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. 

Miriam Hlawatsch, August 5, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Miriam Hlawatsch
Onboard NOAA Ship Nancy Foster
July 29 – August 10, 2007

Mission: Lionfish Survey
Geographical Area: Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of North Carolina
Date: August 5, 2007

Crew of the NOAA ship NANCY FOSTER deploys a small boat at a pre-marked dive site.
Crew of the NOAA ship NANCY FOSTER deploys a small boat at a pre-marked dive site.

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Visibility: 10 miles
Wind Direction: 0º
Wind Speed: 0
Sea Wave Height: 0 ft.
Swell Wave Height: 2-3 ft.
Seawater Temperature: 29ºC
Sea Level pressure: 1015.5 mb (millibars)
Cloud Cover: 0-1 oktas

Personal Log

The weather continues to be extremely favorable for dive operations and I look forward to assisting as dive tender again tomorrow morning. For the past week, I’ve observed as the NOAA divers and crew of the NANCY FOSTER work together to facilitate the study of lionfish in their watery habitat. Also, I’ve watched with great interest as the divers prepared themselves for their underwater excursions. Having purchased a wet suit in preparation for my Teacher at Sea adventure I thought I had an appreciation for these preparatory activities. Imagine my surprise when Coxswain Leslie Abramson informed me my wetsuit was too big (I couldn’t imagine squeezing into anything smaller). NOAA diver Roger Mays clarified the issue noting, tongue in cheek, that the proper fitting wetsuit should take at least five minutes to put on and the experience should hurt. Obviously there is more to diving than the wetsuit “experience,” so I asked Doug Kesling from NOAA’s Undersea Research Center (NURC) for specific information regarding diver training and specialized equipment.

A team of NOAA divers leaves the NANCY FOSTER. Small boats are used to transport the scientists and their equipment to and from the actual dive sites.
A team of NOAA divers leaves the NANCY FOSTER. Small boats are used to transport the scientists and their equipment to and from the actual dive sites.

Science Log 

Doug Kesling addressed three key components–training, equipment and dive operation procedure. All divers on the NOAA Ship NANCY FOSTER are certified to dive with standard open water SCUBA (Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus) techniques. Additional training in scientific diving research methods is provided by the NOAA Diving Program and the NOAA Undersea Research Program at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. Divers use standard dive equipment that consists of dive mask, fins, snorkel, cylinder, buoyancy compensator, scuba regulator, dive computer and wet suit. Additional tools–tape measures, quadrates, goody bags, video and still photographic equipment–also must be transported by the divers to the sea floor. To conduct their underwater research, the scientists dive to depths of 100 to 120 feet. Prior to each dive, the divers fill their Scuba cylinders with an enriched air nitrox (EANx) mixture to 3500 psig. Each mix must be analyzed to ensure a safe breathing mix for the targeted depth. Compared to tanks of compressed air (21 % oxygen), the enriched mixture enables the scientists to double the amount of time they can spend underwater. In preparation for their dive, divers don wet suits and load their equipment onto the small boats. The boats are lowered from the mother ship onto pre-marked dive sites. Working in buddy teams of two or three, the divers’ underwater work times range from 25 to 30 minutes. To return to the surface divers first ascend to a depth of 20 feet. At this point they conduct a safety stop of three to five minutes to allow off gassing of nitrogen (inert gas) from the body before surfacing. Divers then surface and are recovered by the small boats.  The boats return to the mother ship where they are hoisted back on deck and off loaded.

NOAA diver Roger Mays conducts a safety stop to decompress before surfacing.
NOAA diver Roger Mays conducts a safety stop to decompress before surfacing.
Dive Team A: NOAA divers, Brian Degan, PaulaWhitfield, Doug Kesling, and Wilson Freshwater
Dive Team A: NOAA divers, Brian Degan, PaulaWhitfield, Doug Kesling, and Wilson Freshwater
Dive team B: NOAA Divers Jenny Vander Pluym, Thor Dunmire, and Roldan Muñoz (left) and Dive team C: NOAA divers Brad Teer, Roger Mays, and Tom Potts
Dive team B: NOAA Divers Jenny Vander Pluym, Thor Dunmire, and Roldan Muñoz (left) and Dive team C: NOAA divers Brad Teer, Roger Mays, and Tom Potts (right)

Miriam Hlawatsch, August 4, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Miriam Hlawatsch
Onboard NOAA Ship Nancy Foster
July 29 – August 10, 2007

Mission: Lionfish Survey
Geographical Area: Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of North Carolina
Date: August 4, 2007

On the Bridge, XO LT. Stephen Meador and CO CDR. James Verlaque plot the course for NOAA ship NANCY FOSTER.
On the Bridge, XO LT. Stephen Meador and CO CDR. James Verlaque plot the course for NOAA ship NANCY FOSTER.

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Visibility: 10 miles
Wind Direction: 215º
Wind Speed: 1 knot
Sea Wave Height: 1 ft.
Swell Wave Height: 2-3 ft.
Seawater Temperature: 28.5ºC
Sea Level pressure: 1016.0 mb (millibars)
Cloud Cover: 3-5 oktas, cumulous

Personal Log

While on the Bridge today, Commanding Officer James Verlaque allowed me a brief opportunity to steer the ship and set the course for a new dive location. Activity on the Bridge continues to fascinate me. It takes tremendous attention to detail to keep NANCY FOSTER safe in the water. It is most evident that the success of the scientific mission and the safe efficient operation of the ship are a result of the true spirit of cooperation between the crew and scientists aboard. The fact that everyone (crew and science) shares the mess during meals serves to reinforce the team approach. Certainly, it afforded me an opportunity to get to know many on an individual basis.

NOAA Officers keep NANCY FOSTER safe and on course.
NOAA Officers keep NANCY FOSTER safe and on course.

Science Log

Objective #5: Conduct multi-beam sonar transects using RV NANCY FOSTER at multiple locations.  

NANCY FOSTER is one of a fleet of research and survey vessels used by NOAA to improve our understanding of the marine environment. She is equipped with sonar technology to conduct hydrographic surveys of the sea floor. Chief Scientist Paula Whitfield explains that, for this mission, specialized multi-beam sonar technology is used to create detailed maps of potential dive areas. Habitat mapping is important because it provides specific information that will allow her to make decisions about where to send divers for sampling; otherwise, there could be a great deal of wasted effort, both in terms of time and resources. Multi-beam Bathymetric Sonar is technology that provides detailed, full-coverage mapping of the sea floor using multiple sonar beams (sound waves) in a fan-shaped pattern or swath. The ship goes back and forth in straight lines over a pre-determined area much like a lawn mower goes back and forth over the grass, making sure the entire area has been covered. In addition to habitat mapping, multi-beam hydrographic surveys have many applications such as navigation safety and civil engineering projects.

Example of a Multi-beam swath
Example of a Multi-beam swath
Multi-beam survey results
Multi-beam survey results
NOAA scientists Paula Whitfield and Brian Degan compare bottom topography for dive site selection (left) and hydrographic survey technicians Missy Partyka and Mike Stecher (left).
NOAA scientists Paula Whitfield and Brian Degan compare bottom topography for dive site selection (left) and hydrographic survey technicians Missy Partyka and Mike Stecher (left).

