Michael Wing: How to Sample the Sea, July 20, 2015

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Michael Wing
Aboard R/V Fulmar
July 17 – 25, 2015

Mission: 2015 July ACCESS Cruise
Geographical Area of Cruise: Pacific Ocean west of Marin County, California
Date: July 20, 2015

Weather Data from the Bridge: 15 knot winds gusting to 20 knots, wind waves 3-5’ and a northwest swell 3-4’ four seconds apart.

Science and Technology Log

On the even-numbered “lines” we don’t just survey birds and mammals. We do a lot of sampling of the water and plankton.

Wing on Fulmar
Wing at rail of the R/V Fulmar

We use a CTD (Conductivity – Temperature – Depth profiler) at every place we stop. We hook it to a cable, turn it on, and lower to down until it comes within 5-10 meters of the bottom. When we pull it back up, it has a continuous and digital record of water conductivity (a proxy for salinity, since salty water conducts electricity better), temperature, dissolved oxygen, fluorescence (a proxy for chlorophyll, basically phytoplankton), all as a function of depth.

CTD
Kate and Danielle deploy the CTD

We also have a Niskin bottle attached to the CTD cable. This is a sturdy plastic tube with stoppers at both ends. The tube is lowered into the water with both ends cocked open. When it is at the depth you want, you clip a “messenger” to the cable. The messenger is basically a heavy metal bead. You let go, it slides down the cable, and when it strikes a trigger on the Niskin bottle the stoppers on both ends snap shut. You can feel a slight twitch on the ship’s cable when this happens. You pull it back up and decant the seawater that was trapped at that depth into sample bottles to measure nitrate, phosphate, alkalinity, and other chemical parameters back in the lab.

Niskin bottle
Niskin bottle

When we want surface water, we just use a bucket on a rope of course.

We use a hoop net to collect krill and other zooplankton. We tow it behind the boat at a depth of about 50 meters, haul it back in, and wash the contents into a sieve, then put them in sample bottles with a little preservative for later study. We also have a couple of smaller plankton nets for special projects, like the University of California at Davis graduate student Kate Davis’s project on ocean acidification, and the plankton samples we send to the California Department of Health. They are checking for red tides.

Hoop net
Hoop net

We use a Tucker Trawl once a day on even numbered lines. This is a heavy and complicated rig that has three plankton nets, each towed at a different depth. It takes about an hour to deploy and retrieve this one; that’s why we don’t use it each time we stop. The Tucker trawl is to catch krill; which are like very small shrimp.  During the day they are down deep; they come up at night.

Tucker trawl
Part of the Tucker trawl

 

krill
A mass of krill we collected. The black dots are their eyes.

What happens to these samples? The plankton from the hoop net gets sent to a lab where a subsample is taken and each species in the subsample is counted very precisely. The CTD casts are shared by all the groups here – NOAA, Point Blue Conservation Science, the University of California at Davis, San Francisco State University. The state health department gets its sample. San Francisco State student Ryan Hartnett has some water samples he will analyze for nitrate, phosphate and silicate. All the data, including the bird and mammal sightings, goes into a big database that’s been kept since 2004. That’s how we know what’s going on in the California Current. When things change, we’ll recognize the changes.

Personal Log

They told me “wear waterproof pants and rubber boots on the back deck, you’ll get wet.” I thought, how wet could it be? Now I understand. It’s not that some water drips on you when you lift a net up over the stern of the boat – although it does. It’s not that waves splash you, although that happens too. It’s that you use a salt water hose to help wash all of the plankton from the net into a sieve, and then into a container, and to fill wash bottles and to wash off the net, sieve, basins, funnel, etc. before you arrive at the next station and do it all again. It takes time, because you have to wash ALL of the plankton from the end of the net into the bottle, not just some of it. You spend a lot of time hosing things down. It’s like working at a car wash except with salty water and the deck is pitching like a continuous earthquake.

The weather has gone back to “normal”, which today means 15 knot winds gusting to 20 knots, wind waves 3-5’ and a northwest swell 3-4’ only four seconds apart. Do the math, and you’ll see that occasionally a wind wave adds to a swell and you get slapped by something eight feet high. We were going to go to Bodega Bay today; we had to return to Sausalito instead because it’s downwind.

sea state
The sea state today. Some waves were pretty big.

We saw a lot of humpback whales breaching again and again, and slapping the water with their tails. No, we don’t know why they do it although it just looks like fun. No, I didn’t get pictures. They do it too fast.

Did You Know? No biologist or birder uses the word “seagull.” They are “gulls”, and there are a lot of different species such as Western gulls, California gulls, Sabine’s gulls and others. Yes, it is possible to tell them apart.

Emily Whalen: Station 381–Cashes Ledge, May 1, 2015

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Emily Whalen
Aboard NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow
April 27 – May 10, 2015

Mission: Spring Bottom Trawl Survey, Leg IV
Geographical Area of Cruise: Gulf of Maine

Date: May 1, 2015

Weather Data from the Bridge:
Winds:  Light and variable
Seas: 1-2ft
Air Temperature:   6.2○ C
Water Temperature:  5.8○ C

Science and Technology Log:

Earlier today I had planned to write about all of the safety features on board the Bigelow and explain how safe they make me feel while I am on board.  However, that was before our first sampling station turned out to be a monster haul!  For most stations I have done so far, it takes about an hour from the time that the net comes back on board to the time that we are cleaning up the wetlab.  At station 381, it took us one minute shy of three hours! So explaining the EEBD and the EPIRB will have to wait so that I can describe the awesome sampling we did at station 381, Cashes Ledge.

This is a screen that shows the boats track around the Gulf of Maine.  The colored lines represent the sea floor as determined by the Olex multibeam.  This information will be stored year after year until we have a complete picture of the sea floor in this area!
This is a screen that shows the boats track around the Gulf of Maine. The colored lines represent the sea floor as determined by the Olex multibeam. This information will be stored year after year until we have a complete picture of the sea floor in this area!

Before I get to describing the actual catch, I want to give you an idea of all of the work that has to be done in the acoustics lab and on the bridge long before the net even gets into the water.

The bridge is the highest enclosed deck on the boat, and it is where the officers work to navigate the ship.  To this end, it is full of nautical charts, screens that give information about the ship’s location and speed, the engine, generators, other ships, radios for communication, weather data and other technical equipment.  After arriving at the latitude and longitude of each sampling station, the officer’s attention turns to the screen that displays information from the Olex Realtime Bathymetry Program, which collects data using a ME70 multibeam sonar device attached to bottom of the hull of the ship .

Traditionally, one of the biggest challenges in trawling has been getting the net caught on the bottom of the ocean.  This is often called getting ‘hung’ and it can happen when the net snags on a big rock, sunken debris, or anything else resting on the sea floor.  The consequences can range from losing a few minutes time working the net free, to tearing or even losing the net. The Olex data is extremely useful because it can essentially paint a picture of the sea floor to ensure that the net doesn’t encounter any obstacles.  Upon arrival at a site, the boat will cruise looking for a clear path that is about a mile long and 300 yards wide.  Only after finding a suitable spot will the net go into the water.

Check out this view of the seafloor.  On the upper half of the screen, there is a dark blue channel that goes between two brightly colored ridges.  That's where we dragged the net and caught all of the fish!
Check out this view of the seafloor. On the upper half of the screen, there is a dark blue channel that goes between two brightly colored ridges. We trawled right between the ridges and caught a lot of really big fish!

The ME70 Multibeam uses sound waves to determine the depth of the ocean at specific points.  It is similar to a simpler, single stream sonar in that it shoots a wave of sound down to the seafloor, waits for it to bounce back up to the ship and then calculates the distance the wave traveled based on the time and the speed of sound through the water, which depends on temperature.  The advantage to using the multibeam is that it shoots out 200 beams of sound at once instead of just one.  This means that with each ‘ping’, or burst of sound energy, we know the depth at many points under the ship instead of just one.  Considering that the multibeam pings at a rate of 2 Hertz to 0.5 Herts, which is once every 0.5 seconds to 2 seconds, that’s a lot of information about the sea floor contour!

This is what the nautical chart for Cashes Ledge looks like. The numbers represent depth in fathoms.  The light blue lines are contour lines.  The places where they are close together represent steep cliffs.  The red line represents the Bigelow’s track. You can see where we trawled as a short jag between the L and the E in the word Ledge

The stations that we sample are randomly selected by a computer program that was written by one of the scientists in the Northeast Fisheries Science Center, who happens to be on board this trip.  Just by chance, station number 381 was on Cashes Ledge, which is an underwater geographical feature that includes jagged cliffs and underwater mountains.  The area has been fished very little because all of the bottom features present many hazards for trawl nets.  In fact, it is currently a protected area, which means the commercial fishing isn’t allowed there.  As a research vessel, we have permission to sample there because we are working to collect data that will provide useful information for stock assessments.

My watch came on duty at noon, at which time the Bigelow was scouting out the bottom and looking for a spot to sample within 1 nautical mile of the latitude and longitude of station 381.  Shortly before 1pm, the CTD dropped and then the net went in the water.  By 1:30, the net was coming back on board the ship, and there was a buzz going around about how big the catch was predicted to be.  As it turns out, the catch was huge!  Once on board, the net empties into the checker, which is usually plenty big enough to hold everything.  This time though, it was overflowing with big, beautiful cod, pollock and haddock.  You can see that one of the deck crew is using a shovel to fill the orange baskets with fish so that they can be taken into the lab and sorted!

