John Clark, September 27, 2013

NOAA Teacher at Sea John Clark

Aboard NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow

September 23 – October 4, 2013

Clark Log 3gMission: Autumn Bottom Trawl Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise: North Atlantic
Date: September 27, 2013

Science and Technology  Log 

It’s going to be a busy night trawling and processing our catch.  Yippee. I like  being busy as the time passes more quickly and I learn about more fish. A large number of trawling areas are all clustered together for our shift. For the most part that means the time needed to collect data on one trawl is close to the amount of time needed for the ship to reach the next trawling area. The first trawl was a highlight for me as we collected, for the first time,  a few puffer fish and one managed to stay inflated so I had a picture taken with that one.

We found a puffer

We found a puffer

However, on this night there was more than just puffer fish to be photographed with. On this night we caught the big one that didn’t get away. One trawl brings in an amazing catch of 6 very large striped bass and among them is a new record: The largest striped bass ever hauled in by NOAA Fisheries! The crew let me hold it up. It was very heavy and  I kept hoping it would not start flopping around. I could just see myself letting go and watching it slip off the deck and back into the sea. Fortunately, our newly caught prize reacted passively to my photo op. I felt very lucky that the big fish was processed at the station I was working at. When Jakub put the big fish on the scale it was like a game show – special sounds were emitted from our speakers and out came the printed label confirming our prize  – “FREEZ – biggest fish ever “-‐-‐the largest Morone Saxatilis (striped bass) ever caught by a NOAA Fisheries research ship.  It was four feet long. I kept  waiting for the balloons to come down from the ceiling.

Catch of the day

Catch of the day

Every member of the science team sorts fish but at the  data  collection tables my role  in the  fish lab is one of “recorder”. I’m teamed  with  another scientist who serves  as  the “cutter”, in this  case Jakub. That person collects the information I enter into the computer. The amount of data collected  depends on  the quantity and  type of fish  caught in  the net. I help  record  data on length, weight, sex, sexual development, diet, and scales. Sometimes fish specimens or parts of a fish, like the backbone of a goose fish, are preserved. On other occasions, fish, often the small ones are frozen for further study. Not every scientist can make it on to the Bigelow to be directly part of the trip so species data and samples are collected in accordance with their requests.

Collecting data from a fish as large as our striped bass is not easy. It is as big as the processing sink at our data collection  station and it takes Jakub’s skill with a hacksaw-‐-‐yes I said hacksaw-‐-‐to open up the back of the head  of the striped  bass and retrieve  the  otolith, the  two small bones  found behind the head that are  studied to determine  age. When we  were  done, the fish was bagged and placed in the deep freeze for  further  study upon our return. On the good side we only froze one of the six striped bass that we caught so we got to enjoy some great seafood for dinner. The team filleted over 18 pounds of striped bass for the chef to cook up.

Too big for the basket

Too big for the basket

More Going On: 

Processing the  trawl is not the  only data  collection activity taking place on the  Bigelow.  Before most trawls begin the command comes down to “deploy the bongos”. They are actually a pair  of  closed end nets similar to nets used to catch butterflies only much longer. The name bongo comes from the deployment apparatus that holds the pair of nets. The top resembles a set of bongo drums with one net attached to each one. Their purpose, once deployed, is to collect plankton samples for further study. Many fish live off plankton until they are themselves eaten by a predator farther up the food chain so the health of plankton is critical to the success of  the ecological food chain in the oceans.

Processing

Processing

Before some other trawls, comes the command to deploy the CTD device. When submerged to a target  depth  and  running in  the water as the ship  steams forward, this long fire extinguisher sized  device measures conductivity and temperature at specified depths of the ocean. It is another tool for measuring the health of the ocean and how current water conditions can impact the health  of the marine life and also the food chain in the area.

Personal Log 

On a personal note, I filleted a fish for the first time today – a  flounder. Tanya, one  of the science crew taught me how to do it. I was so excited about the outcome that I did another one!