Miriam Hlawatsch, August 3, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Miriam Hlawatsch
Onboard NOAA Ship Nancy Foster
July 29 – August 10, 2007

Mission: Lionfish Survey
Geographical Area: Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of North Carolina
Date: August 3, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea Miriam Hlawatsch recording weather data on the Bridge of the NANCY FOSTER.
NOAA Teacher at Sea Miriam Hlawatsch recording weather data on the Bridge of the NANCY FOSTER.

Weather Data from Bridge
Visibility: 10 miles
Wind Direction: 186º
Wind Speed: 11 knots
Sea Wave Height: 1-2 ft.
Swell Wave Height: 2 ft.
Seawater Temperature: 28.6ºC
Sea Level pressure: 1017.3 mb (millibars)
Cloud Cover: 8 oktas, cumulous, cumulonimbus

Personal Log

I’ve been recording weather data for the last two days and spent three hours on the Bridge learning the responsibilities of the watch crew. When NANCY FOSTER began hydrographic multi-beaming at 1500 hours, there were several ships (tankers and small craft) in the area. The NOAA Officers on watch had to keep a careful eye on those vessels and, at times, let them know survey work was going on … so move over, please! Also, I’ve been able to watch as our dive locations were plotted on the nautical chart of Onslow Bay. Ensign Lecia Salerno explained that, as Navigation Officer, one of her duties is to update the nautical charts when NOAA informs her of changes. She must record these updates by hand as new charts are only printed every few years.

NOAA Teacher at Sea Miriam Hlawatsch attempting to read sea swells and sea wave height from the Bridge.
NOAA Teacher at Sea Miriam Hlawatsch attempting to read sea swells and sea wave height from the Bridge.

Science Log

Objective #3: Conduct cryptic/prey fish sampling using a special enclosure quadrat net. 

In order to collect cryptic (small) prey fish, NOAA scientist Dr. Roldan Muñoz sets up a special enclosure net during his dive rotation. Divers in the next rotation retrieve the net with captured specimens. Dr. Muñoz examines the catch to determine the type and number of prey fishes (what lionfish may be eating) within a square meter. Such data provides a better understanding of the habitat community.

Objective #4: Characterize and quantify habitat and macroalgae with digital still photography and specimen collections. 

Currently, not much is known about off shore Hard Bottom habitats where lionfish appear to be thriving. In order to understand the impact an outside force (i.e. lionfish) has upon a marine community, scientists must first examine the community in its original state. In other words, a baseline must be established. When Marine Phycologist Dr. D. Wilson Freshwater dives, his goal is to identify habitat characteristics and existing macroalgae. This is done via still photographs and specimen collections gathered every five meters along the transect line.

Dr. Freshwater’s photo showing seven types of algae.
Dr. Freshwater’s photo showing seven types of algae.

Back in the lab, Dr. Freshwater processes his samples for species identification and DNA analysis. He reviews the photos, creates a list of everything he sees, then uses the computer to establish the percentage of cover and frequency of occurrence for each species. A comparison of the different sites is made and, from this empirical data, an overall picture of the community structure begins to emerge.

Note: I learned the term Hard Bottom refers the rocky outcrops that cover much of the continental shelf along the southeastern US from Cape Hatteras, NC to Cape Canaveral, FL. Fish are drawn to the hard bottom outcroppings; here, they find a source of food and shelter on what is otherwise a vast sandy sea floor. It explains why recreational fishermen often seek out hard bottom areas.

Dr. D. Wilson Freshwater processing algae specimens in the lab aboard NOAA ship NANCY FOSTER.
Dr. D. Wilson Freshwater processing algae specimens in the lab aboard NOAA ship NANCY FOSTER.
NOAA scientist Dr. Roldan Muñoz counting cryptic fish collected.
NOAA scientist Dr. Roldan Muñoz counting cryptic fish collected.
Hard Bottom habitat with lionfish invader.
Hard Bottom habitat with lionfish invader.

Methea Sapp-Cassanego, July 27, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Methea Sapp-Cassanego
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
July 19 – August 8, 2007

Mission: Marine Mammal Survey
Geographical Area: New England
Date: July 27, 2007

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: 7nm lowering to less then 2 in patchy fog
Wind Direction: Westerly
Wind Speed: 8-13 knots with gusts of 20
Swell height: 2-4 feet

From left to right; Melissa Warden, Kate Swails, and Methea Sapp staff their observatory stations on the flying bridge of the DELAWARE II
From left to right; Melissa Warden, Kate Swails, and Methea Sapp staff their observatory stations on the flying bridge

Science and Technology Log 

Today marks one of the most active sighting days yet!  The species list for today included the following; common Atlantic dolphin, fin whale, sei whale, sperm whale, humpback whale, white sided dolphin, minke whale, offshore bottlenose dolphin and pilot whale. The methodology for logging each sighting is fairly straight forward yet detail orientated.  There are nine of us scientists on board and we have been organized into shifts which begin at 7:00am and end at 18:00. In the absence of fog three of us are stationed on the fly bridge at any given time; one person uses big eyes on the starboard side, the second person serves as the sightings recorder and the third person uses the big eyes on the port side. Every thirty minutes we rotate stations with the port side station retiring from their shift, and a new person taking up watch on the starboard side.

Data is recorded in two electronic touch pad tablets called Pingles.  The first pingle is used to record effort and as such is updated each time a rotation is made. Other points of effort which are also recorded are weather conditions, beaufort scale (or degree of wave action), sun angle, glare, swell height, swell angle, etc.  The second pingle is used to record the sightings. When an observer calls out “sighting” the recorder will log the following information (as iterated by the observer):

  • Animal identification
  • Cue (or what the observer saw first ie. a splash, or the animal itself)
  • Behavior (swimming, milling, aerobatics etc)
  • Bearing relative to the ship
  • Swim direction relative to the ship
  • Distance from the horizon
  • Best head count followed by estimations of highest and lowest probable numbers

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Flukes of two different humpbacks; Notice the variations in white and black patterning.  Such patterns are used by researchers to identify and track individual humpbacks.

On a day like today the recorder is certainly in the hot seat trying to log the sightings of two people! Based on today’s sighting list I’ve chosen two species to profile for you, the humpback whale and sperm whale.

Species Profile for Sightings of July 25th 2007 

Humpback Whale, Megaptera novaeangliae  Identification:  Stocky body, black topside with white or mottled underside, flippers are exceedingly long and marked with white as is the fluke.  Flukes are often visible when animal begins dive. (see photo below)   Max length and weight: 56 ft and 40 tons Diet and Feeding: Krill and small schooling fish. Up to 20 individuals may cooperatively hunt and feed via bubble net fishing.  Humpbacks are a baleen whale Migration: Extensive migration between Antarctic feeding grounds to breeding grounds off the coast of Columbia.  Round trip = 11,000 miles Distribution: Ranges from the poles to the tropic.  Have made a good post-whaling recovery and are one of the best studied of all cetaceans.  Record breaker for the longest flippers:  Averages 15 feet but may be as long as 18 feet; humpback flippers are the longest of any whale species.

