwater habitats.  NOAA has contracted Dr. Gallager to oversee the HabCam during the annual sea scallop survey.

While the original HabCam is being used by the commercial fishing industry on scallop vessels, a fourth generation HabCam is used by NOAA on the R/V Sharp to help with the annual Atlantic scallop survey.  It has two sonar devices, one forward and one rear sonar scans a 50 meter swath on each side of the vehicle. It is equipped with four strobe lights that allow two cameras to take photographs.  Each camera takes six pictures a second.  The HabCam has a sensor called the CTD (Conductivity, Temperature, Depth) to measure physical properties such as salinity, temperature, depth, and dissolved oxygen.  Two other sensors are used to measure turbidity, and a device that measures the scattering and absorption of light at that depth.  Measuring absorption allows the computer to make color corrections on the pictures so the true colors of the habitat are seen.  The vehicle is 3700 lbs. and made of stainless steel.  It is actually towed through the water but is “driven” by using the metal jacketed fiber-optic tow cable which pulls it through the water.  The HabCam relays the real-time images and data directly to the ship where it is processed by computers and also people monitoring the pictures. Computer Vision and Image Processing tools are also being developed to count and size scallops automatically from the images as the vehicle is being towed. This will allow managers in the future to use adaptive sampling approaches whereby the sampling track is actually changed as the vehicle is towed to optimize the survey.

HabCam on Right Side
HabCam on Right Side

By analyzing the data from the HabCam and doing dredges over mapped areas of the ocean, scientists can relay their findings to fisherman with suggestions on the best places to harvest Atlantic sea scallops.  It is important to keep in mind the other animals in the area that may be affected by scallop fishing.  The Yellowtail flounder is one such animals that could be better monitored with the aid of the HabCam.  The flounder often is found living in areas that have a high density of sea scallops, but by identifying areas of high scallop and low yellowtail densities, fishermen may be better able to avoid yellowtail bycatch.  Unfortunately, many bycatch fish do not survive the dredging and are often dead upon being returned to the sea.

While scallops and fish are certainly important to the commercial fishing industry, understanding the habitat that supports these organisms is paramount to their effective management. HabCam collects images that contain a huge amount of information on habitat factors such as temperature, salinity, chlorophyll, seafloor roughness, and substrate type (mud, sand, gravel, shells, boulders, etc). Habitat for one organism is not necessarily the same for the next so we need to put together maps of where certain habitats allow each species to exist and where they co-exist to form communities. Understanding this, we can simulate how communities will respond to climate change and other changing environmental factors such as Ocean Acidification (i.e., low ph), which all contribute to habitat.

Dr, Gallager worling on the HabCam
Dr. Gallager working on the HabCam

Because of the success of the HabCam and other habitat monitoring/mapping devices, HabCams I – VI have been built.  There are four different vehicles used now for specialized data collection depending on what the survey priorities are.

HabCam is a unique, and high-end technology, but at the same time is being upgraded to provide habitat data on a variety of sampling platforms such as high speed torpedo-like systems that are towed at 10 kts or greater and on robotic Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUV) that will carry the stereo cameras and sonar systems currently on HabCam. The combination of robotics with underwater sampling provides a window into the ocean universe that humans have not been able to effectively explore and sample because of the great pressure and low temperature of the deep sea. Abyssal habitat (deeper than 3000m) is very difficult to sample and more and more oceanographers are looking to develop and use robots to get to where observations and samples need to be taken.

Monitoring the screens for obstacles

While the HabCam was initially developed for the scallop fishing industry, it has clearly made an invaluable contribution to the study of habitats that have so long been inaccessible to us.  There are many cameras throughout the world used to take pictures of the ocean bottom and even animals therein, but the HabCam series that was developed out of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) is integrating many different data types to develop a more comprehensive understanding of fauna and flora (animals and plants) in their habitats worldwide.  It is an exciting time for oceanic research!

Driving the HabCam
Driving the HabCam

Sources:

National Marine Fisheries Services (www.nmfo.noaa.gov)

Dr. Scott Gallager PhD, tenured Associate Scientist, Biology Department, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, MA, Visiting Professor, Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology, Okinawa, Japan.

 

Personal Blog:

I am feeling great and meeting so many fascinating people!  Dr. Gallager, or Scott to the scientists on board, has taught me so much in the very short time I’ve been on the ship.  He has many great stories as he has been involved in oceanic research for many years.  He was asked to study the teak wood that the Titanic was made of because “Bob” Ballard saw so little of it even though all the decks and ornamentations were made of it.  So Bob asked Scott to study it and Scott wrote a paper on the polychaete worm that was able to break down the tough cellulose tissue.

After our dredging yesterday resulted in many scallops, you will never guess what we are having for our 12:00 p.m. meal.  I said 12:00 p.m. meal because for some of us it is breakfast and for others it is supper.

Dogfish on the bottom of the ocean, Picture taken by the Habcam.
Dogfish on the bottom of the ocean, Picture taken by the Habcam.

Me and the other five scientists are now done with our 12 hour shift and the new group just took over. We were running the HabCam all day and then looking at random still photos from the HabCam to identify the life forms that are present.  Dr. Gallager is working on a computer image recognizing HabCam, but he feels it is important to have humans involved as well.   I am so thankful I am on the same crew as Dr. Gallager.  I am actually getting better with the whole time schedule shock.  Not really a big deal once you try it.  (Like most things in life.)

Skate on the bottom of the ocean. Picture taken by the HaabCam.
Skate on the bottom of the ocean. Picture taken by the HabCam.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Donna Knutson: The Absolutely Amazing Atlantic Sea Scallop, June 12, 2016

NOAA Teacher at Sea Donna Knutson
Aboard R/V Hugh R. Sharp
June 8 – June 24, 2016

 

2016 Mission: Atlantic Scallop/Benthic Habitat Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise: Northeastern U.S. Atlantic Coast
Date: June 12, 2016

Mission and Geographical Area: 

The University of Delaware’s ship, R/V Sharp, is on a NOAA mission to assess the abundance and age distribution of the Atlantic Sea Scallop along the Eastern U.S. coast from Mid Atlantic Bight to Georges Bank.  NOAA does this survey in accordance with Magnuson Stevens Act requirements.

Weather Data from the Bridge

Latitude:  40 26.375 N
Longitude:  68 19.266 W
Clouds: overcast
Visibility: 5-6 nautical miles
Wind: 21 knots at cruise speed of 4 knots
Wave Height: 4-6 occasional 8 ft.
Water Temperature:  56 °F
Air Temperature:  70 °F
Sea Level Pressure:  29.7 in of Hg
Water Depth: 100 m

Science and Technology Log

! TAS 010There are four types of scallops that are found around the United States.  The Sea Scallop is the largest and found primarily along the Eastern coast.  Therefore, it is called the Atlantic Sea Scallop.  Bay scallops are smaller, found closer to shore and are not usually harvested.  The Calico mollusk is the smallest and rare, and is primarily located around the coast of Florida.  The Icelandic scallop is also occasionally sighted around the United States.

The Atlantic Sea Scallop Placopecten magellanicus  is a deep sea bivalve mollusk.  It has a smooth shell and edges.  Young scallops have a pink/red color with darker stripes radiating outward form the hinge. The older sea scallop is more orange in coloration and may fade into white.  Photoreceptive eyes along their pale pink mantle, allow the scallop to sense changes in light allowing it to protect itself from possible dangers such as incoming predators.

Alantic sea scallop
Atlantic sea scallop

Some mollusks are hermaphroditic meaning they have both sex organs in the same animal, but the Atlantic sea scallop has two distinct sexes.  It is impossible to tell what the sex of a scallop is from its outward appearance.  When looking inside at the gonads it is easy to detect.  The male gonads are creamy white and the female gonads are pink/red in color.

The female can reproduce after they are one-year-old, but four year olds release many more eggs.  The older scallop may emit one to two hundred seventy million eggs at one time.  Spawning occurs twice a year, once in the spring and another in the fall.  Males will release their sperm into the water where the eggs have been released, and then the fertilized egg sinks to the bottom of the ocean to develop in groupings called beds.

Adult scallops will filter feed on phytoplankton and microscopic zooplankton.  The immature larva are filter feeders as well, but can also absorb nutrients though their tissues.

Atlantic sea scallops play an important role in the ecosystem as they become food for other animals such as starfish, crabs, lobsters, snails, and fish such as cod, American plaice, wolfish, and winter flounder.

Sources:

Wikipedia, May 30, 2016

US Atlantic Sea Scallop, March 31, 2013

 

Personal Log

Leg III of the Atlantic Scallop/Benthic Habitat Survey started out a bit rough, bad weather came in from Hurricane Collin and caused a few delays.  The lead scientist Tasha O’Hara decided to push back the departure times in hope of gentler seas.

We set sail on Thursday June 12, 2016 around 7 p.m. from NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center in Woods Hole.  The Sharp started the third leg of four on the scallop survey.  The last leg will end on June 24, 2016.  The survey team will use a camera to take pictures of the bottom called a HabCam, which stands for Habitat Mapping Camera, and also dredge the ocean bottom periodically for physically counting and measuring specimens.

I have been allowed to participate in the driving of the HabCam and also the sorting, measuring and recording of animals brought up from the dredges.  My blogging got a bit behind as I was trying to immerse myself in the new experiences when the sea sickness hit.

Goosefish
Donna holds a Goosefish

I did not get sick once on the last month long experience, but conditions here are a bit different.  The captain of the Sharp, James Warrington, explained the gyre (oceanic current pattern) is unique here.  We are in a cruising within circular gyre and with weather conditions forcing high waves into the flat bottomed boat, we are getting a lot of motion.  So, yes, I now know what sea sickness is like.  Today the wind has died down a bit so the waves are not as high, and I feel much better.  I have been placed on the midnight to noon crew so that has been an adjustment as well.  I’m sure you morning classes will agree I’m more active in the afternoon.  Not really a morning person. J

Snake eel
Snake eel

Everyone is so great to me here.  They were very considerate during my seasick time.  I actually have been sitting up on the bridge with Captain Jimmy.  I can see the horizon and feel more stable.  Otherwise we are below decks looking at computer screens for the HabCam or working on the back deck looking at the dredged creatures.

Today we are doing some back tracking to get a start on more dredging and that has allowed me to get this blog in.  I really wanted it to be sooner, but that’s the story.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trevor Hance: Life, As You (Already) Know It… June 21, 2015

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Trevor Hance
Aboard R/V Hugh R. Sharp
June 12 – 24, 2015

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical area: New England/Georges Bank
Date: June 21, 2015

Teacher at Sea?
Teacher at Sea?

Science and Technology Log

The rhythm of a ship rocking and rolling through varied wave heights while catching some zzzz’s in a small, curtain-enclosed bunk provides an opportunity to get some really amazing deep sleep.  Last night I had a dream that one of my childhood friends married Dan Marino.  It seemed completely bizarre until I remembered we saw lots of dolphins yesterday.

Dan? Mrs. Marino? Is that you?
Dan? Mrs. Marino? Is that you?

Seas have calmed substantially from the ride we had a couple of days ago, and for the past few days the ride has been so smooth I feel more like a “Teacher at Pond” than “Teacher at Sea.”  Unfortunately, it looks like that awful weather system my friends and family have been dealing back home in Texas is about to make its way to us here off the coast of New England (what many Texans consider “the southern edge of Santa-land”) and there’s even a chance today might be our last full day at sea.

At the helm: Estoy El Jefe!
At the helm: Estoy El Jefe!

Operations

Operationally, we’ve shifted back and forth from dredge to HabCam work and it is a decidedly different experience, and as with everything, there are pros and cons.

HabCam

As mentioned in an earlier blog, the HabCam requires two people to monitor two different stations as pilot and co-pilot, each with several monitors to help keep the system running smoothly and providing updates on things like salinity, depth and water temperature (currently 4.59 degrees Celsius – yikes!!!).

Views of the screens we monitor: from 6 o’clock, moving clockwise:  the winch, altitude monitor, cameras of back deck, sonar of the sea floor and photos being taken as we travel
Views of the screens we monitor: from 6 o’clock, moving clockwise: the winch, altitude monitor, cameras of back deck, sonar of the sea floor and photos being taken as we travel

The pilot gets to drive the HabCam with a joystick that pays-out or pulls in the tow-wire, trying to keep the HabCam “flying” about 2 meters off the sea floor.  Changes in topography, currents, and motion of the vessel all contribute to the challenge. The co-pilot primarily monitors and annotates the photographs that are continually taken and fed into one of the computers in our dry-lab.  I’ll share more about annotating in the next blog-post, but essentially, you have to review, categorize and sort photos based on the information each contains.

The winch has its own monitor
The winch has its own monitor

Driving the HabCam gives you a feeling of adventure – I find myself imagining I am driving The Nautilus and Curiosity, but, after about an hour, things get bleary, and it’s time to switch and let one of the other crew members take over.  My rule is to tap-out when I start feeling a little too much like Steve Zissou.

Dredge

Dredge work involves dropping a weighted ring bag that is lined with net-like material to the sea floor and towing it behind the vessel, where it acts as a sieve and filters out the smallest things and catches the larger things, which are sorted, weighed and measured in the wet lab on the back deck.

Close up of the dredge material
Close up of the dredge material; HabCam in the background

Dredge work is a little like the “waves-crashing-across-the-deck” stuff that you see on overly dramatized TV shows like “Deadliest Catch.”  As my students know, I like getting my hands dirty, so I tend to very much enjoy the wind, water and salty experience associated with a dredge.

Yours truly, sporting my homemade jolly roger t-shirt after a successful dredge
Yours truly, after a successful dredge, sporting my homemade Jolly Roger t-shirt

While the dredge is fun, my students and I use motion-triggered wildlife cameras to study the life and systems in the Preserve behind our school, and I fully realize the value those cameras provide — especially in helping us understand when we have too much human traffic in the Preserve. The non-invasive aspects of HabCam work provide a similar window, and a remarkable, reliable data source when you consider that the data pertaining to one particular photograph could potentially be reviewed thousands of times for various purposes.  The sheer quantity of data we collect on a HabCam run is overwhelming in real-time, and there are thousands of photos that need to be annotated (i.e. – reviewed and organized) after each cruise.

More Science

Anyway, enough of the operational stuff we are doing on this trip for now, let’s talk about some science behind this trip… I’m going to present this section as though I’m having a conversation with a student (student’s voice italicized).

Life needs death; this is a shot of 8 or 9 different crabs feasting on a dead skate that settled at the bottom. Ain't no party like a dead skate party...
Life needs death; this is a shot of 8 or 9 different crabs feasting on a dead skate that settled at the bottom. Ain’t no party like a dead skate party…

Mr. Hance, can’t we look at pictures instead of having class?  I mean, even your Mom commented on your blog and said this marine science seems a little thick.

We’ll look at pictures in a minute, but before we do, I need you to realize what you already know.

The National Wildlife Federation gives folks a chance to support biodiversity by developing a “Certified Wildlife Habitat” right in their own backyard.  We used NWF’s plan in our class as a guideline as we learned that the mammals, amphibians, reptiles and birds we study in our Preserve need four basic things for survival:  water, food, shelter and space (note:  while not clearly stated in NWF’s guidelines, “air” is built in.)

This same guide is largely true for marine life, and because we are starting small and building the story, we should probably look at some physics and geology to see some of the tools we are working with to draw a parallel.

Ugh, more water and rocks?  I want to see DOLPHINS, Mr. Hance!

Sorry, kid, but we’re doing water and rocks before more dolphins.

Keep in mind the flow of currents around Georges Bank and the important role they play in distributing water and transporting things, big and small.  Remember what happened to Nemo when he was hanging out with Crush? You’ll see why that sort of stuff loosely plays in to today’s lesson.

Let There Be Light! And Heat!
Let There Be Light! And Heat!

As I mentioned in an earlier post, Georges Bank is a shallow shoal, which means the sea floor has a lot more access to sunlight than the deeper areas around it, which is important for two big reasons. First, students will recall that “light travels in a straight line until it strikes an object, at which point it….” (yada, yada, yada).  In this case, the water refracts as it hits the water (“passes through a medium”) and where the water is really shallow, the sunlight can actually reflect off of the sea floor (as was apparent in that NASA photo I posted in my last blog.)

Also important is the role the sun plays as the massive energy driver behind pretty much everything on earth.  So, just like in our edible garden back at school, the sun provides energy (heat and light), which we know are necessary for plant growth.

Okay, so we have energy, Mr. Hance, but what do fish do for homes?

The substrate, or the sediment(s) that make-up the sea floor on Georges Bank consists of material favorable for marine habitat and shelter.  The shallowest areas of Georges Bank are made mostly of sand or shell hash (“bits and pieces”) that can be moved around by currents, often forming sand waves.  Sand waves are sort of the underwater equivalent of what we consider sand dunes on the beach.  In addition to the largely sandy areas, the northern areas of the Bank include lots of gravel left behind as glaciers retreated (i.e. – when Georges Bank was still land.)

Moving currents and the size of the sediment on the sea floor are important factors in scallop population, and they play a particularly significant role relating to larval transportation and settlement.  Revisiting our understanding of Newton’s three laws of motion, you’ll recognize that the finer sediment (i.e. – small and light) are easily moved by currents in areas of high energy (i.e. – frequent or strong currents), while larger sediment like large grains of sand, gravel and boulders get increasingly tough to push around.