Processing fish

Processing fish

Clark Log 3gg

A mix of fish

A mix of fish

Paired trawl

Paired trawl

Learning to fillet

Learning to fillet

John Clark, September 25, 2013

NOAA Teacher at Sea John Clark

Aboard NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow

September 23 – October 4, 2013

The galley

The galley

Mission: Autumn Bottom Trawl Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise: North Atlantic
Date: September 25, 2013

Science and Technology  Log 

I was  told  that  the  first  12  hour night watch shift was the hardest for staving off sleep and those who spoke were right. Tonight’s  overnight shift seems to be flying by and I’m certainly awake. Lots of trawling and sorting this  evening with four sorts complete by 6am. One was just full of dogfish, the shark looking fish,  and  they  process  quickly  because  other  than  weight  and  length there is little request for other data. The dogfish were sorted at the bucket end of the job so determining sex had already been completed by the time the fish get to my workstation. Again I’m under the mentorship of Jakub who can process fish faster than I can print and place labels on the storage envelopes. The placement of the labels is my weakness as I have no fingernails and removing the paper backing from the sticky label is awkward and time consuming. Still tonight I’m showing speed improvement over last night. Well at least I’m getting the labels on straight most of the time.

Sorting fish

Sorting fish

In  addition  to  the  dogfish,  we  have  processed  large  quantities  of  skate  (the  one  that  looks  like a  sting  ray to me), left  eyed flounders, croakers (no relation to the frog), and sea robins of which there are two types, northern and stripe. The sea robins are  very colorful with the  array of spines just behind the  mouth. And yes it hurts when one of the spines goes through your glove. Sadly for me sorting has been less exciting tonight.  With  the big fish being grabbed off at the front of the line there has been little left for me to sort. I feel like the goal keeper in soccer  – just  don’t let them get past me. To my great surprise, so far I’ve experienced no real fear of touching the fish. The gloves are very nice to work with.

Species in specific buckets

Species in specific buckets

And let us not overlook the squid. There have been pulled in by the hundreds in the runs today. There are two types of squids, long fin (the lolligo) and short fin (the illex). What they both have in common is the ability to make an incredible mess. They are slimy on the outside and  inky on the inside. They remind me of a fishy candy bar with really big eyes. And  for all the fish  that enjoy their squid  treat the species  is,  of  course,  (wait  for  it) just  eye  candy.  The  stories  about  the  inking  are  really  true. When  upset, they give  off ink; lots of ink. And  they are very upset by the time they reach the data collection stations. If you could bottle their ink you would  never need  to  refill your pen  again. They are also  very, very  plentiful which  might explain  why there are no requests to collect additional data beyond  how long they are. I guess they are not eye candy to marine scientists. However, there vastness is also their virtue. As a food source for many larger species of marine life, an absence of large quantities of squid in our trawling nets would be a bad sign for the marine ecosystem below us.

Safety equipment

Safety equipment

When the squid are missing, our friend the Skate (which of  the four  types does not  matter)  is glad to pick up  the slack on  the “messy to work with” front. As this species makes it down the sorting and data collecting line the internal panic button goes  off and they exude this thick, slimy substance  that covers their bodies and makes them very slippery customers at  the weigh stations.  It turns out the small spines on the tails were placed there so that fisheries researchers could have a fighting chance to handle them without dropping. Still, a skate sliding onto the floor is a frequent event and provides comic relief for all working at the data collection stations.

Clark Log 2There was new species in the  nets tonight, the  Coronet fish which looks like  along  drink straw with stripes  and a string attached to the back end. It is  pencil thick and about a foot long without the string. We only caught it twice during the trip. The rest of the hauls replicate past  sorting as dogfish, robins, skates, squid, croakers, and flounder are the bulk of the catch. I’ve been told that the diversity and size of the trawl should  be more abundant as we steam along the coastline heading north  from the lower coast of  New Jersey. Our last trawl of the shift, the nets deployed collect two species new for our voyage, but ones I actually recognized despite my limited knowledge of fish – the Horseshoe Crab and a lobster! I grew up seeing those on the Jersey shore.  We only got one lobster and after measuring  it we let  go  back  to  grow  some  more.  It  only  weighed in at less than two pounds.

Personal Log 

The foul weather suit we wear to work the line does not leave the staging room where they are stored as wearing them around the ship is not  allowed. After  watching others, I have mastered the art  of  pushing the wader pants over the rubber boots and  thus leaving them set-‐up  for quick donning and  removal of  gear  throughout  the shift.

While the work is very interesting on board, the highlight of each  day is meal time. Even though I work the night  shift (which ends at  noon) I take a nap right after my shift so I can  be  up  and  alert in  time  for dinner. My favorite has been  the T-‐bone steaks with Monterey seasoning and  any of the fish cooked up from our trawling like scallops or flounder. The chef, Dennis, and his assistant, Jeremy serve up some really fine cuisine. Not fancy but very tasty. There is a new soup every day at  lunch and so far my favorite has been the cream of tomato. I went back for seconds! Of course, breakfast is the meal all of us on the night watch  look forward  to  as there is no  meal service between midnight and  7am. After 7 hours of just snacking and  coffee, we are ready for  some solid food by the time breakfast  is served.

