Callie Harris: Back to Land Life, September 3, 2019

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Callie Harris

Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson

August 13 – 26, 2019


Mission: Fisheries-Oceanography Coordinated Investigations

Geographic Area of Cruise: Gulf of Alaska

Date: 9/3/19

Weather Data from Key West, FL

Latitude: 24.551°N
Longitude: 81.7800 °W
Wind Speed: 15 MPH
Air Temperature: 32°C
Sea Temperature: 31°C
Barometric Pressure: 1009 mbar


Personal Log

I can’t believe I’ve been back on land for one week already. My 14 days on the NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson flew by. Everyone has asked me how my trip was and I simply state, “epic.” It was by far one of the coolest experiences of my life. I am proud of myself for taking on such an adventure. I hope I inspire my daughters, students, and colleagues to never stop daring, dreaming, and discovering. The trip itself exceeded my highest expectations. I realized how lucky I was to have such warm weather and calm seas. The scientists agreed it was one of calmest expeditions they have ever had in terms of sea conditions. One of the coolest experiences of being a Teacher at Sea was the ability to see every aspect of the vessel. The NOAA Corps officers, the deck crew, and the scientists were so welcoming and friendly. I truly felt at home on board wherever I ventured. By the end of our cruise, our science watch was seamless while conducting the fish surveys. I got the biggest compliment on the last day of our trip when two of the deck crew said they thought I was one of the NOAA scientists the whole time. They both had no idea I was actually a teacher at sea until I mentioned that I was headed back home to teach in Key West.

Callie in front of plane
Callie prepares to head home. Photo Credit: Ali Deary

Just when I thought my adventure was over, I had one of my most memorable moments of the trip. The science team and I had some down time while waiting to board our flight out of Kodiak to Anchorage. We were so thrilled to be back on land that we decided to go on a walk-about around the airport area. We stumbled upon a freshwater river where Pink Salmon were spawning (aka a salmon run). The salmon run is the time when salmon, which have migrated from the ocean, swim to the upper reaches of rivers where they spawn on gravel beds. We stood on the river bank in awe watching hundreds of them wiggle upstream. We also came across fresh bear scat (poop) that was still steaming. It was pretty crazy! Our walk-about was such a random fun ending to an epic adventure.

Pink salmon run
Pink salmon run
at the river
Callie and friends from NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson. Photo Credit: Matt Wilson
Fresh bear scat!
Fresh bear scat!

I am so thankful for this opportunity. It was the trip of a lifetime. It was an honor and a privilege that I will never forget. I will be sharing it with my students for years to come. I am looking forward to attending future NOAA Teacher at Sea Alumni gatherings to meet fellow TAS participants and continuing this amazing experience.

Karah Nazor: Interview with NOAA Scientist Flora Cordoleani, Ph.D., June 2, 2019

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Karah Nazor

Aboard NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker

May 29 – June 7, 2019


Mission: Rockfish Recruitment & Ecosystem Assessment

Geographic Area: Central California Coast

Date: June 2, 2019

Scientist Spotlight: Flora Cordoleani, Ph.D., NOAA NMFS, SWFSC, Fisheries Ecology Division (FED). Dr. Cordoleani is a member of the fish sorting team on this survey.

Interests: Rock climbing, surfing, reading, studying Japanese

Education: Dr. Cordoleani’s doctoral degree is in Marine Biology and Ecology from Aix-Marseille University in France. There she researched interactions between phytoplankton and zooplankton. During her postdoc at the University of California, Davis, in the lab of Louis Botsford, she studied the impact of marine protected areas on rockfish along the CA coast.  

Flora measuring anchovies
Flora Cordoleani, Ph.D., measuring Northern Anchovies after a sort on the Reuben Lasker.
Flora and Karah
Dr. Flora Cordoleani and Dr. Karah Nazor, Teacher at Sea.

Current Research: Dr. Cordoleani leads a research program at UC Davis on preservation of Chinook Salmon, Oncorhynchus tshawytscha, of the Central California Valley Spring Run, which is a threatened species. She explains that these Chinook Salmon are genetically different from salmon of other runs such as the Late Fall, Fall, and Winter runs that take place in the Sacramento River, San Joaquin River, the Delta, the San Francisco Bay, and all of its tributaries.

