Carmen Andrews: The People and Places Aboard the R/V Savannah, July 19, 2012

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Carmen Andrews
Aboard R/V Savannah
July 7 – 18, 2012

Mission: SEFIS Reef Fish Survey
Location: Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of Fernandina Beach, Florida
Date: July 17, 2012

Latitude:      30 ° 28.53   N
Longitude:   80 ° 11.73’  W       

Weather Data:
Air Temperature: 27.6° C (81.68°F)
Wind Speed: 6 knots
Wind Direction: from the Southwest
Surface Water Temperature: 27.88 °C (82.18°F)
Weather conditions: Overcast

Science and Technology Log

There are 16 people aboard this fisheries survey cruise. There are seven crew members and nine scientists, including me. The work can be difficult, and at times it is dangerous. The accommodations aren’t spacious and the work schedules can be long: 12 hours on and 12 hours off for the scientists. The boat’s crew has 4- hour on and off work schedules. Two men at a time are on watch for each of six 4- hour shifts.

I got to know everyone on the R/V Savannah during my time on the survey cruise. Here are some interviews that I conducted with scientists and crew. Their jobs — and the life choices that led them to do these jobs — are equally impressive.

The Scientists

Shelly Falk

Shelly making modifications to a fish trap

Marine technician Shelly Falk, making modifications to a fish trap

1. What is your job title and what do you do?

I work as a Marine Technician at MARMAP. It is part of  the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. On this cruise I catch fish and work them up in the wet lab. In the past, I have worked with video technology – setting it up and maintaining it. I usually work with something called an SCS program, which collects time, location and depth of fish sites.

2. Where are you from originally?

I’m from Ilion, New York. It’s a little town upstate.

3. Where do you live now?

I live in Charleston, South Carolina.

4. What background and skills are needed for your job?

After high school I took my core academic classes at Herkimer Community College in Herkimer, New York. Then I transferred to Coastal Carolina University in Conway, South Carolina, near Myrtle Beach. That’s where I earned my B.S. degree in Marine Science. There were many field experiences. The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources requires a bachelor’s degree for this work. I needed experience dissecting fish. Learning to gather video data is a new skill that requires on the job training.

5. Can you remember any math and science courses that were helpful in preparing you for this job?

Marine science gave me an overview of physical oceanography.  At Coastal Carolina I took courses in Marine Chemistry, Marine Biology and Marine Mammals. These courses also gave me an overview of these fields. My favorite class was Biology of Sharks, because I went to Bimini in the Bahamas for ten days as part of this course. That was the best experience leading up to this job.

6. What do you like best about your job?

I like the field experience and the hands on tasks of being at sea. I also like the variety of this kind of work and not knowing what I’ll find every day. Every day is a new experience. It’s never the same.

David Berrane

Fisheries Biologist David Berrane

Fisheries biologist David Berrane, on the rear deck of the R/V Savannah

1.  What is your job title and what do you do?

I am a Fisheries Biologist and contractor for NOAA, in Beaufort, North Carolina. On this cruise I do fish survey work and dissection. That’s known as conducting field sampling exercises. The samples I dissect are sent to MARMAP in Charleston, SC. Back in my Beaufort lab I analyze collected samples using video. One of my most important responsibilities is maintaining equipment and supplies. I am also responsible for purchasing supplies.

2.  Where are you from originally?

I’m from Yorktown, Virginia.

3.  Where do you live now?

I live in Atlantic Beach, North Carolina.

4.  What background and skills are needed for your job?

A person doing this job needs to be interested in being outside in the wild world and nature. It’s difficult and challenging work. You need experience operating in strenuous conditions. I spent my youngest years in Poquoson, Virginia — living near the water — crabbing and fishing. I’ve been handling wildlife since I was old enough to catch it. I went to Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia. I majored in Environmental Studies. Before working in this position I was a camp counselor and assistant park ranger.

5.  Can you remember any math and science courses that were helpful in preparing you for this job?

I had a good teacher for algebra. He would put a problem on the board every Monday. He gave us extra credit if we could solve it by Friday. I got interested in science when I finally came around to realizing science is the world around us. I had started college as a business administration major and found I didn’t like it. I changed my major to environmental science after visiting Puerto Rico and seeing a scientist working in the rainforest. I decided that I wanted to do that.