Seas continue to be  very calm and the  weather sunny and pleasant. That’s quite a surprise for the North Atlantic in the fall. And  the sunrise today was amazing. The Executive Officer, Chad Cary, shared that the weather we are experiencing should continue for at least four more days. I am  grateful  for  the  calm weather – less  chance  to  experience  sea  sickness.  That is something I’m determined to avoid if possible.

John Clark, Hi Ho, Hi Ho It’s Off to Work We Go, September 24, 2013

NOAA Teacher at Sea
John Clark
Aboard NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow
September 23 – October 4, 2013

Mission: Autumn Bottom Trawl Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise: North Atlantic
Date: September 24, 2013

Survival suits!

Survival suits!

Science and Technology  Log 

Today is my first full 12 hour shift day. I’m on the night crew working midnight to noon. Since we left port yesterday I’ve been  trying to  adjust my internal clock for pulling daily “all night”ers.  On Monday, after we  left port, safety briefs for all hands occurred once we made it out to sea and I got to complete my initiation into the Teacher at Sea alumni program  – the donning of  the Gumby suit as I call it. It is actually a bright red wet suit that covers your entire body and makes you look like a TV Claymation figure from the old TV show. In actuality it is designed to help you survive if  you need to abandon ship. Pictures are  of course taken to preserve this rite of passage.

The Henry B. Bigelow is a specially-built NOAA vessel designed to conduct fisheries research at sea.  Its purpose is to collect data that will help scientists assess the health of the Northern Coastal Atlantic Ocean and the fish populations that inhabit it. The work is invaluable to the commercial fishing industry.

The Bigelow in port

The Bigelow in port

Yesterday, I learned how we will go about collecting fisheries data. Our Chief Scientist, Dr. Peter Chase, has selected  locations for sampling the local fish population and the ship officers have developed a sailing plan that will enable the ship to visit all those locations, weather permitting, during the course of the voyage. To me its sounds like a well-‐planned  game of connecting the dots. At each target location, a trawling net  will be deployed and dragged near the bottom of the sea for a 20 minute period at a speed of 3 knots. Hence the reason  this voyage is identified as a bottom trawl survey mission. To drag the bottom without damaging the nets is not easy and there are five spare nets on board in case something goes wrong. To minimize the chance of damaging the net during a tow, the survey technicians use the wide beam sonar equipment to survey the bottom prior to deployment. Their goal is to identify a smooth path for the net to follow. The fish collected in the net are sorted and studied, based on selected criteria, once on board. A  specially designed transport system moves the fish from the net to the sorting and data collection stations inside the wet lab. I’m very excited to see how it actually works during my upcoming shift.

The big net.

The big net.

Work is already underway when our night crew checks in. The ship runs 24/7  and the nets have been down  and trawling since 7pm. Fish sorting and data collection  are  already underway.  I don my foul  weather gear which  looks  like a set of waders used for British fly fishing.  There is also a top jacket  but the weather is pleasant  tonight and the layer is not needed. I just need to sport some gloves and get to work. I’m involved with processing  two trawls of fish right away. I’m assigned to work with an experienced member of the science team, Jakub. We will be collecting information on the species of fish caught on each trawl.  Jakub carries out the role as cutter, collecting the physical  information or fish parts needed by the scientists. My role is recorder and  I enter data about the particular fish  being evaluated  as well package up  and  store the parts of the fish  being retained  for future study.

Ship equipment

Ship equipment

Data collection on each fish harvest is a very detailed. Fish are sorted by species as they come down the moving sorting line where they arrive after coming up the conveyer belt system from the “dump”  tank, so  named  because that is where the full nets deposit their  bounty. Everybody on the line sorts fish. Big fish get  pulled off  first  by the experienced scientists at  the start  of  belt  and then volunteers such as I pull off the smaller fish. Each  fish  is placed  into  a bucket by type of fish. There are three types of buckets and each bucket has a  bar code  tag. The  big laundry  looking  baskets  hold  the  big  fish,  five  gallon  paint buckets hold  the smaller fish, and  one gallon  buckets (placed  above the sorting line) hold  the unexpected  or small species. On  each  run  there is generally one fish  that is not sorted  and  goes all the way to the end untouched and unceremoniously ends up in the catch-‐all container at the  end of the  line. The watch leader weighs the buckets and then links the bar code on the bucket to the type of fish in it. From there  the  buckets are  ready for data  collection.