The primary objective of Dr. Cordoleani’s research is to develop a life cycle model of the entire Spring Run from the spot where the young salmon are reared in the river to their journey through the Golden Gate to the sea where they spend a couple of years before returning back to their home river to spawn, thus completing the life cycle.  She aims to uncover environmental factors that are impacting the survival at each stage of the life cycle.

Project 1: Dr. Cordoleani’s team placed acoustic tags in the stomachs of young fish to trace their journey from the river to the ocean.  She has found that water temperature, water velocity, and flow are the major factors impacting whether or not juvenile fish are able to make it from their place of birth to the Golden Gate. She has observed that drought negatively impacts survival and that the fish fare better in wetter years.  Her data helps federal agencies, such as NOAA, with fish stock assessments and informs them for making science policy decisions on fishing and setting fishing quotas.

Project 2: Since water flow and velocity affect the survival of young salmon called fry, Dr. Cordoleani is very interested in water usage in the Central California Valley and gaining a better understanding how freshwater habitats are managed and how this affects wild salmon.  A major obstacle these fish encounter are dams, which blocks the natural flow of rivers. Spring run salmon have an additional challenge of low water levels and low stream flow in the Spring. During the Spring months, there is less water available in floodplain habitats due to the heavy consumption of water by the agriculture industry during this time.   

To study the effects of water flow and velocity on salmon fry, Dr. Cordoleani made mesh fish cages and placed the cages in either shallow floodplain habitats or the main river.  She placed ten fry (measuring 40 mm in length) in each cage and allowed them to grow for 6 weeks. At the end of the 6 weeks, she again measured the fish and found that the floodplain shallow water habitat promoted fish growth.

Rice farmers use floodplain habitats for their crop and Dr. Cordoleani is working on partnering with this industry to explore how they can work together to manage land to benefit native salmon runs.  She is excited that the rice farmers, as well as duck clubs, are interested to learn how their land can be used to help wild salmon populations thrive and how they can be a part of the solution to some of the obstacles wild salmon face.

Project 3:  Fish otoliths provide a treasure trove of information to reconstruct the life history of fish.  The CA Department of Fish and Game has for many years been collecting otoliths from salmon carcasses after spawning events throughout various locations in the Central CA Valley.  They gave Dr. Cordoleani access to their 450 stored otoliths for her research on the salmon life cycle. She will analyze the otoliths using laser ablation mass spectrometry and stable isotope analysis (using the Strontium 64 or 65 ratio) to determine in which river the adult fish were reared, where they were present at each stage of their life cycle, and how long they spent there. She will also be able to determine if the fish were wild or farmed-raised because hatchery feeding produces a different strontium signal, she explains.

With data from the otolith project, Dr. Cordoleani will compare different cohorts of fish and assess how fast the fish grew in each type of habitat in order to understand which habitats are most ideal for salmon survival. Importantly, she will be able to determine whether and how their growth was affected by different environmental factors and seasons over the years.  Dr. Cordoleani uses USGS databases and other agency websites to obtain water data records for her research.

Roy Moffitt, 40 Scientists Embark from Nome, August 7, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Roy Moffitt

Aboard USCGC Healy

August 7 – 25, 2018


Mission: Arctic Distributed Biological Observatory

Geographic Area: Arctic Ocean (Bering Sea, Chukchi Sea, Beaufort Sea)

Date: August 6 – 7, 2018

 

All Gather in Nome for the Expedition Launch

August 6th:

All of the science party arrived in Nome and gathered for a science briefing before departure. In the evening there was a public presentation by Jackie Grebmeier the missions Co-Chief Scientist and Primary Investigator of the Arctic Distributed Biological Observatory – Northern Chukchi Integrated Study (DBO-NCIS). Jackie presented on what researchers have found. In brief, there is a shift northwards of the bottom dwelling Arctic ecosystems in the Bering Sea. This is due to the lack of winter ice in the southern Bering Sea causing a lack of a deep-sea cold pool of water during the rest of the year. This colder water is needed for some bottom dwelling organisms such as clams. Those clams are the favorite food choice of the Spectacled Eider Duck. When the bottom of the food chain moves north the higher in the food chain organisms such as the Spectacled Eider Duck need to adapt to a different food source or in this case move with north with it. The reason for the lacking cold pool of seawater is the lack ice being created at the surface during the winter, this process creates cold saltier water. Colder water that is also higher in salinity sinks and settles to the bottom of the ocean. So essentially the effects of less southern sea ice are from the bottom of the ocean to the top of the ocean. Grebmeier will be leading the DBO-NCS science team during this expedition so look for a future blogs focused on this research.

August 7th Evening:

We are currently anchored off the Nome Alaska Harbor and have only been on the ship for a few hours. Scientists are preparing their instruments for deployment. These instruments will measure a wide range of non-living and living members of the ecosystem. These scientific measurements will be taken from the sea floor into the atmosphere, the measurements will use a wide range of equipment. Stay tuned to future blogs with focus on different research groups, their data, specialized equipment, and their findings. We are off!

There is no place like Nome, Where the Land Meets the Sea

We are departing from Nome, Alaska. Here are some pictures around the city of Nome. Roadways to the rest of Alaska and beyond do not connect Nome. You must get here by boat or plane.

Nome from Anvil Mountain

Nome from Anvil Mountain

 

Healy anchored off Nome

The USCG Healy is anchored off the coast of Nome.

Healy at anchor

Another view of USCGC Healy anchored off of Nome

 

The Chum salmon were running in the Nome River, they leave the ocean and go up the river to spawn.

salmon jumping

Chum Salmon jumping up the Nome River

I found someone who traveled farther to get here than me: Arctic Terns who travel from the Antarctic to Arctic every year. In this picture, an Arctic Tern is seen with this year’s offspring. The juvenile here can now fly and will stay with its parent for the first 2 to 3 months.

Arctic Tern and offspring

Arctic Tern and its new offspring

 

This is the same variety of seagull that you see in New England, but in Alaska, this one was not so nice. As I was walking on busy road way, this gull caught me off guard and dive-bombed me, almost knocking me into incoming traffic. After several more passes, the gull decided I was not a threat to its offspring. This nest was over 200ft away. Many seabirds use the coast of Alaska to breed and raise the next generation. The common seagull, or Glaucous Gull, and Arctic Tern are only just two.​

Seagull on the roof with nest

Seagull on the roof with nest

Helen Haskell: Getting to know Ketchikan, June 7, 2017

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Helen Haskell

Aboard NOAA Ship Fairweather

6/5/2017-6/22/2017

Mission: Hydro Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Southeast Alaska – West Prince of Wales Island Hydro Survey

Date: 6/4/17

Weather: Cloud cover 100%, mixed drizzle and rain, 12C feels like 8C

Location: Ketchikan, AK, 55.3422° N, 131.6461° W

Personal Log

Flying has its benefits and drawbacks. While it is not possible to see in nearly as much detail compared to as when you are in a car, looking out of the window, able to stop at will, on a plane the bigger stories, the bigger picture becomes more apparent more quickly. Leaving Albuquerque at 9am, the sun had been up for a while, the ground warm and the air temperature already in the 70’s. No patches of snow anymore in the Sandia Mountains that skirt the city. Looking down from my window seat moments after take off, I had to smile as we flew right over my school. I could see my classroom roof, the track, and the school garden. In the three-hour flight heading to Seattle the landscape began to change, and geologic features we had been talking about in my 9th grade class this year came in to view. Passing over the red rock of Utah, we began to see more snow at lower elevations, the Great Salt Lake, and finally Mt Rainier. The next flight from Seattle to Ketchikan promised even more change for this desert rat. We flew up the Inside Passage, seeing island, bays and inlets, and increasing amount of snow and cloud.

Due to flight distance and potential delays, I was flown in to Ketchikan one day ahead of schedule, and the Fairweather was in port for another day. So, myself along with most of the rest of the crew had time to explore Ketchikan and the surrounding area. A short van ride in to town from the Coast Guard Station where the Fairweather is docked, it’s immediately obvious how the town has undergone change over time.