6.  What do you like best about your job?

I like going out and doing the field work. I like being on a team of good people and having fun. Seeing the traps come up and seeing new fish is like being a kid on the canal bank again, catching fish. I’m still interested in seeing new kinds of fish – the polka dot batfish were some fish that I saw for the first time on this trip.

Polka Dot Batfish

Polka Dot Batfish

The Crew

Mike Kruitwagen

Marine chef, Mike Kruitwagen in the galley

Marine chef, Mike Kruitwagen in the galley

1. What is your job title and what do you do?

I am a Marine Chef. I create good food to make everyone happy. My goal is to provide healthy, diverse meals. I boost morale, and give the scientists and crew something to look forward to. My kitchen is limited on this boat, but I try to make everything from scratch.

2.  Where are you from originally?

I grew up in Bridgeton, New Jersey.

3. Where do you live now?

I live in Houston, Texas.

4.  What background and skills are needed for your job?

Someone needs a passion for cooking and boats to do this job. You need to be able to adapt. I got my training in culinary arts from the San Diego Culinary Institute in San Diego, California. I have been preparing meals on boats for six years. Before that I worked as a caterer and personal chef.

5.  Can you remember any math and science courses that were helpful in preparing you for this job?

I didn’t realize back in school that measuring and converting amounts would be so important to my work. Multiplication and division are very important to increasing and decreasing servings for the number of people that I prepare meals for. I also needed to learn about chemistry of cooking – how acids and bases affect cooking – like when to use baking soda or baking powder.

6.  What do you like best about your job?

The best part of my job is all the travel. I’ve been to Hawaii, Southeast Asia, San Diego to Seattle and places in between. I started in New Jersey and now I’m in Savannah, Georgia. I like meeting new people and having new experiences. Every day is a learning experience.

Raymond Sweatte

R/V Savannah Captain Raymond Sweatte making a log entry

R/V Savannah Captain Raymond Sweatte making a log entry

1. What is your job title and what do you do?

I am the Marine Supervisor and Captain of the R/V Savannah. I begin preparing for a cruise like this by communicating with the chief scientist. We discuss the equipment that will be loaded – bait, ice, freezers. We also discuss the objectives of the cruise and the locations of fish traps. I make sure that provisions, fuel and potable water is aboard. Very importantly, I check to be sure all safety equipment is aboard and in good working order. The top priority of every cruise is safety, and then I focus on the science objectives being met. I try to serve the scientists as much as possible, by making sure that the boat’s crew is available to support the science project.

2.  Where are you from originally?

I’m from Beaufort, South Carolina.

3.  Where do you live now?

I live on Wilmington Island, Georgia.

4.  What background and skills are needed for your job?

There is more than one way to be a captain – one way is to attend a Merchant Mariners’ Academy, and then going to sea to get experience in all areas of seamanship. My route involved working on a boat and then going to the Maritime Professional Academy in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. I have a USCG 1600 Ton Masters License. The Coast Guard licenses mates and captains to operate vessels. The licensing goes from OUPV or Operator of Uninspected Power Vessel, who can take up to six people on a vessel, up to an Unlimited License , which would license a person to captain a vessel like an ocean liner or super tanker.

5. Can you remember any math and science courses that were helpful in preparing you for this job?

I enjoyed marine science courses. I always loved math and find that I need algebra and geometry. I liked science too.  I had to learn how a compass works. The boat has many simple machines like pulleys – they are called blocks on a boat. I have to understand mechanical advantage. There are also hydraulic levers called A-frames and J-frames to move loads in and out of the boat. I have to do stability calculations to balance loads with respect to the center of gravity, so the boat isn’t top heavy. I also have to calculate be sure there isn’t too much weight at the front or back of the boat.

6. What do you like best about your job?

I like being out at sea. I enjoy the peacefulness of the sea. Everyone works together with the same goal – that’s the only way to manage. We sometimes spend more time with crew than our families. We need lots of give and take. I’m also able to meet many scientific groups with missions that will hopefully help environmental conditions. I like the idea of being involved with these projects.