Clark Log 1d

The sorting line

After sorting the fish, individual data collection begins “by the bucket” where simultaneously at three different stations the sizing, weighing, and computer requested activities  occur. By  random sample certain work  is  performed on that fish. It  gets weighed and usually opened up to retrieve something from inside the fish. Today, I’ve observed several types of  data collection. Frequently requested are removal of  the otolith, two small bones in the head that  are used to help determine the age of  the fish. For bigger fish with vertebra,  such  as  the  goose  fish,  there  are periodic  requests  to  remove a  part  of  the backbone and  ship  it off for testing. Determining sex is recorded  for many computer tagged  fish  and  several are checked stomach contents.

Of the tools used to record data from the fish, the magic magnetized measuring system is the neatest. It’s  rapid  fire  data  collecting  at  its  finest.  The  fish  goes  flat  on  the measuring  board;  head  at  the  zero point, and  then a quick touch  with  a magnetized block at the end  of the fish  records the length  and  weight. Sadly, it marks the end of tall tales about the big  one that got  away and keeps getting bigger as the story is retold. The length of  the specimen is accurately recorded for  posterity in an instant.

 

clark 1e

Personal Log

Flying into Providence  over the  end of Long Island and the  New England coast line  is breath taking. A jagged,  sandy  coast  line  dotted  with  summer  homes  just  beyond  the  sand dunes. To line  up  for  final  approach we  fly right over Newport where  the  Henry B. Bigelow is berthed at the  Navy base  there. However, I  am  not  able  to  spot  the  NOAA  fisheries  vessel that  will be my home for the next two weeks from the air.Clark Log 4b

I arrive a day prior  to sailing so I have half a day to see the sites of Newport, Rhode Island  and  I know exactly where  I’m headed – the Tennis Hall of  Fame. My father was a first class tennis player who invested  many  hours  attempting  to  teach  his  son  the  game.  Despite  the  passion in  our  home  for  the great sport we  never made  it to the  Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport. Today I fulfilled that bucket  list  goal. I still remember being  court side  as a  young boy at The  Philadelphia  Indoor Championship watching the likes of  Charlie Pasarell, Arthur  Ashe, and Pancho Gonzales playing  on the canvas tennis court that was stretched out over the basketball arena. Also  in  the museum, to  my surprise, was a picture of the grass court lawn of the  Germantown Cricket Club from its days as a USTA championship venue. I  grew up playing on  those  grass tennis courts as my father  belonged to that  club. After seeing that picture, I left the museum knowing my father  got  as much out  of  the visit  as I did.

Allison Schaffer, September 21, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Allison Schaffer
Onboard NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter
September 14 – 27, 2007

Mission: Ichthyoplankton Survey
Geographical Area: Gulf of Mexico
Date: September 21, 2007

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: 12 nautical miles
Wind direction: E
Wind speed: 12 kts.
Sea wave height: 1 – 2 feet
Swell wave height: 2 – 3 feet
Seawater temperature: 29.0 degrees
Present Weather: Partly Cloudy

Science and Technology Log 

Today we had the opportunity to try out two new sample methods.  One method is along the same lines as the bongo and Neuston sample but this one is called a methot.  A methot is 2.32 X 2.24 m frame with 1/8” mesh netting.  The total length of the methot net is 43 feet. It’s huge! It works just like regular plankton net where it has a large opening and then as it moves towards the end it becomes more and more narrow and eventually ends at a collection container. The reason this is my first time doing one is because they are usually done only at night and since the net is so large they must be done in fairly deep water. The deck personnel helped us put the net in the water and then we waited.  As the net was brought back on deck, we rinsed it down and collected samples the same way we would a bongo or Neuston sample. Of course with such a large net we collect bigger animals that we would with the other two.  We did collect some fairly large fish along with smaller larvae.  Our collection wasn’t the most excited some of the scientists have seen but to me, it was very exciting.

The second collection we took wasn’t a plankton collection but a water sample.  It is important to know the physical and biological parameters of different areas when collecting. For this, we used a very large (and expensive) piece of technology: a CTD which stands for conductivity, temperature and depth.  The CTD also measures dissolved oxygen and can do all of these measurements without actually collecting any water.  We do however collect water to look at chlorophyll levels.  The CTD frame has three bottles attached to the frame to collect water throughout the water column.  Once we open the bottles on deck and set them, the lab scientist has the capability to fire the bottles shut at different depths. All measurements and water collection happen at three areas in the water column. One data and water collection is done at maximum depth, the second at mid depth at the third just a few feet from the surface.  After all of the data has been collected, the CTD is brought back on deck where we bring the water samples up to the lab to test. It was definitely an exciting day on deck today.