Importantly, not all of Georges Bank is a “high energy” area, and the more stable areas provide a better opportunity for both flora and fauna habitat.  In perhaps simpler terms, the harder, more immobile substrates provide solid surfaces as well as “nooks and crannies” for plants to attach and grow, as well as a place for larvae (such as very young scallop) to attach or hide from predators until they are large enough to start swimming, perhaps in search of food or a better habitat.

With something to hold on to, you might even see what scientists call “biogenic” habitat, or places where the plants and animals themselves make up the shelter.

Substrate samples from one of our dredges; sand, rocks/gravel/pebbles,
Substrate samples from one of our dredges; shells, sand, rocks/gravel/pebbles, “bio-trash” and a very young crab
There is one strand of a plant growing off of this rock we pulled up.  Not much, but it's something to hold on to!
There is one strand of a plant growing off of this rock we pulled up. Not much, but it’s something to hold on to!

Hmmmmmmmmmmmmm, rocks and one weed, huh… I wonder what’s happening at the pool…

Whoa, hold on, don’t quit — you’re half way there!

Before you mind drifts off thinking that there are coral reefs or something similar here, it is probably important that I remind you that the sea floor of Georges Bank doesn’t include a whole lot of rapid topography changes – remember, we are towing a very expensive, 3500 lb. steel framed camera at about 6 knots, and it wouldn’t make sense to do that in an area where we might smash it into a bunch of reefs or boulders.  Here, things are pretty flat and relatively smooth, sand waves and the occasional boulder being the exceptions.

Okay, our scallops now have a place to start their life, but, what about breathing and eating, and why do they need “space” to survive?  Isn’t the ocean huge?

As always, remember that we are trying to find a balance, or equilibrium in the system we are studying.

One example of a simple system can be found in the aquaponics systems we built in our classroom last year. Aquaponics is soil-less gardening, where fish live in a tank below a grow bed and the water they “pollute” through natural bodily functions (aka – “poop”) is circulated to the grow bed where the plants get the nutrients they need, filter out the waste and return good, healthy water back to the fish, full of the micronutrients the fish need to survive.  I say our system is simple because we are “simply” trying to balance ammonia, nitrates and phosphates and not the vast number of variables that exist in the oceans that cover most of our Earth’s surface.  Although the ocean is much larger on the spatial scale, the concept isn’t really that much different, the physical properties of matter are what they are, and waste needs to be processed in order for a healthy system to stay balanced.

Our simple classroom system
Our simple classroom system

Another aspect of our aquaponics system that provides a parallel to Georges Bank lies in our “current,” which for us is the pump-driven movement of water from the fish to the plants, and the natural, gravity-driven return of that water to the fish.  While the transportation of nutrients necessary to both parties is directionally the exact opposite of what happens here on Georges Bank (i.e. – the currents push the nutrients up from the depths here), the idea is the same and again, it is moving water that supports life.

But, Mr. Hance, where do those “nutrients” come from in the first place, and what are they feeding?

Remember, systems run in repetitive cycles; ideally, they are completely predictable.  In a very basic sense where plants and animals are concerned, that repetitive cycle is “life to death to life to death, etc…”  This is another one of those “here, look at what you already know” moments.

When marine life dies, that carbon-based organic material sinks towards the bottom of the ocean and continues to break down while being pushed around at depth along the oceans currents. Students will recognize a parallel in “The Audit” Legacy Project from this spring when they think about what is happening in those three compost bins in our edible garden; our turning that compost pile is pretty much what is happening to all of those important nutrients getting rolled around in the moving water out here – microscopic plants and animals are using those as building blocks for their life.

Our new compost system
Our new compost system

Oh wait, so, this is all about the relationship between decomposers, producers and consumers?  But, Mr. Hance, I thought that was just in the garden?

Yes, “nutrient rich” water is the equivalent of “good soil,” but, we have to get it to a depth appropriate for marine life to really start to flourish.  Using your knowledge of the properties of matter, you figured out how and why the currents behave the way they do here.  You now know that when those currents reach Georges Bank, they are pushed to the surface and during the warm summer months, they get trapped in this shallow(ish), warm(ish) sunlit water, providing a wonderful opportunity for the oceans’ primary producers, phytoplankton, to use those nutrients much like we see in our garden.

Ohhhhhhhhhhhh, I think I’m starting to see what you mean. Can you tell me a little more about plankton?

The term plankton encompasses all of the lowest members of the food chain (web), and can be further divided into “phytoplankton” and “zooplankton.”  Yes, “phyto” does indeed resemble “photo,” as in “photosynthesis”, and does indeed relate to microscopic plant-like plankton, like algae.  Zooplankton pertains to microscopic animal-like plankton, and can include copepods and krill.

Plankton are tiny and although they might try to swim against the current, they aren’t really strong enough, so they get carried along, providing valuable nutrients to bigger sea creatures they encounter.  Just like on land, there are good growing seasons and bad growing seasons for these phytoplankton, and on Georges Bank, the better times for growing coincide with the spring-summer currents.

Dude, Mr. Hance, I didn’t know I already knew that…. Mind…. Blown.

Yeah little dude, I saw the whole thing. First, you were like, whoa! And then you were like, WHOA! And then you were like, whoa…  Sorry, I got carried away; another Nemo flashback. While I get back in teacher-mode, why don’t you build the food web. Next stop, knowledge…

You've got some serious thrill issues, dude
You’ve got some serious thrill issues, dude

But, Mr. Hance, you are on a scallop survey.  How do they fit into the food web? You told us that you, crabs and starfish are their primary natural predators, but, what are they eating, and how?

Scallops are animals, complete with muscles (well, one big, strong one), a digestive system, reproductive system, and nervous system.  They don’t really have a brain (like ours), but, they do have light-sensing eyes on their mantle, which is a ring that sits on the outer edge of their organ system housed under their protective shell.  Acting in concert, those eyes help scallops sense nearby danger, including predators like those creepy starfish.

Predators
Predators

Scallops are filter feeders who live off of plankton, and they process lots of water.  With their shells open, water moves over a filtering structure, which you can imagine as a sort of sieve made of mucus that traps food.  Hair-like cilia transport the food to the scallop’s mouth, where it is digested, processed, and the waste excreted.

DSCN0154
The text is small, but, it describes some of the anatomy of the scallop. Click to zoom.

DSCN0158

But, Mr. Hance, do they hunt? How do they find their food?

Remember, scallops, unlike most other bivalves such as oysters, are free-living, mobile animals; in other words, they can swim to dinner if necessary.  Of course, they’d prefer to just be lazy and hang out in lounge chairs while the food is brought to them (kind of like the big-bellied humans in my favorite Disney film, Wall-E), so can you guess what they look for?

Gee, Mr. Hance…. Let me guess, water that moves the food to them?

Yep, see, I told you this was stuff you already knew.

I highlighted the shadows in one of the HabCam photos to show you proof that scallop swim.
I highlighted the shadows in one of the HabCam photos to show you proof that scallop swim.

While plankton can (and do!) live everywhere in the shallow(ish) ocean, because they are helpless against the force of the current, they get trapped in downwellings, which is a unique “vertical eddy,” caused by competing currents, or “fronts.”  Think of a downwelling as sort of the opposite of a tug-o-war where instead of pulling apart, the two currents run head-on into one another.  Eventually, something’s gotta give, and gravity is there to lend a hand, pushing the water down towards the sea floor and away, where it joins another current and continues on.

Those of you who have fished offshore will recognize these spots as a “slick” on the top of the water, and there is often a lot of sea-foam (“bubbles”) associated with a downwelling because of the accumulation of protein and “trash” that gets stuck on top as the water drops off underneath it.

Those
Those “smooth as glass” spots are where currents are hitting and downwellings are occurring
This particularly large group of birds gathered together atop a downwelling, likely because the water helped keep them together (and because fishing would be good there!)
This particularly large group of birds gathered together atop a downwelling, likely because the water helped keep them together (and because fishing would be good there!)

Because plankton aren’t strong enough to swim against the current, they move into these downwellings in great numbers.  You can wind up with an underwater cloud of plankton in those instances, and it doesn’t take long for fish and whales to figure out that nature is setting the table for them.  Like our human friends in Wall-E, scallops pull up a chair, put on their bibs and settle at the base of these competing fronts, salivating like a Pavlovian pup as they wait on their venti-sized planko-latte (okay, I’m exaggerating; scallops live in salt water, so they don’t salivate, but because I’m not there to sing and dance to hold your attention while you read, I have to keep you interested somehow.)

If you become a marine scientist at Woods Hole, you’ll probably spend some time looking for the “magic” 60m isobaths, which is where you see scallop and other things congregate at these convergent fronts.

Before you ask, an isobaths is a depth line.  Depth lines are important when you consider appropriate marine life habitat, just like altitude would be when you ask why there aren’t more trees when you get off the ski lift at the top of the mountain.

Um, Mr. Hance, why didn’t you just tell us this is just like the garden!  I’m immediately bored.  What else ya got?

Well, in the next class, we’ll spend some time talking about (over-)fishing and fisheries management, but for now, how about I introduce you to another one of my new friends and then show you some pictures?

I don’t know, Mr. Hance, all of this talk about water makes me want to go swimming.  I’ll stick around for a few minutes, but this dude better be cool.

Lagniappe: Dr. Burton Shank

Today, I’ll introduce another important member of the science crew aboard the vessel, Dr. Burton Shank.  As I was preparing for the voyage, I received several introductory emails, and I regret that I didn’t respond to the one I received from Burton asking for more information.  He’s a box of knowledge.

That's Burton, on the right, sorting through a dredge with lots and lots of sand dollars.
That’s Burton, on the right, sorting through a dredge with lots and lots of sand dollars.

Burton is a Research Fishery Biologist at National Marine Fisheries Service in Woods Hole working in the populations dynamic group, which involves lots of statistical analysis (aka – Mental Abuse To Humans, or “MATH”).  Burton’s group looks at data to determine how many scallops or lobsters are in the area, and how well they are doing using the data collected through these field surveys.  One of my students last year did a pretty similar study last year, dissecting owl pellets and setting (humane) rat traps to determine how many Great Horned Owls our Preserve could support.  Good stuff.

Burton is an Aggie (Whoop! Gig ‘Em!), having received his undergraduate degree from Texas A&M at Galveston before receiving his master’s in oceanography from the University of Puerto Rico and heading off as a travelling technical specialist on gigs in Florida, Alaska and at the Biosphere in Arizona.  For those unfamiliar, the biosphere was a project intended to help start human colonies on other planets, and after a couple of unsuccessful starts, the research portion was taken over by Columbia University and Burton was hired to do ocean climate manipulations.  Unlike most science experiments where you try to maintain balance, Burton’s job was to design ways that might “wreck” the system to determine potential climate situations that could occur in different environments.

As seems to be the case with several of the folks out here, Burton didn’t really grow up in a coastal, marine environment, and in fact, his childhood years were spent in quite the opposite environment:  Nebraska, where his dad was involved in agricultural research.  He did, however, have a small river and oxbow like near his home and spent some summers in Hawaii.

It was on during a summer visit to Hawaii at about 9 years old that Burton realized that “life in a mask and fins” was the life for him.  On return to Nebraska, home of the (then!) mighty Cornhusker football team, many of his fellow fourth grade students proclaimed that they would be the quarterback at Nebraska when they grew up.  Burton said his teacher seemed to think being the Cornhusker QB was a completely reasonable career path, but audibly scoffed when he was asked what he wanted to be and said he would be a marine biologist when he grew up.  I welcome any of you young Burton’s in my class, anytime – “12th Man” or not!

Photoblog:

RSCN0090
Sheerwater, I loved the reflection on this one
Such a nice day
Such a nice day
You'll never look at them the same, will you?
You’ll never look at them the same, will you?
Cleaning up after a dredge
Cleaning up after a dredge; shot from vestibule where wet-gear is housed.  We spent lots of time changing.
So fun to see lobsters and crabs when
So fun to see lobsters and crabs when “HabCam’ing.” They rear back and raise their claws as if to dare you to get any closer.
Good night!
Good night!

Playlist:  Matisyahu, Seu Jorge, Gotan Project, George Jones

Okay, that’s it, class dismissed.  Get outta here…

Mr. Hance

Carol Glor: Lights, Camera, Action, July 7, 2014

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Carol Glor

Aboard R/V Hugh R. Sharp

July 5 – 14, 2014

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey (Third leg)

Geographical Area: Northwest Atlantic Ocean

Date: July 7, 2014

Weather Data from the bridge: Wind SW 18-20 knots, Seas 4-7 ft,  Visibility – good

Science and Technology Log: Starring the HabCam

The HabCam is a computerized video camera system. It is a non-invasive method of observing and recording underwater stereo images, and collecting oceanographic data,such as temperature,salinity, and conductivity.  The vehicle is towed at  1.5 – 2 meters from the floor of the ocean. The main objective of this mission is to survey the population of scallops as well as noting the substrate (ocean floor make-up) changes. Most substrate is made up of sand, gravel, shell hash and epifauna. We also note the presence of roundfish (eel, sea snakes, monkfish, ocean pout, and hake), flatfish (flounders and fluke), whelk, crab, and skates. Although sea stars (starfish) are a major predator of scallops, they are not included in our annotations.

HabCam
The HabCam awaiting deployment.

The crew and science staff work on alternate shifts (called watches) to ensure the seamless collection of data. The scallop survey is a 24-hour operation. The science component of the ship consists of 11 members. Six people are part of the night watch from 12am-12pm and the remaining members (myself included) are assigned to the day watch which is from 12pm until 12am. During the HabCam part of the survey all science staff members rotate job tasks during their 12-hour shift. These include:

A. Piloting the HabCam – using a joystick to operate the winch that controls the raising and lowering of the HabCam along the ocean floor. This task is challenging for several reasons. There are six computer monitors that are continually reviewed by the pilot so they can assess the winch direction and speed, monitor the video quality of the sea floor, and ensure that the HabCam remains a constant 1.5 – 2 meters from the ocean floor. The ocean floor is not flat – it consists of sand waves, drop-offs, and valleys. Quick action is necessary to avoid crashing the HabCam into the ocean floor.

HabCam pilot
Carol piloting the HabCam.

B. The co-pilot is in charge of ensuring the quality of digital images that are being recorded by the HabCam. Using a computer, they tag specific marine life and check to see if the computers are recording the data properly. They also assist the pilot as needed.

HabCam image
One of the images from the HabCam

C. Annotating is another important task on this stage of the survey. Using a computer, each image that is recorded by the HabCam is analyzed in order to highlight the specific species that are found in that image. Live scallops are measured using a line tool and fish, crabs, whelk and skates are highlighted using a boxing tool so they can be reviewed by NOAA personnel at the end of the cruise season.

Personal Log:

When not on watch there is time to sleep, enjoy beautiful ocean views, spot whales and dolphins from the bridge (captain’s control center), socialize with fellow science staff and crew members, and of course take lots of pictures. The accommodations are cozy. My cabin is a four-person room consisting of two sets of bunk beds, a sink, and desk area. The room is not meant to be used for more than sleeping or stowing gear. When the ship is moving, it is important to move slowly and purposely throughout the ship. When going up and down the stairs you need to hold onto the railing with one hand and guide the other hand along the wall for stability. This is especially important during choppy seas. The constant motion of the ship is soothing as you sleep but makes for challenging mobility when awake.

Top bunk
My home away from home.
Captain Jimmy
Captain Jimmy runs a tight ship.

 

Before heading out to sea it is important to practice safety drills. Each person is made aware of their muster station (where to go in the event of an emergency), and is familiarized with specific distress signals. We also practiced donning our immersion suits. These enable a person to be in the water for up to 72 hours (depending upon the temperature of the water). There is a specific way to get into the suit in order to do so in under a minute. We were reminded to put our shoes inside our suit in a real life emergency for when we are rescued. Good advice indeed.

immersion suit
Carol dons her immersion suit.
life jacket
Life jacket selfie.

 

Did you know?

The ship makes it’s own drinking water. While saltwater is used on deck for cleaning purposes, and in the toilets for waste removal, it is not so good for cooking, showers, or drinking. The ship makes between 600 and 1,000 gallons per day. It is triple-filtered through a reverse-osmosis process to make it safe for drinking. The downside is that the filtration system removes some important minerals that are required for the human body. It also tends to dry out the skin; so using moisturizer is a good idea when out at sea.

Photo Gallery:

Sharp
Waiting to board the RV Hugh R. Sharp
WG flag
West Genesee colors; flying high on the Sharp
Floating Frogs
Floating Frogs at the Woods Hole Biological Museum.
Seal at aquarium
Seal at the Woods Hole Aquarium – Oldest Aquarium in the US.

 

 

 

 

Carol Glor: The Adventure Continues, June 25, 2014

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Carol Glor

(Soon to be aboard) R/V Hugh R. Sharp

July 5 – 14 2014

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey, Third Leg

Geographical area of cruise: North Atlantic Ocean

Date: June 25, 2014

Personal Log:

commander
Last summer I served as the Commander for our simulated mission during my week-long adventure at Space Camp.