Pete Casserleigh

First Mate Pete Casserleigh piloting the R/V Savannah

First Mate Pete Casserleigh piloting the R/V Savannah

 1. What is your job title and what do you do?

I am the first mate of the R/V Savannah. I maintain records of safety inspections and deck equipment maintenance. I have about ten binders on a shelf that store the information that I have to read and record. John Bichy, the marine tech and I do this work together. I also manage the fueling system that runs the twin diesel engines.These engines power the boat.

2.  Where are you from originally?

I’m from Metairie, Louisiana. I moved to Dallas, Texas in high school.

3.  Where do you live now?

I live in Guyton, Georgia. It’s 30 miles west of Savannah

4.  What background and skills are needed for your job?

Even though I would still like to eventually finish college, in the marine industry you don’t need a college degree. Licenses are the qualifications that are needed.

After high school I went to Delgado Community College in New Orleans. I was attending college with a general studies major when we were attacked on September 11, 2001. I left college and  joined the Coast Guard because of 9/11. I was stationed in Kauai, Hawaii.  I served as a boatswains mate on the cutter, Kittiwake for three years. I was also quartermaster of the watch, assistant rescue and survival petty officer, and I did some other assignments that dealt with rescue and safety. When I was transferred to Savannah I was the boarding officer, which is a law enforcement position. I got my captain’s license in the Coast Guard. The sea time allowed me to get a 100 ton masters license. Since leaving the coast guard, I’ve worked for ferry services that ran out of Savannah to surrounding islands. I also worked as a ships safety inspector before taking the job I have now. My safety training and experience have led this job.

5.  Can you remember any math and science courses that were helpful in preparing you for this job?

In school, math and science were the courses I enjoyed the most. I liked biology too. Math plays an important role in chart plotting, conversions, and navigation. For example, fueling is measured in inches. I have to use measurements in the metric system and the conventional measuring system. Depths can be measured in meters and fathoms. Algebraic reasoning is essential to pass certification and licensing tests.

6.  What do you like best about your job?

Being on the water is something I have always wanted to do – I love being out on the water. My office is a boat. I enjoy all the fringe benefits of being on the ocean – the sunsets, the fishing — and knowing that working on a research vessel is going to a good cause. The tough part is leaving my family.

The R/V Savannah’s Other Science Work Area

There are two laboratories on board. The wet lab activities were described in the previous post.

The dry lab contains numerous technological tools that give constant information on several screens. One of these shows CTD data – water conductivity, salinity, temperature, in addition to several other readings. There screens that show the boat’s position and course settings. Others show current velocities in the ocean column. And very importantly, there are screens that show weather conditions around the boat. This data includes wind speed and direction, air temperature, among other weather data. The dry lab also stores many the video cameras that get submerged when the traps are deployed to the ocean bottom. There are battery charges and data card readers on the lab benches.

Dry lab showing video gear

Dry lab with video gear

Video captured near fish trap

Monitor showing video captured near fish trap

Monitor showing depth and current velocities in the water column

Monitor showing depth and current velocities in the water column

Personal Log

Here are some pictures that show what my life was like aboard the R/V Savannah for two weeks:

My bunk

My bunk

The science head a.k.a bathroom

One of the two science heads a.k.a bathrooms

My state room, shared with two other female scientists

My state room, shared with two other female scientists

Gag grouper and meatloaf dinner

Gag grouper and meatloaf dinner

Wahoo dinner

Wahoo dinner

Black sea bass and stuff pork roast dinner
Black sea bass and stuff pork roast dinner
My favorite pic of me

My favorite pic of me (courtesy of Pete) — after setting the autopilot for the homeward course, and pushing the throttles forward to power up the twin Caterpillar diesels, I was feeling really good sitting in the captain’s seat.

Carmen Andrews: A Fishing Expedition in the Atlantic, July 11, 2012

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Carmen Andrews
Aboard R/V Savannah
July 7 – July 18, 2012

Mission: SEFIS Reef Fish Survey
Location: Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of St. Augustine, Florida
Date: July 11, 2012

Latitude: 29 ° 55.96’   N
Longitude: 80 ° 31.29’  W       

Weather Data:
Air Temperature: 27.6°C (81.7°F)
Wind Speed: 5 knots
Wind Direction: from S
Surface Water Temperature: 28.12 °C (82.6°F)
Weather conditions: Fair

Science and Technology Log

Catching bottom fish at the reef

Pulling in a successful catch of reef fish provides scientists with an important sampling source of fish numbers and species diversity.