Personal Log 

It has one week since we left port in Pascagoula and I am having such a great time!  I forgot how much fun field work is and how excited I get over the smallest things when it comes to animals.  I am so fortunate to have such an experience and I can not wait to get some samples home to share with our students.  I already have started making some lesson plans!

Addendum: Glossary of Terms 

  • Visibility is how far ahead you can see from the ship.  On a very foggy day you may only have a visibility of 10 ft whereas on a clear day you can see all the way to the horizon, or 12 nautical miles.
  • Wind direction tells you which way the wind is blowing from: 0° is north, 90° is east, 180° is south, and 270° is west.
  • Sea wave height is the height of the smaller ripples
  • Swell height is the estimates larger waves
  • Sea level pressure (or Barometric Pressure) indicates what the trend of the weather has been. High barometric pressure usually means sunny weather and rain can not build up in clouds if they are being squeezed together by high pressure.  Low barometric pressure means rainy or stormy weather is on the way.
  • Present Weather is a description of what the day’s weather is.

– Courtesy of Thomas Nassif, NOAA Teacher at Sea, 2005 Field Season

  • Field Party Chief or FPC is in charge of the team of scientists on board the ship. This person oversees all activities having to do with collection of samples and is the go to person in case anything goes wrong that the scientists can’t handle.  They also act as an extra set of hands when needed.
  • Bongo Net is two circular frames 60 cm in diameter sitting side by side with two 333 micron nets and a weight in the center to help it sink.  At the base of each net is a plastic container used to collect all the plankton that can be easily removed so we can retrieve the samples
  • Lab Scientist is the scientist that stays in the lab to work the computers recording the data on sample time, sample depth and is the one that relays information to the deck personnel about when the nets have hit maximum depth.  They keep watch in case anything goes wrong underwater.
  • Deck Scientist is the scientist out on deck getting the nets ready, rinsing the nets, collecting and preserving samples.  They are the eyes on deck in case anything goes wrong at the surface or on deck.
  • Neuston Net is one net 1 X 2 meters with a 947 micron net.  Neuston samples are done only at the surface and placed in the water for ten minutes.
  • CTD 
  • Photic Zone 

Allison Schaffer, September 18, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Allison Schaffer
Onboard NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter
September 14 – 27, 2007

Mission: Ichthyoplankton Survey
Geographical Area: Gulf of Mexico
Date: September 18, 2007

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: 12 nautical miles
Wind direction: NE
Wind speed: 18 kts.
Sea wave height: 3 – 4 feet
Swell wave height: 3 – 4 feet
Seawater temperature: 27.5 degrees
Present Weather: Mostly Cloudy

Our sample from one of the bongo collections

Our sample from one of the bongo collections

Science and Technology Log 

I woke up this morning excited and ready to go! My morning doesn’t exactly start bright and early at 6am but tends to start much later around 10am.  The way life on board the boat works for the team of scientists is that there are two teams: the night watch which is from midnight to noon and the day watch runs from noon to midnight. The field party (that’s what the team of scientists on board is called) consists of six scientists and the FPC (Field Party Chief).  I work as part of the day watch along with two of the other scientists.  The remaining three work the night shift. Each of the pre-selected stations is about 30 miles apart, so it takes us close to three hours to commute between stations. Once we arrive at the station, all the sample collections and last about 45 minutes to an hour. After we have completed a station we head back into the lab where we have three hours to wait until our next station. During this time we usually watch a movie, read a book, email friends, family or work, do work, play cards, etc. Or in my case, I like to sit out on the deck and look at the ocean since living in Chicago it’s not something I get to see everyday.

Teacher at Sea, Allison Schaffer, rinsing one of the bongo samples into a glass container to be preserved

Teacher at Sea, Allison Schaffer, rinsing one of the bongo samples into a glass container to be preserved

So this particular morning, I wake up and get dressed just in time for an early lunch before our shift. Today it happens that we reach our station around 11 and since each station takes about an hour, myself and the other scientists from my shift decided we would head up and relieve the night shift early so they can head down for lunch since lunch is only out until noon. Since they had already done the bongo net sampling and preserving, we finished up the station with a Neuston collection. Once we labeled all the samples, I sat down at one of the computers to do some more emailing and started staring out the window in the lab. It was another beautiful day on the Gulf! At least from my perspective it was.  What I didn’t see yet on our horizon was a fairly large storm system was headed our way from the Atlantic across Florida in our direction. We arrived at our second station, did our two sample collections and headed back in for dinner. When we got back in, the FPC said that the Commanding Officer (or CO), Lieutenant Commander Brian Parker, said we were going to be heading south to get away from the storm. He said that was our best bet to avoid any bad weather and that the safety of everyone on board is most important to him.  We would definitely not be able to hit anymore stations on my shift but we now had the rest of the night off to relax!