Hello, my name is Carol Glor and I live in Liverpool, New York (a suburb of Syracuse). I teach Home & Career Skills at Camillus Middle School and West Genesee Middle School in Camillus, New York. Last summer, I was selected to participate in Honeywell’s Educators at Space Academy at the US Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama. It was a week-long camp full of activities that use space to become more effective educators within science, technology, engineering and math. When one of my space camp teammates told me about her experiences as a Teacher at Sea, I knew that I had to apply.

I am so excited to have been chosen by NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) to be part of the 2014 Teacher at Sea field season. As a Home & Career Skills teacher, I have the opportunity to educate students about the connections between real-life skills in math, science, technology and engineering while learning about important topics such as conservation, career exploration and current events. The best way that I can learn to teach these skills is by practicing them myself. During my upcoming cruise, I will become a real scientist and learn more about the scientific research that is involved in keeping our oceans alive for generations to come.

Onondaga Lake
View from Onondaga Lake West Shore Trail Expansion.
Girls Varsity Crew
Liverpool High School Crew on Onondaga Lake

Sustainability is an important topic of concern for our oceans as well as our lakes and streams. I currently live less than a mile from Onondaga Lake. For many years it has been considered one of the most polluted bodies of water in the US. Since 2007, the Honeywell Corporation has implemented the Onondaga Lake Remediation Plan (slated for completion in 2015) to result in an eventual recovery of the lake’s habitat for fish and wildlife as well as recreational activities on and around the lake. Most recently, the West Shore Trail Extension was opened for the public to enjoy. Onondaga Lake Park has always been one of my favorite places to go to experience nature while walking, running, biking or watching my daughters’ crew races. Now I can enjoy it even more.

Science and Technology:

I will be sailing from Woods Hole, Massachusetts aboard the R/V Hugh R. Sharp to participate in an Atlantic sea scallop survey. The R/V Hugh R. Sharp is a coastal research vessel, built in 2006, is 146 feet long, and is part of the University of Delaware’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment fleet.

R/V Hugh R Sharp
R/V Hugh R Sharp out at sea

The purpose of a sea scallop survey is to determine the scallop population on the east coast. This survey is important to protect the sea scallop from being over-harvested. By collecting digital video data and sea scallop samples, the science crew is able to advise which areas of the east coast are open for scallop fishing.

The Atlantic Sea Scallop
The Atlantic Sea Scallop

What I hope to learn:

Recently, I had the pleasure of visiting Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. While there, I experienced the beauty of the coastal island as well as savoring the bounty from the sea. As a casual observer, I noticed a few lobster boats, trawling vessels and pleasure cruisers. Each has a stake in the future abundance of sea life in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean. I would like to learn first-hand the impact of over-harvesting on sea scallops and be able to observe them in their natural habitat. My work as a scientist will give my students a taste for the vast amount of research careers that are available to them.

Edgartown Lighthouse
Edgartown Lighthouse on Martha’s Vineyard
Lobsterman
A Lobsterman hauling in his catch in Nantucket Sound.

Virginia Warren: Let the Dredging Begin, July 15, 2013

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Virginia Warren
Aboard the R/V Hugh R. Sharp
July 9 – 17, 2013

Mission: Leg 3 of the Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise: Georges Bank
Date: July 15, 2013

Weather Data from the Bridge: South to south-west winds 10 to 20 knots, seas 4 to 6 feet, showers and scattered thunderstorms, areas of fog with visibility of 1 nautical mile or less early in the morning

Science and Technology Log:

After two days of using the HabCam to view the animals in their natural habitat, we moved to viewing the actual animals. We used a scallop dredge to bring the animals on deck so that we can count and measure them. The main goal is to find scallops, but we also sort other animals and measure them as well. In the dredge we have found sand dollars, different types of fish, crabs, sea stars, and of course scallops. The dredge gets pulled behind the ship for 15 minutes. Once the 15 minutes are up, the ship crew will pull the dredge onto the boat and then dump the contents onto the sorting table. Before sorting the contents of the dredge someone from the science crew is responsible for taking a picture of its contents. To keep the pictures separated from dredge to dredge, another person holds a white board that tells the number of the tow in front of each pile before the picture. Then the sorting begins!

Holding the Sign for the Station Picture
Holding the Sign for the Station Picture

Sorting the table can be very interesting because the things that come up depend on the location and how deep the water is. At times we sort through scallops and rocks, then the next dredge might be sand, or another time might be mostly sand dollars. While sorting the dredge contents, we sort all of the fish and skates from the scallops and put the fish and/or skates in a bucket to be sorted later. The items on the table that we are not sampling are considered to be trash. We have to keep up with each time we throw a ‘trash’ bucket overboard because a person on my crew has to count up the total amount of trash. Sometimes we also do a subsample of the number of starfish in the trash and the amount of crabs that came up in the dredge (hermit crabs not included). Crabs and starfish are natural predators  of scallops.

Once the sorting table is clear, we separate the types of fish based on species and then start weighing and measuring in the scientific ‘van’ on the ship. The watch chief takes the weights of everything and then passes it down to be measured by length. Before we can start measuring the length, we have to get the computer ready to receive the measurement data. The names of the people working the station are put into the computer and then the species is selected. To measure the length of an item, we spread it out on a measuring board starting at the beginning of the board. This board is connected to the computer and has a magnet that goes down the length of the ruler that is all the way down the middle of the board. Next, we take a hand-held magnet and press down on the board at the end of the item. The magnet picks up the measurement and sends it to the computer program. This will continue until everything that needs to be measured is complete.

Yellow Tale Flounder Being Measured
Yellow Tale Flounder Being Measured

Another station in the van is responsible for taking meat weights from a sample group of three to four scallops. The sample scallops first have to be scrubbed down with a wire brush to clean off anything growing on it. After the shell is clean, then the scallops get weighed and measured for length. Then the scallop gets shucked. The gonad gets taken out and weighed and then the muscle gets taken out and weighed. The muscle is the part of the scallop that gets eaten. Then the shells are dried off and bagged up for age testing when the ship gets back to port.

Personal Log:

It has been foggy here on Georges bank, but work still continues on a ship. This ship constantly has either the HabCam in the water, or is dredging for scallops and the science crew is responsible for keeping the science research going 24 hours a day. This is the reason for the science crew to be split into two groups. The people in my crew are great to work with and are very helpful!

Close to the beginning of one of my shifts, we came across a dredge that was full of scallops. It had at least 10 baskets full of large scallops. We only measured a subsample of four baskets, but in the subsample alone we had over 400 scallops that were measured in. Then in the very next dredge, we had another dredge that was better than the first one. The baskets of scallops filled up the side of the ship and we were actually searching for baskets to put more scallops in.

I have had several ‘firsts’ on this trip. I got my first experience being on a research vessel. This was my first time shucking a scallop. It was also my first time being brought into a fisherman’s tradition. Apparently it’s tradition for all newbie scallop shuckers to shuck their own scallop and then eat it raw. This is not the best tradition in my mind because I have a very easy gag reflex and of course I started gagging, but I was able to keep it down. The cook on the ship taught me how to fillet a fish called whiting. Then as a special treat, he took the fish and fried it up for us to snack on. This was a great treat, because the fish came straight from dredge to be filleted and cooked up to be eaten. It was fresh and delicious!

Virginia Shucking Scallops
Virginia Shucking Scallops
Virginia Holding the 20 Pound Monk FIsh
Virginia Holding the 20 Pound Monk FIsh

Did You Know… that when dredging for scallops the part of the dredge that drags the bottom of the sea floor will come up looking polished.

The Dredge Coming Up Looking Polished
Look closely at the side of the dredge facing the camera and you will see that it is polished to a silver color because it is dragged over the bottom of the ocean floor. The rest of the dredge that doesn’t touch the ocean floor looks a rusted red color.

Animals Seen Recently:

–       Dolphins

Dolphins
Dolphins

–       Blue Shark

–       Lobster

–       Octopus

–       Monk Fish

–       Skates

Winter Skate
Winter Skate

–       Basking Shark

–       Pilot Whale

Pilot Whale
Pilot Whale

–       LOTS of scallops

Extra Pictures:

Eric Velarde: Rosette C.T.D. Analysis & HabCam V4 Operation, June 15, 2013

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Eric Velarde
Aboard R/V Hugh R. Sharp
Wednesday, June 13, 2013 – Monday, June 24, 2013

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: Cape May – Cape Hatteras
Date: June 15, 2013

Weather Data from Bridge
Latitude: 38°19.0778 N
Longitude: 74°15.9625 W
Atmospheric Pressure: 30.7in
Wind Speed: 11.5 Knots
Humidity: 70%
Air Temperature: 66.4°F
Surface Seawater Temperature: 66.2°F

Science & Technology Log

Deploying the Rosette to collect the first water sample for C.T.D. analysis & flying the HabCam V4 was the focus of work on June 15, 2013. The Rosette is deployed so that water samples can be collected to analyze the Conductivity, Temperature, and Depth (C.T.D.) of the seawater, providing data on the physical aspects of the Atlantic Sea Scallop’s (Placopecten magellanicus) habitat. The engineering team assumes responsibility of the Rosette, which is carefully lowered into the ocean through winch operation on the bridge. Once the Rosette has reached near the seafloor, it collects seawater and is then carefully retrieved through winch operation on the bridge. The seawater is then collected into an individual sampling bottle for analysis & calibration of the instrument.

Rosette C.T.D. Apparatus
Rosette C.T.D. Apparatus

Digital image rendering of the C.T.D. analysis allows for graphic visualization of the gathered oceanographic information, as well as calibration of the instrument. Analyzing the information demonstrates the two distinct layers of the ocean, separated by a relatively abrupt dividing boundary, which defines them. Atlantic Sea Scallops (Placopecten magellanicus) inhabit the seafloor in the lower layer of the ocean, whereas Plankton and Sea Scallop larvae can be found in the upper layer. Presentation of the C.T.D. readout gives accurate data of the Voltage (purple), Oxygen (blue), Temperature (red), and Salinity (green) levels.

C.T.D. Readout
C.T.D. Readout

As stated in my previous post, the HabCam V4 takes a tremendous amount of teamwork in order to operate at its maximum capacity. Correspondence with the engineering team is required to launch & retrieve the HabCam V4, the pilot must remain focused on ensuring that the HabCam V4 is close enough to the seafloor for maximum image quality, while at the same time being at a safe distance to prevent accidental collision, and the co-pilot is focused on incoming images & server traffic at a 2-monitor interface. All participating members of the crew must be attentive, communicative, and actively engaged in the contributing activities of other team members at all times.

HabCam V4 Co-Pilot Interface
HabCam V4 Co-Pilot Interface

The best way to describe piloting the HabCam V4 is to compare it to a video game, albeit one that has no “extra lives”. There is a pressure sensitive fiber optic cable feed & retrieval control lever that allows the pilot to either decrease or increase the depth of the HabCam V4. It is vital to maintain a safe distance while being in close enough range of the seafloor so that the incoming images are properly exposed and recognizable for the co-pilot. The optimum range is between 1.7 – 1.9 meters +/- 0.2 meters. Piloting the HabCam V4 during satisfactory weather is nearly effortless once having become acclimated to the 5-monitor interface and the control lever. Piloting the HabCam V4 during foul weather is quite difficult, requiring constant conscious concentration on all variables (seafloor depth, HabCam V4 depth, sonar readout, and fiber optic cable feed & retrieval) in order to prevent an accidental collision with the seafloor.

HabCam V4 Piloting
HabCam V4 Piloting

Co-piloting the HabCam V4 requires attention to the incoming images, as well as server traffic. Incoming images must be screened so that identified individual species can be time-stamped and tagged for analysis. Using software, the co-pilot can either tag observed species using digital identification markers, or manually input text to identify a particularly intriguing image that they wish to highlight for analysis. It is important to ensure that incoming images are being written to the server for digital archiving and future annotation. Digital data management, a scarcely celebrated 21st century character trait, is one of the many strengths of the crew aboard this vessel.

HabCam V4 Co-Piloting
HabCamV4 Co-Piloting

Personal Log

Despite a few bouts of violent seasickness, I have been having the time of my life while aboard the R/V Hugh R Sharp. The crew possesses seemingly infinite amounts of sincerity, honesty, and intelligence. The continued operation of this wonderfully engineered human machine has occurred without error, and will continue to do so while under the watchful eyes of the leadership heads. Thus far my favorite aspect of this research experience has been co-piloting the HabCam V4. Having vast amounts of digital imagery stream before my observation makes me feel as though I am at home, screening digital images that I stumble upon for both scientific beauty & significance.

HabCam V4 Co-Piloting
HabCam V4 Co-Piloting

In addition to the technological aspects of this experience, I have also found solace in the empathetic energy provided by the ship’s captain, Jimmy Warrington. His humor, experience, and leadership create an ideal teaching & learning environment. While many may dread the monotonous nature of a safety briefing, the one provided by the Captain was both engaging and informative. Following safety briefing, newcomers to the R/V Hugh R. Sharp are required to don a safety immersion suit in less than 60 seconds. The safety immersion suit is more commonly referred as a “Gumby Suit”. The suit is quite impressive, being both insulating and buoyant. It possesses a safety whistle, flashlight, interpersonal locking hooks, and even an inflatable pillow. It is reassuring to know that above all else, safety is the primary focus of the leadership on this vessel.

Safety Immersion Suit or "Gumby Suit"
Safety Immersion Suit or “Gumby Suit”

Being on duty from Midnight-Noon causes me to miss the opportunity to observe sunsets at sea on most nights, but I have been able to experience a few and they are simply the most breathtaking sunsets that I have ever seen. Watching the night divide the day is both awe-inspiring and thought provoking. Despite my colorblindness, I feel that I am still capable of absorbing all of the electromagnetic energy that the sun provides during this hour of magic.

Sunset Storm
Sunset Storm

Dredge tows will be the focus of upcoming days, and is something that I am looking forward to. As a biologist, I find all living organisms infinitely beautiful and stimulating. I cannot wait.

-Mr. V

Did You Know?

The Atlantic Sea Scallop Fishery is the largest & most valuable scallop fishery on planet Earth, valued at $580,000,000 in 2011.

Eric Velarde: First Day at Sea & HabCam V4 Operating Systems Management, June 13, 2013

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Eric Velarde
Aboard R/V Hugh R. Sharp
Wednesday, June 13, 2013 – Monday, June 24, 2013

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: Cape May – Cape Hatteras
Date: June 13, 2013

Weather Data from Bridge
Latitude: 38°47.3002 N
Longitude: 75°09.6813 W
Atmospheric Pressure: 30.5in (1032.84mb)
Wind Speed: 14.5 Knots (16.68mph)
Humidity: 70%
Air Temperature: 19.2°C (66.6°F)
Surface Seawater Temperature: 19°C (66.2°F)

Bridge Weather Data Collection
Bridge Weather Data Collection

Science & Technology Log

Cleaning, stabilizing, and testing the Habitat Mapping Camera System, or HabCam V4 was the focus of work on June 13, 2013. This work was done to ensure that all image collection & processing during the Sea Scallop Survey proceeds without any technical mishaps. Following cleaning, the HabCam V4 fiber optic cable needed to be stabilized to minimize vibrational interference using an ingenious combination of copious amounts of galvanized electrical tape & zip-ties. Once the HabCam V4 fiber optics cable was properly stabilized, the vessel set out to sea to conduct preliminary testing to ensure that all systems were operating properly.

Stabilizing the HabCam V4 Fiber Optic Cable
Stabilizing the HabCam V4 Fiber Optic Cable

What distinguishes the HabCam V4 from other HabCam systems is that the HabCam V4 records Stereo-Optic images (3D images) using 2 cameras in order to give an unprecedented view of the ocean floor organisms and their habitat substrate in the highest image quality available. In addition, the HabCam V4 also possesses a side scan acoustics system, which allows the HabCam V4 Pilot (AKA, “Flyer”) to visualize the sea floor using Sonar technology. Visualizing the sea floor using Sonar allows for more precise HabCam V4 flying so that the HabCam V4 is kept at a safe  distance from the sea floor, which is contoured similarly to Earth’s continents.

HabCam V4 Pilot Interface
HabCam V4 Pilot Interface

Flying the HabCam V4 requires tremendous amounts of teamwork, as there are several operations that must occur simultaneously to ensure seamless HabCam V4 winch operation, data retrieval & image annotation. The Pilot is stationed behind a 5 screen interface where the following information is received: fiber optics cable feed & receival (smaller, upper left screen), loading deck real-time camera feed (upper left screen), Sonar visualization (upper right screen), altimeter/fathometer data (lower left screen), and HabCam V4 real-time image feed (lower right screen). The HabCam V4 is controlled in the Dry Lab by the Pilot who uses the interface to determine how much of the fiber optics cable is needed to be fed or received so that the HabCam V4 remains at a safe distance from the sea floor.  A winch operator is stationed on the loading deck to assist in managing fiber optics cable feed & retrieval. In addition to piloting and winch operation, a co-pilot works at a 2 screen interface to monitor the movement of the HabCam V4 relative to the vessels motion, as well as annotate the incoming images in real time so that observed organisms can be categorized, flagged, and timestamped.