A good catch of scamp and gray triggerfish

A good catch of scamp and gray triggerfish

The process requires a systematic and complex capture protocol. As with any well-designed science investigation, the equipment needs to be robust and the sequence of steps in the process of fish takings must be followed with consistency. The methods and materials are kept as similar as possible in multiple sites over a wide area.

The area to be sampled is mapped out in advance with electronic navigation tools.

Nobeltech Map

Electronic Nobeltech Map display used to plan sampling sites for the reef fish survey

This habitat is where the targeted fish species – red and vermillion snapper, gray triggerfish, black sea bass, red porgy, scamp, squirrelfish, almaco jack and amberjack, among others – are most likely found.

Chevron fish traps are used to trap fish for scientific study. Fish trapping using these devices is not permitted by sport or commercial fishermen. When the traps are received from manufacturers, they are not rigged sufficiently to withstand the rigors of trapping fish near undersea ledge formations.

Traps are sometimes snagged on nearby ledges as they are hoisted toward the boat. The side where the cable is attached must be reinforced using a rebar rod to avoid deforming and possibly rupturing the trap.

David and Shelly attaching rebar to side of trap

David and Shelly attaching rebar to the side of a trap

Heavy metal ballast weights are fixed to the bottom of the traps and cable attachments are added on the reinforced side.

David and Adam P. are attaching cable hook ups to the side of a trap

David and Adam P. are attaching cable hook ups to the side of a trap

The trap’s wire lattice is cut at the top to create small openings for stringers (cords with attached wooden blocks) that dangle bait fish inside the trap. A larger opening is cut on one side of the trap to function as an escape hatch for trapped fish if the trap becomes unretrievably wedged at the bottom.

Shelly affixing zinc pop-ups

Shelly is affixing zinc pop-ups to the lost trap fish exit

Four stringers, each with four menhaden bait fish are tied and suspended into each trap’s quadrants, and attached to the trap bottom with a clasp. Additional menhaden are scattered on the floor of each trap.

Menhaden bait fish

Menhaden bait fish

Underwater video cameras are attached above the entrance of the trap and on the opposite side. The entrance camera monitors fish that may be entering the trap. The other camera allows scientists examine the habitat near the trap and to note other species in the vicinity.

Nate and Shelly are mounting underwater video cameras

Nate and Shelly are mounting underwater video cameras

The traps are readied for deployment on the stern of the R/V Savannah. A horn blast from the wheel house signals when the boat is positioned over the reef coordinates.

Nate Bacheler and Capt. Sweatte

Captain Sweatte, at left is piloting the R/V Savannah, while Chief Scientist Nate Bacheler signals to the stern when to drop a fish trap.

The trap is pushed off the back deck and sinks to the bottom.

Shelly and me dropping a fish trap from the stern of the R/V Savannah

Shelly and I are dropping a fish trap from the stern of the R/V Savannah

Two floating numbered “poly balls” are clipped to each trap. They are released one by one after the trap goes down. Six pairs of poly balls function as buoys to mark the pick-up location of each trap.

Poly ball buoys marking location of fish traps

Poly ball buoys marking location of fish traps

After all the traps are in place, a CTD is lowered over the side of the boat to determine conductivity, temperature and depth, as well as salinity, of the fish sampling site. CTD data is transmitted and stored electronically in the dry lab.

CTD submerging

CTD is being lowered to measure conductivity, temperature and salinity of the area where fish traps have been set

Ninety minutes after they are dropped, the fish traps are raised in the order in which they were laid.

Personal Log

Last night scientists and crew were line fishing for reef fish to supplement the trapped specimens. There were some amazing fish catches using the rods and reels off the stern of the R/V Savannah. I didn’t catch any fish, but I did manage to catch some amazing nighttime pictures of the activity with my camera.