Sperm Whale, Physeter catodon Identification:   Huge square shaped head; no dorsal fin; blow is often angled forward; body is dark and wrinkled  Max length and weight: 36 ft and 24 tons (female), 59 ft and 57 tons (male)  Such sexual dimorphism is rare among whales.  Diet and Feeding: Mostly squid and some octopi, sharks and other fish.  Sperm whales are a toothed whale as opposed to a baleen whale.  Migration: Is not wide spread in females and young whales although adult males will travel long distances. Distribution:  Sperm whales are found in population clusters from the tropics to the extreme southern and northern latitudes.  They are most common offshore in deep water.  Record breaker:  The sperm whale holds three records in the cetacean world; One being that it is the largest of the tooth whales. This whale also holds the record for diving depth and longest dive. One particularly large male sperm whale has been recorded diving to 6,500 feet and on a separate dive stayed down for 52 min.  Famous Sperm Whale: Moby Dick; the great white whale from Herman Melville’s 1851 classic Moby Dick.

Sorry, no photos of the sperm whale sighting 

References 

Collins Wild Guide: Whales and Dolphins. HarperCollins Publishers, New York, New York.  2006.

Methea Sapp-Cassanego, July 24, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Methea Sapp-Cassanego
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
July 19 – August 8, 2007

Mission: Marine Mammal Survey
Geographical Area: New England
Date: July 24, 2007

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: less then 0.5 nm
Wind Direction: Easterly
Wind Speed: 5-10 mph increasing to 20
Swell height: 3 to 5 feet

A photograph of a C. finmarchicus C5 with a large oil sac, taken with a VPR (Video Plankton Recorder).
A photograph of a C. finmarchicus C5 with a large oil sac, taken with a VPR (Video Plankton Recorder).

Science and Technology Log 

Dense fog has given us little to see or do but listen to the fog horn for the past two days.  Therefore today’s entry will be less of an activities report and more of an informative piece that will hopefully elucidate just one of the many ecological relationships which we aim to study…once the fog lifts of course.  

Got Copepods? 

Mammalian foraging strategies are as diverse as mammal themselves, from coordinated packs of prowling wolves to a solitary grazing rhinoceros. Yet regardless of the critter, the energy (or calories) spent pursuing a meal must be less then the energy gained from eating the meal. This simple equation of energy expenditures to energy gains must be kept in the positive for proper growth, development, and reproduction.  All of this may seem fairly intuitive and straight forward until you stop to consider the right whale Eubalaena glacialis. This whale is one of the largest predatory animals on the planet measuring up to 17 meters and weighing 40-50 tons, yet feeds almost exclusively on a small ephemeral looking copepod which measures 1-2 mm long.

The copepod preferred by right whales is called Calanus finmarchicus but is often referred to simply as Calanus. Calanus, like most copepods feed on phytoplankton, transition through a number of growth stages, and aggregate in large concentrations of up to ~ 4,000 copepods per cubic liter of water.  As far as right whale feeding goes the copepod of choice is most calorically valuable during stage 5 of its life cycle.  By this stage (C5) the copepod has sequestered a significant amount of lipid (specifically wax esters) in a part of its body called an oil sack.

Right whales feed on copepods by either skimming the waters surface or diving; sometimes reaching feeding depths of 175 meters.  Regardless of depth, the whale pushes its open mouth through the water and then shuts it while forcing the big gulp through its baleen plates which boarder the upper mandible.  All filter feeding whales possess baleen, although the baleen of right whales is very fine and hair-like in texture, therefore enabling it to filter out the miniscule copepods.  In contrast, a humpback’s baleen is thick and bristle-like and more adept to filtering larger krill and small fish.

In order to maintain proper growth a right whale must consume copious amounts of copepods. Melissa Patrician, an Oceanographic Technician for Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, reports that scientists estimate that a right whale consumes on average of 2-4,000 pounds (wet weight) of copepods per day.  This is the equivalent weight of 1 Volkswagen beetle and calorically equal to 3,000 Big Macs.  In general right whales can be found feeding in four main locations within the North Atlantic.  These feeding grounds are centered around the Bay of Fundy, Roseway Basin, Cap Cod Bay, and the Great South Channel which runs E. of Nantucket.

Understanding the intricacies of copepod life and right whale feeding are just part of a greater body of knowledge which is aimed at saving the right whale from extinction.  Researchers estimate that only 390 right whales are left following the extensive whaling practices of the 19th century.  Scientists from multiple disciplines including but not limited to, pathologists, reproductive endocrinologists, geneticists, veterinarians, behavioral ecologists, and toxicologists are all working to protect the species from disease, entanglement, ship-strike and to better understand recent declines in reproductive success.

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This diving sequence depicts right whale foraging for nutrient rich Calanus finmarchicus.
This diving sequence depicts a right whale foraging for nutrient rich Calanus finmarchicus.

Methea Sapp-Cassanego, July 23, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Methea Sapp-Cassanego
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
July 19 – August 8, 2007

Deployment of the Tucker Trawl enables researchers to sample zooplankton at various depths. The cod ends of each of the three nets have been tied with white rope and are visible in the right-hand photo graph.
Deployment of the Tucker Trawl enables researchers to sample zooplankton at various depths.

Mission: Marine Mammal Survey
Geographical Area: New England
Date: July 23, 2007

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: less then 0.5 nm
Wind Direction: West – Southwest
Wind Speed: 5-10 mph
Swell height: 3-5 feet

Science and Technology Log 

Although the weather is not especially nice today, at least we have a new project to work on. Today is Tucker Trawl Day! The trawl consists of a trio of long finely meshed nets which are mounted one above the other on a heavy metal frame.  The frame is then tethered to a wire cable which runs up to a crane.  Also mounted on the frame is a flow meter, which is used to measure the amount of water that has passed through the net, and a Seabird mini-logger sensor which records time, depth and temperature. Deployment of any piece of equipment requires careful coordination between numerous members of the ships crew and scientists, as the boats position, and speed must be carefully controlled. Meanwhile the crane operator and those physically preparing the nets will oversee proper operation of the nets and its sensors along with the depth and speed of its ascent and descent.

The cod ends of each of the three nets have been tied with white rope and are visible in the right-hand photo graph.
The cod ends of each of the three nets have been tied with white rope and are visible in the right-hand photo graph.

Back in the dry lab several other hands are at work preparing the sampling jars, labels and documentation for the incoming specimens.It does not take long before everyone is in place and the net is lowered.  The trawl will be lowered to the seafloor at which point a devise called a messenger will be snapped on to the wire cable. The messenger is a heavy brass cylinder (about the size of a small fist), which runs down the cable and hits a special releasing lever near the trawl’s metal frame.  Release of this lever closes the bottom net and opens the middle net.  Deployment of a second messenger then closes the middle net and opens the top net.  Control of the opening and closing of the three individual nets allows researchers to take samples at specific depths. After several minutes the Tucker Trawl begins its ascent.  It should be noted that the Tucker is not used to sample fish; therefore, we are not expecting to capture any vertebrates.  The speed of the trawl is fairly slow so that fish have plenty of time to get out of the net’s way.  What we are hoping to capture are Copepods.  These tiny lipid-filled zooplankton are the primary food source for the endangered right whale.  (For more information regarding copepods and right whales please read my log from July 21st 2007). Once the trawl is on deck we use a low-pressure saltwater hose to rinse the nets.  We work our way from the mouth of the net downward so that every organism is rinsed into the narrow end of the net which is called the cod end.

Kate Swails, Biologist in the Office of Protected Resources rinses the Tucker Trawl contents from a sieve into formalin filled jars.
Kate Swails, Biologist, rinses the Tucker Trawl contents from a sieve into formalin filled jars.