Vic & Amber Piloting/Co-Piloting HabCam V4 in Dry Lab
Vic & Amber Piloting/Co-Piloting HabCamV4 in Dry Lab

Due to incoming severe weather & HabCam V4 data retrieval complications, the vessel had to return to port in Lewes, DE to ensure the safety of all crew members & scientific technology. The vessel is set to return to sea once the seas have calmed down and when the HabCam V4 is at its full operational capacity.

Incoming Severe Weather
Incoming Severe Weather

Personal Log

This experience seems like a living dream. Flying from Raleigh-Durham International Airport into Philadelphia International Airport was a breathtaking flight. The clouds were wispy, full, and complex. My mind was filled with anxious anticipation, and perhaps quixotic wonder & awe. As the plane descended, I was still wandering in the clouds in my mind. Even the drive from Philadelphia to my hotel in Rehoboth, Delaware where I spent the night before boarding the vessel seemed to be filled with restless excitement.

Philadelphia Clouds
Philadelphia Clouds

I’ve been working hard to become well acquainted with everyone and everything on board. This has already become a life changing experience for me. I have never had the opportunity to eat, sleep, and work in such an immersive scientific environment until this experience. Being in such close proximity to other scientific minds is very fulfilling, providing transcendental feelings of scientific curiosity, sincerity, and beauty. My natural tendency to introvert has begun to fade and I cannot stop the feeling of wanting to contribute as much as possible to the successful operation of the vessel and our mission.

R/V Hugh R Sharp Stern View
R/V Hugh R Sharp Stern View

Mindfulness, teamwork ethic, and lightheartedness are shared integral parts of everyones personality and are key features of the personified identity of the R/V Hugh R Sharp. Teamwork is contagious aboard this vessel, and it is simply the most wonderful scientific feeling I have had in a long time. One of the unique relationships that I have made is with La’Shaun Willis, a ’98 graduate of Bennett College. Never had I imagined that I would have the opportunity to work with a Bennett Belle on this cruise. She makes me feel at home. I cannot wait to share this relationship with my students, faculty, and our higher education partner, Bennett College.

La'Shaun Willis, NOAA Museum Specialist
La’Shaun Willis, NOAA Museum Specialist

In addition to interacting with the scientific team while completing dredge tow sorting & HabCam V4 operation, I plan on developing an understanding of the operation of the vessel itself through the engineering team. The engineers operate behind the scenes and provide an invaluable resource, the full functioning of the vessel itself. I am extremely interested in how, specifically, the vessel navigates through the seas, how waste and water are managed, and the logistics that are behind the planning of this tremendous voyage.

Engineering Team & HabCam V4
Engineering Team & HabCam V4

The weather has been improving and I feel that the best has yet to come. I cannot wait.

-Mr. V

Did You Know?

The HabCam V4 takes up to 10 images per second, which are stitched together to create a mosaic image, allowing for the visualization of a larger area than a single image could offer.

HabCam V4 Mosaic (image Courtesy of Dvora Hart)
HabCam V4 Mosaic (image Courtesy of Dvora Hart)

Eric Velarde: ¡Preparando Para el Viaje! (Preparing for the Trip!) June 10, 2013

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Eric Velarde
Aboard R/V Hugh R. Sharp
Wednesday, June 13, 2013 – Tuesday, June 24, 2013

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: Cape May – Cape Hatteras
Date: June 10, 2013

Personal Log

Mr. Velarde & Rudy (the family poodle)
Mr. Velarde & Rudy (the family poodle)

¡Hola! I am Mr. Eric Velarde, 9th-12th grade Honors Earth/Environmental Science, Honors Biology, and Physical Science teacher at The Early/Middle College at Bennett in Greensboro, NC. I have had the distinct honor of experiencing my first 3 years of teaching at a truly wonderful, unique learning community. The Early/Middle College at Bennett is located on the historic campus of Bennett College and serves as a nurturing learning environment for aspiring, young women. Our students are engaged in their learning through academic scholarship, leadership & character development, and service to others.

I am intensely excited about sharing this research experience with my students, colleagues, and the general public. It is my plan to create several interactive, engaging, and personalized learning modules from the experience that educators can easily access and adapt for their students. These learning modules will focus on utilizing NOAA’s research, 21st century technology, and collaborative learning strategies to leverage the participation of historically underrepresented groups in the atmospheric & ocean science fields in America. In addition, I plan to use my experience with photography to help unveil the details behind ocean science research careers to provide students with an in-depth experience of what it feels like to be a scientist at sea.

R/V Hugh R. Sharp
R/V Hugh R. Sharp (Image Courtesy of NOAA)

I will be aboard the R/V Hugh R. Sharp from June 13th-25th to assist the Ecosystems Survey Branch of the Northeast Fisheries Science Center in a survey of the Atlantic Sea Scallop (Placopecten magellanicus) to determine distribution and abundance in the mid-Atlantic. Biological analysis will occur through ocean-floor dredging, sorting & categorization of specimens, and Hab-Cam photography. Data collected will be used to assess the abundance of the population, health of the population, and the sustainability status of the fishery.

The Grand Canyon in Summer 2009
The Grand Canyon in Summer 2009

Growing up in Phoenix, Arizona has instilled in me a deep, sincere love of Geology & Geography which I still hold today. Upon moving to Greensboro, NC I began to shift my interests towards Agriculture through involvement with the National FFA Organization. My undergraduate career consisted of juggling the study of Biology, Women’s Studies, and Photography at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. As my 2010 graduation neared, I enrolled in the UNC-Baccalaureate Education in Science & Teaching (UNC-BEST) program to prepare for lateral entry licensure as a high school science teacher. Upon graduation I promptly earned employment with Guilford County Schools with my current school, where I worked for 2 years before earning my licensure with Guilford County Schools Alternative Certification Track (GCS-ACT). I am now a licensed educator and I plan on spending the rest of my life in education.

Sisters in Science & LSAMP Scholar Collaborative Lab
Sisters in Science & LSAMP Scholar Collaborative Lab

Working with our higher-education partner, Bennett College, has afforded me a significant amount of working time and space to facilitate character development within the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields with the Sisters in Science (SIS) mentorship program. Select Early/Middle college students who express interest in STEM are paired with a Bennett College Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation (LSAMP) scholar to help foster their interest in STEM. Students perform laboratory experiments, participate in service learning initiatives, travel to scientific conferences, and attend scientific lectures with their mentors. SIS has now expanded to include Brothers & Sisters in Science (BSIS) for Middle School students, and continues to reap the benefits of funding from the Anne L. & George H. Clapp Charitable and Educational Trust Foundation.

Nowadays I find myself constantly reassessing how I’ve facilitated a culture of lifelong learning, college & career readiness, and scientific curiosity in my students. Through professional development with North Carolina New SchoolsNational Youth Leadership Council, and the numerous opportunities provided by my school administrative team I have been able to begin to focus on character development, a growing passion of mine.

It is clear that this will be a significantly enriching experience both for myself and for students. More opportunities like the Teacher at Sea program are needed to help leverage teacher understanding of the size and scope of the field of science if we are to continue to advance our education, technology, and ultimately, our humanity into the far reaches of the Universe.

All the best,

-Mr. V

Janet Nelson: Introduction – NOAA Teacher at Sea – June 14-25, 2012

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Janet Nelson Huewe
Aboard R/V Hugh R. Sharp
June 13 – 25, 2012

Pre-Cruise:

Greetings from Lewes Delaware! I am Janet Nelson Huewe. I live in Bemidji, MN with my husband, Gary. Together we have five grown children and two grand children. Bemidji is the home of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox.

Good thing Mr. Bunyan left so many footprints that created lakes because my husband LOVES to fish! I have been teaching biology for ten years at Red Lake High School on the Red Lake Indian Reservation. I enjoy learning and doing new things that I can bring back into my classroom. I am very excited to have been selected by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to participate in their Teacher at Sea program. I will be working on the R/V Hugh R. Sharp in the North Atlantic conducting a sea scallop survey.

I arrived into Lewes on June 13th and boarded the ship. The winds have been high, blowing anywhere from 25 to 40 mph causing waves to reach around 12 feet, so we are still in port, waiting for calmer seas. When we do set sail, we will be using a device called a HabCam (HABitat mapping CAMera system). HabCam is a tool that will provide us with a unique glimpse at the seafloor through optical imaging.

The HabCam vehicle is lifted over the edge of the ship by a winch and then “flies” over the ocean bottom taking six images a second creating a continuous image ribbon. On the surface we will get real-time images and data in a completely non-invasive way.  From the images we can learn about ecosystem change over different time and space scales, calculate biodiversity, classify habitats, map hard to survey species, learn about invasive species, and promote interest in ocean and ecosystem science. HabCam can also provide data to scientists and fishery managers to help them make more informed decisions and to help understand ecosystem change.

We will also deploy a scallop dredge (on the right). This device, however, is more invasive. The dredge will physically skim the bottom of the ocean to collect live specimens. From there, I will help sort and count the scallops and any other critter that gets taken up by the dredge. Maybe I will be able to eat a few scallops later? We’ll see. Until then, keep checking my blog to find out more exciting news from the R/V Hugh R. Sharp!

Anne Byford: June 11, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea: Anne Byford
Aboard: R/V Hugh R. Sharp

Mission: Sea Scallop Surveys
Location: Off the Coast of New England
Date: June 11, 2010

Weather Data at 1:35pm EDT:
Clear, 14.4˚C
Location at 1:35pm EDT: Lat: 40 30.07 N Long: 69 08.66 W
Water Depth: 77.5 m

4th Day at Sea

Why Count Sea Scallops?

That had to be the most common question I got asked before coming on this trip. Much of the information below is from the NOAA FishWatch website (www.nmfs.noaa.gov/fishwatch/species/atl_sea_scallop.htm).

Economically, sea scallops are an important species; in 2008 the scallop harvest was about 53.5 million pounds and was worth about $370 million. The population is not currently considered to be overfished and has been above minimum sustainable levels since 2001. Formal management began in 1982 with the Atlantic Sea Scallop Fisheries Management Plan. The management plan includes limiting new permits, restrictions on gear and on the number of crew on a boat. Since about 2000, the biomass of scallops has been increasing. Biomass is estimated by using the weight of scallops per tow on cruises like this one. Combinations of biomass estimates and estimates of the commercial catch are used to update and adjust the management plan.

Sea Scallops (Placopecten magellanicus) are filter feeders. They can live up to 20 years and begin reproducing at about 2 years, with maximum fertility reached at 4 years. A single female scallop can produce up to 270 million eggs in her life. This high reproductive capacity has helped the scallop population recover relatively quickly. Gender can be determined by the color of the gonad; females are orange while the male gonad is white. Adult scallops average between 6 and 7 inches from hinge to tip (called height) but can be as big as 9 inches. Age can be estimated by counting the rings on the shell. Scallops can “swim” by opening and closing the two shells. This is a useful adaptation for escaping from predators, including flounder, cod, lobsters, crabs, and sea stars. Scallops are harvested for the adductor muscle (the one that opens and closes the shell). There is no commercial aquaculture of scallops in the US as of August 2009.

Personal Log

A storm moved through beginning on Wed. evening (day 2) and stayed with us most of Thursday. By the end of shift on Wednesday, we were working on deck in full foul weather gear and life jackets. Thursday we had an 8 hour steam between dredge sites and by the end of shift on Thursday, the seas had begun to smooth out. Friday was quite nice, weather-wise.

I am learning to shuck scallops, though I am about half the speed of many on the boat. I am also learning to tell the various types of flounder and other fish apart as well. It’s not always obvious which type of flounder or hake is which.

New Species

Goose fish (aka monk fish), several more varieties of flounder, sea urchins, sea cucumbers, eel pout, some very large skates, 3 types of sea stars and 1 type of brittle star.

Julianne Mueller-Northcott, May 15, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Julianne Mueller-Northcott
Onboard R/V Hugh R. Sharp
May 11 – 22, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea: Julianne Mueller-Northcott
University of Delaware R/V Hugh R. Sharp
Mission:  Sea Scallop Survey: Leg III
Port of Departure: Lewes, Delaware
Location:  Off the coast of Maryland
Date: May 15, 2010

Weather Data from the Bridge
Air temp: 16.6⁰C, clear skies, 10% cloud cover

Water conditions
SST: 13.16⁰C, Salinity: 31.7ppt

Science and Technology Log
Got sea stars?
We have pulled up some impressive loads of scallops so far on this trip!  Our largest load included 2,083 scallops (which is about 750 lbs).  When they come up in the dredge you can hear them coming.  They clatter in the net as they get hauled out and dumped out onto the deck.  But even when we are so tired of counting the scallops and lifting the heavy baskets, the scientists and crew members have said, “Just wait!  You haven’t seen anything yet!” referencing the fact that there were many more scallops to come.

But today, in a location where in years past have been home to a large numbers of scallops, we didn’t find many.  In fact at our last station, there were only five.  Instead, the net bulges with the sea star, Astropectin. “Where are all the scallops?” is a question that the scientists keep asking themselves because this data is so surprising to them.  Today we passed many fishing boats, in fact at one point there were at least five on the horizon surrounding us.  I had thought that was an important clue that meant we were bound to find lots shellfish, but that hasn’t been the case.  Because this data is surprising, it has the scientists asking another question “Is there a problem with the collection gear?”  Fortunately, there are many systems set in place to guarantee that everything is working properly.

During experiments at school, we try to make sure that students know to standardize the procedure and limit variables so that they can be sure the results they attain are based on the one variable they isolated and not due to some other environmental factor.  That principle couldn’t be more true on this scallop survey.  It is of the utmost importance that all the data that is collected, is collected the same way at each location, and as it was collected in previous years.  For this reason, all the specifications about the dredge (the size of the dredge, the size of the rings that let small organisms out, but trap the larger organisms) are kept the same throughout each leg of the survey and each year. In addition to this, they also measure the angle of the dredge with an inclinometer. This way they can make sure that the dredge is always in the same position as it moves along the seafloor.  The tow is always for the same length of time, going at the same speed, and going in a straight line.  You can see that if a tow was down for a longer amount of time that would change the amount of organisms being caught. To double check all of these procedures, we mounted a camera on to the dredge.  This camera had a timer on it as well.  It was really fun to watch the video; the dredge fell through the water column and then settled on the sea floor in a puff of mud.  The dredge sped along the substrate and we could see little sea stars falling back into the net. Watching the footage, the scientists were able to double check that the angle on the dredge and the amount of time it spent on the bottom was consistent with the measurements they were getting from the inclinometer.  Since this data is helping to manage such a valuable economic resource, the scientists need to be extremely confident in the data collection methods.  Using this data, decisions will be made about the fishing regulations in the area which ultimately impacts people’s jobs and income.

Because these scientists have carefully and deliberately eliminated so many variables they can be sure that their equipment is working properly and that they can trust their data.  But that still leaves the question, where are they scallops?  Have all of the scallop fishing boats that we can see in the distance totally wiped this area clean?  Or is it to do with the incredible numbers of sea stars that we have seen, gorging themselves on their favorite delicacy? Hopefully, this particular region is isolated and we will have been luck finding scallops tomorrow.

Jack C’s question was, “Did you catch any sharks?” And yes we have!  We have caught a bunch of a small type of shark called a chain dogfish.  They have a very cool pattern on their skin that looks like a chain link fence and they are usually around a foot or so long.  We also caught a shark that was a little bigger called a smooth dogfish.  What is great about these guys is that they are a little more resilient that some of the other fish that we catch.  They make it back to the water without a problem and we watch them swim away.

My patrol of the bow of the boat certainly paid off today.  I saw so many dolphins!  The past couple of days I have been in awe of the handful of dolphins we have seen and by the sunfish.  But, honestly, I was a little surprised that we hadn’t seen more mammals. Well, the dolphins found us today! On and off today, dolphins would stop by the boat for a few minutes to play in the wake or up near the bow.  They would leap and splash a couple of times and then be on their way.  It was a different species than the dolphins that had visited us at night—these were grey on the top, then a tan color on the sides and white underneath. This afternoon a couple were near the back of the boat when we had a break between hauls.  Knowing that the dolphins especially like to play near the bow of the boat, I went to see if maybe some of their friends were up front.  Sure enough, surging through the water, weaving between each other were at least a dozen dolphins.  Then I happened to look up—and there coming towards the boat were even more dolphins.  They were porpoising through the water coming from ahead of the boat.  You could see them coming from at least a ½ mile away by the repetitive, white splash of the water.  It was like a dolphin convention was happening at the Sharp!  They would meet each other at the bow and enjoy being pulled along by the drag in the water created by the ship.  Probably the most amazing part was not only watching them but listening to them as well.  Because they were so close, just about 12 feet below me as I stood on the deck of the ship, I could hear their clicks and high-pitched whistles.   Watching their fun dance in the water, I noticed that many of the dolphins would swim for a few seconds together, belly to belly.  Then they would speed off and find a new dance partner; I thought it was very sweet and adorable.  It took me a minute to figure it out, but then I realized that they were doing a little more than just “dancing” together.  Oh….They were truly enjoying themselves!