You can see the crew working to handling all of the fish we caught at Cashes Ledge.  How many different kinds of fish can you see?
You can see the crew working to handling all of the fish we caught at Cashes Ledge. How many different kinds of fish can you see? Photo by fellow volunteer Joe Warren

 

At this point, I was standing at the conveyor belt, grabbing slippery fish as quickly as I could and sorting them into baskets.  Big haddock, little haddock, big cod, little cod, pollock, pollock, pollock.  As fast as I could sort, the fish kept coming!  Every basket in the lab was full and everyone was working at top speed to process fish so that we could empty the baskets and fill them up with more fish!  One of the things that was interesting to notice was the variation within each species.  When you see pictures of fish, or just a few fish at a time, they don’t look that different.  But looking at so many all at once, I really saw how some have brighter colors, or fatter bodies or bigger spots.  But only for a moment, because the fish just kept coming and coming and coming!

Finally, the fish were sorted and I headed to my station, where TK, the cutter that I have been working with, had already started processing some of the huge pollock that we had caught.  I helped him maneuver them up onto the lengthing board so that he could measure them and take samples, and we fell into a fish-measuring groove that lasted for two hours.  Grab a fish, take the length, print a label and put it on an envelope, slip the otolith into the envelope, examine the stomach contents, repeat.

Cod, pollock and haddock in baskets
Cod, pollock and haddock in baskets waiting to get counted and measured. Photo by Watch Chief Adam Poquette.

Some of you have asked about the fish that we have seen and so here is a list of the species that we saw at just this one site:

  • Pollock
  • Haddock
  • Atlantic wolffish
  • Cod
  • Goosefish
  • Herring
  • Mackerel
  • Alewife
  • Acadian redfish
  • Alligator fish
  • White hake
  • Red hake
  • American plaice
  • Little skate
  • American lobster
  • Sea raven
  • Thorny skate
  • Red deepsea crab

 

 

 

 

I think it’s human nature to try to draw conclusions about what we see and do.  If all we knew about the state of our fish populations was based on the data from this one catch, then we might conclude that there are tons of healthy fish stocks in the sea.  However, I know that this is just one small data point in a literal sea of data points and it cannot be considered independently of the others.  Just because this is data that I was able to see, touch and smell doesn’t give it any more validity than other data that I can only see as a point on a map or numbers on a screen.  Eventually, every measurement and sample will be compiled into reports, and it’s that big picture over a long period of time that will really allow give us a better understanding of the state of affairs in the ocean.

Sunset from the deck of the Henry B. Bigelow
Sunset from the deck of the Henry B. Bigelow

Personal Log

Lunges are a bit more challenging on the rocking deck of a ship!
Lunges are a bit more challenging on the rocking deck of a ship!

It seems like time is passing faster and faster on board the Bigelow.  I have been getting up each morning and doing a Hero’s Journey workout up on the flying bridge.  One of my shipmates let me borrow a book that is about all of the people who have died trying to climb Mount Washington.  Today I did laundry, and to quote Olaf, putting on my warm and clean sweatshirt fresh out of the dryer was like a warm hug!  I am getting to know the crew and learning how they all ended up here, working on a NOAA ship.  It’s tough to believe but a week from today, I will be wrapping up and getting ready to go back to school!

Emily Whalen: Trawling in Cape Cod Bay, April 29, 2015

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Emily Whalen
Aboard NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow
April 27 – May 10, 2015

Mission: Spring Bottom Trawl Survey, Leg IV
Geographical Area of Cruise: Gulf of Maine

Date: April 29, 2015

Weather Data:
GPS location:  4251.770’N, 07043.695’W
Sky condition:  Cloudy
Wind: 10 kts NNW
Wave height: 1-2 feet
Water temperature:  6.2○ C
Air temperature:  8.1○ C

Science and Technology Log:

On board the Henry B. Bigelow we are working to complete the fourth and final leg of the spring bottom trawl survey. Since 1948, NOAA has sent ships along the east coast from Cape Hatteras to the Scotian Shelf to catch, identify, measure and collect the fish and invertebrates from the sea floor. Scientists and fishermen use this data to assess the health of the ocean and make management decisions about fish stocks.

What do you recognize on this chart?  Do you know where Derry, NH is on the map?
This is the area that we will be trawling. Each blue circle represents one of the sites that we will sample. We are covering a LOT of ground! Image courtesy of NOAA.

Today I am going to give you a rundown of the small role that I play in this process. I am on the noon to midnight watch with a crew of six other scientists, which means that we are responsible for processing everything caught in the giant trawl net on board during those hours. During the first three legs of the survey, the Bigelow has sampled over 300 sites. We are working to finish the survey by completing the remaining sites, which are scattered throughout Cape Cod Bay and the Gulf of Maine.  The data collected on this trip will be added to data from similar trips that NOAA has taken each spring for almost 60 years.  These huge sets of data allow scientists to track species that are dwindling, recovering, thriving or shifting habitats.

The CTD ready to deploy.
The CTD ready to deploy.

At each sampling station, the ship first drops a man-sized piece of equipment called a CTD to the sea floor. The CTD measures conductivity, temperature and depth, hence its name.  Using the conductivity measurement, the CTD software also calculates salinity, which is the amount of dissolved salt in the water.  It also has light sensors that are used to measure how much light is penetrating through the water.

While the CTD is in the water,  the deck crew prepares the trawl net and streams it from the back of the ship.  The net is towed by a set of hydraulic winches that are controlled by a sophisticated autotrawl system.  The system senses the tension on each trawl warp and will pay out or reel in cable to ensure that the net is fishing properly.

Once deployed, the net sinks to the bottom and the ship tows it for twenty minutes, which is a little more than one nautical mile. The mouth of the net is rectangular so that it can open up wide and catch the most fish.  The bottom edge of the mouth has something called a rockhopper sweep on it, which is made of a series of heavy disks that roll along the rocky bottom instead of getting hung up or tangled.  The top edge of the net has floats along it to hold it wide open.   There are sensors positioned throughout the net that send data back to the ship about the shape of the net’s mouth, the water temperature on the bottom, the amount of contact with the bottom, the speed of water through the net and the direction that the water is flowing through the net.  It is important that each tow is standardized like this so that the fish populations in the sample areas aren’t misrepresented by the catch.   For example, if the net was twisted or didn’t open properly, the catch might be very small, even in an area that is teaming with fish.

Do you think this is what trawl nets looked like in 1948?
This is what the net looks like when it is coming back on board. The deck hands are guiding the trawl warps onto the big black spools. The whole process is powered by two hydraulic winches.

After twenty minutes, the net is hauled back onto the boat using heavy-duty winches.  The science crew changes into brightly colored foul weather gear and heads to the wet lab, where we wait to see what we’ve caught in the net. The watch chief turns the music up and everyone goes to their station along a conveyor belt the transports the fish from outside on the deck to inside the lab. We sort the catch by species into baskets and buckets, working at a slow, comfortable pace when the catch is small, or at a rapid fire, breakneck speed when the catch is large.

If you guessed 'sponges', then you are correct!
This is the conveyor belt that transports the catch from the deck into the wetlab. The crew works to sort things into buckets. Do you know what these chunky yellow blobs that we caught this time are?

After that, the species and weight of each container is recorded into the Fisheries Scientific Computing System (FSCS), which is an amazing software system that allows our team of seven people to collect an enormous amount of data very quickly. Then we work in teams of two to process each fish at work stations using a barcode scanner, magnetic lengthing board, digital scale, fillet knives, tweezers, two touch screen monitors, a freshwater hose, scannable stickers, envelopes, baggies, jars and finally a conveyor belt that leads to a chute that returns the catch back to the ocean.  To picture what this looks like, imagine a grocery store checkout line crossed with an arcade crossed with a water park crossed with an operating room.  Add in some music playing from an ipod and it’s a pretty raucous scene!

The data that we collect for each fish varies.  At a bare minimum, we will measure the length of the fish, which is electronically transmitted into FSCS.  For some fish, we also record the weight, sex and stage of maturity.  This also often includes taking tissue samples and packaging them up so that they can be studied back at the lab.  Fortunately, for each fish, the FSCS screen automatically prompts us about which measurements need to be taken and samples need to be kept.  For some fish, we cut out and label a small piece of gonad or some scales.  We collect the otoliths, or ear bones from many fish.

It does not look this neat and tidy when we are working!
These are the work stations in the wet lab. The cutters stand on the left processing the fish, and the recorders stand on the right.These bones can be used to determine the age of each fish because they are made of rings of calcium carbonate that accumulate over time.

Most of the samples will got back to the Northeast Fisheries Science Center where they will be processed by NOAA scientists.  Some of them will go to other scientists from universities and other labs who have requested special sampling from the Bigelow.  It’s like we are working on a dozen different research projects all at once!