My knowledge of the area began on the flight from Seattle when I was seated next to a logger. Looking out the window as we moved north across Vancouver Island and up the Inside Passage, he pointed out floating rafts of recently cut timber, explaining to me how it is towed and then loaded on to ships while on the ocean. We talked of the different species of wood and what he liked about his job, and of being outside in Alaska. As I stood in downtown Ketchikan I could see the hills rising up immediately east of town and marveled at the engineering used to build roads and communities in these conditions. However, times have changed in Ketchikan and the pulp plant has since closed down, and while there is still evidence of logging, industries have changed.

IMG_1451

Flying in to Ketchikan

Ketchikan is known as the salmon capital and all over town there is evidence of this business. All menus contain Alaskan caught salmon and other fish such as halibut and cod. Near the water is an anchor that was used to hold down Fish Traps, a device designed by a local Ketchikan resident to catch thousands of fish, and ultimately was banned when populations of salmon became decimated.

South-east Alaska is complex, geologically speaking, and as a result, Ketchikan, on Revillagigedo Island, built on a metamorphic rocks, is also a former mining town, with copper, iron, uranium and molybdenum deposits found nearby. In the late 19th and early 20th century, gold deposits were being explored. Walking around town, while I found no evidence of gold, walking up Creek Street, I learned about the women who, up until the 1950’s, had ‘houses of friendship’ as businesses, which today are tourist stores selling everything from t-shirts to locally produced art.

Today, Ketchikan is the host of many cruise ships that spend a day or so moored in one of the four piers. From these boats visitors disembark to explore the town. This is evidence again of Ketchikan’s evolution as a town. While salmon is still important, the thousands of tourists that come here in the summer have also changed the nature of the town, at least for several hours a day in the summer season. Crossing guards, today dressed in complete rain gear, stop traffic to let the throngs of people cross the main street. Stores, many locally owned, are filled with a range of goods, from cheap key chains to fine jewelry. Local Alaskan and north -west artists are getting more exposure as a result of these tourists. The town is evolving.

In one of the stores that sold art made by Alaskan tribal members, I learned about rain jackets that were made with seal intestines and necklaces carved out of a dark sedimentary shale like rock, heavy in carbon, known locally as Argillite. Found 80 miles south of Ketchikan, this rock is harvested from a mountain by the Haisa tribe, and carved in to fetishes of the wildlife in the area. Perhaps what I found the most fascinating were the baleen baskets and pots that were made. The baleen is carefully cut in to very thing strips and these strips are woven in to baskets, each with a small, carved handle made from walrus tusk.

I also visited the Totem Heritage Center, seeing examples of 150-200 year old Totems that had been carved by the local tribes, and under preservation. There are three tribes in the region, the Tlingit (pronounced ‘Klink-it), the Haisa and the Tsimshian. Totems were originally carved to honor individuals, commemorating events, or as house posts, sometimes supporting the main beam of the house, at other time, displaying the clan, based on matrilineal lineage.

I also went to the Southeast Alaskan Discovery Center. Here, I watched a film on the history of Ketchikan and some of it’s influential historical residents as well as a short clip about Tongass National Forest, making me anxious for the ship to set sail so I could see more of what was to offer in this vast ecosystem.  Specimens of plants and animals found in the temperate rainforest and the surrounding waters gave me a little more insight in to what I might potentially see on our journey to Kodiak. While Bald Eagles are almost as common as the pigeons hanging out by the Coast Guard station where we are moored, I am hoping to see more wildlife as the research begins.

Word of the day: Muskeg

A Muskeg is a:

  1. A larger relative of the muskrat found here in Alaska OR
  2. A term used to describe a female muskox OR
  3. A habitat found in Southeast Alaska

A Muskeg is a habitat, an open bog that acts like a giant sponge here in Southeast Alaska. The soils in muskegs are saturated, receiving 50-300 inches of rain annually. The soils contain a significant amount of sphagnum mosses and sedges that hold water and release excess water in to the streams and rivers. The sedges and mosses partially decompose and build up, so several feet of material may contain thousands of years of organic matter. The peat mosses actually release chemicals that subdue decomposition and over time, layers of peat build up. As organic matter does not decay, the nutrient availability in these areas is low, making it hard for many plant species to survive there. By studying these bogs and taking core samples of the material, scientists are learning about vegetation change in Alaska over the past 14,000 years. Organic material is radiocarbon-dated and pollen and leaf fragments are identified to determine what species were presented at different times.