Personal Log
I didn’t realize how long it had been since I had watched the sun set.  Not just the casual, driving in your car and you notice the daylight fade, but when you sit down with the intention of taking in a real sunset.  When you watch from the first signs of an orange sky until the last smidge of brilliant red slips gently down over the horizon.  I had the chance to watch one of those sunsets today, start to finish.  It reminded me of summers out at the Shoals Marine Lab when we would actually stop teaching class just to sit out on the porch and admire something that happens every day, but is nevertheless spectacular.   I am always surprised how quickly it happens.  All day long, it is impossible to notice our movement relative to the sun, but it only takes a few minutes to transition from day to night.  And the real highlight is not the exact moment that the sun disappears, but minutes after the sun has set, when the entire sky glows red. Tonight was the first moon that I have seen on the trip, and it was curved into a smile hanging in the sky.  It grinned next to a bright star (or maybe a planet?) on the pink backdrop, above the midnight water with a large tanker drifting by in the distance.

One of my favorite parts of this adventure so far is just being able to spend all day outside.  I wake up in the morning—usually around 9:00 (I haven’t slept in so late since before Madelyn was born—but it is because my night shift ends at midnight—and maybe because the gentle rocking of the ship helps me sleep so fitfully!).  I hurry to get dressed and then head right for the bow of the boat.  There I search for dolphins and sunfish for about an hour or so before it is time to get ready for work.  The past two days have been so beautiful, that I haven’t wanted to be inside the boat at all during the day—for fear that I might miss something spectacular!  Because of this, I haven’t had the chance to do as much writing as I would like.  I tried using the laptop outside—but the glare is too great. It just doesn’t work!  After a long and draining winter/spring, it feels so good to get recharged by the solar energy!

Julianne Mueller-Northcott, May 12, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Julianne Mueller-Northcott
Onboard R/V Hugh R. Sharp
May 11 – 22, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea: Julianne Mueller-Northcott
University of Delaware R/V Hugh R. Sharp
Mission:  Sea Scallop Survey: Leg III
Port of Departure: Lewes, Delaware
Location: Off the coast of Virginia
Date: May 12, 2010

Weather Data from the Bridge

Air temp: 13.72⁰C, 85% humidity, overcast

Science and Technology Log
When the dredge gets pulled up the ramp of the ship, I always strain to try to see past the chain and netting to see what amazing creatures might have gotten caught in the dredge.  I can see the pale-as–a-ghost face on the underside of skates and flounders.  The sea stars fall to the table in a big mound and you can see the crabs trying to climb the net.  And of course the scallops!  They get dumped out onto the table in a wave.  The pile of creatures undulates as organisms try to right themselves and seek cover.  Each dredge so far has been different.  Some are chock full of sea stars such as Asterias forbesii and Asterias vulgaris which we have at home, but by far the most abundant sea star species is Astropectin sp.   There was one dredge that was all sand dollars and they tumbled out onto to the deck, like hundreds of poker chips, hockey pucks and small frisbees.  I noticed that all of the fish in the dredge were green and then everything else started turning green. Apparently, sand dollars turn everything green! No one was quite sure why—this will be something to investigate once I get home.

So you can imagine how exciting it is to see hundreds (in some cases maybe thousands) of your sea friends, dumped out in front of you to examine!  I think about all the hours toiling at Odiorne Point with my students searching under rocks and peeling back algae in the intertidal zone looking for a hidden gem.  Here on the sorting table at the back of the boat there are so many species, so many things waiting to be discovered.  I think about my marine biologists at home and how excited they would be to have some of these critters for our tank!  (And while the thought has crossed my mind to try to kidnap some, that might be a difficult situation to explain going through security at the airport—a cooler full of crabs, sand dollars, sea stars and scallops!) The object here is not to study all the cool creatures for hours under a microscope which is what I would love to do (there isn’t even a microscope on the ship!) but instead, to sort.  My job, with 5 other people, is put out all the scallops and fish.  Those get measured and counted and everything else goes back into the water.  It all happens very quickly.  Because the goal is to do so many dredges in a relatively short amount of time, the faster you process everything the faster we can move on to our next sampling location, which means the more data that can be collected.  Also time is money on this high tech ship we are on.  For the scientists to use the R/V Hugh R. Sharp it costs $12,000 a day.  So it is imperative to work quickly to get the job done. But I am learning some tricks so that I can spend a little more time with the creatures I really want to check out.  I usually sneak a couple of neat things to photograph off to the side and after we are finished with the work at hand take a few minutes to study them.  And the scientists have figured out that when they have an organism that we haven’t seen yet, they have to show it to me before it gets tossed back overboard!

We were just pulling up a dredge last night when Ben pointed to the starboard side of the ship.  There in the starlight were about eight dolphins riding in the wake of the boat.  They were porpoising in and out of the water.  They were gray, with speckled black dots—we don’t have a mammal field guide on board—so I am not sure which species it was.  It was the first night that we could see stars, other than the sea star variety. I thought of Kat S. who was the first person who got me excited about the prospect of seeing stars at night from the boat.  Between the starlight and the spotlights on the ship, the sea below sparkled.  Even in the dark water you could see the water shimmer and change to a light green color, letting you know where the dolphins were just before they surfaced.  I have a list of top wildlife encounters in my life (swimming with whale sharks and eagle rays, saving stranded pilot whales in the keys, viewing humpbacks breech in a storm in the Bay of Fundy, nesting sea turtles Mexico, watching baby orcas play in the San Juan Islands, etc) but even with this list, watching the dolphins at night beneath the stars was pretty magical!

Captain Bill nonchalantly mentioned that he had seen an ocean sunfish (Mola mola) yesterday morning.  “What?!” I guess I hadn’t made it clear that I wanted to witness any such animal encounters.  I had told my students that the ocean sunfish was the one species I was really looking forward to seeing on this trip.  I had seen them in various aquariums but never in the wild. The ocean sunfish has always seemed to me a freak of natural selection.  How could something so big, clumsy and awkward looking have survived evolution?  Something about the way it lazes around without a care in the world has always appealed to me.  This morning, I took my usual watch on the bow of the boat (as I do every morning before my watch begins at 12:00). There, about 50 ft from the boat, I saw two large fins, flopping this way and that without an apparent purpose.  It was Mola mola! We didn’t get very close and our boat was traveling fast but through my binos I at least got a glimpse of its round, disc body.  And a couple of hours later, I saw another—this one a little further away.  So I know there are lots out there—now the goal is to get an up-close view and hopefully a photo!

Personal Log
It is pretty awesome now that the weather is brightening and we are seeing some beautiful species!  I love being on the top decks watching the sunlight dance on the water.  I love that everywhere I look all I see is ocean.  Yesterday we saw many other ships on the water—but today it is really just us steaming along. At first it was a little hard to get used to seeing lots of dead fish in the dredge and lots of animals that don’t survive the sampling.  There is a lot more by catch than I would have expected. It is going to take a little more time for me to process my thoughts about it all, but I am starting to understand that for now this is the best way for the data to be collected.  While it might not be the best thing for individual organisms, these sampling techniques are important for protecting the fisheries and ultimately the ecosystem.

Julianne Mueller-Northcott, May 10-11, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Julianne Mueller-Northcott
Onboard R/V Hugh R. Sharp
May 11 – 22, 2010

University of Delaware R/V Hugh R. Sharp
Mission: Sea Scallop Survey: Leg III
Port of Departure: Lewes, Delaware
Date: May 10-11, 2010

Weather Data from the Bridge
Overcast, rainy, in the 50s

Science and Technology Log
I am about to spend my first night aboard a boat! I arrived to Lewes, Delaware this afternoon and the driver took me to the University of Delaware’s Marine Program campus. From the distance I could see the top deck of the Hugh R Sharp. It was much bigger than I had expected (147 ft) and I was surprised by all of the heavy equipment using for lifting and hauling the dredges, different storage vans for extra space, freezers, and lots of computers, monitors, wires, etc. I met the chief scientist of our survey cruise, Victor Nordahl of the NOAA fisheries, who spent some time explaining to me a little about the purpose of our mission for the next two weeks.

Why scallops? This was a question that I had when I learned that I would be a part of this expedition. After some internet searching I found a tremendous amount of data on scallops and learned that many survey cruises like this one take place. I love my marine invertebrates just as much as the next person (alright, probably a whole lot more!) but it seemed like a lot of  energy invested in monitoring their population size. It turns out that it boils down to money; scallops are a $450 million annual resource! Scallops are one of the most important fisheries in the Northeast United States. It is essential that this economic resource is harvested responsibly so that their populations are sustainable. NOAA’s annual sea scallop dredge survey occur in three legs to carefully monitor the scallop populations, sampling areas as far south as Virginia and as far north as Georges Bank into Canadian waters NOAA’s responsibility is to take an accurate inventory of the scallops, their size and age. Based on their sizes and ages NOAA scientists can use computer models to make predictions for the future of the population in an area. This information can get passed on to a regional council that then makes recommendations/regulations for the scallop fishing industry. These regulations are around the minimum size of the catch, the number of boats, the number of crew members on the boat and the number of days that fishing is permitted.

Before I left school, I asked my students what questions they had about my expedition. They had tons about scallop life history, data collection methods, life aboard a ship, human impact on the ocean and about some of the other sea life we might see while at sea. I will be trying to answer many of those questions in this log. Maddie K. asked the question, “Who eats scallops aside from people?” One species that I learned today that likes to eat scallop larvae are sea stars. During some of our dredges we will also inventory sea stars and crabs so that we can also monitor the population sizes of the scallop predators. This information provides the scientists with important clues on the future of the scallop population in an area. If there are a lot of predators then there might not be a lot of scallops in the future. I am looking forward to pulling up lots of sea stars in the nets. I bet we will pick up some big ones and I wonder which species we’ll find. The chief scientist says that the stars and crabs are pretty hardy and usually survive the dredge without a problem. Liz B. asked if the animals are released after they have been inventoried and it sounds like most everything is tossed back overboard after it has been weighed and inventoried. I am very much looking forward to seeing what comes up in our first dredge!

Personal Log
One thing that has been cool is the people that I have met. It is funny since we are in Delaware I wasn’t expecting to have many connections with the people on board. But it is a small world! There is someone on board who was a judge at this year’s Ocean Bowl competition—of course I had to describe to him our team’s amazing second place finish. There is a cadet from the Coast Guard who played lacrosse against Souhegan and was friends with some former students. And then many people are from Woods Hole and Falmouth on the Cape, which is where  I always spend lots of time in the summer. We are heading out this afternoon with the tide around 5:30. I can’t wait to get out on the open ocean. Far in the distance, I can see  any boats passing by—and some are huge tankers. I look forward to going up to the bow and taking it all in. Fun adventure ahead for tonight, once we get underway we will do some practice sampling and then it is about a 4.5 hour cruise to our first station.

Atlantic Deep Sea Scallop

Phylum: Mollusca

Class: Bivalvia

Species: Placopectin magellanicus

Physical description: large (2-8”), circular. Since it is a bivalve it has two shells (or valves). When reading about scallops in the Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Seashells, something interesting that I learned is that the two shells differ in color. The exterior of the right valve is usually dirty white while the left valve is reddish or pinkish. I am wondering how  they determine which is right and which is left? Inside the scallop is a large adductor muscle. This muscle allows the scallop to open and close and it is the part you eat (if you like  scallops!)

Feeding: Scallops are filter feeders who enjoy their phytoplankton.

Predator/Prey relationships: One of the coolest things about scallops is that they can swim! They force water out of their shell and move right along in the water column. The purpose of  this is to be able to scoot away from their biggest predators—sea stars!
Habitat: on sand or rubble, water 60-400’ deep

Range: Canada to North Carolina

Jeff Lawrence, June 19, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jeff Lawrence
Onboard Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp
June 8-19, 2009 

Mission: Sea scallop survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Atlantic
Date: June 19, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge In port at Woods Hole, Mass. 
W winds 5-10 KTs, cloudy overcast skies Light rain, 2-3 foot waves Air Temp. 66˚F

Jakub Kircun watches as a beautiful sunset unfolds.
Jakub Kircun watches as a beautiful sunset unfolds.

Science and Technology Log 

The Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp finally made it into port this morning at the National Marine Fisheries Service in Woods Hole on the Cape Cod coast of Massachusetts.  Although this cruise was not terribly long it is great to be back on land.  Scallop surveying is tedious work that is ongoing on a research vessel 24/7. The people onboard were great to work with and it is always a pleasure to get to know other people, especially those who share a passion for ocean research and science. Few people realize the great effort and sacrifices that people in the oceanography field have to give up to go out to sea to complete research that will help give a better understanding to three-fourths of the planet’s surface.  They must leave home and loved ones for many days to get the science needed for a more complete understanding of the Earth’s oceans.

lawrence_log6The noon to midnight shift includes myself, the Chief Scientist onboard, Stacy Rowe, watch chief Jakub Kircum, Shad Mahlum, Francine Stroman, and Joe Gatuzzi.  We are responsible for sorting each station on our watch, measuring and weighing the samples into the computer.  These people are very good at what they do and quite dedicated to performing the task with professionalism, courtesy, and a great deal of enthusiasm.  It is clear to see that each person has a passion for ocean sciences especially the fisheries division. The NOAA fisheries division carefully surveys and provides data to those that make regulations about which places will be left open for commercial fishing and those which will be closed until the population is adequate to handle the pressures of the commercial fishing industry. I have observed many different species of marine animals, some of which I did not even know ever existed.  Below is a photo of me and the other TAS Duane Sanders putting on our survival at sea suits in case of emergency.  These suits are designed to keep someone afloat and alive in cold water and are required on all boats where colder waters exist.

The Goosefish, also called Monkfish, is a ferocious predator below the surface and above!
The Goosefish, also called Monkfish, is a ferocious predator below the surface and above!

Personal Log 

The fish with a bad attitude award has to go to the goosefish. This ferocious predator lies in wait at the bottom of the ocean floor for prey. On the topside of its mouth is an antenna that dangles an alluring catch for small fish and other ocean critters.  When the prey gets close enough the goosefish emerges from its muddy camouflage and devours its prey. I made the error of mistaking it for a skate that was in a bucket. I was not paying close enough attention as I grabbed what I thought was the skate from a bucket, the goosefish quickly bit down. Blood oozed out of my thumb as the teeth penetrated clean through a pair of rubber gloves. I pay closer attention when sticking my hand in buckets now.  There are many creatures in the sea that are harmless, but one should take heed to all the creatures that can inflict bodily damage to humans. 

Spiny Dogfish caught in the dredge
Spiny Dogfish caught in the dredge

Questions of the Day 
Name four species you my find at the bottom on the Atlantic:
What is another common name for the goosefish?
What is the species name (Scientific name) for the goosefish?
What are the scientific names for starfish and scallops?

Duane Sanders, June 16, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Duane Sanders
Onboard Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp
June 8-19, 2009 

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: New England Coast
Date: June 16, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Wind: Speed 10 KTS, Direction  50 degrees
Barometer: 1024 millibars
Air temperature: 13 0C
Seas: 3-5 ft.

Science and Technology Log 

A sorting table full of sand dollars!
A sorting table full of sand dollars!

Why is it that we find huge numbers of sand dollars at so many stations?  There have been some stations where our dredge was completely filled with sand dollars.  The sorting table was so full that there was no clear space in which to work. This has piqued my curiosity as a biologist. Some questions come to mind.  Are there any natural predators of sand dollars? What is it about sand dollars that allow them to out-compete other organisms that might otherwise be found at these locations?  What do sand dollars eat? How can there be enough food at a given location to support these huge populations? I talked with Stacy Rowe, the chief scientist for this cruise, and she was not aware of any research being done to answer these questions.  Stacy did know that a species of fish known as the Ocean Pout eats on sand dollars.  I am looking forward to seeing results of some research on these organisms.  Maybe one of my students will follow up.  Who knows?

Duane Sanders with Keiichi Uchida: A fellow scalloper!
Duane Sanders with Keiichi Uchida: A fellow scalloper!

Many different scientists use data taken during this survey.  NOAA staffers come to the ship with a list of types of organisms or samples that have been requested by researchers.  For example we have been setting aside a few scallops from certain stations for special handling.  The gender of each scallop is determined and then they are measured and weighed.  Next, the meat from each scallop is carefully removed and weighed.  The shells are carefully cleaned and set aside to give the scientist who made the request along with all of the measurement data.

I have made a new friend, Keiichi Uchida, of a visiting researcher from Japan. He is doing research that involves tracking the movements of the conger eel, Conger oceanicus, using GIS systems.  Keiichi is here to learn more about how NOAA does surveys like the one we are on now. He is also looking at data similar to his and trying to correlate the different data sets.

Personal Log 

In many ways I am going to miss living and working with people who are interested in the same branch of science as me.  I have had fun talking about all of the things I have observed and the kinds of work being done by this branch of NOAA. There is one thing about this trip that causes me some real sadness.  I have not seen a whale. Two whales have been spotted, but I have always been at the wrong place to see them.  I hope my luck changes before we dock at Woods Hole.

Duane Sanders, June 15, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Duane Sanders
Onboard Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp
June 8-19, 2009 

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: New England Coast
Date: June 15, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Wind: Speed 6.8 KTS, Direction 65.7 degrees
Barometer: 018 millibars
Air temperature: 11.33 0C
Seas: 2-3 ft.