Adam L. reeling in a hammerhead shark

Adam L. reeling in a hammerhead shark

Hammerhead being reeled to the surface

Hammerhead being reeled to the surface

Hammerhead shark breaking the surface of the water

Hammerhead shark breaking the surface of the water

Hammerhead being cut from fishing line for release

Hammerhead being cut from fishing line for release

Scientists and boat crew fishing the reef

Scientists and boat crew fishing the reef

First mate Pete holding a red snapper he just caught

First mate Pete holding a red snapper he just caught

Carmen Andrews: News from Somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean off the Coast of Georgia, July 9, 2012

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Carmen Andrews
Aboard R/V Savannah
July 7 – July 18, 2012

Mission: SEFIS Reef Fish Survey
Geographical Location: Atlantic Ocean, off the coasts of Georgia and Florida
Date: July 9, 2012

Location Data:
Latitude: 30 ° 54.55’   N
Longitude: 80 ° 37.36’  W       

Weather Data:
Air Temperature: 28.5°C (approx. 84°F)
Wind Speed: 6 knots
Wind Direction: from SW
Surface Water Temperature: 28.16 °C (approx. 83°F)
Weather conditions: Sunny and fair

Science and Technology Log

Purpose of the research cruise and background information

The Research Vessel, or R/V Savannah is currently sampling several species of fish that live in the bottom or benthic habitats off the coasts of Georgia and Florida.

Reef fish study area

The coastal zone of Georgia and Florida and the Atlantic Ocean area where the R/V Savannah is currently surveying reef fish

These important reef habitats are a series of rocky areas that are referred to as hard bottom or “live” bottom areas by marine scientists. The reef area includes ledges or cliff-like formations that occur near the continental shelf of the southeast coast. They are called ‘reefs’ because of their topography – not because they are formed by large coral colonies, as in warmer waters. These zones can be envisioned as strings of rocky undersea islands that lie between softer areas of silt and sand. They are highly productive areas that are rich in marine organism diversity. Several species of snapper, grouper, sea bass, porgy, as well as moray eels, and other fish inhabit this hard benthic habitat.

Reef fish

Hard bottom of reef habitat, showing benthic fish — black sea bass is on left and gray trigger fish is on right side of image.

It is also home to many invertebrate species of coral, bryozoans, echinoderms, arthropods and mollusks.

Bottom organisms pulled up with fish traps

Bottom-dwelling organisms, pulled up with fish traps deployed in the reef zone.

The rock material, or substrate of the sea bottom, is thought to be limestone — similar to that found in most of Florida. There are places where ancient rivers once flowed to a more distant ocean shoreline than now. Scientists think that these are remnants of old coastlines that are now submerged beneath the Atlantic Ocean. Researchers still have much to discover about this little known ocean region that lies so close to where so many people live and work.

The biological research of this voyage focuses primarily on two kinds of popular fish – snappers and groupers. These are generic terms for a number of species that are sought by commercial and sports fishing interests. The two varieties of fish are so popular with consumers who purchase them in supermarkets, fish markets and restaurants, that their populations may be in decline.

Red snapper close up

Red snapper in its reef habitat

At this time, all red snapper fishing is banned in the southeast Atlantic fishery because the fish populations, also known as stocks, are so low.

How the fish are collected for study

The fish are caught in wire chevron traps. Six baited traps are dropped, one by one from the stern of the R/V Savannah. The traps are laid in water depths ranging from 40 to 250 feet in designated reef areas. Each trap is equipped with a high definition underwater video camera to monitor and record the comings and goings of fish around and within the traps, as well as a second camera that records the adjacent habitat.

Chevron fish trap

Fish swimming in and out of a chevron fish trap

I will provide the details of the fish trapping and data capture methods in a future blog.

Who is doing the research?

When not at sea, the R/V Savannah is docked at the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography (SKIO)on Skidaway Island, south of Savannah, Georgia. The institute is part of the University of Georgia. The SKIO complex is also the headquarters of the Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary. The facility there has a small aquarium and the regional NOAA office.

The fisheries research being done on this cruise is a cooperative effort between federal and state agencies. The reef fish survey is one of several that are done annually as part of SEFIS, the Southeast Fisheries Independent Survey. The people who work to conduct this survey are located in Beaufort, North Carolina. SEFIS is part of NOAA.

The other members of the research team are from MARMAP, the Marine Research Monitoring Assessment and Prediction agency, which is part of the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources . This team is from Charleston, South Carolina.

Carmen, suited up to retrieve fish from traps

Mrs. Andrews, on deck near the stern of the R/V Savannah, getting ready to unload fish traps

NOAA also allows “civilians” like me — one of the Teachers at Sea– as well as university undergraduate and graduate students to actively participate in this research.