Fact of the day:

Alaska is five times the size of New Mexico, and consists of 586,412 square miles of land, with 60% managed by the Federal Government, 25% by the State of Alaska, and 10% by Native corporations and villages.

What is this?

What do you think this is a picture of? (The answer will be in the next blog installment).IMG_0115 (1)

 

Acronym of the Day

One immediate observation I have had being here is that there are many acronyms used and part of my job is to learn what they mean -and it is a bit like learning a new language. So each blog, I’ll share with you and acronym or two:

NOAA: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

CO: Commanding Officer

XO: Executive Officer

Lindsay Knippenberg: Oceanography Day! September 11, 2011

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Lindsay Knippenberg
Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
September 4 – 16, 2011

Mission: Bering-Aleutian Salmon International Survey (BASIS)
Geographical Area: Bering Sea
Date: September 11, 2011

Weather Data from the Bridge
Latitude: 58.00 N
Longitude: -166.91 W
Wind Speed: 23.91 kts with gusts over 30 kts
Wave Height: 10 – 13ft with some bigger swells rolling through
Surface Water Temperature: 6.3 C
Air Temperature: 8.0 C

Science and Technology Log

On a calm day letting out the CTD is easy.

On a calm day letting out the CTD is easy.

Today Jeanette and Florence took me under their wing to teach me about the oceanographic research they are conducting onboard the Dyson. At every station there is a specific order to how we sample. First the transducer, then the CTD, then numerous types of plankton nets, and then we end with the fishing trawl. The majority of the oceanographic data that they collect comes from the CTD (Conductivity, Temperature, Depth). The CTD is lowered over the side of the ship and as it slowly descends to about 100 meters it takes conductivity, temperature, and depth readings. Those readings go to a computer inside the dry lab where Jeanette is watching to record where the pycnocline is located.

The results from the CTD. Can you spot where the pycnocline is?

The results from the CTD. Can you spot where the pycnocline is?

The pycnocline is a sharp boundary layer where the density of the water rapidly changes. The density changes because cold water is more dense than warm water and water with a higher salinity is more dense than water that is lower in salinity. So as the CTD travels down towards the bottom it  measures warmer, less salty water near the surface, a dramatic change of temperature and salinity at the pycnocline, and then colder, saltier water below the pycnocline. Once Jeanette knows where the pycnocline is, she tells the CTD to collect water at depths below, above, and at the pycnocline boundary. The water is collected in niskin bottles and when the CTD is back on deck Florence and Jeanette take samples of the water to examine in the wet lab.

Filtering out the chlorophyll from the CTD water samples.

Filtering out the chlorophyll from the CTD water samples.

Back in the lab, Jeanette and Florence run several tests on the water that they collected. The first test that I watched them do was for chlorophyll. They used a vacuum to draw the water through two filters that filtered out the chlorophyll from the water. As the water from the CTD passed through the filters, the different sizes of chlorophyll would get stuck on the filter paper. Jeanette and Florence then collected the filter paper, placed them in labeled tubes, and stored them in a cold, dark freezer where the chlorophyll would not degrade. In the next couple of days the chlorophyll samples that they collected will be ran through a fluorometer which will quantify how much chlorophyll is actually in their samples.

Jeanette collecting water from the CTD.

Jeanette collecting water from the CTD.

Besides chlorophyll, Jeanette and Florence also tested the water for dissolved oxygen and nutrients like nitrates and phosphates. All of these tests will give the scientists a snapshot of the physical and biological characteristics of the Eastern Bering Sea at this time of year. This is very important to the fisheries research because it can help to determine the health of the ecosystem and return of the fish in the following year.