Dumping a dredge on the sorting table.
Dumping a dredge on the sorting table.

Science and Technology Log 

We had to change out the dredge during my last watch.  Actually, I watched while the crew did the dangerous work. We have been working in an area with a rocky bottom and the rocks caused substantial damage to the netting in the dredge. Fortunately, we are carrying four dredges plus spare netting. The crew put a new dredge into operation right away so that we didn’t lose too much time.  Geoff, our watch chief, directed the installation of the new mesh into the first dredge.

The scallop dredges we use are eight feet wide. Commercial dredges are sixteen feet wide. The basic design is the same for each.  The mouth of the dredge is a welded steel rectangular frame, with the height about one foot.  The bottom of this rectangle is a heavy steel bar, called the cutting bar. This breaks loose organisms from the bottom.  A steel plate, called the pressure plate, is welded at an angle across the top of the rectangle.  This plate creates a downward swirl of water that directs the organisms into the mouth of the netting. The bag attached to the dredge is made of a net of steel rings. A mesh liner is mounted inside the bag for scientific use. This helps to trap other organisms that make up bottom-dwelling communities.  This gives scientists a more complete picture for the survey.  Commercial dredges do not use a liner and the rings of the bag are larger.  This allows smaller size scallops and other organisms to pass through the bag and remain to help sustain a healthy scallop population.

The business end of a scallop dredge
The business end of a scallop dredge

We have been ‘shadowed’ by another ship, the Kathy Marie for part of the time we have been working.  She is carrying a device known as the “HabCam”, short for Habitat Camera.  This is an underwater camera system that is towed just over the bottom. It makes a photographic record of still images of the bottom taken at a rate of three per second. The HabCam accumulates data at about three terabytes per day. The Kathy Marie runs over the same area dredged by the Sharp after we move on to the next station. Images from these runs provide scientists with an index of dredge efficiency at capturing the bottom dwellers.  Once enough image data has been collected to make useful correlations to dredge data, it might be possible to reduce the number of physical dredge samples taken and use the HabCam to record the community ‘in situ’, that is, in position without disturbance.

Personal Log 

I said in an earlier log entry that fish are not my favorite type of organism.  Because of this bias, I had been avoiding helping with the fish sorting and identification.  After thinking about this for a bit, I decided that I needed to embrace my bias against fish and try to learn something as well as help my colleagues.  Besides, how could I face my students without at least making an effort?  So, I am trying to learn how to identify these critters.  So far, I am pretty good with goosefish, red hake, longhorn sculpin and some of the flounder species.

I wonder how long it will take me to adjust to walking on dry land after being at sea for eleven days. I guess I’ll find out soon enough.  I have been trying to read some before going to sleep, but I find that I can do a few pages at best.  Hard work, sea air and the rocking motion of our ship make powerful sleep inducers.

Jeff Lawrence, June 14, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jeff Lawrence
Onboard Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp
June 8-19, 2009 

Mission: Sea scallop survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Atlantic
Date: June 14, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
East winds 3 KTs
1015mb pressure
Seas 2-4ft
Partly cloudy early, clearing sunny skies late afternoon

Science and Technology Log 

The bridge of a ship is a very busy place where all activities that are occurring on the ship being managed from this location.  When any equipment is going overboard it is the responsibility of the captain or first mate to ensure that it is done safely and correctly.  The ship must follow a predetermined route for each stations sampling and be kept on tract by precise navigating from the bridge. Whenever anything goes overboard the bridge has to be notified, it is important for the bridge to know everything that is in the water to avoid the boat from being fouled up by miscellaneous line in the water.  This could be dangerous and costly for the ship and crew.

Left: The bridge of the ship; Right: Crewmembers on the bridge discussing the cruise operational procedures
Left: The bridge of the ship; Right: Crewmembers on the bridge discussing the cruise operational procedures

Captain Bill Byam has been very helpful to me and my fellow teacher at sea making sure we have the availability of the crew and ship to write our journal entries and then submit them online to NOAA. The ship’s crew is also responsible for deployments and retrieving of all instruments put overboard the ship. Along with the dredge and occasional CTD is deployed to get a profile of the water column and collect water samples at varying depths.  The water samples can be used for a variety of things, such as water filtering to see what microscopic critters may be present, chemical analysis, as well as conductivity or salinity of the water.  The CTD is standard instruments used on most science research vessels.  The crew on the Sharp are very proficient, professional, and hard working as they also help with assisting the scientist with some of the work on deck.

Personal Log 

Shad and Stacy repair the net on one of the dredges
Shad and Stacy repair the net on one of the dredges

The cruise has gone very smoothly with lots of scientific data have been collected for future analysis. I have worked closely on the deck with members of the noon to midnight shift for almost two weeks.  In that time we have collected many samples of scallops, crabs, starfish, sand dollars, sea urchins, many varieties of fish, and even occasional pieces of trash left from man’s misuse of the ocean.  I hope to be able to take the knowledge gleaned from this experience and the scientist onboard the ship and give my students back in Oklahoma a better understanding of our oceans and how their health impacts everyone around world even those in land-locked Oklahoma.  It has been my goal to better inform my 5th-8th grade students, my college students who are training to become teachers, and the general lay member how all of us impact the health of the oceans and how important the oceans are to us all in maintaining a homeostatic balance with the Earth’s biosphere and atmosphere.   We all have much to gain with a healthy ocean system and much more to lose if we are not adequate in our stewardship of our oceans.

I would like to give a special thanks to Chief Scientist Stacy Rowe for allowing me to participate in all aspects of the cruise and collecting samples.  The team I am with are very cordial and extremely helpful in answering all my questions.  They made me feel a part of the team and not an outsider. It was great to work with a group of people who are so dedicated.  When one team member finished a task they simply moved to help another team member until the whole catch was sorted, measured, and weighed.  It is good to work with people who are equally vested in their work. No one person stood and watched as others worked, each did an equal share of the work and made sure the task was completed in a timely and organized fashion.  This made the long hours of the shift seem shorter and the days went by much quicker.  It is always good to be a part of a good team.  Thanks to the crew aboard the Sharp, and the scientist that made this trip a profitable one, not only for me but also for my students back in Oklahoma.  Thank you Bill Byam, captain aboard the Sharp and all of his dedicated crew.  The ship’s crew, were hospitable host and I really enjoyed meeting you all.  Thanks to NOAA for allowing a previous teacher at sea another opportunity to learn more about the oceans and have another lifetime memory to share with others. 

Questions of the Day 
What instrument does a ship use today to navigate in precise lines? (hint cars use it also to find their way around town)

Who is Hugh R. Sharp? (ship is named after him)

Jeff Lawrence, June 13, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jeff Lawrence
Onboard Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp
June 8-19, 2009 

Mission: Sea scallop survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Atlantic
Date: June 13, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
East winds 3 KTs
Temperature: 13˚C
Seas 3-4ft
1015 mb of pressure

Magnetic measuring board
Magnetic measuring board

Science and Technology Log 

There is a lot of sophisticated equipment aboard a science research vessel of today. Shad who is one of the scientists aboard the ship explained to me how they used to do scallop surveys on older ships just a few years ago. Then they would catch scallops using the dredge net that was then hauled onboard and dumped on the deck.  The scientist would then get on their hands and knees and sort through the pile for scallops or whatever they were looking for. The pile would have to be scoured twice to ensure everything was accounted for. There was a lot of shoveling and moving of the pile as things were being sorted. The work was long, dirty, and backbreaking.

Today the Sharp has a sorting table onboard which makes the job much easier and gives the ship and crew the availability of adding more stations to the survey and getting much more work done than in past seasons. Below is a photo of a magnetic measuring board.  The scallop or fish are placed on the board and a magnetic wand is put at the end of the sample where an accurate measurement is made and placed into the computer showing the size of the sample.  This process is much faster than measuring and recording by hand.  They are also weighed in large baskets to determine average weight of the catch.

Personal Log 

Scallops opening in the warm sun!
Scallops opening in the warm sun!

Some days have been very long at times yet fruitful.  A week has passed and we have collected thousands of scallops, hundreds of thousands of starfish, and many other species of bottom dwelling fishes and animals.  I have observed many varieties and species of animals that I have never seen before except on TV or in a textbook.  This hands-on experience will leave an indelible picture in my mind for many years of what research life is like onboard a research vessel. There are many dedicated scientist and crewmembers in NOAA fisheries that are insuring the viability of certain species so that commercial fishing does not over fish areas of our oceans.

These scientists do valuable research in the labs around the United States but also go out on research vessels and get their hands dirty, work extremely hard, and commit a large part of the personal lives to preservation of species in our oceans so that future generations can enjoy the wide diversity that our oceans provide for us today.  NOAA has scientist working all around the oceans of the United States as well as other parts of the world to give science a better understanding of the vital role each species has in its environment and how that species overpopulation or disappearance could impact the immediate area, larger habitat of the ocean, and the world as a whole. I feel more at ease knowing that there are dedicated people in the world ensuring not only the interest of humans but are also advocating for all species.  The diversity on earth is better understood every year giving scientist and the general public a better understanding of each species role on the world stage of life.

Question of the Day 
What does the term Keystone species mean?

Duane Sanders, June 12, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Duane Sanders
Onboard Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp
June 8-19, 2009 

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: New England Coast
Date: June 12, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Wind: Speed 15.4 KTS, Direction 171.8 degrees
Barometer: 1008 millibars
Air temperature: 16.56 0C
Seas: 3-5 ft.

Science and Technology Log 

It is the end of my watch and I am ready for a break.
It is the end of my watch and I am ready for a break.

The routine of dredging for scallops 24 hours a day continues.  Since the goal of this survey is to get a good understanding of the entire ecosystem where scallops might live, we take samples from areas closed to commercial scalloping as well as from open areas. Every catch is a little different in the numbers and types of organisms we find.  There is a huge difference in scallop counts between areas that have been open for a time and those areas that have been closed. I can understand clearly the importance of checking this ecosystem on a regular basis. Open areas can become overfished and need time to recoup their losses and should be closed for a period of time.

In terms of dollar value the scallop industry is the most valuable fishery in New England. It would be decimated from overfishing without proper management based on sound, scientifically obtained data.

Personal Log 

I have adapted to standing watch at night and sleeping during the day. This experience has helped me to more fully appreciate the finer things in life: sunrise, good food and sleep. Also, I am proud to report that, thanks to some of my fellow ‘watchmates’ I am now ‘BlueTooth competent.’ They showed me how to use Bluetooth on my computer while we were winding down after our watch.

Jeff Lawrence, June 11, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jeff Lawrence
Onboard Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp
June 8-19, 2009 

Mission: Sea scallop survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Atlantic
Date: June 11, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
NE winds 15-20KT
Seas 4-8ft, cold front moving off land
Temperature at Sea 68˚F
Foggy with low visibility, light rain periodically

Science and Technology Log 

The crew is busy collecting scallops.  Occasionally between tows, the crew shuck scallops to eat onboard, this is allowable in open areas.  A meal of freshly shucked scallops will be enjoyed by those onboard the ship.  Shucking scallops is a skill that can be learned over several days.  A long curved skinny knife is inserted between the shells and part of the scallop is cut away from the shell.  With a little skill one more quick cut of the knife and all the inside parts of the scallop are whisked away leaving behind a cylinder shaped piece of white meat that is the part of the scallop enjoyed by people around the world.

TAS Duane Sanders (left) is busy sorting scallops while others shuck the scallops (right).
TAS Duane Sanders (left) is busy sorting scallops while others shuck the scallops (right).

Some dredges produced scallops exclusively, while others produce very few scallops and lots of starfishes or sand dollars.  Scientists are trying to understand the dynamics between the starfish and scallop populations as well as other species.  Getting rid or over fishing one species can have a profound effect on other species especially if that species is considered a keystone species in that particular environment.

The R/V Hugh R. Sharp (Lewes, Delaware)
The R/V Hugh R. Sharp (Lewes, Delaware)

Personal Log 

The Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp is one of the newer ships in the fleet of research vessels along the Atlantic coast. The ship is 146 feet long with state of the art equipment onboard to help it complete missions vital to ocean research.  It cost about $14,000 dollars a day to keep the ship doing research while at sea. The ship is very versatile and has completed a varied amount of differing research cruises along the east coast of the United States.  I am amazed at how quiet the ship is when running. I have been on two other research vessels, and they were much louder when underway.  The Sharp has diesel engines that run electric motors making it run much quieter and smoother than other research ships. The ship will also turn on a dime usually it takes quite of bit of time and space to turn a ship around. This is not true on the Sharp it will turn very quickly due the bow thrusters onboard the ship. The ship may be smaller than many research vessels, however it is versatile and efficient when conducting research along the Atlantic coast.

The crew which are captained by Bill Byam are well trained and prepared for the task required of them to make sure the science is completed in a timely manner and efficiently for the scientist aboard. I have found working with the crew to be an enjoyable experience.  The food onboard is superb, Paul is a great cook and prepares unique dishes for every meal and is also an avid fellow soccer fan.

Question of the Day 
What and how do scallops eat to survive?

Name two predators of scallops. 

Duane Sanders, June 10, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Duane Sanders
Onboard Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp
June 8-19, 2009 

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: New England Coast
Date: June 10, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Wind: Speed 19.4 KTS, Direction 86.8 degrees
Barometer: 1013 millibars
Air temperature:  14.2 0C
Seas: 2-3 feet

I’m having fun at the sorting table.
I’m having fun at the sorting table.

Science and Technology Log 

The primary mission of this cruise is to complete the second leg of a three-leg survey of scallop populations along the New England Coast. Other information about the scallop ecosystem is also collected. Scientists evaluate the status of the scallop fishery use data gathered from the survey.  Decisions about which areas to allow commercial scalloping and which areas to close to commercial use are based on these surveys. These science-based management decisions help to promote long-term stability of the scallop industry.

Members of the day watch working at measuring stations.
Members of the day watch working at measuring stations.

After two complete watches, I think I understand the procedure. Stations to be sampled are determined by a stratified random sampling procedure. Computers, following certain parameters set by NOAA staff, determine which area is to be sampled. It is important to be consistent so that each station from each of the three legs of the cruise can be reliably compared other data from this survey as well as from other years.  Once the captain puts the ship on station, an eight-foot wide dredge is lowered to the bottom and dragged for 15 minutes.  The captain keeps the ships speed to a constant 3.8 knots.  When the dredge is hauled in, its contents are dumped on a large steel sorting table that is bolted onto the to deck. The science team on watch sorts through the contents of the catch and separates all scallops into one basket, all fish into a different bucket and all the rest of the haul into another basket.

We then determine the total weight of the scallops and measure the length of each one. Thankfully we use a computerized system for determining the lengths which automatically record them.  All of the fish are sorted by species, and then weighed by species.  The length of each fish is recorded using the same system as for the scallops. The total volume of the remaining haul is estimated with each basket being equivalent to 46 liters. The general contents of the basket are characterized by types of shells found, types of substrate material and other organisms present.

Personal Log 

A sea mouse (Aphrodite aculeate)
A sea mouse (Aphrodite aculeate)

I have been assigned to the night watch. This means we work from midnight to noon. Although I am doing better today, it has been difficult to adjust to sleeping during the day. I am sure that I will continue to adapt. As long as Paul, our cook, keeps preparing his delicious meals I will survive quite nicely!

I have really enjoyed seeing the variety of organisms that come up in the dredge.  My favorites are the invertebrates. Some examples include different species of starfish, other mollusks beside scallops, and sea mice.  A sea mouse is actually a marine worm in the group known as polychaetes. These strange looking creatures grow long, thin scales that looks like fur. Their bodies have the general shape of a mouse with no tail.  There are also many fish species, which I am learning about, but they do not interest me as much as the other organisms.

Jeff Lawrence, June 9, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jeff Lawrence
Onboard Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp
June 8-19, 2009 

Mission: Sea scallop survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Atlantic
Date: June 9, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
S winds 5-10KT
Seas 1-2ft
Barometric pressure 1029mb
Air Temperature 78˚F
Visibility clear
Cold front moving offshore towards us later today, rain expected.

The contents of the dredge are emptied onto the sorting table.
The contents of the dredge are emptied onto the sorting table.

Science and Technology Log 

The sorting table is full of activity as soon as the dredge is pulled aboard the ship. After the crew secure all lines and dump the load the volunteers and scientist begin to sort through the biological that has been brought up from the bottom or the Atlantic Ocean.  Each dredge can bring a varied amount of sea life on the ship.  We are always looking for scallop, yet every third dredge we also sort for crabs. All fish are also sorted and counted.

After all the sorting is done the fish, scallops, and crabs are weighed and measured for length. They are then logged into the onboard computer for analysis of results for each catch.  We are trawling along closed areas for scallops. These areas have been closed for commercial fishing to ensure that the population has time to recover in that area. Scallop surveys are carried out by the R/V Hugh R. Sharp, in three phases during the summer.  Duane and I are on the second leg, which encompasses the area to the east of Delaware, areas around Long Island, and the area around Martha’s Vineyard south of Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

Personal Log 

You may find some interesting creatures during sorting.
You may find some interesting creatures during sorting.