Carmen Andrews: Introduction June 20, 2012

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Carmen Andrews
Aboard R/V Savannah
July 6 – 18, 2012

Carmen Andrews

Carmen Andrews

Hello! 

Happy Summer Solstice Day! I am Carmen Andrews.  I work as a science specialist at  Six to Six Interdistrict Magnet School in Bridgeport, CT.  I have just finished my 5th year at this school.  I create science curriculum for grades pre-K through 8. I also teach many classes to help teachers improve their understanding of science concepts and inquiry methods.

Six to Six Magnet School

Six to Six Interdistrict Magnet School, Bridgeport, CT

Our school has a unique academic program that incorporates partnerships with the Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk, CT and the Eli Whitney Museum in Hamden, CT.  Our students visit many other places, including the Yale Peabody Museum and Yale Leitner Family Planetarium and Observatory in New Haven. We also allow our students to remotely operate the Gold Apple Valley Radio Telescope in California. My favorite places to teach classes are the unspoiled outdoor sites in Connecticut where we take our students for field studies.

4th Grade Marsh Field Study

4th Graders on a Marsh Field Study

Kindergarteners Investigating Invertebrates

Kindergarteners Investigating Marine Invertebrates

Sixth Graders

6th Graders Counting Intertidal Organisms Using a Quadrat

I love research!

One of my passions as an educator is creating opportunities for students to investigate real world problems using science inquiry. This year my 6th and 7th graders took on a big environmental research project. They were asked to research bioremediation and to develop a creative solution to a major problem in their community  — toxic oil spills. The work was funded by a NSTA/Toyota Tapestry Grant award, which enabled us to find out about blue and gray oyster mushrooms’ ability to metabolize oil spills in soil. Our project is called Going Green in Brownfields: A New Diet for Mushrooms. You can see our blog here: mushroomdiet.info 

Mushroom Harvest

A 7th Grader Massing Blue Oyster Mushrooms Grown in Motor Oil

My Teacher at Sea Adventure

The NOAA Teacher at Sea program was created to provide teachers with experiences in science research. We share our knowledge with our school communities using blogs, teaching and writing articles when we return from our Teacher at Sea assignment. I am very excited to learn about the work of NOAA in monitoring fisheries in U.S. coastal waters. I am eager to share this  scientific research with students. I also want to expose students to the variety of maritime and marine science careers that they can consider pursuing in later life.

I will be departing on the R/V Savannah in about 2 weeks to participate in a reef fish survey.  The next time I write, I will most likely be somewhere near Skidaway Island, GA.  My target audience for my blogs while I am at sea, are students, colleagues and friends of all ages. Please feel free to post your comments and questions about this important science research.

Kristy Weaver: Career Day at Sea, June 7, 2012 (After the Journey)

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kristy Weaver
Aboard The R/V Savannah
May 23 – June 1, 2012

Mission: Reef Fish Survey
Location: Back in Jersey
Date: June 7, 2012

You can be anything you want to be when you grow up!  While I was on the R/V Savannah there were two main types of jobs that people were doing.  There were the scientists and the crew of the ship.  If you think you might like to be a biologist or work on a ship someday these videos may help you to learn more about these jobs.

I would like to introduce you to some of the new friends I made on the ship:

COLLEGE STUDENTS:

Meet Dan- Marine Biology College Student

SCIENTISTS:

Meet David- Fisheries Biologist with NOAA

Meet Warren- Fisheries Biologist with NOAA

 

Meet Zeb- Fisheries Biologist with NOAA

Meet Stephen- Wildlife Biologist with South Carolina’s Department of Natural Resources

Meet Jennifer: Recent Graduate of The College of Charleston and new full time employee at South Carolina’s Department of Natural Resources

CREW OF THE R/V SAVANNAH:

Meet Pete- The First Mate

Meet Captain Raymond

Meet John- Marine Tech

Kristy Weaver: Ms. Weaver Goes to Sea


NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kristy Weaver
Aboard R/V Savannah
May 23 – 31, 2012

Hello from Hillside, New Jersey! First, for any out-of-state readers, allow me to say that despite what you may have seen on “reality” television about this beautiful state, we do not all tease our hair and have VIP memberships to tanning salons.  (Okay, so I may tease it a little, but only for special occasions!  Yes, this is my attempt at humor; bear with me.)  All kidding aside,  thank you for visiting.  I am excited to tell you about the NOAA Teacher at Sea Program!