Personal Log

One of the high points for me so far on the cruise has been seeing and learning about all the new fish that we catch in the net. We have caught lots of salmon, pollock, and capelin. The capelin are funny because they smell exactly like cucumbers. When we get a big catch of capelin the entire fish lab smells like cucumbers…it’s so weird. We have also caught wolffish, yellow fin sole, herring, and a lot of different types of jellyfish. The jellies are fun because they come in all different shapes and sizes. We had a catch today that had some hug ones and everyone was taking their pictures with them.

Now that is a big jelly fish.

Now that is a big jelly fish.

Today we also caught three large Chinook or king salmon. Ellen taught me how to fillet a fish and I practiced on a smaller fish and then filleted the salmon for the cook. What is even cooler was that at dinner we had salmon and it was the fish that we had caught and I had filleted. Fresh salmon is so good and I think the crew was happy to get to enjoy our catch.

The catch of the day was a 8.5 kg Chinook salmon.

The catch of the day was a 8.5 kg Chinook salmon.

Salmon for dinner, filleted by Lindsay.

Salmon for dinner, filleted by Lindsay.


What else did we catch?

Walleye Pollock

Walleye Pollock

A juvenile Wolffish

A juvenile Wolffish

Yellow Fin Sole

Yellowfin Sole

 A squid

A squid

Herring

Herring

Lots of little Capelin

Lots of little Capelin

Lindsay Knippenberg: Going Fishing! September 4, 2011

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Lindsay Knippenberg
Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
September 4 – 16, 2011

 

Mission: Bering-Aleutian Salmon International Survey (BASIS)
Geographical Area: Bering Sea
Date: September 4, 2011

Weather Data from the Bridge
Latitude: 54.13
Longitude: -166.41
Wind Speed: 24.10kts
Wave Height: 4-6 ft
Surface Water Temperature: 9.0°C
Air Temperature: 8.8°C

Science and Technology Log

The station grid for all of the proposed sampling sites.

The station grid for all of the proposed sampling sites.

Yeah! Today we left Dutch Harbor and began the second leg of the Bering-Aleutian Salmon International Survey (BASIS). The purpose of the BASIS Study is to assess the status of marine species in the Eastern Bering Sea and support the decision making process for commercially important fisheries. The scientists on my team are accomplishing this goal by combining their knowledge of fisheries, oceanography, and acoustics. While I am onboard I will be helping out the scientists in all these different areas to get a broad view of all the science going on during our cruise.

There are specific sampling locations called stations that we will be going to throughout the Eastern Bering Sea. The map on the left shows the locations of these stations. The green dots are the stations that we are sampling during leg 1 and leg 2 of the BASIS survey. Leg 1 is already complete and they sampled at all the stations east of Unalaska. We will be picking up where they left off and sampling at all of the remaining green stations. The black dots are stations that will be sampled by another vessel named the Bristol Explorer.

The trawl net being let out behind the ship.

The trawl net being let out behind the ship.

For the first station I got to help out the fisheries team in the fish lab. We did a surface trawl by letting out a large net out the back of the boat with floats on it to keep it at the surface. By adjusting the floats and weights on the trawl, the fishermen can choose what depth they fish at. While the net is out, the OOD (Officer of the Deck) slowly motors the ship for about 30 minutes and the net catches the fish that are swimming in that area and depth. For this station we want to see the fish that are swimming within the top 30 meters of our sampling area. At later stations we might also do a mid level or deep trawl to see the fish that live at those depths.

We found some Salmon!

We found some Salmon!

After the 30 minutes were up, the fishermen slowly brought in the net and we immediately saw salmon caught in the net. Yeah! We caught something! As more and more net was brought in the fish began to pile up on our sorting table. There were a lot more fish than I had expected and the majority of them were salmon. It was now our job to sort the fish by species and I will admit that I am pretty slow at identifying the species. They may all look like fish, but they each have identifiable features like the color of their gums (black for Chinook Salmon), type of gill rakers, or color patterns on their body or tails. At this station we were lucky enough to pull in four out of the five salmon species in Alaska. We caught Chinook, Sockeye, Chum, and Pink Salmon. We also caught several different species of jellyfish and some squid.