Then the cod end is carefully untied and its contents rinsed into a fine mesh sieve.  The gauge of the mesh sieve is large enough to flush phytoplankton out of the sample while retaining zooplankton.The sieves are then shuttled to the dry lab where the contents are raised with seawater and formalin.  Later these same jars will be shipped to a lab in Poland where the samples contents will be sorted, identified and counted.  All copepods in the sample will also be tallied in accordance to one of six life stages. Aside from physically enabling us to put masses of copepods in jars the results of the Tucker Trawl are also compared to the results from the conductivity/temperature/depth sensor (CTD) and video plankton recorder (VPR).  (Please see my log dated July 21st for further explanation and photos). Furthermore Tucker Trawls are also used to help indicate the likelihood that whales are in the area; empty trawls mean no whale food and few if any whales. Naturally, packed trawls signify ripe feeding grounds which may be worth staying on to survey.

The samples will eventually be shipped to Poland for full analysis.
The samples will eventually be shipped to Poland for full analysis.
This soft-ball sized deep sea sponge was unintentionally caught in the Tucker Trawl.
This soft-ball sized deep sea sponge was unintentionally caught in the Tucker Trawl.

Joel Jaroch, July 10-28, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Joel Jaroch
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 13 – 28, 2006

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Dates: July 10-29, 2006

I will be presenting my experience on the ALBATROSS IV a bit different from the typical Teacher at Sea log format because of some challenges we faced in getting to sea and given the work schedule we kept—12 hour shifts, leaving me a bit exhausted from the work.

So, from this entry you will get an overall “look” at what took place during the time at sea for the Sea Scallop survey. Since the work done for each 12 hour shift was the same procedurally and only the change was in content of what was caught, I believe you will find the way in which I am presenting my experiences as more reader friendly.

As my shift ended at noon each day, I will present the weather data from the bridge in a chart for the 1200 hour each day we were at sea. This allows you to see change in the weather over the days at the same time each day. What do you see in terms of sea and air temperature change as we steamed north at the end of our survey? Can you guess which day(s) we felt the effects of Tropical Storm Beryl?

The ALBATROSS IV at port prior to departure for the North Atlantic Sea Scallop survey Leg 1.
The ALBATROSS IV at port prior to departure for the North Atlantic Sea Scallop survey Leg 1.

Science and Technology Component: 

In a 12 hour period of sampling for the North Atlantic Sea Scallop a wide array of organisms were taken from the sea floor bottom with the dredge. The dredge was run for a set amount of time, always 15 minutes. Over those few minutes and the ALBATROSS IV running at about 3.85 knots, the dredge tow covered about 1 nautical mile.

When this is done a station would have been sampled. There are a certain number of stations that are sampled within what is called a stratum. The number of stations sampled in any given strata is dependent upon strata size. A strata is defined by an area of uniform depth AND what substrate exists on the sea floor. Substrate is the living and non-living things found on the sea floor bottom.

The number of stations per stratum is determined based on two factors – area of stratum and the importance of that area to the scallop assessment (the computer randomly picks the locations but the number or stations is predetermined.) A non-random station becomes part of the survey sample when a site is picked on purpose by NOAA scientists or other scientists because there is a specific reason to go there for sampling. For example, one reason a station is non-random is because a scientist wants to develop a history for a station to monitor changes over time.

Along the North Atlantic there are many strata and the potential for hundreds of stations for NOAA scientist use to assess the sea scallop population. Therefore, for the first leg of the 2006 Sea Scallop survey 295 stations were sampled. This was done with two teams of 8 to 9 people working 24 hours a day. One shift worked from noon to midnight while the other team began work at midnight and finished at noon. The following chart shows how many stations were sampled by each team for the dates July 13 through 27. The primary reason for the wide range of stations sampled from shift to shift and day-to-day has to do with the distance between stations. The greater the distance the longer it took the ALBATROSS IV to steam to the next station. Also weather conditions had certainly slowed some of the sampling. With any thunder and lightning, the NOAA officers would not permit the team to be on the back deck sorting a sample for obvious safety reasons.

Jon Jarrell and Peter Kiss, NOAA General Vessel Assistants, help ensure the dredge contents are completely emptied on stern.
Jon Jarrell and Peter Kiss, NOAA General Vessel Assistants, help ensure the dredge contents are completely emptied on stern.

A TEAM: So, who is on a team? Two people on the bridge at all times, a NOAA officer and lookout. As safety is the number one priority of the NOAA officer on the bridge, the lookout helps the officer by looking out for anything that may not be caught by the ship’s radar so that the officer can navigate the ship from station to station. There are two people on constant watch of the two 565 horsepower engines, the two smaller engines that generate electricity, the units that produce freshwater from sea water, the hydraulic machinery that power the boom, Gantry and winch along with all the other mechanical parts and machinery, the two cooks that keep us fueled for the long shifts, a watch chief (Sean Lacey for my shift) who is under the guidance of the chief scientist (Stacy Rowe) for this leg, two other NOAA Biological Science Technicians (Bill Duffy and Alicia Long), the two fisherman – deck crew that manage the boom, Gantry, and winch cables because of safety issues (Steve Flavin and Mike Conway for my shift), the boom, Gantry, and winch operator (Lino Luis) and three volunteers.

Teamwork and constant communication between ALL parties took place to ensure that sampling success was achieved and safety was always observed.  A STATION: What happened at the end of any 15 minute dredge tow? A series of events would be put into action by all members of the shift. Those on the bridge move the ship to the next station, the engineers ensure that the machine components are running properly, and the science and volunteer crew, along with the greatly appreciated help of the fisherman (Steve Flavin and Mike Conway on my shift) and the Gantry operator (Lino Luis) got to the task of analyzing the haul. THE routine on the stern of the ALBATROSS IV was always the same when it came to going through a station haul—the only change seen from station to station was the contents of a haul.

So, for the 14 days that the two teams worked, 295 stations were sampled and the work to analyze each haul looked the same. Needless to say, as each station and day passed, the actual processing of a haul was done more efficiently.

And what would this work look like for a team? Below are the procedures we used to analyze each haul. In addition, you will find the data we collected for one 12 hour shift combined in a chart to give you an idea of what was caught. The data was for the midnight to noon shift on July 16th.