 

 

 

Something to Think About:

Below are two pictures that I took from the flying bridge as we departed from the Coast Guard Station in Boston. They were taken just moments apart from each other. Why do you think that the area in the first picture has been built up with beautiful skyscrapers while the area in the second picture is filled with shipping containers and industry? Which area do you think is more important to the city? Post your thoughts in the comment section below.

Rows of shipping containers. What do you think is inside them?
Downtown Boston.  Just a mile from the shipping containers.  Why do you think this area is so different from the previous picture?
Downtown Boston. Just a mile from the shipping containers. Why do you think this area is so different from the previous picture?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Personal Log

Believe it or not, I actually feel very relaxed on board the Bigelow!  The food is excellent, my stateroom is comfortable and all I have to do is follow the instructions of the crew and the FSCS.  The internet is fast enough to occasionally check my email, but not fast enough to stream music or obsessively read articles I find on Twitter.  The gentle rocking of the boat is relaxing, and there is a constant supply of coffee and yogurt.  I have already read one whole book (Paper Towns by John Greene) and later tonight I will go to the onboard library and choose another.  That said, I do miss my family and my dog and I’m sure that in a few days I will start to miss my students too!

If the description above doesn’t make you want to consider volunteering on a NOAA cruise, maybe the radical outfits will.  On the left, you can see me trying on my Mustang Suit, which is designed to keep me safe in the unlikely event that the ship sinks.  On the right, you can see me in my stylish yellow foul weather pants.  They look even better when they are covered in sparkling fish scales!

Seriously, they keep me totally dry!
Banana Yellow Pants: SO 2015! Photo taken by fellow volunteer Megan Plourde.
Seriously, do I look awesome, or what?
This is a Mustang Suit. If you owned one of these, where would you most like to wear it? Photo taken by IT Specialist Heidi Marotta.

That’s it for now!  What topics would you like to hear more about?  If you post your questions in the comment section below, I will try to answer them in my next blog post.

Kacey Shaffer: Fish Scales. Fish Tales. August 8, 2014

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Kacey Shaffer

Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson

July 26 – August 13, 2014

 

Mission: Walleye Pollock Survey

Geographical Location: Bering Sea

Date: August 8, 2014
Weather information from the Bridge:

Air Temperature: 11° C

Wind Speed: 27 knots

Wind Direction: 30°

Weather Conditions: High winds and high seas

Latitude: 60° 35.97 N

Longitude: 178° 56.08 W
Science and Technology Log:

If you recall from my last post we left off with fish on the table ready to be sorted and processed. Before we go into the Wet Lab/Fish Lab we need to get geared up. Go ahead and put on your boots, bibs, gloves and a jacket if you’re cold. You should look like this when you’re ready for work…

 

This is the gear you'll need in the Wet Lab. It can get pretty slimy in there! (Photo Credit: Emily)
This is the gear you’ll need in the Wet Lab. It can get pretty slimy in there! (Photo Credit: Emily)

The first order of business is sorting the catch. We don’t have a magic net that only catches Pollock. Sometimes we pick up other treats along the way. Some of the cool things we’ve brought in are crabs, squid, many types of jellyfish and the occasional salmon. One person stands on each side of the conveyor belt and picks these other species out so they aren’t weighed in with our Pollock catch. It is very important that we only weigh Pollock as we sort so our data are valid. After all the Pollock have been weighed, we then weigh the other items from the haul. Here are some shots from the conveyor belt.

 

Kacey lifts the door on the table so the fish will slide down onto the conveyor belt. This is when other species are pulled out. (Photo Credit: Sandi)
Kacey lifts the door on the table so the fish will slide down onto the conveyor belt. This is when other species are pulled out. (Photo Credit: Sandi)
At the end of the conveyor belt, Pollock are put into baskets, weighed and put into the sorting bin. (Photo Credit: Sandi)
At the end of the conveyor belt, Pollock are put into baskets, weighed and put into the sorting bin. (Photo Credit: Sandi)

Not every single fish in our net is put into the sorting bin. Only random selection from the catch goes to the sorting bin. The remaining fish from the haul are returned back to the sea. Those fish who find themselves in the sorting bin are cut open to determine their sex. You can’t tell the sex of the fish just by looking at the outside. You have to cut them open, slide the liver to the side and look for the reproductive organs. Males have a rope-like strand as testes. Females have ovaries, which are sacs similar to the stomach but are a distinctly different color.

 

This is the sorting bin. Can you guess what Blokes and Sheilas means?
This is the sorting bin. Can you guess what Blokes and Sheilas means?
The white, rope-like structure is the male reproductive organ.
The white, rope-like structure is the male reproductive organ.
The pinkish colored sac is one of the female's ovaries. It contains thousands of eggs!
The pinkish colored sac is one of the female’s ovaries. It contains thousands of eggs!
Kacey uses a scalpel to cut the fish. She slides the liver out and looks for the reproductive organs. Is it a male or female? (Photo Credit: Darin)
Kacey uses a scalpel to cut the fish. She slides the liver out and looks for the reproductive organs. Is it a male or female? (Photo Credit: Darin)

Okay, no more slicing open fish. For now! The next step is to measure the length of all the fish we just separated by sex. One of the scientists goes to the blokes side and another goes to the sheilas side. We have a handy-dandy tool used to measure and record the lengths called an Ichthystick. I can’t imagine processing fish without it!

The Ichthystick is used to record the length of fish. A special tool held in the hand has a magnet inside that makes a connection with a magnet strip inside the board. It automatically registers a length and records it in a computer program called Clams
The Ichthystick is used to record the length of fish. A special tool held in the hand has a magnet inside that makes a connection with a magnet strip inside the board. It automatically registers a length and records it in a computer program called Clams
Kacey measures the length of a male with the Ichthystick. She holds the tool in her right hand and places it at the fork in the fish’s tail. A special sound alerts her when the data is recorded. (Photo Credit: Darin)
Kacey measures the length of a male with the Ichthystick. She holds the tool in her right hand and places it at the fork in the fish’s tail. A special sound alerts her when the data is recorded. (Photo Credit: Darin)

That is the end of the line for those Pollock but we still have a basket waiting for us. A random sample is pulled off the conveyor belt and set to the side for another type of data collection. The Pollock in this special basket will be individually weighed, lengths will be taken and a scientist will determine if it is a male or female. Then we remove the otoliths. What are otoliths? They are small bones inside a fish’s skull that can tell us the age of the fish. Think of a tree and how we can count the rings of a tree to know how old it is. This is the same concept. For this special sample we remove the otoliths, which are labeled and given to a lab on land where a scientist will carefully examine them under a microscope. The scientist will be able to connect the vial containing the otoliths to the other data collected on that fish (length, weight, sex) because each fish in this sample is given a unique specimen number. This is all part of our mission, which is analyzing the health and population of Pollock in the Bering Sea!

Kacey scans a barcode placed on an otolith vial. Robert is removing the otoliths from each fish and Kacey places them in the vial. It is important to make sure the otoliths are placed in the vial that corresponds to the fish Robert measured. (Photo Credit: Emily)
Kacey scans a barcode placed on an otolith vial. Robert is removing the otoliths from each fish and Kacey places them in the vial. It is important to make sure the otoliths are placed in the vial that corresponds to the fish Robert measured. (Photo Credit: Emily)

 

Kacey removes an otolith from a fish Robert cut open. The otoliths are placed in the vial Kacey is holding. (Photo Credit: Emily)
Kacey removes an otolith from a fish Robert cut open. The otoliths are placed in the vial Kacey is holding. (Photo Credit: Emily)

At this point we have just about collected all the data we need for this haul. Each time we haul in a catch this process is completed. As of today, our survey has completed 28 hauls. Thank goodness we have a day shift and a night shift to share the responsibility. That would be a lot of fish for one crew to process! For our next topic we’ll take a look at how the data is recorded and what happens after we’ve completed our mission. By the way, “blokes” are males and “sheilas” are females. Now please excuse us while we go wash fish scales off of every surface in the Wet Lab, including ourselves!

Personal Log:

Just so you know, we’re not starving out here. In fact, we’re stuffed to the gills – pun completely intended. Our Chief Steward Ava and her assistant Adam whip up some delicious meals. Since I am on night shift I do miss the traditional breakfast served each morning. Sometimes, like today, I am up for lunch. I’m really glad I was or I would have missed out on enchiladas. That would have been a terrible crisis! Most people who know me realize there is never enough Mexican food in my life! Tacos (hard and soft), rice and beans were served along with the enchiladas. Each meal is quite a spread! If I have missed lunch I’ll grab a bowl of cereal to hold me over until supper. I bet you’ll never guess we eat a lot of seafood on board. There is usually a fish dish at supper. We even had crab legs one night and fried shrimp another. Some other supper dishes include pork chops, BBQ ribs, baked steak, turkey, rice, mashed potatoes, and macaroni and cheese plus there are always a couple vegetable dishes to choose from. We can’t forget about dessert, either. Cookies, cakes, brownies or pies are served at nearly every meal. It didn’t take long for me to find the ice cream cooler, either. What else would one eat at midnight?!