Perhaps I should introduce myself before I start making corny jokes.  I am Kristy Weaver and I am happy to say I have been a first grade teacher here at The A. P. Morris Early Childhood Center for the past 12 years.  Our building is home to every pre-k, kindergarten, and first grade classroom in the district, and we  are currently a community of 668 students.

Hillside is part of the Partnership for Systemic Change which is a collaboration between the Merck Institute for Science Education (MISE) and six other urban or semi-urban school districts.  Through this partnership I have been a part of the Academy for Leadership in Science Instruction, which is an intensive staff development series that takes place over the course of three years.  I have also been a Peer Teacher Workshop facilitator and have had the opportunity to discuss effective science instruction at length with my fellow science teachers and professionals from MISE and partner districts.

Here is a little video trailer my class helped make to tell everyone about my trip.  See if you can spot the cameo appearance from our beloved class pet, Jerry.  My students had the responsibility of casting him in this role and are all super excited that Jerry will now be “famous.”

The purpose of the NOAA Teacher at Sea program is to provide teachers with real life experiences with scientific research and for us to then share that knowledge with the community upon our return.  This will strengthen my own content knowledge and expose our students to scientific research and science careers while increasing environmental awareness.  I am passionate about the pedagogy behind effective science instruction and while I hope that this experience will be shared with many classes, it will definitely be utilized to its fullest potential in my district.  This opportunity already inspired an impromptu math lesson when I showed my class my ship,  the R/V Savannah.  In order to grasp how big the 92 foot vessel is, we used 60 inch measuring tapes and counted by fives until we got to 90 feet.  Then we estimated two feet to help us get a sense of the size of the R/V Savannah.

This is my class, 92 feet down the hall! Wow! The R/V Savannah is larger than we thought!

I love being a teacher, and it is definitely where my passion lies.   However,  when I was a child I never  felt that being a scientist was an option for me because I didn’t know where to begin.  I had an innate curiosity about the water, but didn’t know that I could have built a career around it.   It’s my job to make sure that my students are afforded every opportunity, know that their dreams are within their reach,  and feel as if the world is at their fingertips- because it is!

How Did I Hear About Teacher at Sea?

Two years ago I attended the National Science Teachers Association Convention in Philadelphia, PA.  One of the booths at the exhibition center was for NOAA‘s (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) Teacher at Sea Program.  It was fascinating to talk with teachers who had gone out to sea with NOAA in the past, and I immediately knew it was something I would pursue.  My whole life I had lived vicariously through scientists on various nature shows, and I was thrilled to learn that I even had the possibility to experience something like this first hand.

What the Research Says

So how is this going to help first graders?  In 2011 Microsoft Corp. commissioned two national surveys with Harris Interactive for parent and student opinions on how to motivate the next generation of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) professionals.

For most, the decision to study STEM started before college.

  • Nearly four in five STEM college students said they decided to study STEM in high school or earlier (78 percent). One in five (21 percent) decided in middle school or earlier.
  • More than half (57 percent) of STEM college students said that before going to college, a teacher or class got them interested in STEM.

This gives me, a first grade teacher, the opportunity to plant the seed early and expose children to STEM careers before they even reach the second grade.  If I can motivate just one child with this experience, or prove to them that they too should chase their dreams, then any amount of seasickness will be worthwhile.

Speaking of Motivation…Here is Mine:

Barnegat Lighthouse
“Old Barney”
Long Beach Island, NJ
Photo by Captain Al Kuebler

I have always been fascinated by the ocean and how something could be equally tranquil and ferocious.  As a child I never “sat still” and my boundless energy had me bouncing from one activity to the next with less than a heart beat in-between.  Yet, even as early as three years old, I can remember sitting on my grandfather’s lap in Long Beach Island and just staring out at the water for what seemed like hours.  In retrospect it may have only been 15 minutes, but regardless, just looking at the ocean had me calm, captivated, and thoroughly entertained in the silence of my own thoughts.