Bongo nets coming out of the water getting rinsed down by one of the scientists

Bongo nets coming out of the water getting rinsed

Personal Log 

I have been finding some very cool animals in the samples we have collected!  The other deck scientist and I spend more time looking through our sieves to see what caught than we do doing anything else. At our first station we got more jellies—and the stinging ones this time!  But at our second station, we caught a bunch of juvenile flat fish and eels.  And we are getting tons of crabs and shrimp!  Little tiny ones!  It is still amazing to me the variety of what we are finding and the different colors of everything! Bright blue copepods, orange or purple crabs, purple amphipods, silvery blue and yellow jacks, silvery blue half beaks, yellow and gray triggers, pink shrimp, and more!

 

Teacher at Sea, Allison Schaffer, taking wire angle measurements for the bongo nets using the inclinometer.

Allison Schaffer taking wire angle measurements for the bongo nets with the inclinometer

Teacher at Sea, Allison Schaffer holding a cannon ball jelly caught in the Neuston net

Allison Schaffer holding a cannon ball jelly caught in the Neuston net

Adrienne Heim, August 16, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Adrienne Heim
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
August 7 – September 2, 2007

IMG_0478Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographic Region: Northeast U.S.
Date: August 16, 2007

Science Log: Beautiful Sunsets

The best thing about working 12 hour shifts are the sunsets! Sunsets along the Atlantic Ocean have been positively beautiful.
The weather has shifted drastically while on board the ALBATRSS IV. Initially in the voyage the weather was cold, foggy, damp, and windy. The visibility was difficult, as well as, balancing myself with the continuous rocking of the vessel. Quite a feat! Recently the weather has been gorgeous: fair skies, very warm, with a rewarding breeze. My partner, Shawn McPhee, and I have developed quite a rhythm for measuring the scallops and cleaning up. We have even “graduated” to measuring many other species in order to help expedite the process and allow enough time for our Watch Chiefs to focus, more importantly, on collecting other sorts of data during each tow.
IMG_0453
IMG_0415

Elizabeth Martz, August 7, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Elizabeth Martz
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
August 5 – 16, 2007

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic Ocean
Date: August 7, 2007

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Visibility = <.2 nautical miles
Cloud cover = Fog
Wind direction = 185 degrees
Wind speed = 5 knots (kts.)
Sea wave height = <1 feet
Swell wave height = 2 feet
Seawater temperature = 15.2  degrees Celsius
Sea level pressure = 1013.8 mb

Science and Technology Log 

8:00 a.m.—Breakfast.  Yummy!  Breakfast is one of the best meals of the day.  Great food and selection.

9:30 a.m.—I went to the local post office!  I went to the Marine Biological Laboratory.  I viewed information on the Alvin launch in 1964.  This submersible is amazing!  It can withstand such water pressure changes. Science Rules!

11:00 a.m.—Sea Scallop research and information: Presentation by Victor Nordahl:  Chief scientist!

The dredge has an 8-ft. wide opening and a sweep chain. This opening moves across the bottom of the ocean floor collecting organisms.  The sweep chain is heavy metal that holds the opening … well… open!

The dredge has an 8-ft. wide opening and a sweep chain. This opening moves across the bottom of the ocean floor collecting organisms. The sweep chain is heavy metal that holds the opening … well… open!

The dredge has a net liner and its purpose is to keep fish and scallops in the dredge. The liner is often damaged by rocks & boulders that enter it. These 2 scientists are repairing the ripped net liner on our standard dredge. On a common dredge found on fishing boats, there is no liner. Fishermen finding scallops do not want to catch & analyze fish. They just want the scallop meats.  As scientists, we want to study everything.  The basic dredge haul provides us with lots to study.  It is 7’ wide metal rod covered with rubber disks across the bottom of the dredge.  There are dumping chains attached to the clubstick that help with the dumping of materials out of the dredge. The dredge goes out three times the water depth. For example:  If the water depth is 100 meters, the dredge will send 300 meters of metal cable out.  To calculate the distance of the dredge from the ship, you could use the Pythagorean Theorem (a^2 + b^2 = c^2.  BUT the net curves & the equation doesn’t give you the most accurate results. So, you can calculate the amount and make a estimate of the net distance from the ship.  In this example, the dredge is about 260 meters away from the ship. The dredge’s bag has an opening where all the organisms enter. The ring bag is built to hold rocks, living organisms, movement on the floor, and store many organisms for study. The dredge sometimes needs to be repaired due to weather conditions or course substrate (items found on the ocean floor).