Ava and Adam are always open to suggestions as well. Someone told Ava the night shift Science Crew was really missing breakfast foods so a few days ago we had breakfast for supper. Not only did they make a traditional supper meal, they made a complete breakfast meal, too! We had pancakes, waffles, bacon, eggs, and hashbrowns. It was so thoughtful of them to do that for us, especially on top of making a full meal for the rest of the crew. Thanks Ava and Adam!

There are situations where a crew member might not be able to make it to the Mess during our set serving schedule. Deck Crew could be putting a net in or taking it out or Science Crew could be processing a catch. We never have to worry, though. Another great thing about Ava and Adam is they will make you a plate, wrap it up and put it in the fridge so you have a meal for later.

Like I said, we’re not going hungry any time soon! Here are some shots from the Mess Deck (dining room).

Mess Deck on the Oscar Dyson.
Mess Deck on the Oscar Dyson.
Mess Deck on the Oscar Dyson. Can you guess why there are tennis balls on the legs of the chairs?
Mess Deck on the Oscar Dyson. Can you guess why there are tennis balls on the legs of the chairs?
There are always multiple options for every meal. If you’re hungry on this ship you must be the pickiest eater on Earth!
There are always multiple options for every meal. If you’re hungry on this ship you must be the pickiest eater on Earth!

Did you know?

Not only are otoliths useful to scientists during stock assessment, they help the fish with balance, movement and hearing.

Crystal Davis, When Science Goes Wrong, July 6 2014

Preserving Plankton
Preserving Plankton

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Crystal Davis

Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II

June 23 – July 7, 2014

Mission: SEAMAP Groundfish Survey

Geographical area of cruise: Gulf of Mexico

Date: Sunday July 6, 2014

Weather: Clear and Sunny

Waves: 1-2 feet

Science and Technology Log:

The title of this post should actually be, “when science doesn’t go exactly as planned,” but that doesn’t sound quite as dramatic.

If you have ever written a lab report, you know that there is a section for procedures (what you did). The procedures need to be explicit so that they can be replicated by another individual who will obtain the same results. If your experiment cannot be replicated, your experiment is not valid and is useless. While it is okay for your hypothesis to be different than your expected outcomes, you always have to follow your procedure.

But . . . what if you’re in the middle of the ocean potentially hundreds of miles away from shore and on a deadline? You can’t go back to shore. There are at least thirty people on your boat and a lot of money invested in this data collection. Yet you still have to come up with a way to complete your survey. The events that follow are incidents that occurred on the Oregon II from July 26-July 6 and how the scientists coped with these situations.

Sharks 

Juvenile Hammerhead Shark
Hammerhead Shark, Courtesy of Robin Gropp

In August, NOAA conducts a Longline Survey surveying sharks. Sharks are captured, identified and many are tagged with tracking devices to monitor the location and population density of sharks. Other sharks are sampled to determine age, analyze growth, sexual maturity and study stomach contents.

When sharks are captured in the trawl net on the Groundfish Survey, Robin (the intern) has been releasing them back into the Gulf after collecting data. However, not all of the sharks survive being pulled up in the net. The picture to the left is of a juvenile Hammerhead that did not survive. While this saddens me, he has been frozen and will be used to educate students in the outreach programs that NOAA participates in.

Nature vs Science

Waves crashing on the bow of the Oregon II
Waves crashing on the bow of the Oregon II. This picture was not taken on my survey, but this is what the weather felt like to me.

Sometimes mother nature interferes with the survey and things don’t go exactly as planned. For the first week of my trip we ran into some bad weather. There was a series of storms that came off the coast bringing rain, thunder, lightning and waves that were five to seven feet high. The weather conditions were so bad that the day shift couldn’t immediately collect data at a number of stations. They spent a lot of time waiting for the squalls to pass until it was safe to collect data. In fact, the weather in the Fall Groundfish Survey is so bad that there are a few extra days built in to run from hurricanes.

 

This morning we were trawling off the mouth of the Mississippi River and brought up a net full of sargassum (seaweed). The entire net, all 42 feet of it, was completely full of sargassum and very little marine life. No one on the boat had seen this much sargassum in the net before. This catch had to be thrown back overboard because the data is not usable. Basically, with that much sargassum in the net, the scientists are not sure if the trawl was fished properly. There is the possibility that because the net was so heavy, it was bogged down, uneven or not scraping the bottom of the ocean floor evenly.

 

Formalin

Plankton preserved in Formalin
Plankton preserved in Formalin

On the Oregon II, plankton samples are preserved in Formalin (40% Formaldehyde). Formalin is a clear substance that stops cells from breaking down. A few days ago we noticed that the Formalin was no longer clear, it was in fact opaque. You can see this in the picture on the left. My night shift crew was worried that it was no longer useful and that we could not bring planktons samples back to the lab in Pascagoula. However, our chief scientist assured us that we could still use the Formalin and that it would be effective. The color change indicated that the base in the mixture was breaking down but since we only have a couple more days of plankton sampling, that it will be fine.

Personal Log:

I arrived back home last night and let me tell you it is strange to be back on land. I was never seasick on the Oregon II, but I am 100% landsick now. I find myself swaying from side to side anytime I’m standing still (Dock Rock is the official term). And when I woke up last night to get a glass of water, I fell over because I was swaying so much. It’s actually pretty funny but I will be glad once this goes away.

I’m still taking in my experience from the last two weeks but I am so grateful for the people I met and was able to work with. Everyone on the Oregon II was helpful, accommodating, friendly and made me feel at home. They took time out of their day to answer my questions, give me tours, tell me stories about their history and adventures on board, go over their research and they were genuinely interested in what I do in my classroom. XO (Executive Officer) LCDR Eric Johnson spent a good chunk of his time telling me about the NOAA Corps and made me want to sign up. Although I’m not too old to apply, (I have too many attachments at home to do so) if I could do the last ten years over I would apply to their program. I will definitely make sure my students know that the NOAA Corps is an option for them and am hoping to make a trip down to San Diego to take them on one of the boats next year.

I’m particularly grateful to the Chief Scientist Andre DeBose and Watch Leader Taniya Wallace who made sure I knew I was not going to die at sea. As the boat was leaving Galveston I could not stop crying because I was 100% certain I was never coming back ( I may have watched The Perfect Storm too many times). Andre and Taniya were so reassuring and comforting and I can never thank them enough for that.

I’m looking forward to using the knowledge, pictures and data from this trip in my classroom next year. I’m also excited because I heard that I can apply to be a volunteer on a NOAA cruise and am looking forward to this in the future.

 

Crystal Davis, Female, Male? How do you tell? July 2, 2014

Common Octopus
This Common Octopus was found in a 7-Up can.

NOAA Teacher at Sea The fish board that measures the length of marine organisms

Crystal Davis

Aboard NOAA ship Oregon II

June 23-July 7, 2014

Mission: SEAMAP Groundfish Survey

Geographical area of cruise: Gulf of Mexico

Date: Wednesday July 2, 2014

Weather: Clear and sunny with isolated showers and thunderstorms

Winds:   5-10 knots

Waves:   2-3 feet

Science and Technology Log:

Shortly after boarding the Oregon II, the science crew had orientation with the Operations Officer LTJG Thomas reviewing  basic procedures for emergencies on board. But what stuck out for me the most, was when Operations Officer LTJG Thomas said we were on a S.A.D. boat. It turns out that S.A.D. means no sex, alcohol or drugs are allowed on the Oregon II. This ensures that the boat is safe and reduces the number of accidents on board. This is the opposite of SAD and makes me feel much safer on board. But luckily for KISS fans, rock and roll is still allowed and is on consistently. Sometimes there’s so much rocking and rolling that I fall on the floor, but that’s happening less frequently as I’ve found my sea legs.

In the Groundfish Survey, after the organisms are separated by species, they are sexed. Overall, this gives the scientists an idea of what future generations will look like. Although all the organisms vary in the way you differentiate their gender, the following are some of the most common organisms found in the groundfish survey.

Sexing Shrimp

Brown Shrimp Female (top) Male (bottom)
Paneaus Aztecas Shrimp Female (top) Male (bottom)

As shown in the pictures on the left, male shrimp have a set of claspers (they look like an extra set of legs) called the petasma that is the equivalent of a penis. Females do not have a petasma.

In young (juvenile) shrimp, it can be difficult to identify the males from females as the petasma is very small and not easily visible. At this age they can easily be confused for females. When this is suspected, they are input into the computer as unknown so as not to generate inaccurate data.

Sexing Crabs

When you pick up a crab you have to be very careful to stay away their claws (cheliped). I have found that they like to grab onto you as soon as you pick them up. My roommate had a large blue crab grab her finger that would not let go and she still has bruises from it.

Shame Faced Crab
Shame Faced Crab

Mature female crabs are called a “Sook” and have a dome or bell shaped abdomen.  This is shown in the top row and looks like the U.S. Capitol Building.

Male crabs are called a “Jimmy” and have a T-shaped abdomen that looks like the shape of the Washington Monument.

To mate, the male crab will carry the female until her shell softens and she is able to mate. During mating, the female stores the males sperm to fertilize her eggs later. Once her shell hardens, the male releases her and she will fertilize her eggs later.