PROCEDURES FOR ANALYZING A STATION HAUL:

  1. Gantry hauls the dredge from sea floor bottom and nearly aboard the ship after the 15 minute tow through the designated station. A winch does the final work and brings the dredge aboard the ship on the back deck.
  2. An Inclinometer reading is gathered from dredge using the Optic Shuttle to transfer data to computer so as to check how the dredge ran on sea floor bottom. NOTE: Only twice did the dredge flip in the process of sampling the 295 stations! Although the graphed data from the inclinometer verified this, the NOAA scientist also suspected a dredge flip given the amount of material hauled from sea floor bottom as well as the marks on the top of the dredge as it ran upside down on the sea floor bottom – the sand shining the metal of dredge top.
  3. Dredge tow contents are emptied onto deck for processing using boom.
  4. Digital camera records haul pile along with a small white marker board that gives strata number, station number, tow number, whether it is a random or non-random station, and if the stratum was open or closed to certain fishing. Closed area regulations vary – often it does not mean that it is closed only to scallop fishermen, some areas are completely closed to all fishing, some are open at certain times of the year to certain types of fishing.
  5. The crew systematically searched through the haul to pull out all specified living organisms and nonliving items to be placed in either 5 gallon buckets (white) or bushel baskets (red)—fish generally placed into the buckets and scallops into the baskets. The watch chief tells all members to switch spots at the pile once the first search is done so that we all look through the pile a second time, working from a spot that someone else worked to ensure all required items are pulled from the pile. Sometimes so many scallops were brought aboard the ALBATROSS IV, that every available bushel basket was filled.
  6. Every third station a member takes handfuls from the haul—moving around the haul to get as random sample as possible, and fills a one gallon bucket to sub-sample the entire haul for starfish. The sub-sample is searched for all starfish which are then sorted by species and counted. The actual number of starfish, by species, is expanded to an Expected Number of starfish for the entire haul using an expansion factor. In addition, all Cancer species crabs were counted in total while other crabs are not counted. The reason Cancer species are counted is because there appears to be a relationship to the number of these crabs and scallops – ie. more of these crabs means less scallops.
  7. Every third station the CTD test is deployed to the sea floor bottom using the SeaBird Sensory Device to test for three specific water parameters: Conductivity, Temperature, and Density. Twice a day a water sample is also collected—in the General Oceanics 12 tube and bottled during this same CTD cast for the purpose of calibrating the Sensory Device. The software used to record this data was created by NOAA with the wiring from the device running all the way into the designated computer from the boom where the CTD sensor instrument is lowered to sea floor and brought back by the boom.
  8. All specified specimens—living and non-living, are entered into the NOAA created software: Fisheries Scientific Computer System (FSCS). There are three processing stations to do this, each with their own touch screen monitor to activate and record the data to FSCS. All members helped in the processing of the catch, first by sorting fish by species, counting crabs and starfish when required as third station.
Bill Duffy, NOAA Biological Science Technician on the ALBATROSS IV has the honor of getting his picture taken with the necessary haul information written on the small white board in his hand.
Bill Duffy, NOAA Biological Science Technician on the ALBATROSS IV has the honor of getting his picture taken with the necessary haul information written on the small white board in his hand.

9. The sea scallops is generally the first to be entered into FSCS for weight. If the haul contains a great number of bushel baskets, a sub-sample will be used to represent the whole and then expanded to represent the whole catch for that station. For example, if 12 bushel baskets of sea scallops were collected from the haul, approximately 500 scallops are to be measured for length. This could be 2 to 3 baskets from the 12. Say it is 2 baskets given the size distribution—that is, they are nearly all the same size OR the size varies greatly among the scallops, all the scallops in those 2 baskets will be measured using the Limnoterra FMB IV measuring board —an magnet wand that will activate a signal to record the scallop length to the FSCS. The program then expands, in this case, the sub-sample to the entire catch by an expansion factor of 6 to give an Expected Number of scallops for this haul.

10.The weight of all fish, by species is recorded into FSCS while only certain fish species (see chart below) are measured for length to go along with the number of fish caught by species.

Sampling baskets
Sampling baskets

11.For non-random sites or for specific requests from scientists, certain fish species and specific scallop data may need to be collected, processed, and put into the flash freezer. For example, a scientist want all Fawn Cusk-eel fish for sound production study while another scientist wants scallop meat weights and gonad weights for an age and growth study. Labels for such requests are printed on an Eltron TLP 2742 printer. Specimens are put into either ziplock plastic bag or cloth sacks.

12.Using the saltwater hoses, processing stations and deck area is cleaned for the next station haul. We all take a breather—especially necessary when we have a large haul of scallops requiring a lot of processing.

NOAA Teacher at Sea Joel Jaroch measures a Little Skate on the Limnoterra FMB IV under the watchful eye of Bill Duffy, NOAA Biological Science Technician, at one of the processing stations.
NOAA Teacher at Sea Joel Jaroch measures a Little Skate on the Limnoterra FMB IV under the watchful eye of Bill Duffy, NOAA Biological Science Technician, at one of the processing stations.

Catch Data for Stations 45 – 57 North Atlantic Sea Scallop Survey 2006 

1 Recorded Number: Actual number of organisms collected, counted, and recorded. 2 Little Skate: A certain number of this fish is also evaluated for sexual maturity and recorded. 3 Expected Number: When a large number of organisms are caught for any given haul (in our case only for starfish and scallops) a small subset of the specific organism catch would be randomly selected. That subset would be counted and recorded. Using an expansion factor, an expected number of the specific organism for that haul would be determined to represent the entire catch for that haul.  4 StarFish: For this chart I have combined all starfish species into one group whereas NOAA scientists record the starfish by species. In addition, starfish are sub-sampled every third station only from the entire haul. 5 Sea Scallop Clapper: This refers to sea scallop shells that are still attached at the hinge, as a bivalve, but do not have a living scallop inside. NOAA records this data because the number and size of clappers provides a means for determining recent death in a given area.

As the chart above represents the entire catch for stations 45 through 57 over a given 12 hour period of July 16th, the next 12 hour period of work, or the next could look completely different from a data point of view. For example, during several of my 12 hour shifts we caught few scallops compared to the data given above—an expected number of scallops of 22,142 for stations 45 through 57. Certainly for that 12 hour period we had a significant work load given the number of scallops hauled aboard the ship with the need to put them all in the bushel baskets and then measuring the length of a sub-sample of the entire haul when such a large number were brought aboard.

Some unusual fish were brought up onto the ALBATROSS IV from the sea floor bottom, in this case, Goose Fish.
Some unusual fish were brought up onto the ALBATROSS IV from the sea floor bottom, in this case, Goose Fish.

Summary of Science and Technology Component: 

After reading all of the above information there are a few things that I would like you to understand completely. The procedures that we carried out each 12 hour shift was the same. This allowed us to become familiar with the steps we needed to take in analyzing each haul and therefore work more efficiently as a team. Following the same procedures on every tow allows for tows to be comparable with other tows – this is true for all tows conducted this year and throughout the history of the scallop survey. This is very important when it comes to analyzing the data. The aspect that changed was the contents of each haul brought aboard the ALBATROSS IV at each station that we sampled. For me there was always that little bit of excitement in seeing if something new would be in the next haul. Inevitably I was able to see new and different organisms with each haul. The pipe fish and sea horse being just two examples.

Finally, I appreciate the work that ALL aboard the ALBATROSS IV are doing to continue this North Atlantic Sea Scallop Survey. As such a long ongoing survey, the amount of data that NOAA has and continues to build year to year, their work and efforts seem to prove truly worthwhile as the vitality of the sea scallop population is healthy. I think of the relationship that must exist between the fisherman making their livelihood from the sea scallop and entire NOAA crew that studies the scallop and believe the relationship is a good one. The wild stock sea scallops that you and I can buy from the local grocery store is evidence that all involved parties are making this marine resource a well managed one based upon a cooperative relationship between many parties. Three cheers for all involved!!!

Conversations I had with NOAA Crew: 

1. Who needs more “fuel” in one 24 hour period, 33 hard working individuals aboard the ALBATROSS IV or a 565 horse power engine?