That is a lot of salmon to sort.

That is a lot of salmon to sort.

After we caught the fish, we had to process them. In order to learn about the fish and the health of their population, we took samples and collected data from the fish we caught. Here is a description of the data we collected and what the scientists can learn from that data.

Weight and Length – Weight and length are an index of fitness for the fish. The scientists multiply how fat the fish is by how long it is to determine its lipid (fat) content. In cold waters the fish tend to have a higher lipid content than in warmer waters where the fish have to use more energy to metabolize. Additionally, if a fish has a higher lipid content, it might also mean that it is healthy and finding prey easily.

Gill rakers (white hairs on top of the red gills) from two different salmon. Can you see the difference?

Gill rakers (white hairs on top of the red gills) from two different salmon. Can you see the difference?

Axillary Process – We cut the axillary process off the fish we caught for genetic studies. The scientists know the baseline genetic sequence for the salmon that come from different regions of the world. By looking at the genetics of the fish we caught, we can tell where the fish came from and reconstruct their migration and distribution. For instance, the scientists have used the genetics from the axillary processes to determine that a large percentage of chum salmon caught in the Eastern Bering Sea are from Japan.

Sexual Maturity – By looking at the testes and ovaries of the fish, the scientists can determine if the fish were immature or mature and when they were going to spawn. Using this information along with the results from the axillary process genetics, the scientists can determine migration patterns and growth rates.

Determining the sex, stomach contents, and sexual maturity of the fish we caught.

Determining the sex, stomach contents, and sexual maturity of the fish we caught.

Male vs. Female – The scientists also use the testes and ovaries to determine if the fish was a female or male. This is helpful in looking at the ratio of males to females in their population.

Stomach Contents – By removing the stomach of the fish and analyzing its stomach contents, the scientists can determine what the fish was eating. This is can be very helpful when comparing warm years to cold years and the effect that climate change can have on prey sources and the nutrition of the fish.

All of this information can then be extremely useful to fisheries managers who are assessing the stock of the fish that are important to commercial fishermen. One of the species that we hope to collect as we sample at other stations is Pollock. Pollock is the largest US fishery by volume. Each year around 2.9 Billion pounds of Pollock are harvested. To learn more about the Pollock fishery check out this link to NOAA FishWatch. The scientists  on my team are assessing the health of the Pollock fishery by looking at the total lipid content of Age 0 Pollock in late summer. Their lipid content is important at this time of year because winter in coming and they will need lipids to survive the cold winter. By looking at the lipid content of the Age 0 Pollock that we collect, the scientists can predict how many Age 0 Pollock will survive to become Age 1 Pollock and eventually mature to become Age 3 or 4 Pollock that can be harvested.

Personal Log

The fluke of a whale as it dives.

The fluke of a whale as it dives.

Whales! I was hanging out on the bridge getting my last look at land for a couple of weeks when I thought I saw a whale out of the corner of my eye. I couple of minutes later a huge Humpback Whale breached right next to the ship. I have seen whales before, but it was just their dorsal fin of flukes. This was crazy. An entire whale was out of the water and it kept on breaching over and over again like it was playing. I wanted to take a picture, but I was too mesmerized to even take my eyes away from it for a moment. Then as I started to look farther out to sea, I saw even more whales. There were about a dozen whales flapping their tails and rolling on to their sides. It looked like they were having a good time playing on a beautiful day.

The weather forecast for September 4 - 6. It doesn't look good...

The weather forecast for September 4 - 6. It doesn't look good...

That beautiful day, however, did not last very long. We managed to sample at two different stations when the wind started to pick up and the waves began to get a little larger. The forecast was calling for a Gale Warning with gusts of up to 50kts and 20-24 ft seas. Those conditions are far too dangerous to fish in, so we turned around and headed back to Dutch Harbor. Hopefully the storm will pass quickly and we will only have to hide out a couple of days until it is safe to fish again.