Female Lesser Blue Crab with eggs
Female Lesser Blue Crab with eggs

After fertilization, the eggs are stored outside the female’s abdominal area and look like a sponge. They’re very squishy when you touch them. Although this shows orange eggs, they can also be a gray or black color. I have been told that the darker the egg color, the closer to hatching the offspring are. I am not sure that this is scientifically valid and am still trying to verify this.

 

 

 

Sexing Flatfish

Photos courtesy of Robin Gropp
Photos courtesy of Robin Gropp

Flatfish include fish such as flounder, halibut and turbot. These fish begin their life swimming vertically in the water. However, as they get older they sink to the bottom and their eyes move to one side of their body. They then spend the rest of their life on the bottom of the ocean floor. Luckily their top half matches the ocean floor and they are easily camouflaged from predators. The bottom half of the flounder on the ocean floor is clear or white.

The easiest way to sex a flatfish is to hold them up to a bright light. When doing this you will see that the female has a long curved gonad while the male does not.

A Confused Flounder
A Confused Flounder (right) Normal Flounder (bottom left)

This Flounder is very confused. He should be a clear or light white on the bottom but as you can see his bottom half matches his top half. This could be due to a mutation but no one on the boat is exactly sure why he looks this way. This is one of the most interesting things I have seen so far. In fact, no one on the boat had seen this before.

 

 

 

 

Sea Jellies

Sea Jellies
Sea Jellies

Sea Jellies differ from most of the other marine organisms discussed so far. Sea jellies reproduce both sexually and asexually depending on what stage of life they are in. In an early stage of life sea jellies are called a polyp and they attach to a rock. The polyps reproduce asexually by cloning themselves and breaking off (budding). Imagine 300 people that came from you and look exactly like you. It’s actually pretty creepy.  But back to the sea jellies. Eventually the sea jelly will develop into an adult (medusa) that reproduces sexually with sperm and egg.

 

Personal Log:

I have a three day backpacking trip to Mt. Silliman scheduled almost immediately after my NOAA trip is over. Under normal circumstances I wouldn’t worry, but after spending two weeks not hiking or training, I’m a little concerned. Luckily there are weights and a rowing and elliptical machine on board, so I have been able to do a bit of training. Being on a ship that’s moving has made working out even more intense. I have to stabilize every time the boat moves, so I don’t fall over. But even if I did, or have, how could I complain with this view.

Boat Personnel of the Day

Holland waiting for a trawl to come in
Holland on the stern

Holland McCandless-Lamier

Holland is my roommate on the Oregon II and is a member of the scientific party. She was contracted by Riverside in response to the Deep Water Horizon (BP) blowout in 2010. She attended the University of Mississippi and majored in marine biology. During college, Holland had an internship in Florida where she led students (from 4th grade to college) in marine science activities. This included snorkeling, visiting coral reefs and other hands on activities.

After college, Holland met an individual from the NOAA Corps at a job fair. They put her in touch with NOAA FIsheries MSLabs Groundfish Unit, where she began volunteering as a participant on surveys. This hands on experience led to her current job. Holland currently spends most of her time in the NOAA South East Fishery Science Center (SEFSC) Pascagoula lab where she works with plankton. Her current project is updating decapod (crustacean) taxonomy.

Did You Know?

A female sunfish can lay 300 million eggs each year. Each egg is smaller than the period at the end of this sentence.

Crystal Davis, Bottom Trawl for Shrimp, June 27, 2014

Bringing in a trawl
Bringing in a trawl

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Crystal Davis

Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II

June 23 – July 7, 2014

Mission: SEAMAP Groundfish Survey

Geographical area of cruise: Gulf of Mexico

Date: Friday June 27, 2014

Weather: Partly cloudy

Winds:  15-20 knots

Waves:  5-6 feet

 

 

Science and Technology Log: Bottom Trawling

The Oregon II is a participant and contributor to SEAMAP (The Southeast Area Monitoring and Assessment Program) which monitors the biodiversity of marine life in the Gulf of Mexico. The primary way the Oregon II assists SEAMAP is by conducting bottom trawls with a 42 foot semi-balloon shrimp trawl net.The net is slowly lowered into the ocean until it reaches the bottom and is then dragged along the ocean floor for thirty minutes. The net has a tickler chain between the doors which scrapes the bottom of the ocean floor and flicks objects into the net. The net is then brought to the surface and all of the organisms inside are put into baskets (see video above). The total weight of the catch is massed on scales on the deck. If the catch is large (over 20 kilos), it is dumped onto a conveyor belt and a random sub-sample (smaller) is kept, along with any unique species while the rest of the catch is dumped overboard.

Shrimp Net
Shrimp Net

Once the sample has been selected, the marine organisms are sorted by species and put into baskets. Each species is then massed and counted while the data is recorded into a system called FSCS (Fisheries Scientific Computer System). To obtain a random sampling, every fifth individual of the species (up to twenty) is measured, massed and sexed (more on this later). Once the data has been verified by the watch manager, the marine organisms are put back into the ocean. The following are pictures of a sample on the conveyor belt and the organisms divided into a few species.

The sorting process for shrimp (white, brown and pink) differs slightly from that of the other marine organisms. Every shrimp (up to 200 of each species), is massed, measured and sexed.This data is then used by various government agencies such as the Fish and Wildlife Service, Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic Fishery Management Councils, etc… to determine the length of the shrimping season and to set quotas on the amount that can be caught by each issued license. States will not open the shrimping season until SEAMAP reports back with their findings from NOAA’s shrimp survey.

Types of shrimp in the Gulf of Mexico
Types of shrimp in the Gulf of Mexico

The shrimp trawl net used on the Oregon II differs from a shrimp net used on a commercial boat in two main ways. Commercial shrimping boats have BRD’s (Bycatch Reduction Devices) and TED’s (Turtle Excluder Devices). BRD’s and TED’s are federally required in the U.S. to reduce the amount of bycatch (unintentionally caught organisms) and sea turtles. Shrimping boats typically trawl for hours and turtles cannot survive that long without air. TED’s provide turtles and other large marine organisms an escape hatch so that they do not drown (see the video below). Unfortunately, larger turtles such as Loggerheads are too big to fit through the bars in a TED. Additionally, TED’s may become ineffective if they are clogged with sea debris, kelp or are purposefully altered.

     

Boat Personnel of the Week:

Warren Brown:

Warren Brown
Warren Brown

Warren is a gear specialist who is working as a member of the scientific party. He is contracted by Riverside for NOAA.  While aboard the Oregon II, Warren designs, builds and repairs gear that is needed on the boat. Unfortunately, on this leg of the trip either sharks or dolphins have been chewing holes in the nets to eat the fish inside. This means Warren has spent a large chunk of his time repairing nets.

Warren is not a crew member of the Oregon II  and actually works at the Netshed in Pascagoula where he spends his time working with TED’s. He has law enforcement training and will go out with government agencies (such as the Coast Guard or Fish and Wildlife Service) to monitor TED’s on shrimping boats. He also participates in outreach programs educating fishermen in measuring their nets for TED’s, installing them. Warren will bring TED’s and nets to make sure that every everyone at the training has a hands on experience installing them. While he regularly does outreach in Alabama, Mississippi, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and Texas, his work has also taken him as far as Brazil.

Robin Gropp:

Robin playing his mandolin
Robin playing his mandolin

Robin will be a junior at Lewis & Clark College in the Fall. He is currently an intern aboard the Oregon II. Robin received a diversity internship through the Northern Gulf Institute and is one of eight interns for NOAA. For the first two weeks Robin worked at the NOAA lab participating in outreach at elementary school science fairs. He brought sea turtle shells and a shrimp net with a TED installed. The students were very excited to pretend to be sea turtle and run through the TED. They proclaimed, “we love sea turtles.”  After leaving the Oregon II, Robin will return to the NOAA lab to study the DNA of sharks.

 

Personal Log:

Overall I have had a hard time processing and accepting the groundfish survey portion of the trip. I am a vegetarian that does not eat meat, including fish, for ethical and environmental reasons. Yet here I find myself on a boat in the Gulf of Mexico surveying groundfish so that others can eat shrimp. A large part of me feels that I should be protesting the survey rather than assisting. Because of this I spent a lot of time talking to the other scientists on my watch and Chief Scientist Andre Debose. After many discussions (some still ongoing) I do realize how important the groundfish survey is. Without it, there would be no limits placed on the fishing industry and it is likely that many populations of marine organisms would be hunted to extinction more rapidly than they are now. This survey actually gives the shrimp species a chance at survival.

Did You Know?

Countries that do not use TED’s are banned from selling their shrimp to the U.S.

Megan Woodward, July 16, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Megan Woodward 
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
July 1 – 18, 2009

Mission: Bering Sea Acoustic Trawl Survey
Geographical Area: Bering Sea/Dutch Harbor
Date: Tuesday, July 16, 2009

All bony fish have otoliths (ear bones) that can be used for calculating the age of the fish.
All bony fish have otoliths (ear bones) that can be used for calculating the age of the fish.