The work aboard the ship can be very long and laborious. The days are long, as each member of the cruise will do a 12-hour shift.  My shift is from noon to midnight.  The conditions can vary greatly during a shift. During the day the sun may be out with light winds and it gets very warm with all the wet weather gear that is worn during sorting. It is necessary to leave the gear on between dredges, since they occur so often. As soon as the sun goes down the temperatures can drop very rapidly.  It is important to keep a hooded sweatshirt and other warm weather gear nearby for the changing conditions.  All gear must be taken with you when you leave your cabin so that the other shift can sleep uninterrupted.  The days are long, with the goal of all who are onboard to get the science completed in a timely fashion.  Keeping a ship stored with goods and running is very expensive so the goal is to get as much science completed in the allotted time as possible.

Question of the Day 
What other bottom dwelling species in the Atlantic are under protection from over-fishing?

Animals Seen Today 
Scallops, eels, crabs, starfish, clams, silver dollars, urchins, goose fish, and many varieties of bottom dwelling fish.

Duane Sanders, June 8, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Duane Sanders
Onboard Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp
June 8-19, 2009 

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: New England Coast
Date: June 8, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Wind: Speed 16.1 KTS, Direction 50.5 degrees
Barometer:  1014 millibars
Air temperature: 16.8 0C Seas: 1-3 ft.

Science and Technology Log 

The Hugh R. Sharp at dock in Delaware
The Hugh R. Sharp at dock in Delaware

I have been assigned to participate in the annual scallop survey in the New England fisheries area. Our ship, the Hugh R. Sharp, is two years old and designed specifically for ocean research. The Sharp is owned by the University of Delaware and is under contract with NOAA for the scallop survey. It has laboratories, a workshop and specialized equipment for handling large or bulky devices. There is a continuous data stream gathered by the ship’s instruments and posted on monitors on the bridge and in the lab. This includes some parameters related to ocean chemistry as well as the usual weather data. There are several other high-tech sensing systems to assist in a variety of research projects. The ship’s flexible design allows for the science team to install computers, servers and ancillary equipment specific to the research project at hand.  Also, modular labs outfitted for specific purposes can be secured to the fantail (rear deck) of the ship.

My favorite piece of technology is the diesel electric drive system.  Diesel generators produce electricity that supply power to the drive motors all other electrical needs on the ship.  Propulsion is provided by thrusters, which are capable of rotating in any direction as needed.  There are two thrusters in the stern and one in the bow.  These three acting together can keep the Sharp within six feet of a specified location.  The ship’s engineer can monitor all systems from his station on the bridge. This system is very quiet and vibration is kept to a minimum.  That means we can sleep much better than with a conventional diesel engine drive. All in all, this vessel seems to me to be an ocean scientist’s dream come true.  It is designed for high-tech applications and configurations that change as the need arises.

Here I am practicing donning my emergency immersion suit.
Here I am practicing donning my emergency immersion suit.

Personal Log 

Today is our first day at sea. We spent the morning hours getting acquainted with each other and learning about safety, emergency procedures and shipboard etiquette. For example, the science team was divided into two watches, midnight to noon and noon to midnight.  The rule is that people coming on watch need to take everything they want to use during watch hours with them. This allows those coming off watch to get some undisturbed rest.  Living in close quarters requires everyone to be considerate and cooperative. We all rely on each other to do their part to help make the cruise a safe and successful one.  While there is always room for some fun, everybody takes their responsibilities quite seriously.  Life and limb often depend on this careful approach to our work. 

Jeff Lawrence, June 8, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jeff Lawrence
Onboard Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp
June 8-19, 2009 

Mission: Sea scallop survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Atlantic
Date: June 8, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
SW winds: 5-10KT
Seas: 1-2ft
Barometric pressure: 1035 mb
Air Temperature: 75˚F
Visibility: clear

Science and Technology Log 

The Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp set sail this morning around 9AM from Lewes, DE.  There are 11 members of the scientific crew and volunteers, including two TAS participants: myself (Jeff Lawrence) from Oklahoma and Duane Sanders from Ohio.  We spent the morning introducing ourselves and watching safety videos in case of emergency on the ship.  A ship can be an exciting yet dangerous place to work.  There is no ambulance or fire department to call in case of a fire or other emergency. Each member aboard the ship is responsible for not only their own safety, but that of their shipmates also.  Above is a photo of Duane and I as we don the safety immersion suits also known as the “Gumby” suit.

Screen shot 2013-03-24 at 11.19.00 PM
TAS Jeff Lawrence and TAS Duane Sanders don their immersion suits during a safety drill.

The suits can be difficult to don but everyone onboard is expected to know how to put the suit on effectively in case of an emergency at sea that may require us to abandon ship.  The waters off the northeast coast of the U.S. can still be quite cold even in early summer and hypothermia can set in a matter of minutes.

Bridge of R/V Hugh R. Sharp
Bridge of R/V Hugh R. Sharp

Personal Log 

The Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp has set sail for a station about 60 miles due east of Lewes, Delaware. I have been on two other research vessels with the Sharp being the smallest.  It is a newer ship and while quarters are quite close they are well maintained and comfortable.  The day started out with sunny skies and warm winds. The further out to sea we traverse the cooler the temperature feels as the wind blows across the cooler water.  We have just run into a fog bank and there is little to see at the present time.

Skies have cleared off and it is a beautiful day out in the Atlantic.  We are sailing to the first station and the crew aboard is getting everything ready for the first tow. There is a lot to do on the ship even when sailing between stations. The crew has to make sure there are not structural, hardware, or software problems before we arrive at the first station. As mentioned earlier I also onboard with another Teacher at Sea participant, his name is Duane Sanders and he teaches at a school near Cincinnati, Ohio.  Today has been a great start to the trip with the excellent weather and smooth sailing conditions.

Questions of the Day 
What is a Sea Scallop and are there differing varieties or species?

Name three other ships that do research for NOAA.

Elise Olivieri, May 19, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Elise Olivieri
Onboard Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp 
May 9 – 20, 2009 

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Northwest Atlantic
Date: May 19, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Air Temperature: 10.78 Degrees Celsius
Barometric Pressure: 1030 mb
Humidity: 71 %

Still sorting!
Still sorting!

Science and Technology Log 

Taking part in the 2009 Sea Scallop Survey has been an experience of a lifetime.  I learned how to identify many different species of fish, to use the FSCS computer system, and the many sampling techniques that are involved in fisheries research. I met some incredible people that inspire me to continue volunteering whenever I can for the sake of scientific research.  I am very familiar now with many jobs and careers that one can have working for NOAA. My students will be very excited to see all the photographs and data that were collected on this survey. I have planed numerous activities where my students will use the data collected in the sea scallop survey which will help prepare them for the New York Schools Regents Examination. Some research scientists that I have met have promised to come and speak to my classes and educate my students on the many careers that NOAA offers. My roommate Lollie Garay and I had such a remarkable time on the Hugh R. Sharp. Although we worked different shifts, we had a few hours each day to discuss some lesson plan ideas and share pictures with each other.

The watch team: (in order from left to right) Gary Pearson, Cristina Bascunan, Vic Nordahl, me, and A. J. Ward.
The watch team: (left to right) Gary Pearson, Cristina Bascunan, Vic Nordahl, me, and A. J. Ward.

I really enjoyed working with the night watch.  My Watch Chief Geoff Shook really knows how to manage a team.  He is full of information, patient, and extremely helpful.  Cristina, Geoff, Steve, Glynn, A.J., and I really worked well together.  The Chief Scientist Vic Nordahl is an amazing guy.  He can multitask like no other person I have ever seen.  He works on several different tasks at once while checking the data, and even making a little time for Lollie and me too!  Kevin McIntosh is another incredible scientist.  He and Vic are very busy running the Sea Scallop Survey but he also has made himself very available to Lollie and me whenever we have any questions. Kevin is always there to help with data and explain how different instruments work as well.

I really feel privileged to have had the opportunity to work with such a great group of people.  I will never forget it!  I have taken so much away from this trip, and my students will appreciate all the new knowledge I will continue to share with them.  I am very excited to be returning home tomorrow morning.  We are expecting a 10-hour steam tonight and hopefully we will arrive in Lewes, Delaware around 6:00 AM. The last thing we have to do tonight is clean our stateroom and the labs.  This is easy work compared with all the tows we are accustom to sorting and measuring. 

Elise Olivieri, May 18, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Elise Olivieri
Onboard Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp 
May 9 – 20, 2009 

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Northwest Atlantic
Date: May 18, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Air Temperature: 10.44 Degrees Celsius
Barometric Pressure: 1020 mb
Humidity: 62 %

Scallops and sea stars
Scallops and sea stars

Science and Technology Log 

Today was a great day. It was a little cooler than usual but many tasks were accomplished.  I am now able to identify almost every species of fish that comes up in the dredge. I know how to run events and my night watch team works together in harmony.  Everything ran so smoothly today, and I believe it is all due to the fact that we get along so well. I have become good friends with everyone on my watch and some day crew as well.  Relationships are important when you’re living with all different people in close quarters.

I had a chance to talk with Steve Ellis today. He is a port agent for NOAA Fisheries North East Regional Office. He works with management plans and is a Fisheries Reporting Specialist.  Port agents like Steve are stationed where major commercial activity is located.  He works under the fisheries statistics office and monitors commercial fisheries landing in order to supply data for proper fisheries management.  Steve tracks fishery events and maintains reporting requirements that operate in U.S. waters. This helps the government get quota for different species of fish along with their age and growth. This also becomes a part of our Gross National Product.  Steve also helps interpret regulations and provides a link between fishermen and managers. 

Glenn Rountree (left) and I sorting the animals in our buckets
Glenn Rountree (left) and I sorting the animals in our buckets

I also got a chance to sit and talk with Glynn Rountree. He is a volunteer on this NOAA Sea Scallop Survey and he has been volunteering on many cruises since graduate school. So far he has been a volunteer on at least 50 cruises for the Environmental Protection Agency and NOAA. Glynn has a Master’s Degree in Oceanography and is very helpful in answering almost any question you have about various animals and fish. Glynn worked in research administration for 8 years, and now has a job with environmental regulation of home building.  It is important to understand that you do not have to be a scientist to work in a science field.  There are so many significant issues that will affect us directly that it is very important we stay educated on issues like global warming, climate change, and endangered species. We need more college students studying these issues not business administration.

Animals Seen Today 

Windowpane Flounder, Fluke, Sea Cucumber, Gulf Stream Flounder, and Fourspot Flounder. 

Elise Olivieri, May 17, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Elise Olivieri
Onboard Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp 
May 9 – 20, 2009 

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Northwest Atlantic
Date: May 17, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Air Temperature: 13.61 Degrees Celsius
Barometric Pressure: 1012 mb
Humidity: 97 %

Here you can see the many different sizes of sea scallops.
Here you can see the many different sizes of sea scallops.

Science and Technology Log 

So Far the sea scallop survey has collected 76,170 sea scallops which can also be expressed as 9,251 kilograms.  This is a tremendous amount of scallops and the survey is not even a third of the way complete.  At stations where crabs and starfish were sampled we have collected 8,678 cancer crabs and 279,768 starfish (Asterias) so far. Without a reliable database like FSCS it would be impossible to keep up with such a large amount of information.

Today I got a chance to talk with Shad Mahlum.  He is a seagoing technician for NOAA and was born and raised in Montana. He has experience working with freshwater surveys.  In the past years he has studied how beaver dams influence native and non-native species of freshwater fish.  Shad also spent some time looking at various cattle grazing strategies and how they affect food chains. Shad loves working on the open ocean and the physical process of sea scallop surveys.  Shad hopes to work with freshwater and saltwater projects in the future.

Here I am holding a scallop and a Red Hake.
Here I am holding a scallop and a Red Hake.

As I was gazing out into the deep blue sea a very large animal caught my eye.  I was so excited to see another Finback Whale.  They are the second largest animal on earth after the Blue Whale.  They are known to grow to more than 85 feet. Finbacks are indifferent to boats. They neither approach them nor avoid them.  Finback Whales dive to depths of at least 755 feet. They can grow anywhere from 30-80 tons. Finbacks eat Krill, fish and squid and their population numbers are approximately 100,000 or more.  The only threats Finbacks have are polluted waters.  It is incredible to see such a large animal breaching out of the water.  I will never forget it.

Animals Seen Today 

Wrymouth Squid, Eelgrass Slug, Razor Clam, Lobsters, Green Sea Urchin, Macoma clam, Sea Stars (Asterias), Horseshoe Crab, Fourbeard Rockling, Palmate Sponge, Hermit Crab, Black Clam, Golden Star, Tunicate, Winter Flounder, Surf Clam, Yellowtail Flounder, and Sea Mouse. 

Elise Olivieri, May 16, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Elise Olivieri
Onboard Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp 
May 9 – 20, 2009 

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Northwest Atlantic
Date: May 16, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Air Temperature: 12.33 Degrees Celsius
Barometric Pressure: 1022 mb
Humidity: 96%

Sorting through more sand dollars on a chilly, overcast day.
Sorting through more sand dollars on a chilly, overcast day.

Science and Technology Log 

Today we had some extremely large tows of sand dollars. Thirty-two baskets filled to the brim with sand dollars in one particular tow. It’s hard work when you have to sift through hundreds of thousands of sand dollars looking for little Cancer Crabs. Too bad they were not real dollars. Today I got the opportunity to sit with my Chief Scientist, Victor Nordahl. Although he is very busy he sits and talks with Lollie Garay and me daily about how we will implement all the information we are gathering into the classroom.  Today was different; I got a chance to ask Vic about his demanding daily tasks, and his career. Vic is a Fishery Biologist.  He has been working for NOAA’s NEFSC (Northeast Fisheries Science Center) for 17 years. His main job is to standardize the shellfish surveys and maintain the gear.  When he is not working on equipment like the dredge for example, he is performing a quality check on all the data that is collected.

In 2007, the NOAA Ship Albatross IV was retired, which was the vessel the sea scallop survey was always conducted on. This vessel had the old dredge which is similar to the new dredge. The new dredge has some modifications such as rollers on the goose neck to prevent digging into soft substrate. Another addition to the new dredge is the twine top which allows fish to escape easier that the old dredge. The equipment was very hard to come by for the old dredge, so this made repairs exceptionally difficult. With the new dredge there are some very fresh and innovative ideas.  Vic plans to introduce a Habitat Camera which can take many overlaid digital pictures of scallops which will have a continuous stream of real-time data.

There are many advantages to this new method.  The most important being the habitat camera would mean far less tows which is less intrusive and damaging to the habitat.  With this habitat camera it would be possible to see an absolute abundance of sea scallops due to the fact you would be able to see approximately 90% of the sea floor, and have digital images on file as well.  You would have to dredge much less to see three times more.  This new technology is very promising and some steps will be given a test run on Leg 3 of the sea scallop survey a few months from now.  I can’t wait to read all about how this new technology will improve the quality of sea scallop surveys.

Personal Log 

Smallest to largest scallop on the FSCS board.
Smallest to largest scallop on the FSCS board.

When you think about 2 weeks you do not think of it as being an extremely long amount of time. Well, when you’re on a ship for 2 weeks it can feel like a lot longer.  I must say I miss my husband Alex very much.  Regardless, I am so lucky to have the opportunity to work with scientists like Vic Nordahl and Kevin McIntosh.

During the summer I participate in a two year fellowship with Columbia University called The Summer Research Program for Science Teachers.  This is a great program where NYC science teachers are working with state-of-the-art technology along side research scientists.  We participate in and bring back to our classrooms the newest information on some groundbreaking research going on at the moment.  This program has endless advantages. The networks created are for a lifetime, and teachers in the program get the chance to collaborate ideas and share lessons and tips with each other. There are speakers, seminars, and fieldtrips that inspire science teachers to go the extra mile to interest students in research science.  Jay Dubner and Sam Silverstein run this incredible summer research program and I can’t wait to tell them all about the research I am taking part in and how the program inspired me to become a Teacher at Sea.  During the summer 2009 I will continue working with Dr. Robert Newton at Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory studying and sampling water at Piermont Marsh.

Elise Olivieri, May 15, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Elise Olivieri
Onboard Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp 
May 9 – 20, 2009 

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Northwest Atlantic
Date: May 15, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Air Temperature: 14.50 Degrees Celsius
Barometric Pressure: 1026 mb
Humidity: 94%

Science and Technology Log 

What a morning we had today.  It was sand dollar heaven aboard the Hugh R. Sharp. At least 3 of our tows were filled with hundreds of thousands of sand dollars. My work on this Sea Scallop Survey is pretty regular now that I have the hang of it. The dredge goes down and scallops, cancer crabs, starfish, hermit crabs, sea sponges, sand dollars, and sea slugs come up.  We manually sort through the catch and weigh and measure the fish, and sea scallops. Every third station we count all the cancer crabs and starfish. Depending on the strata, various stations require five sea scallops to be measured for age and growth and their shells are preserved for later lab work. This work is very important for maintaining a long term study.  With FSCS all the data can be organized and used to draw conclusions about the overall health of areas along the Mid-Atlantic.

A big pile of sand dollars!
A big pile of sand dollars!