LOOK at the dredge above. This is showing the longer top side. Try to imagine a metal opening on the other side. This opening is about 6 feet from the top of the dredge. When the dredge is in the water, the longer side is on top. The part with the opening is found underneath. The dredge runs along the bottom floor and collects the organisms.  It is amazing how many organisms you can find on the ocean floor. It is incredible how many diverse species are located in the Atlantic Ocean.

More Notes about the Dredge 

This dredge collects organisms from the ocean floor. Notice the strong metal cable and metal pulley which help to reel the dredge back onto the ship.  The roller helps move the dredge in and out of the water.  When the dredge is empty, it weighs 1600 pounds. The pulleys and metal cable help scientists bring the dredge back up on the ship’s deck!

This dredge collects organisms from the ocean floor. Notice the strong metal cable and metal pulley which help to reel the dredge back onto the ship. The roller helps move the dredge in and out of the water. When the dredge is empty, it weighs 1600 pounds.

We have 5 dredges on board the ship. When we get to the end of the Leg III, we will be conducting surveys in areas with lots of rocks and materials that will harm the dredges.  We will determine the strength of the dredges. We will be using different dredges.  We will use the standard dredge and the rock- chain dredge. The standard dredge can capture large rocks or boulders during the dredge haul. The rock-chain dredge is designed to stop large rocks from entering the dredge. With the rock-chain dredge, the scientists who analyze the findings from the dredge have fewer rocks to

Sea Scallop Survey = Goals and Information 

The Sea Scallop Survey is an important and interesting task for scientists onboard the ALBATROSS IV. Purpose of the scientific expedition of learning:

1. What is range of the scallops?  Do you find them in shallow water?  Do you find them in deep water?   Where do scallops prefer to grow and survive?  Do we find more scallops in areas of a smaller rocks, bigger boulders, or small particles of sand?

2. Scientists can estimate how many scallops we will find.  Marine biologists would like to learn more about the population of scallops in various areas.  Scientists would like to come to an understanding about where most scallops reside on the ocean floor.

3. Scientists have randomly selected stations from Cape Hatteras, NC to Georges Bank (east of Cape Cod). An area close to Nova Scotia is where scientists test to see the existence of scallops.

4. Scientists ask, “How many scallops are out there?”

5. Scientists ask, “How will the scallop population be different in the future?”

      • I ask: Why will the population be different?
      • I ask: What makes one species survive and another species not survive in an area?
      • • I ask: How can science help the scallop population increase?  Will helping the scallop population help or hurt the ecosystem? Other questions:
      • What bottom substrate is most prevalent in areas with large sea scallop harvests? (This year, the scientists found the most scallops on an area with a sandy bottom.)
      • Why is that bottom substrate a better environment for sea scallop growth? {little scallops = gravel, sand; bigger scallops orientate to areas by the current (moving water)
      • How long do sea scallops live? (10-15 years)
      • What temperature is the best for sea scallop survival? (The most important temperature is one that produces the most spawning. When more scallops are born, then more scallops survive.
  • How much do sea scallops cost to buy in the store? (about $12/pound)
  • How much do the fisherman make for spending a day at sea catching scallops that they sell to the local restaurant or buyer?
  • What topics do scientists find interesting about scallops? (Each scientist has their own ideas and opinions.)
This picture is taken right off the fantail of the ALBATROSS IV.  It is a gorgeous view of the sunrise from the back deck of the ship.

It is a gorgeous view of the sunrise from the back deck.

6. How can scientists protect fisheries (the scallops) and those who harvest them (the fishermen)?

7. Various universities, scientists, and government agencies closed water areas around Nantucket in 1994. In this area, no fishing or dredging is allowed.  All citizens must not remove anything from the area.