Weather and Location 
Position: N 58 13.617; W 171 25.832
Air Temp: 7.2 (deg C)
Water Temp: 6.54 (deg C)
Wind Speed: 15 knots
Weather: Overcast

Science and Technology Log 

One of the most interesting things I’ve learned while participating in the pollock survey is the importance of otoliths. Otoliths are small bony structures situated in the head of all bony fish, and are often referred to as “ear stones.”  For each haul we brought on board, 50 otoliths were taken from large fish (3+ years) and/or 5 from small fish (younger than 3 years old).  The otolith holds the key to accurately calculating the age of a fish (scales and vertebrates can also be used, but are not as reliable).  The average age of fish from the samples collected in the survey helps scientists estimate the strength of a year-class and size of the stock in the future.

Back in the lab, otolith samples are carefully catalogued.
Back in the lab, otolith samples are carefully catalogued.

The first step in taking an otolith is pictured above. An incision is made on the back of the pollock’s head, and an otolith is removed using tweezers.  Once the otolith is removed, it is rinsed with water and placed in a glass vial containing a small amount of 50% ethanol solution for preservation purposes.

The otoliths are taken back to NOAA’s aging lab where ages are determined by reading rings similar to those on a tree trunk. A crosscut is made through each otolith revealing a pattern of rings. Scientists then count the rings to determine the age of the fish.  Lightly burning or staining the otoliths makes the rings more visible.

Cod and sole otoliths
Cod and sole otoliths

New material is deposited on the surface of the otolith creating the rings as the fish grows. The translucent/light zones indicate the main growth that takes place in the summer months.  The opaque/darker rings appear during the winter months when growth is slower. Because of the slower growth rate, new material is deposited on top of the old layers resulting in the dark ring. Each pair of light and dark zones marks one year. In fish younger than one year of age, rings can be identified for each day of life!

woodward_log6bPersonal Log 

I was surprised to discover otoliths have been used for aging fish since the early 1900’s.  While working in the fish lab I observed the scientist removing otoliths, however I did not remove any myself. The cracking sound heard when cutting the head open was like fingernails on a chalkboard to me.  I spent most of my time in sorting and measuring fish, as well as assisting with the stomach collection project.

For the next two days we will be heading back to Dutch Harbor, and the likelihood of trawling for more fish is minimal.  Our remaining work assignment is to give the fish lab a thorough cleaning. Everything in the lab is waterproof, so we’ll put on our Grunden’s (orange rubber coveralls) and boots and spray down the entire space. Working and living at sea for nearly 3 weeks has been an eye opening experience. My time aboard the Oscar Dyson has flown by. I have learned so much about fisheries research and life at sea. Dry land, however, will be warmly welcomed when we get back to Dutch Harbor.  Would I do it again? Absolutely.

Animal Sightings 

The whales have an incredible way of showing up when I don’t have my camera.  Yesterday I spotted two orcas, but did not get a photograph. The seabirds continue to circle. I like the murres most.  They look like small, flying penguins.

New Vocabulary 

Otoliths- Small bony structures situated in the head of all bony fish. Often referred to as “ear stones.”

Stock- Refers to the number of fish available, supply.

*** Much of the information used for this log entry was found on the Centre for Environment, Fisheries & Aquaculture Science (Cefas) web site.

Megan Woodward, July 12, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Megan Woodward 
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
July 1 – 18, 2009

Mission: Bering Sea Acoustic Trawl Survey
Geographical Area: Bering Sea/Dutch Harbor
Date: Tuesday, July 12, 2009

Any bycatch in a haul has to be measured and weighed if there are more than 25 of the same species caught.
Any bycatch in a haul has to be measured and weighed if there are more than 25 of the same species.

Weather/Location 
Position: N 60.35.172; W 174.08.187
Air Temp: 6.1 (deg C)
Water Temp: 5.24 (deg C)
Wind Speed: 25 knots
Weather: Overcast, rain

Science and Technology Log 

How is all the data collected from a trawl and acoustic lab used?  By collecting data about weight and length from a sample, scientists are able to connect the size of fish caught to the amount of return seen in the acoustic lab. The return is assigned a name (PK1, PK2, etc.) and all schools showing a similar acoustic pattern are given the same name.  In the end, scientists can estimate the number of fish and their size for a given area based on the acoustic and fish lab data collected.  This is repeated throughout the survey resulting in an estimate for the total number of fish in the survey area.  

Both during and after the survey estimates of abundance in the same location over the past several years are compared.  Scientists evaluate the data and determine if the pollock population in the survey area is increasing, declining or stable.  Their conclusions are used to make a recommendation about pollock fishing limits for the upcoming year. In the past few years the pollock population has been lower than in previous years.  Due to the decline, the fishing quota has been reduced.  However, the 2006 year-class is proving to be strong. At 4 years of age pollock are considered mature and fishable.  Therefore, the fishing quota is predicted to rise in the next year or two.

Screen shot 2013-03-24 at 11.32.34 PM

Personal Log 

While discussing the acoustic survey project with the scientists on board, I was quite surprised to hear the pollock survey had been going since 1979.  Acoustic technology has changed and improved, but in essence the project has remained the same. Modern computer technology has allowed collection and analysis of enormous data sets and greatly reduced the amount of paper work needed for the project’s success.

The concept of strong vs. weak year-class is also quite interesting.  There doesn’t seem to be a direct connection between a year-class’ success and environmental factors.  Environmental factors that are potentially influential are water temperature, available zooplankton, ice cover, storms and predators.  The fish currently being caught by commercial fisherman are 5-7 years old. Can you figure out which year classes those fish are from?

We continue to spot plenty of seabirds and a few more minke whale pods.  I was able to watch a group of Dall’s porpoises play in the wake of the bow for half an hour yesterday.  There haven’t been any new animal sightings during the past few days.
We continue to spot plenty of seabirds and a few more minke whale pods. I was able to watch a group of Dall’s porpoises play in the wake of the bow for half an hour yesterday. There haven’t been any new animal sightings during the past few days.

Although we are out here working in the best interest of pollock, I have found it difficult to watch thousands of pollock come through the fish lab.  I have to remind myself that sampling the fish is truly for the good of the order. In addition, after being measured the fish are sent back into the ocean where they become food for other organisms such as crab or birds. One of their natural predators is having a good meal, something that was likely to happen anyway.

Animal Sightings 

  • Seabirds
  • Dall’s porpoises

New Vocabulary 

Bycatch  – Anytime something is caught during a trawl other than pollock it is labeled bycatch.  Jellyfish has been the most common form of bycatch.

Year-class – All the fish born in a given year are members of that year-class.  We have caught a lot fish from the 2008 year-class (1 year old fish).

Ruth Meadows, July 3, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Ruth S. Meadows
Onboard NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow 
June 12 – July 18, 2009 

Mission: Census of Marine Life (MAR-Eco)
Geographical Area: Mid- Atlantic Ridge; Charlie- Gibbs Fracture Zone
Date: July 3, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Temperature: 6.2oC
Humidity: 81%
Wind: 16.47 kts

This is one of the glass floats encased in plastic that can withstand the pressure of the deep waters.
This is one of the glass floats encased in plastic that can withstand the pressure of the deep waters.

Science and Technology Log 

High winds and high waves put a temporary stop to our fishing with the nets.  When the waves are too high, the safety of the crew comes first and we wait for the weather to clear before we can start using the trawl again. The waves finally calmed down enough for the net to be used today.  We are using a different type of net to fish the deep bottom (benthic trawling) than was used to fish the mid-water (pelagic trawling). This net is much simpler in design. It is a very large net lowered to the bottom of the ocean and then pulled behind the ship. The top part of the net is held open by floats. These floats were bought specifically for this cruise.  The pressure on the bottom of the ocean is so great that normal floats would collapse.  The new floats are made of glass spheres with a hard plastic covering. Only glass can withstand the amount of pressure that is found at these depths.

This is the net used for deep bottom trawling that has the yellow floats attached to it.
This is the net used for deep bottom trawling that has the yellow floats attached to it.

There are rubber tire-like rollers that move along the bottom to help prevent snags and also to stir up the sea floor and cause the fish and other organisms to move into the net where they are then funneled back into the narrow end of the net (cod-end). There are weights on the bottom section of the net to keep it on the ground.  Of course, there are always obstacles on the bottom of the ocean floor and occasionally the net will get caught on one of these. This is a particular problem here because of the mountainous terrain.  When the net gets hung up the crew works very carefully to release it from the obstacle.  Sometimes the ship moves backwards as the winches try to pull on the net to release it.  Sometimes the ship moves in a circle to try and pull the net clear.    

The full net after it’s been retrieved on deck.
The full net after it’s been retrieved on deck.

So far the benthic net has gotten caught twice but the crew successfully retrieved the net without damage. Once the net is on deck, the cod-end is opened and everybody comes out of the lab with foul weather gear (waterproof boots, overalls, jackets, life preserver and hardhats) on to collect the catch. We use lots of baskets to do a quick rough sort of the organisms caught.  If the net is full, it takes a while to complete the first sort.  Some of the fishes are large and some of the organisms have been torn. The organisms found on the floor of the deep floor are very different from the ones found in the mid-waters. They are much larger in size and very different in coloration.

Personal Log 

A bucket with squid and other fishes.
A bucket with squid and other fishes.