Lindsay Knippenberg: I Made It! September 3, 2011

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Lindsay Knippenberg
Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
September 4 – 16, 2011

Mission: Bering-Aleutian Salmon International Survey (BASIS)
Geographical Area: Bering Sea
Date: September 3, 2011

Weather/Location Data for Unalaska, AK
Latitude: 53°54’0”N
Longitude: 166° 32′ 36″ W
Wind Speed: Calm
Air Temperature: mid 50’s°F

Personal Log

It was a long day of traveling. I flew from Washington DC to Seattle to Anchorage to Cold Bay to Dutch Harbor.

It was a long day of traveling. I flew from Washington DC to Seattle to Anchorage to Cold Bay to Dutch Harbor.

Whew…I made it to Unalaska. After an entire day of sitting on airplanes and running through airport terminals, I am finally here. I can’t believe how beautiful it is here. The surrounding mountains are a stunning green color and there have even been some sightings of blue sky between the normal grey clouds. I am also amazed at how warm it is. It almost got up to 60°F today, but I was told that the weather can change here pretty quickly. We have already heard of bad weather coming our way next week. The National Weather Service issued a Gale Warning with predictions of wind gusts of up to 50 knots and waves above 20 feet. I had better take my seasickness medications.

The beautiful town of Unalaska.

The beautiful town of Unalaska.

We don’t ship out until tomorrow, so we decided to take advantage of the nice weather and explore Unalaska. Unalaska is much bigger than I thought that it would be. It is a major international fishing port and is one of the larger cities in Alaska with about 4,000 residents. Life in Unalaska revolves around fishing. Most residents are either commercial fishermen, work in the processing facilities, support the fishermen through stores and other services, or work in the ship yards where the seafood is shipped to all parts of the world. The name of the harbor where all of this is going on might be familiar to you. It is called Dutch Harbor and is where the show “Deadliest Catch” is filmed about the commercial crab fishermen. Crab is not the only type of commercial seafood coming out of Dutch Harbor. Pollock, Cod, Halibut, Rock Sole, and Mackerel are just a few of the other commercial fisheries in Dutch Harbor.

A World War II bunker on top of Bunker Hill in Unalaska (Photo Credit: Jillian Worssam).

A World War II bunker on top of Bunker Hill in Unalaska (Photo Credit: Jillian Worssam).

For those of you interested in history, Dutch Harbor also has historical significance from World War II. Dutch Harbor was the only land in North America, besides Pearl Harbor, that was bombed by Japanese Zeros during World War II. In our exploring around the island today, we saw evidence of Armed Forces’ bunkers, Quonset huts, and barracks still visible amongst the green hills of Unalaska. The National Park System opened a WWII National Historic Area and Visitor Center in 2002 in Unalaska and I hope to have time to visit it either before or after my cruise.

Enjoying the beach at Summer Bay in Humpy Cove. In 1997 this was the site of a 47,000 gallon oil spill.

Enjoying the beach at Summer Bay in Humpy Cove. In 1997 this was the site of a 47,000 gallon oil spill

What’s the best place to go on a beautiful, sunny day in Unalaska? The beach, of course. We didn’t go to the beach to get sun tans or to go for a swim. We went to check out the tide pools. I love tide pools! It is amazing how resilient the little creatures are that live in the tide pools. When the tide is in they are completely submerged under water and then six hours later they are above the water level when the tide goes out. To make life even harder, they are also smashed by huge waves crashing on them as the tide goes in and out. It is a tough life, but there was such a diversity of life that they must be pretty tough and have some helpful adaptations. As I explored amongst the rocks, I found sea anemones, barnacles, mussels, and lots of different types of seaweeds. On our way back to the van, we also found a stream leading back to a brackish lake and the salmon were running. They are amazing creatures to watch too. The amount of energy that they exert and the sacrifice that they make to reproduce is incredible.

I am now a member of the female dominated science team onboard the Oscar Dyson.

I am now a member of the female dominated science team onboard the Oscar Dyson.

Unfortunately we couldn’t spend our entire day exploring. The plan for the rest of the day is to get settled onboard the Dyson, have a science team meeting to discuss the science that we will be doing and the logistics associated with the different stations and sample sites, and have a safety meeting with the crew of Dyson to discuss life onboard the ship and emergency situations. I am so excited to go out to sea tomorrow and actually start fishing.