      • If you have a permit to fish, you need to be knowledgeable of the fishing rules.   When water areas are closed for fishing, you need to know where they are and what to do.
      • When they closed the area, the fish did not return.
      • The scallop population has greatly increased.
      • Many areas of the ocean are under a rotational management plan. (This is also called limited access areas).  In these areas of the ocean, fishermen are allowed into an area for various times.
      • Sometimes fishermen are not allowed to capture a specific type of fish.
      • There are times when fishermen cannot collect any scallops.
      • These rotational management areas are created due to research and scientific studies that are completed at sea. In other words, all the scientists onboard the ALBATROSS IV are making a difference in the regulations that fishermen adhere to.
      • Scallops are a resource. They are a biotic (living) thing. Many people spend their lives harvesting this resource from the ocean. Many people spend their lives eating this resource.  No matter who you are, you can impact the health of the water and the home to this resource. We all need to make an effort to protect our waterways and care about the resources that benefit our lives. 
This was the basic size of a tow. It is incredible how many organisms and sea scallops are found in one dredge tow. It is beautiful to see such amazing animals and species from our ocean.

This was the basic size of a tow. It is incredible how many organisms are found in one dredge tow. It is beautiful to see such amazing animals from our ocean.

8. The ALBATROSS IV has surveyed over 525 randomly- generated locations.  The ALBATROSS IV has selected over 25 basic locations to compare studies year after year. The scientists have been collecting data since 1975. (I think that is so outstanding and AWESOME!)

9. Here is a small lesson about how the stations are randomly-generated.  First, think of an area in the ocean. Then, divide that area into 100 squares.  Next divide those 100 squares into small areas.  The randomly-generated stations are determined from all those small areas.  Finally, the researchers need to decide the best way to travel to all of those randomly-generated areas.

10. The tow “what you catch” naturally changes year after year.  You will never catch all the same organisms every year.  You will discover that fish populations change for many reasons.  Here is a list of some reasons why a population may be different each year:

      • Birth rate/death rate
      • Habitat change
      • Fish movement
      • Fish maturity
      • Number of fish caught by the fishermen
      • Amount of water in the area
      • Environmental factors = salinity over time, temperature, rainfall, hurricanes, tsunamis, and more…
      • 13. Sometimes ships are retired and new ships replace them.  When a new ship surveys an area, the scientists need to make sure that the new ship’s equipment is consistent with the old equipment.  Long-term data is analyzed.  The new equipment and old equipment must keep the data valid. Many factors are taken into consideration:
  • Do ships have the same power, dredge, wire used, and same liner?
  • If the equipment is different, how can we control bias?
  • Do the ships test areas with the same water level, salinity, disease, same amount of fishermen in the area, wind, etc.?
  • There are so many factors to consider and to control!
  • A few ways to control bias and determine an average number of scallops include: = determine fish mortality: death due to being caught = natural mortality: predation/ death = don’t factor in temperature, salinity, water currents, food availability, recruitment (spawning and growing)

11. The ALBATROSS IV keeps a constant 3.8 knots speed when the dredge is out in the water. The ALBATROSS IV can reach 10- 11 knots when cruising along.  I think it is an amazing how it feels on the water.

This is a winter flounder.  It is a resource to many fisherman and scientist.  There were several types of flounder in each dredge tow.

This is a winter flounder. It is a resource to many fisherman. There were several types of flounder in each dredge tow.

12. The sea scallop study is a great arena to start an ecosystem investigation. We need to know more about other organisms to determine details about ecosystem!  Animals help and hurt each other.

13. As a scientist, you map habitat with a multibeam, tow camera, and dredge an area.  The dredge validates the information from the tow camera.  (The efficiency issue is solved.) The multibeam shows the entire habitat and determines everything there is to validate animal documented.

14. There are so many characteristics about the sea scallops.

      • Thickness of the sea scallop shell
      • Weight of the meat
      • Color of the meat
      • Shape of the shell
      • Texture of the shell
      • Weight of the shell
      • On the ALBATROSS IV, many procedures are followed for each dredge tow!
      • There is an inclinometer on the dredge.  The inclinometer will show if the dredge flipped.
      • A photo is taken right when the dredge tow is dumped on the deck.  The picture shows the station number, tow number (location), if it is open or closed area, and more. (See picture above.)
      • When sorting the tow, there are procedures to follow.  Always sort what is in front of you. By sorting all animals right in front of you, true randomness and validity of diverse sizes are discovered.  Place all fish in one bucket. Put all skates in one bucket.  Place all crabs in another (if you need to collect them.) Put all small scallops in a blue bucket.  Place all large and medium scallops in another bucket. Put all other animals in another bucket.  Place all “habitat” in an orange basket.
      • What do sea scallops eat?  Well, they eat starfish.  They eat the Asterias Boreal and Elptarstius Tenera. So neat.