Today I got a chance to talk with Kevin McIntosh. He is on the day watch so I do not get a chance to work closely with him, but he is a great scientist.  He is a Biological Science Technician and also plays several roles along different cruises.  He is often a Chief Scientist, FSCS Administrator, and he specializes in combing over data, and auditing data.  Sometimes he serves as Watch Chief. At the moment he is working on a Scallop Imaging Machine where scallops can be photographed which would reduce the manual work load of the scientists with even better data collection resources. There would be a record of every scallop collected which means sub-sampling would be obsolete. Kevin is also working on a team which is collaborating to create FSCS 2.0 capabilities.  Some highlights of FSCS 2.0 include a GPS location where data can be automatically retrieved and stations can be programmed to display directions and sampling requests.

This would also cut the sampling time in half.  You would be able to have all the stations’ information at your fingertips.  These new improvements would also make data cleaner and easier to audit and help double check your work. Kevin works very hard.  Every time I see him he is working on something new.

Personal Log 

A beautiful sunset on the Atlantic
A beautiful sunset on the Atlantic

I really enjoy sitting and talking with the crew here on the Hugh R. Sharp. Everyone has so many great projects going on and new goals for fisheries research.  I found out today many of the crew have served time in the military. I now have even more respect for them.  Fisheries research is hard work and there is so much that goes into this research that is often ignored.  Especially the long hours of manual labor and the time needed to plan out each stations sampling routine.  Today the seas were rough again. When the boat is rolling all over the place it is very hard to walk from one place to another.  I learned a new trick today.  Always keep your knees bent in rough seas; it makes walking a lot easier. Looking at the horizon also helps one from becoming sick, at least for a little while.

 

Elise Olivieri, May 14, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Elise Olivieri
Onboard Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp 
May 9 – 20, 2009 

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Northwest Atlantic
Date: May 14, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Air Temperature: 13.39 Degrees Celsius
Barometric Pressure: 1028 mb
Humidity: 84%

Sorting the catch!
Sorting the catch!

Science and Technology Log 

Sampling the water column is a vital part of oceanographic work. Aboard the Hugh R. Sharp casts are conducted every third station using a special instrument called a CTD. CTD stands for conductivity, temperature and depth. Water samples are brought back aboard collected by a Niskin bottle two times a day.  These samples are used to calibrate the CTD. Scientific research should always be double and even triple checked to calibrate all the various instruments being used and guarantee they are functioning properly.

Today I got a chance to sit and talk with my Watch Chief, Geoff Shook.  He is extremely organized and very helpful. He ensures the data is correctly entered into the FSCS computer database and watches over the night crew. Geoff was always interested in oceanography but during his undergrad he had an opportunity to study fisheries instead.  Geoff is mainly interested in fish populations. He spends about 140 days out at sea every year.  About a week before this Sea Scallop cruise Geoff just returned from a 2 leg bottom trawl fish population survey.  Directly before that he was on a Monkfish Survey that concentrated on locations Monkfish are found along with the population index. Geoff spends his time on cruises auditing data, servicing all the gear and fixing the scallop dredges. He is the head of inspections and we can thank him for that.  Geoff organizes all the data so the ships have all the latest information. Geoff is very hardworking and patient. It takes a lot of hard work to do his job.  I commend him for his dedication to fisheries research. 

I also got a chance to sit and talk with Cristina Bascunan.  Cristina is a physical science technician. I really enjoy talking with her and look forward to working with her and Geoff every night. Cristina was a biology major in college and started volunteering on sea scallop cruises her sophomore year.  She got a job with NOAA and started working on oceanography cruises that follow Plankton. There were 40 set stations on Georges Bank where Plankton were collected and sampled.  Cristina also worked on SOOP cruises. SOOP stands for Ships of Opportunity Project. Once

a month this cruise would take a scientist along and travel to Bermuda and complete a CPR.  A CPR is a Continuous Plankton Recorder. The Plankton is sampled by a silk cloth tow that is dragged behind the boat. The silk cloth is treated with a preservative so further tests can be conducted later on. This helps create a time series where surface temperature could also be measured and mapped out.  This data collected aided in many other studies and is extremely important. Cristina works very hard and she definitely has my respect.

From left to right: Geoffrey Shook, Kevin McIntosh, and Shad Mahlum
From left to right: Geoffrey Shook, Kevin McIntosh, and Shad Mahlum

Personal Log 

Today was pretty exhausting. All these 12-hour work shifts with no days off are finally catching up to me.  I have a newfound respect for the crew of technicians and scientists that work these hours year round. Today the seas were really rough.  We had at least 6-foot waves and water crashing onto the deck. When the moon makes a circle in the sky you’re moving.  It’s very hard to work when the ground is moving below your feet.  I spent a bit of time today hanging over the ship’s railing. Can you guess what I was doing? I sure was seasick for a little while this morning, but it passes quickly which is good. Every night before I go to sleep I listen to the ship’s noises. I hear some bangs and clicks, but my favorite sound is the waves crashing into the side of the boat. I literally rock and roll until I fall asleep.  It’s about that time right now.  I can’t wait to climb up to my bunk and get some rest.

 

Elise Olivieri, May 13, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Elise Olivieri
Onboard Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp 
May 9 – 20, 2009 

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Northwest Atlantic
Date: May 13, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Air Temperature: 12.06 Degrees Celsius
Barometric Pressure: 1026 mb
Humidity: 89%

Here I am holding up a skate.
Here I am holding up a skate.

Science and Technology Log 

Sea Scallops’ number one predator is starfish.  Starfish are very strong. They pry open the shell and then push their stomach inside and devour it.  Starfish are very abundant in the Mid-Atlantic.  Many tows yield hundreds of starfish.  It would be too time consuming to count every one of them so sub-sampling is done to attain an estimate of starfish.  The entire catch is sorted but only a portion of the catch is measured.  This is a good method when there are many starfish and little substrate (trash). The substrate is then collected in buckets and volume can be determined.  The data is then entered into the FSCS computer system.  As I mentioned before FSCS is extremely advanced and is a one-ofa-kind biological data system.  Prior to 2001, Fisheries Surveys information was sent to federal prisons to be entered into a computer data base.  This took an extremely long time to process.  Inmates would get compensated as little as a penny per log sheet. This was dangerous and the data could have been destroyed or lost. Today all data is backed up on a server in three different locations to secure data entries. This long-term study about age and growth of sea scallops helps scientists see a trend in different area’s ecosystems.

I have met some intriguing scientists aboard the Hugh R. Sharp. Shayla Williams is a research chemist for NOAA.  She specializes in fatty acid analysis of Fluke.  A fatty acid analysis is like a fingerprint of what you eat. By studying fatty acid in certain types of fish she can make generalizations about the health of an area. Shayla has done research on NOAA cruises since 2006. She has sailed on the Hudson Canyon Cruise, the Fall Fish Survey, and the Spring Fish Survey to name a few.  It takes a whole crew to run a ship and the Hugh Sharp has a very sharp crew. Wynn Tucker is an Oceanographic Technician aboard the Hugh R. Sharp. She has worked for NOAA, EPA, and the Navy. She loves being out on the open water and I don’t blame her.  It is magnificent to look out and be surrounded by blue as far as the eye can see. A.J. Ward is another crewmember aboard the Sharp. He works the inclinometer which lets the scientists know of the dredge is in the right spot on the bottom of the ocean floor.

Using the FSCS to record data about a scallop.
Using the FSCS to record data about a scallop.

Personal Log 

Today was a great day! It was beautiful weather and I got a chance to talk with some of the crew members on the Sharp. I saw a whole school of dolphins less than three feet from the boat.  It was incredible!  I ran up to the bridge to get a better look and saw a couple of Finback whales as well. It is extremely hard to get pictures because they surface for a few seconds and then dive back under water.  There are many fish in this area known as the Elephant Trunk. I can’t wait for tomorrow!  Another exciting day where I have the opportunity to be working with cutting-edge technology and incredible scientists.  For now I can’t wait to get some sleep.

Animals Seen Today 

Little Skates, Goose Fish, Gulf Stream Flounder, Sand Dollars, Sea Mice, Razor Clams, Surf Clams, Hermit Crabs, Sea Sponge, Red Hake, Monk Fish, Cancer Crabs, Sea Scallops, White Back Dolphins, Finback Whales, and Starfish.

Elise Olivieri, May 12, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Elise Olivieri
Onboard Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp 
May 9 – 20, 2009 

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Northwest Atlantic
Date: May 12, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Air Temperature: 11.56 Degrees Celsius
Barometric Pressure: 1019 mb
Humidity: 88%

Science and Technology Log 

The dredge
The dredge

Sea Scallops are found in western North Atlantic continental shelf waters from Newfoundland to North Carolina in waters cooler than 20 Degrees Celsius.  Commercial fishing is conducted in waters off the Gulf of Maine, on Georges Bank, and in the Mid-Atlantic offshore region.  Scallops grow rapidly during the first several years of life. Scallops increase 50-80% and quadruple their meat weight between the ages 3 to 5. Sea Scallops become sexually mature at age 2, but scallops younger than 4 contribute little to the overall egg population studies explain. Spawning occurs in late summer and early autumn. Eggs become buoyant after fertilization, and larvae remain in the water column for 4 to 8 weeks before settling to the bottom of the sea floor.

Communication between all the people on board is key to successful sea scallop tows.  Operational procedures must be put in place to ensure all parties know exactly what is expected of them and when.  The bridge has a list of all station numbers which is provided by the Chief Scientist. The bridge announces over radio “10 minutes to station” and the science team lets the bridge know if more time is needed to prepare for the tow.  Every third tow and twice per day a water sample is taken.  These samples are collected before the dredge enters the water.  One technician ensures the inclinometer has been offloaded in time before the dredge is emptied and sorted. The bridge makes sure the tow passes through the middle of the station and retains 75% of the catch. If there is a problem the bridge notifies the science team.  The science team then checks the Knudsen Depth Display to determine the designated wire out or scope that is needed for the station.  The bridge will then come up to speed of about 4 knots. At this time the bridge will announce to begin deployment of the dredge and the winch operator (dredge operator) will set the dredge over the stern.  The winch operator will stream enough cable to reach the “0” mark in the wire and then set the winch metering to zero.

The dredge is then deployed as quickly as the winches can spool which is approximately 60-65 m/sec.  When the winch man has achieved the desired scope and locked the brakes, they should observe the trawl tension.  Start tow begins once this occurs. The scientist will then start the countdown for the 15 minute tow.  The bridge sets the speed over bottom at 3.8 knots.  The scientist in the lab running the event will give several warnings; 1 minute warning, 10 second warning, and then finally haul back.  The winch operator will start hauling back at maximum allowable speed to pull the dredge off the bottom. Once the dredge is on deck, inclinometer should be offloaded, the catch is dumped, and the dredge is secured. The vessel then heads to the next station on the Chief Scientist’s list.  These standard operational procedures discourage any errors that might occur if procedures were not in place. 

After the catch is on the table it is sorted and sampled by using a FSCS computer database.  The Fisheries Scientific Computer System is a collection of integrated electronic devices used to gather and store station and biological data.  FSCS uses tough screen monitors and motion compensation scales with electronic measuring boards.  This helps reduce human error and is a very sophisticated instrument.

Personal Log 

We started out the night shift with two medium sized clean tows.  There was very little sand and clay which helps the sorting process go very quickly.  I personally counted 236 cancer crabs and over 300 sea scallops. The nature of sorting is becoming very familiar to me, and I enjoy learning new things everyday. I spoke with the Chief Scientist Vic Nordahl for a while and discussed various ways of incorporating all the data being collected into the classroom.  Vic is extremely busy but makes time to discuss and plan out activities for the Teachers at Sea to bring back to the classroom.  Lollie Garay is the other Teacher at Sea aboard the Sharp. She is a middle school teacher from Houston, Texas.  We both enjoy learning how research is collected out at sea.  There are 22 people total aboard the Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp and everyone communicates and is friendly with one another. I really learned a lot about protocol today and now I completely understand how everything runs so smoothly.  I can’t wait to get some sleep.  Fisheries work is not easy!

Elise Olivieri, May 11, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Elise Olivieri
Onboard Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp 
May 9 – 20, 2009 

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Northwest Atlantic
Date: May 11, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Air Temperature: 11.83 Degrees Celsius
Barometric Pressure: 1021 mb
Humidity: 83%

The dredge
The dredge

Science and Technology Log 

There were 5 tows today on my  shift. I discovered open areas have far fewer sea scallops in each tow compared to closed areas.  In the open areas each catch was mostly starfish and cancer crabs. In the closed areas there were many sea scallops and various fish collected. Five scallops from each basket collected were processed for weight, length, gonad weight, and meat weight.  The sex of each sea scallop is also identified and all data is entered into the FSCS computer system.  The sea scallop shells were labeled and stored away for further identification.  If the sea scallops rings are clear and visible, lab tests can be done to identify its exact age and health. The Nordic Pride which is a commercial vessel contacted us today. The Nordic is working its way through the areas the Hugh R. Sharp already sampled.  The Sharp will compare tows with the Nordic. The Nordic surveyed with NOAA research vessels before and is taking this opportunity to survey with NOAA again. In the next few days we expect to see the Nordic Pride a few miles away. 

Personal Log 

A scallop opened up—the bright orange thing is its gonad and indicates it’s a female (they’re white in males).
A scallop opened up—the bright orange is its gonad and indicates it’s a female (white in males).

Today I feel much more confident about the tasks at hand. I have a lot of support from the crew and the Watch Chief. I am always up for new assignments and am very confident I can complete them correctly. Around 5:30 AM I saw about 12 white-sided dolphins. It was incredible. They are curious and fast animals.  They swarmed around the Hugh Sharp for a while until they got bored with us and continued on their way. Not long after the dolphins appearance 2 Finback whales surfaced. What an incredible night. I hope to see more dolphins and whales and hopefully get a picture of them.

Animals Seen Today 

Starfish Sea Scallops, Horseshoe Crabs, Hermit crabs, Cusk-eels, White Sided Dolphin, and Finback Whale.

Sea stars and sea scallops!
Sea stars and sea scallops!

Elise Olivieri, May 10, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Elise Olivieri
Onboard Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp 
May 9 – 20, 2009 

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Northwest Atlantic
Date: May 10, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Air Temperature: 16.3 Degrees Celsius
Barometric Pressure: 1019 mb
Humidity: 78%

Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp
Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp

Science and Technology Log 

Today around 08:00 we set sail to begin the Sea Scallop Survey that will be conducted on this cruise.  This annual series of quantitative data is collected to determine the distribution and abundance of Sea Scallops. This survey will randomly collect sea scallops from Virginia all the way to Canadian waters. The Chief Scientist and his field operations officers randomly selected stations with in depth boundaries called strata. These selections are either in closed areas where commercial fishing is prohibited, or open areas where commercial fishing is allowed. Areas may be closed to protect the population growth for 2-3 years.  The government will most likely allow closed areas limited access with recommendations from NOAA.  Samples of sea scallops are taken randomly by using a dredge.

The dredge is 8 feet wide and 20 feet long.  It has a metal frame with a ring bag off the back.  Each ring is 2 inches in diameter and the bag is lined with a 1.5 inch twine mesh liner.  The bag is closed on the top and open on the bottom.  This survey consists of three Legs.  Leg I will complete approximately 200 tows.  Each tow is deployed to the bottom of the sea floor.  An inclinometer is used to ensure the dredge is completely at the bottom of the sea floor. This instrument measures time on the bottom.  If you know your average speed and multiply it with time this equals the distance towed on the bottom. Timestamps are matched up between the data collected at FSCS and the inclinometer.  Each tow lasts for 15 minutes at a speed of 3.8 knots.  Tows can be as shallow as 20 meters, and as deep as 150 meters.  After a tow is pulled up from the sea floor, 4 to 6 people manually sort through the catch and pull out Sea Scallops, Starfish, Cancer Crabs, and all fish.  All samples that are collected are placed into baskets.  The baskets are weighed and sea scallops and fish are measured. 

Personal Log 

Sorting scallops brought up by the dredge
Sorting scallops brought up by the dredge

Today I spent most of the day feeling sea sick.  I thought it would never end.  Now I feel like a million bucks.  It took me a little while to get my sea legs. Today I learned so much.  I spent most of the day asking a lot of questions and watching everyone closely.  I work the night shift from 12:00 AM to 12:00 PM. There is much excitement when a tow comes in and is emptied on the sorting table. The crew gets excited to see what we brought up. Today we deployed 9 tows on my shift.  We had quite a few clean tows and many muddy tows. A clean tow has many scallops and very few mud clumps.  Life at sea is not easy, it is hard work. The living conditions are great on the Sharp. The galley is stocked with anything you can imagine.  Meals are excellent and snacks are a part of sea life. My stateroom is very comfortable and the showers are very nice too.

I really enjoy sea life. The scenery is incredible.  At night you can see the moon so clearly and the light gently reflects off the rolling waves.  During the day there is blue sea for miles.  It is very relaxing.  Everyone is so nice and willing to explain how things are done.  I feel great and I am looking forward to resting for a while.

Animals Seen Today 

Sea Scallops, Starfish, Black Sea Bass, Hermit crab, Spider Crab, Sea Squirts or Tunicates, 4 Spot Flounder, Goosefish, Northern Sea Robin, and Scup.