Feeding Sea Turtles at the Camden Aquarium

When I was young I always loved the underwater pieces in my parents’ National Geographic magazines, but it never crossed my mind that I could someday be a diver.  When I grew up a little I decided that it was something I would definitely do “someday.”  I finally realized that someday never comes unless you make your “someday” today.  I became a certified diver three years ago, and up until this point, it is one of the best things I have ever done.  As an adult, I have always watched nature shows, but never in my wildest dreams did I believe that I would someday have the opportunity to experience something like Teacher at Sea.  I think this helps send an important message to my students: You should always  go out and experience everything you want in life.  I did a shipwreck dive to 109 feet, have fed sea turtles, swam with sharks, flew a helicopter, , and have been on a trapeze in two different countries.  Yet somehow, I have a feeling that all of these things will pale in comparison to the adventure I am about to have.

Me at the Saltwater Marsh in Stone Harbor, NJ
Photo by Myron Weaver- Hi Dad 🙂

So What’s Next?

I am getting ready to head out to sea and my students and I are so excited.  The next time I write I will most likely be somewhere near Savannah, GA where I will be setting sail on the R/V Savannah for an 8 day reef fish survey.  While the first grade students are my target audience for my blogs while I am at sea, I encourage people of all ages to follow me along my journey.  I hope that everyone will be able to get something out of it, and that secondary teachers will be able to use this experience as a starting point for some of their lessons as well.

Please feel free to post your comments or questions, and I will do my best to bring back the information you are most curious about!

Marian Wagner: Preparing for Departure, August 12, 2011

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Marian Wagner
Aboard R/V Savannah
August 16 — 26, 2011

Mission: Reef Fish Survey
Geographical Area: Atlantic Ocean (Off the Georgia and Florida Coasts)
Date: August 12, 2011

Introductory Log

Naturalizing at my home beach in Seattle, Golden Gardens

I’m off to live the life of a NOAA research scientist aboard the Research Vessel (R/V) Savannah Our work is part of a population monitoring mission (estimating number of fish in population), doing fishery-independent sampling of reef fishes in the Atlantic off the coasts of Georgia and Florida.  See “terms defined” below to learn more.

Preparing to work with and make the most of my time with a team of scientists as a NOAA Teacher at Sea (TAS) participant means I have a lot to learn in a short amount of time!  This morning, I leave Seattle, and tonight I arrive in Savannah, GA.  I can’t believe this day has finally arrived!

I teach 3rd and 4th grade at Salmon Bay School in Seattle Public Schools, and students and families will tell you teaching SCIENCE! is my passion.  Central to my passion in teaching science is the importance of teaching students and teachers that we must better understand and protect the earth’s resources with which we are interdependent, and develop a more responsible and sustainable relationship with how we use these resources.  The fundamental goal of all my various ways of incorporating this NOAA research experience into my teaching will be to help students and teachers understand the ocean better and our relationships with it, and use this knowledge to protect the world’s oceans.

I have never had first-hand experience in conducting field research (outside of research with children for educational purposes), and I believe it is especially essential in the leadership roles I have come to serve in science education that I have this foundational knowledge first-hand of HOW research is conducted in the field.  I look forward to getting my hands dirty! (salty?)

A few days ago I received word that I have passed all my requirements to be endorsed to teach 6-12 grade biology and this experience will stretch me beyond coursework and provide a true field research experience, especially essential if I decide to use my biology endorsement to teach middle school or high school level biology, where I will draw upon this research experience in many valuable ways, especially by sharing methods of conducting research and by exposing students to the career options of working as a field scientist.

My 3rd and 4th graders (and my alumni too, I hope!) are sure to hear extensively about this field science research experience that I am about to dive into!  Time to dress for the airport!

Terms Defined:

Fishery-independent sampling means data are collected separately from the landings of any commercial fisheries, and thus can be separated from economic factors that would compromise population trends based on how many fish are caught in a year (e.g., price of fish or fuel).  So fishery-independent data are the closest we can come to a census, and are some of the most reliable data fed in to a “stock assessment”. The data we collect will have direct implications for stock assessment of these fish and ecosystem-based management of southeast U.S. marine fisheries.  Here’s a link  to more information on the work we are doing.

Seattle-ites: For more information, here’s a link to Federal stock assessment work in the Seattle area, perhaps more helpful because you might recognize your local species and habitats.