In talking with Kevin Cruse, Chief Mechanical Engineer, he had told me that the 565 hp Caterpillar engine will consume about 1000 gallons of #2 diesel fuel in a 24 hour period. He went on to tell me that, on average, the total water use during a similar 24 hour period is also about 1000 gallons of water. The ship is equipped with two Maxim Evaporators that can produce 1900 gallons of fresh water a day from the sea water. Usually just one of the evaporators is running at a time. The ALBATROSS IV can hold up to 22,324 gallons of freshwater. Kevin said that it is important to keep as much freshwater in the holding tanks because as the diesel fuel is used up, with the loss that weight (1 gallon of diesel fuel is about 7 pounds) the ship loses a little bit of stability as it does not ride as low in the water.

2. The conveniences of “staying in touch….”

Although the technology in not truly that new, Billy Dowdell, Electronic Technician, gave me an explanation as to how the integration of computers and a satellite helped me keep in touch with my family while I was at sea. The Skycell Satellite Transceiver takes stored emails from the crew aboard the ship and sends them out two at a time while receiving emails destined for those of us aboard the ALBATROSS IV, also two at a time and only for $6.00 per minute. As a regular schedule, emails are sent and received three times a day. Billy allowed me to help send and receive a batch of emails one afternoon. It all took just a few moments. This technology is a great feature for those at sea so that we can keep in touch with our loved ones. I appreciated the contact from my family.

3. What would be some of your initial thoughts and ideas if I say ALBATROSS IV Engine Room?

I wonder if ‘loud’ and ‘hot’ come to mind? Tim Monaghan, General Vessel Assistant, gave me the grand tour of the engine room, ear protection required. It is a world unto itself! Aside from being loud and hot the next thing that struck me was the overall neatness of the entire place, not to mention what must be miles and miles of wiring and piping. Of course, it also could be the five engines that are so obvious: two 565 hp Caterpillar engines that power the 8 foot diameter—3 blade propeller cursing at 10 knots, three smaller engines for electricity generation and to power the hydraulic systems. Although there is a vast supply of spare parts aboard the ship as back up parts, the crew of the engine room can also fabricate some specific parts if need be. Impressive. Finally, I was told, “It’s a Caterpillar.” As the sea scallop survey runs 24 hours a day and we were at sea for 15 days, I found it incredible that the 565 hp engine (only one was running) was constantly working without a hiccup. The constant burning of the #2 diesel fuel supply would allow the ALBATROSS IV to run about 3900 nautical miles. Not bad for a ship commissioned in May of 1963.

4. So, you wonder about being an NOAA Officer?

I had the chance to talk with all of the NOAA officers and had an interesting conversation with Navigation Officer, Chris Daniels. Safety of all aboard in paramount as Chris made this clear to me from the beginning of our conversation. While on the bridge, this is what Chris is most concerned with. As a great responsibility you have to be able to manage this, otherwise the officer work may not be for you. In addition, he told me that all NOAA officers rotate between assignments at sea and on land; two years at sea and three years on land assignment. So, you must be willing and able to cope with the constant change in job site and environment. Chris feels this is actually a perk because to travel though out the country, whether at sea or on land assignment, is a great opportunity to see other places and constantly meet new people. Which brings up the final point—the family life. Although growing up as a child of a military family, he does not deny that for some to find a person that will cope with the constant change and movement is a real issue needing consideration before becoming an officer. This is especially true given that NOAA officers are at sea 240 days each year!

The top side of many scallops can be quite beautiful as these samples show.
The top side of many scallops can be quite beautiful as these samples show.

5. So you want to be a NOAA Scientist?

I had the great pleasure of working with three young and extremely intelligent people. Their overall effort and diligence were duly noted as Biological Science Technicians. First, Sean Lucey, also serving as Watch Chief for the midnight to noon shift, will begin his masters degree work this fall. What he enjoys most about the survey is the opportunity to be outdoors, on the open ocean, taking in the wonderful view. He also considers it all a great adventure. Although he finds challenges in getting the volunteers to mesh and work together as a group, he welcomes this part of the job also because of how it will help him continue to grow as a crew leader. Second is Bill Duffy, with a hardy laugh that grows from deep down within and rolls out loud and clear. He finds the work he is doing truly rewarding because the sea scallop survey is being done for the sake of science. The work certainly will impact the lives of many and feels his work will help secure the livelihood of fisherman for a long time to come. The challenge of such work for Bill is being away from loved ones for extended periods of time. As the work covers many hours and much of it done on our hands and knees, the physical demands of the job are also noted by Bill as a real challenge. He does marvel at the overall diversity of the volunteers that help out with the survey work, meeting new and interesting people from all walks-of-life. Finally, Alicia Long, having worked for NOAA for the past three years, she also has plans to return to school to get her masters degree. What she finds rewarding about these surveys is that every trip is different, with something new happening each time (and she is not just talking about the volunteers). She went on to say that training volunteers takes time and when we have the routine down, it is about the end of the survey. She finds the ground fish survey work truly challenging with the cold, windy and rough seas— enough to tax even the most seasoned scientist.

6. And the work of a Skilled Fisherman?

I had the great pleasure to talk with Steve Flavin, a Skilled Fisherman, as we worked the same midnight to noon shift. He talked about many aspects of being a Skilled Fisherman for NOAA as well as what it was like to be a fisherman making a living from the sea before coming to NOAA. He certainly has the keen eyes of a fisherman and person who has spent a great deal of time at sea, a great wealth of knowledge about the sea, and a real compassion for the living organisms hauled aboard the ALBATROSS IV—he would often set aside a hermit crab or two so as to return them to the sea as soon as possible. Yet, of all the things we talked about and all that he shared, his interest in the osprey that had found a perch on the upper reaches of the ship did not surprise me as to who he is. After one of the hauls, he had set aside a fish that had been counted for that station. From the back port side of the ship, he tossed the fish in a nice clean arch over the side, to ensure that the osprey would see it. Sure enough, the osprey, in one fluid motion, flew off the perch, down to the sea, and deftly plucked the fish from the sea. Returning to its perch, the osprey proceeded to eat the fish. Within a few hours it took flight from that perch to some distant point. Steve speculated that it may have gained back some strength (as it was on the perch for over 24 hours!!!) and was able to move on. Many land birds that end up blown to sea often end up dying because they eventually drink sea water. Thank goodness the osprey didn’t.

Sea Scallops have light sensory spots –the dark circular marks, to help them detect changes in light amount.
Sea Scallops have light sensory spots –the dark circular marks, to help them detect changes in light amount.

Personal Logs

July 10, 2006 

Day one after arriving in Woods Hole, flying into Boston from Philadelphia and taking a bus trip from Logan Airport to the ALBATROSS IV. An entire crew was putting two 1600 meter cables onto winch spools for setting out and hauling back the dredge for each station we sampled. Meet with Ms. Hart and she gave all scientists an overview of the sea scallop survey. Meals aboard ship are filling and complete. We did not get under way because of certain issues that needed addressing on the ALBATROSS IV.

July 12, 2006: 

Still at dock because of ship issues. So, Dave, the other teacher aboard ship and I went to a NOAA warehouse to work on two dredges, replacing several parts of the dredge. It was a hands-on learning experience. This work is necessary so that there are always backup dredges available to use on the ALBATROSS IV as the sea floor bottom can cause havoc upon the dredges—you wouldn’t believe the size of some of the rocks brought aboard the ship.