The scientific crew is divided into three groups.  We have a “day” shift, called a watch, that works from 12 noon to 12 midnight, and a “night” watch that works from 12 midnight to 12 noon, and then one group that works whenever a net comes up.  I am on the day watch and we have all gotten into a pattern of who does what in the lab.  My watch chief scientist is Dr. Shannon Devaney from Los Angeles.  She works at the Natural History Museum there.  Dr. Amy Heger from Luxembourg, Tom Letessier from Norway, CJ Sweetman from Connecticut and Randy Singer from Georgia rounds out our crew.  CJ takes DNA samples, Tom takes care of the crustaceans, Randy removes the ototliths (this helps the scientist figure out the age) from the fishes, and Amy and I use the computer to enter the data.  With some species we remove the stomach, liver and gonads from the fishes.   These body parts are then measured and either frozen or preserved for scientists that are not on the trip.  It has been fun relearning how to do some of the procedures.

The first sort of the catch.
The first sort of the catch.

Mark McKay, June 27, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mark McKay
Onboard Research Vessel Knorr
June 10 – July 1, 2005

Mission: Ecosystem Survey
Geographical Area: Bering Sea, Alaska
Date: June 24, 2009

Clear and cold Bering Sea weather
Clear and cold Bering Sea weather

Science Log

It has been a very strange couple of days. One of the routines that you have to get used to on a research vessel is that there are no routines. When I first got on the ship I went to bed at regular times, eat my meals at the same time, for a couple of days at least. Now that I have a project that I am working on I have to be available to collect samples whenever and wherever they are required. A lot of what I have to do is to balance collecting samples in route between stations verses collecting data while on station. This means getting two hours of sleep, getting up and collecting water from the CTD and run them before we leave station. I am working with what’s called a Advanced Laser Fluorometer (ALF). It is a tool that helps determine what species of phytoplankton are present, and it does it very quickly.  I can look at individual water samples that contain phytoplankton while we are not cruising to another station.

Bright ocean color
Bright ocean color

When we are in route, the ALF goes into automatic mode and looks at what plankton is present in the water as we transit from one station to another. So my day (and night) gets to be a balancing act between sleeping and being available to collect data. But that really is no different then all of the people on the ship. We have a little more then four weeks to collect as much data as possible. The research plan is carefully set up to hit as many “hotspots” as possible so that all groups get the data that they need. What else has been strange is the rapid change in the weather. It has been cloudy and foggy the last couple of days or so. Yesterday things really changed. As we crossed the shelf break again the weather turned clear and cold. The color of the ocean was a beeper blue also. It was really bright out there as you can see from the pictures. Previously the water ws a steel greyish color. Now it has a much more rich blue hue to it.

Bering Sea Sunset
Bering Sea Sunset

One of the things I was able to see and photograph was an actual Bering Sea sunset, which was actually at about 12:30 this morning. It was good to see the moon again also. Fairly bright also. But the weather has changed even again. We are supposed to drop a couple of people off at St. Paul Island on Sunday so they can catch a plane back to their homes and at the same time we were to pick up their replacements. The problem is the fact that we have fog again and the pilots wont take off from Anchorage. This could really mess things up for the ships plan if they have to wait for too long a time for those coming aboard. This is especially true if their plane hasn’t gotten out of Anchorage because of the weather.  Everybody is just waiting and keeping their fingers crossed.

Moon over the Knorr
Moon over the Knorr

Mark McKay, June 24, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mark McKay
Onboard Research Vessel Knorr
June 10 – July 1, 2005

Mission: Ecosystem Survey
Geographical Area: Bering Sea, Alaska
Date: June 24, 2009

St. Paul Island only a few miles away
St. Paul Island only a few miles away

Science Log

It has been a very busy couple of days here on the Knorr. I haven’t received very much sleep. But then again, none of the science team has either. We have been a little ahead of schedule so it was decided that we could stay on station at a pretty interesting site for a longer period of time and due some diurnal studies, meaning, how are the organisms and ecosystems we are studying changing as we cycle through daytime to night. I am working on a project on phytoplankton so this was especially interesting for my work. So I was up several time thorough out the night collecting water samples and analyzing them. We headed to a particularly productive area right between the Pribilof Islands. As you can see from the photographs you can just barely make out St. Paul Island. As usual everyone scrambles to get his or her experiments in the water.  A familiar face on the deck is Ebett Siddon who is a graduate student working on zooplankton and juvenile fish on this trip.

Ebett: Master of the MOCNESS
Ebett: Master of the MOCNESS

She frequently uses the MOCNESS Sampler, which allows the researchers in her team to open and close bottle at specific depths. It’s a pretty good-sized device so it takes a fair amount of skill to operate it. The sediment core people have been just as busy. They pulled up a core with a very cool deep water shrimp. Notice the large reflective eyes on this creature. There is a lot of life around here. When I got up this very early this morning to collect samples there were some porpoises hanging around one of or floating sediment traps. There wasn’t enough light to get any pictures. My bird survey friend have promised me some great pictures of Albatross so stay tuned.

 

Deep water shrimp with large reflective eyes
Deep water shrimp with large reflective eyes

Mark McKay, June 22, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mark McKay
Onboard Research Vessel Knorr
June 10 – July 1, 2005

Mission: Ecosystem Survey
Geographical Area: Bering Sea, Alaska
Date: June 22, 2009

Plankton soup
Plankton soup

Science Log

We spent the day cruising in one of the shallowest regions of the entire expedition. The depth below us is only about 40 meters. We are also getting close to what ice is still present this time of the year.  I checked with the National Snow and Ice Data Center to see what the status of the sea ice in the arctic currently is. So far I haven’t seen any ice but I am keeping a look out for it. Of course we cant see anything, we are cruising through a thick fog right now. I am also doing some of my own research on phytoplankton while up here and the edge of the sea ice plays an important part in how productive the phytoplankton actually is.  They reported that after a slow start to the melt season, the ice extent declined quickly in May. Scientists are monitoring the ice pack for signs of what will come this summer. The thinness of the ice pack makes it likely that the minimum ice extent will again fall below normal, but how far below normal will depend on atmospheric conditions through the summer.

Worms and Sea Stars from sediment cores
Worms and Sea Stars from sediment cores

According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center, the sea ice extent over the month of May 2009 averaged 13.39 million square kilometers (5.17 million square miles). This was 81,000 square kilometers (31,000 square miles) above the record low for that month, which occurred in May 2004, and 21,000 square kilometers (8,100 square miles) below the 1979 to 2000 average. So its clear that something unusual is happening up here. At pretty much every station the zooplankton guys set out their nets to see what’s living in the area. Watching them work I can see changes in the zooplankton populations from one location to another. They are finding larval fish, copepods, euphusisds (krill), isopods, amphipods, jellyfish, and the occasional juvenile squid.  Some critters are coming out of the sediment cores currently. Maggie Esch, a graduate student from Western Washington University is studying bioturbidation in the sediment. She is looking at how nutrients move through marine sediments as a response to what is burrowing through the ocean bottom. Her last core had some cool worms and young Sea Stars.

I’m hoping to see more marine animals, especially mammals and birds as we approach the Pribilofs, which are the only island on the eastern Bering Sea that are in the proximity of the shelf break. The current sampling line we are on will bring use right between St. Paul and St. George islands. Owing to their position near the shelf break, these islands are home to large populations of marine mammals, seabirds, and fish. The Pribilofs are a famous destination for birdwatchers. There are a reported 240 different species of birds present in the Pribilofs, and “Birders” come from all over the world to see them in the wild. The islands were also once know as the Fur Seal Islands because of the Fur Seal (Callorhinus ursinus) rookeries located there. Today, the fur seals are only subsistence hunted by the Aleuts, and Inuit who live on the islands.

Fog on the Bering Sea
Fog on the Bering Sea

Jeff Lawrence, June 19, 2009

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

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

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

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

Science and Technology Log 

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

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

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

Personal Log 

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

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

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

Mark McKay, June 19, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mark McKay
Onboard Research Vessel Knorr
June 10 – July 1, 2005

Mission: Ecosystem Survey
Geographical Area: Bering Sea, Alaska
Date: June 19, 2009

Sediment Trap Buoy along side the Knorr
Sediment Trap Buoy along side the Knorr

Science Log

Some very interesting activities have been going happening on board the Knorr the last couple of days. While everyday there is a routine of cruising to a station, stopping and dropping plankton nets and/or other probes, other, more exotic experiments get deployed. For example, yesterday researcher Pat Kelley from the University of Rhode Island and his team retrieved sediment traps that they had set out 24 hours before. Their interest is seeing what is settling to the bottom of the ocean and at what rate this material is settling. To do this, they use a rather ingenious device. They take tubes and fill them with salt water that is many times more concentrated then regular seawater. Because it is so dense, the concentrated saltwater stays in the open toped tube as it is lowered into the ocean.  Anything that falls into this liquid stays in the trap and can be recovered for analysis. That’s where it gets interesting. Deploying and then recapturing a drifting probe can be a little tricky. After letting the sediment trap loose for 24 hours, you first have to go back and find it.