July 13, 2006: 

All hands aboard and the ALBATROSS IV leaves Woods Hole around 6pm. The breeze in my face felt good as I stood starboard side, taking in the sites and trying to contain my excitement. Need to get to bed as so as possible because I will be getting up in a few hours to start the midnight to noon shift.

July 14, 2006: 

End of my first shift of the survey. We did not have to start until about 6am as we had to steam to the very first station to sample. So we got the chance to ease into the work— completing our shift after only 6 hours. Yet, the new smells (the sand dollars produce a strong odor) and the “rough” seas – all new to me, resulted in a weakness in the stomach and legs. The thought of food alone was enough to keep me away from the mess hall and I certainly was not talkative at that time. Water and PLENTY of saltine crackers became my nourishment for the next few days!

July 16, 2006: 

As the 12 hours is a long shift, we have to approach the work as running a marathon and not a sprint—working “slow” and steady. We had many hauls and the catches were large, lots of sea scallops to process. For two of our hauls we filled 28 bushel baskets with large sized scallops! It is a site to see. Starting to challenge my stomach again by eating something other than saltine crackers and it responded with some grumblings.

July 17, 2006: 

Such a calm sea has also calmed my stomach on such a beautiful and clear day, just like yesterday. An osprey has been overhead aboard the ALBATROSS IV for over 24 hours. Wonder if it has gotten tired of standing on its perch for so long without “sitting” to rest. One of the crew was able to entice it from it purchase by throwing a fish in a high arch overboard. The osprey didn’t miss that and took it’s time in eating every part of the fish.

July 18, 2006: 

There was a red glowing ball, balanced easily on the morning horizon. What a sight which a photo cannot fully capture. I want it etched into my mind for recall at a later date and truly enjoy and marvel at. I do miss the sunsets as I need to be in bed for a 11pm wake-up call.

July 21, 2006: 

Needed to skip a few days of note taking because of tropical storm Beryl and the havoc it played on my mind and stomach. Understand that the sea was plenty rough for me during the storm but I was told that these 7 to 8 foot waves were typical during the fall and winter ground fish survey. I can’t imagine the trials my stomach would need to endure with seas that boil more so. Life jackets were required as we worked in these rough waters on the back deck. The bridge finally made the call around 5am to stop all deck research work as seas riled even more. Interesting, we “jogged”—the ALBATROSS IV running at only a few knots, with the movement of the water and winds with the plan of having the storm pass us up. Therefore, we didn’t get many stations sampled. Needless to say, I was in bed shortly after our shift was over—skipping lunch for sure, as a means to quiet my stomach and sleep as much as I could through the storm. I found that lying in my bunk that the movement of the ship did not bother me as much as being seasick—although sleep was fitful.

After several late night hours of true hard work, we are given a spectacular light show to help ease us into the morning hours aboard the ALBATROSS IV.
After several late night hours of true hard work, we are given a spectacular light show to help ease us into the morning hours aboard the ALBATROSS IV.

July 23, 2006: 

Given a tour of the engine room and the use of the satellite system to send and receive emails yesterday. Plenty of information and sites to take in as both places are integral parts of ship operations. Rain and thunderstorms today slowed our progress. We can’t be out on the back deck during thunderstorms for obvious safety concerns. So didn’t get as many stations completed. Have notice a slight change in overall attitude of many of crew aboard the ALBATROSS IV—as the end of the survey is in sight?

July 25, 2006: 

Had a chance to talk in detail with one of the young NOAA officers, Chris Daniels. He really shed a great deal of light on what it is like to be an officer. Found it extremely interesting. We had a long steam between 2 stations today, a 6 hour steam, which certainly cut into the number of stations we worked today during my shift. The rest was appreciated as we head towards Georges Bank to sample there.

July 26, 2006: 

The size of the scallops on Georges Bank are incredible, many in the 15cm to 16cm range! The weather has been extremely agreeable to my stomach and appealing to the eye—a calm blue sea.

July 27, 2006: 

Our last day of sampling and real excitement is in the air. There was a lot of distance between stations so we did not get to many stations. This was kind of a nice way to end all the work, on a bit of an easy note. And then the steam for port while cleaning up all the places that the scientists have used in our work. “Many hands make light work”, as both crews work together to clean up our work areas.

And, if you ask me, I would do it all again. There are many people to thank but I want to mention the other Teacher at Sea, Dave Riddle, who so willingly shared his work and photos with me. Also, Alicia Long put together a CD of photos and data for me to use in putting all of this together. So thanks.

Finally, it was a pleasure and honor to meet so many wonderful people aboard the ALBATROSS IV. They all made me feel welcome and at ease even when I was feeling a bit seasick.

Thank you kindly,

Joel

Cary Atwood, July 26, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Cary Atwood
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 25 – August 5, 2005

Mission: Sea scallop survey
Geographical Area: New England
Date: July 26, 2005

Weather from the Bridge
Visibility: Clear
Wind direction: NNW (230)
Wind speed: 15 knots
Sea wave height: unknown
Swell wave height: unknown
Seawater temperature: 11.4° C
Sea level pressure: 1012 millibars
Cloud cover: Dense Fog

Question of the Day 

What do scallops need in order to survive within their habitat?

Yesterday’s Answer 

The scientific name of the Atlantic Sea Scallop is Lacopectin magellanicus.  Lacopectin means “smooth scallop.

Science and Technology Log 

The real work of the ALBATROSS IV mission is accomplished during the four six-hour shifts with a crew of six workers each.  On my watch, they are Sean, watch chief, Bill, Avis, Dvora, Noelle and myself. Working as a team, we accomplish great things in each tow, which takes about 30 minutes to process.  Here’s how it unfolds.  The eight-foot dredge basket is specially designed to capture all sizes and ages of scallops for research.  It is dredged from a depth up to 100 meters to the surface for a fifteen-minute time period.

After each tow comes out of the water, fishermen release it from the cable and it’s deposited on the fantail, also known as the back deck of the ship.  The fantail is a huge open area complete with a non-skid surface–very important when the boat is on an intense rock and roll session. With our “Helly’s” on (the yellow and orange storm gear you see in the pictures) and tall rubber boots, I take a picture of the mound, along with Bill, who holds up a whiteboard indicating the catch number, the tow and the strata (level) where we do the dredging. Once that is done, orange baskets, white buckets and kneepads are hauled to it. On our hands and knees we look for what might seem like buried treasure; sifting through the debris of the sea.  We toss scallops and many varieties of fish, into the baskets until we have combed through every inch of them.  Once the sort is done, we all move into the covered lab area for a variety of assessments, including the weight and length measurements of each scallop, as well as any ground fish that are caught.  Even though some of the work is manual, computers play a very important role in accurate capture of the data. One instrument we use is a long, flatbed magnetically charged scanner. Once we put a scallop shell on the bed and hold a magnetized wand against it, it reads out the measurement onto a touch computer screen.  Computers such as this one have relieved some of the tedium of the work, making it more accurate and faster.  The same is done with fish, and depending upon the tow, we will keep crabs and starfish out.

All of this data is uploaded into the FSCS – Fisheries Scientific Computer System which compiles the data from the survey.  This valuable data is used to assess populations and biomass for the scallop fishery and then make management decisions for present and future fishery use. The watch crews and scientists love it because it has saved so much time, and compilation of the data is considerably easier and less time consuming in the long run.

Personal Log 

Sleep of any length of time is longed for, but never received.  Due to our 6 hour on, 6 hour off shifts, at best we can manage 5 hours.  Today I am feeling very zombie like as my body adjusts to this schedule. I rarely see John, my other TAS compadre since he works opposing shifts from mine.  When we do meet, we share notes and commiserate about the work and our need for sleep!

One of my favorite haunts on board in my free time is the bridge and the upper bow.  It is a quiet, calm place with great views–and a really strong pair of binoculars and field guides. The ever shifting texture of the water always captures my attention when I am outside; from the glossy velvet of early mornings, thick fog during the day, complete with fog rainbows!-and the ethereal brightness of sunset through the fog.

Another constant is the “ocean motion”.  We are in a constant state of rocking–at times delicate and other times, the swells are deep and we will roll with them.  I am very glad I have an ear patch to mitigate the possibility of seasickness….now I can just enjoy the ride!

Mike Lynch, June 29, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mike Lynch
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
June 20 – July 1, 2005

lynch_log9Mission: Clam and Quahog Survey
Geographical Area: New England
Date: June 29, 2005

Weather Data

Latitude: 3726.163N
Longitude: 07444.980W
Wave Height: 1 foot
Swell Height: 1
Foot Weather: clear
Visibility: unlimited
Wind Speed: 7 mph

Scientific Log

lynch_log9aToday’s Log will focus on the scientific work being done on the stern deck. The Chief Scientist, Victor Nordahl, coordinates the 2005 Clam Survey aboard the DELAWARE II. One of Victor’s many jobs is to oversee the collection work done by the two scientific crews aboard the vessel. Each crew works two six hour shifts, the scientific data collection and cataloguing goes on twenty four hours a day. Each crew is made up of a crew chief and five supporting workers. Our crew chief is Chad Keith. Chad is an engaging young man who has worked for NOAA for a number of years and has just finished his Masters degree in Geography at the University of Oregon. Kris Ohleth is our Marine Biological Seagoing Technician. Kris is soon to start her graduate program on Marine Policy at the University of Rhode Island. Kris is in charge of data and the daunting task of training people, like myself, in the intricacies of the onboard FSCS and SCS computer systems. Richard Raynes is an equipment technician for NOAA, and a net maker by trade, he is the equipment guru of our crew. Erin Kapcha is also a NOAA employee, who coordinates the observer program that places observers on board commercial fishing vessels. Erin is stretching her legs and doing some work outside the office. Cindy Travers is an energetic 20 year old, Senior Cadet from The United States Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut. Cindy is doing a summer practicum on board and will be following this cruise with another on board the ALABATROSS IV. I, Mike Lynch, am the last member of the crew, and a participating member of the Teacher at Sea Program. I am a flatlander from Moses Lake, Washington. I am here to learn more about the role NOAA plays in the formulation of policy and regulation. I am also here due to NOAA’s commitment to education and outreach. Our mission, as we have accepted it, is to gather and input data on the Atlantic Surfclam and the Ocean Quahog. Today’s journal will be a synopsis of the processes of data collection and the responsibilities of our crew.

lynch_log9bIn an earlier log, I outlined my duties on the Bridge. This was the process of reporting data for each station on the Shipboard Computer System. This is the step that monitors the location and duration of each tow of the dredge. The next step happens on the stern work deck and the wet lab. Once the dredge is brought back to the surface, brought up on the crane carriage, and secured to the deck by the deck crew, it’s show time for our science crew. Our first job is to inspect the dredge and determine if the contents need to be washed. If they do, we adhere a mesh gate to the front of the dredge and it is released by the work crew for a tow behind the boat. Once washed, the contents of the dredge are released on to a large worktable for sorting. One of our crewmembers, usually Richard, goes up into the dredge to clear it of all debris. The contents of the dredge are pulled with rakes down the length of the worktable. The crew sorts surfclams and quahogs and places each species into bushel baskets at the end of the table.

lynch_log9cAnother bucket is in place for other species such as starfish, crabs, fish and other varieties of clams. Two other buckets are in place for broken clams and quahogs, and clappers. Clappers are clams or quahog shells that are called shell hash, is also collected into bushel baskets. Once the table is cleared, it is time to clean the dredge area, count the baskets of shell hash, and catalogue the species data into the FSCS database. Ocean quahogs and surfclams are taken and weighed on electronic scales. The scales have been calibrated to zero for the weight of the bushel basket. The clams are then moved to one of three workstations. The stations are long stainless steel tables equipped with Limnos boards, electronic scales and interactive FSCS computer monitors. The limnos boards are used to electronically measure the length of each specimen and catalogue the data into the database. The scales are used to measure the specimen weight in shell and the meat weight of shucked specimens. The computer terminals are touch screens that are interactive consoles, which allow the recorder to select species and data categories. The console also notifies the worker of special instructions and requests for specimen samples that have been requested by the chief scientists. The species are catalogued by station, which has been programmed at the bridge to indicate exact location, time, depth, weather, etc.

A hearty bunch
A hearty bunch

For the purpose of data collection, the areas that we are investigating are divided into regions and strata. The Clam Survey is collecting data in five regions: Georges Bank, Southern New England, Long Island, New Jersey and the Delmarva Peninsula (an offshore area of Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia). We are participating on the third leg of the survey, and have spent most our time, thus far, off the coast of Virginia. These large geographical regions are subdivided into smaller areas called strata, and the specific areas of each tow are called stations. In each of the strata, we are asked to collect age data and meat weights as well as numbers and weight volumes. For Ocean Quahogs, we are asked to collect meat weights and samples of ten specimens for each 10 mm. class in length measurement. These samples are shucked weighed, catalogued for the location of their capture, bagged, labeled and frozen. These will go to Jim Weinberg, who is the Principle Investigator for this survey. Essentially these samples are to be analyzed in the NEFSC labs in Woods Hole. Atlantic Surfclams receive far greater scrutiny. Samples of meat weights must be kept for specimens within 10mm. classes on every tow. The requests for these samples are preprogrammed into the computer base, and as the “cutter” enters the length on the Limnos board into the computer, the recorder will be told which specimens must be kept for meat weight collection. The NEFSC division of Age and Growth also requests Surf Clams. The computer will alert the recorder that an age tag is requested. In this scenario, The cutter will take a meat sample, but the actual clam shells will be marked by station number, strata, and ID number. These shells are bagged, tagged and frozen for the A&G lab. Age samples are one clam within a 10 mm class at every site. How’s that for confusing. Between our crew chief Chad, our Sea going Technician Chris, and the demanding FSCS computer terminal, mere mortals like myself can participate in scientific data collection.

Aside from the data collected for the Northeast Fisheries Science Center, we are collecting surf clam samples for a member of our other crew. Adriana Picariello is collecting samples as part of research for her Masters Thesis at the University of Virginia Marine Science department. Her research will be comparing growth rates in different regions. It’s interesting what you can learn from clams, about the environment and possible changes in the environment such as global warming. Cool Stuff!

Personal Log

The weather has become hot and humid. Yesterday we did part of a depletion survey where we did repeated tows non stop for the entire shift. It was a real marathon, I could have been part of a research on the sweat capacity of a human being. There was no time for interviews, logs or breathing. I slept well! Go figure. Still having fun, and have I mentioned the food?