Lefting Buoy onto Knorr deck
Lefting Buoy onto Knorr deck

Fortunately the trap uses a satellite beacon that broadcasts its position to the ARGOS satellite system. The Argos program is administered under a joint agreement between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the French space agency, Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES). The system consists of in-situ data collection platforms equipped with sensors and transmitters and the Argos instrument aboard the NOAA Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellites (POES). The Argos system will lead you right to your instrument, then you have t get it on board. After they locate the instrument, they bring the ship along side and “lasso” so the deck crew can attach a cable and lift it out of the water using the A-frame crane located on the aft portion of the ship. The sediment traps are attached to a long line comprised of a heavy weight at one end with floats and a buoy at the other. The device is separated and brought up in sections so that they can be brought aboard using one of the ships cranes.

Removing float section of Sediment Trap
Removing float section of Sediment Trap

This takes a lot of skill to do, especially when on a deck that is slippery and rocking with the waves. Remember that this is done in between the other experiments and device tows. The deck crew is probably the busiest and hardest working group on this cruise. Another group on the cruise is the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service “bird people” as they seem to be know as on the ship. They are made up of Elizabeth Labunski and Sophie Webb, both of which position themselves on the ships bridge so that they can survey what birds and marine mammals are present in-between stations. The Eastern Bering Sea is a very productive area and is rich in bird life.  I went up to visit them on the bridge.While there they identified a rather unhappy Red-legged Kittiwake (Rissa brevirostris) sitting rather pitifully near the bow of the ship.

Collecting Sediment Trap Tubes
Collecting Sediment Trap Tubes

These birds are interesting because as opposed to their Black-legged cousins, they have a very narrow distribution. According to the Audubon Society, Red-legged Kittiwake’s breeding distribution is limited to just four localities in the Bering Sea: Alaska’s Pribilof Islands, Bogoslof Islands, and Buldir Island, and Russia’s Commander Islands. More than 75% of the species’ known population breeds on St. George Island in the Pribilofs, which were about 40 miles from where we were cruising. The weakened bird was captured so that it could be warmed up and released when it regained its strength.

 

Elizabeth Labunsk and Third Mate Alison Paz surveying Bering Sea birdlife
Elizabeth Labunsk and Third Mate Alison Paz surveying Bering Sea birdlife
Red-legged Kitiwake
Red-legged Kitiwake
Sophia Webb holding Red-legged Kittiwake
Sophia Webb holding Red-legged Kittiwake

Mark McKay, June 18, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mark McKay
Onboard Research Vessel Knorr
June 10 – July 1, 2005

Mission: Ecosystem Survey
Geographical Area: Bering Sea, Alaska
Date: June 18, 2009

The Oscar Dyson  passing close by
The Oscar Dyson passing close by

Science Log

In the middle of this great big Bering Sea, who would have thought that we would meet up with another research vessel going to the same station at the same time as us? The NOAA ship R/V Oscar Dyson was in our area. This ship’s primary objective is to study and monitor Alaskan pollock and other fisheries in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska. The ship also observes weather, sea state, and other environmental conditions, conducts habitat assessments, and surveys marine mammal and marine bird populations. It’s named after Oscar Dyson, an Alaskan fisheries leader and is homeported in Mr. Dyson’s hometown of Kodiak, Alaska.

Today we found out how a common marine organism can insert its presence and mess carefully planned experiments. The ship has a flow through seawater system, which allows the scientists to monitor the chemistry, and phytoplankton of the water the ship is sail through. We apparently met up with a large number of jellyfish that gummed up several of out instruments. The zooplankton scientists were having trouble with them getting into their plankton nets when they pulled them out of the water. So now it was my turn to experience their effect. Dr. Sambrotto, the missions Chief Scientist has several in instruments that rely on the flow through system and one of them, the one with the smallest tubing got chunks of sticky, gooey jellyfish parts in them. This required tearing down the instrument and cleaning out its tubing. Fortunately the seas were relatively calm and it time more then effort to rectify the situation. The Instrument is back up and collecting data on phytoplankton. Actually, it runs better then before. Its too bad I couldn’t get a picture of them. They apparently are down below the surface right where the ships seawater intake is. I will keep looking. By the time I am writing this however, I believe we have moved away from the “swarm”.

We have been cruising over the large shelf that takes up so much of the Bering Sea. We are getting close to the shelf break, which is where the shelf stops and deep water begins. This is known to be a very biologically active area. This is due to the upwelling of nutrients from the deep. The more nutrients the more phytoplankton, and hence more things that feed on phytoplankton, like zooplankton. And of course there are animals that live on the zooplankton, etc. I have already noticed an increase in the birds present, and I’m really looking forward to getting to this area of the Bering Sea. We should be there Friday morning.

Mark McKay, June 17, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mark McKay
Onboard Research Vessel Knorr
June 10 – July 1, 2005

Mission: Ecosystem Survey
Geographical Area: Bering Sea, Alaska
Date: June 17, 2009

Great Weather on the Bering Sea
Great Weather on the Bering Sea

Science Log

During the night the Knorr turned south westward to start it’s collecting along the CN (Cape Newenhan) line. We had skirted the edge of Bristol Bay before heading back out to into the Bering Sea. The expedition is following a plan that lets it stop at locations they have stopped at in previous years. This allows the scientists to compare data from multiple years so they can get a more accurate picture of what’s happening in the Bering Sea.

When I got up this morning I had to double check to make sure we were still on the Bering Sea and not something more temperate. The sky has been clear and the air temperature has been a “balmy” 45º F. May be I’m getting used to the weather but I had to take my jacket off to stay comfortable. The weather change quickly up here and may be totally different, and more severe later today. Best to be prepared for anything! So far the trip has been surprisingly pleasant. The one thing I’m not used to is the fact that the sun is always up. At 10 o’clock at night I step outside and it’s just like noon back at home.

Looking for critters in the core sample
Looking for critters in the core sample

Today is going pretty much like previous days. Everybody knows their job and goes about it in a efficient manner, meaning don’t get in the way, you are likely to get bowled over. They sent down the Multicore Apparatus again this morning. Hit a pretty sandy bottom but this time they had an unexpected hitchhiker. One of the cores came up with a Echiuran worm. Interesting creature. It has the consistency of a full water balloon, and is similar to the “innkeeper worms” which are common back home in California. Makes is living eating detritus in sediments that it pushes to its mouth with its proboscis (snout). Some types of Echiurans feed by making a “net” of mucus that captures detritus in the water. They then pull in the mucus and eat the captured detritus.

The zooplankton people are having fun with their collecting with one exception. Apparently the waters we have been sailing are fairly heavily populated with Jellyfish. The “Jelly’s” apparently gum up the collection bottles making collection little more difficult. I was watching as they tried to clean them out of their nets and it is a sticky mess. More on that later. For now, dinner! The food on the Knorr is great by the way.

Echiuran Worm
Echiuran Worm

Duane Sanders, June 16, 2009

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

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

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

Science and Technology Log 

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

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

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

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

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

Personal Log 

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

Mark McKay, June 16, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mark McKay
Onboard Research Vessel Knorr
June 10 – July 1, 2005

Mission: Ecosystem Survey
Geographical Area: Bering Sea, Alaska
Date: June 16, 2009

Main science lab on the Knorr
Main science lab on the Knorr

Science Log

Well things are starting to settle into a routine here on the Knorr. What appears to be chaos is actually a very well staged operation. Everything has a place and is secured so as it doesn’t become a hazard in rough seas. The researchers and crew all know their jobs and the ship runs like a well-oiled machine. There are several science labs here onboard. The largest is the main lab pictured below, but there are other labs, which serve specific purposes, spread through out the ship. His ship is totally dedicated to Science. One thing I forgot to mention is that the Knorr is the ship that Dr. Robert Ballard used to find the Titanic on September 1, 1985. A lot of history associated with this ship.

Close Up of Collected Zooplankton
Close Up of Collected Zooplankton

Most of the day we have been heading in a northeasterly direction paralleling some really interesting Geology in the North Slope of the Aleutian Islands. We stopped periodically “on station” at specific points of scientific interest. It’s really interesting watching the coordination between the different experiments that are run from the ship. What I thought was really interesting is the work they are doing with zooplankton on this cruise. Zooplankton consists of a range of organism sizes that includes anything from small protozoa’s to large metazoan animals. Examples would include copepods, larval fish and the very important Krill or euphausiids. These crustaceans (Krill) are a very important part of the Bering Sea food chain. Scientists onboard use what is known as a MOCNESS, which is the acronym for Multiple Opening/Closing Net and Environmental Sampling System.

Sorting Zooplankton
Sorting Zooplankton

This system is towed through the water at a speed of 1.5 knots from one of the winches on the ship. This system consists of five or more nets that can be opened or closed under computer control at desired depths. After the system is retrieved from the water, that’s when the fun begins. These scientists have a lot of samples to pick through, so they always like to have help. I got to spend a big chunk of my evening looking through trays of plankton, trying to pick out specific species of copepods, krill, and juvenile fish with tweezers. That was tedious work but we made a game of it, and I had a chance to see lots of examples of local critters. We have been staying close to coastal waters for the last day. Tomorrow we will be heading back out to the west and a bit farther away from coastal waters. I’m looking forward to seeing how both the water chemistry and the organisms we fine there differ from what we have experienced in the last couple of days. Stay tuned!

Duane Sanders, June 15, 2009

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

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

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

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

Science and Technology Log 

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

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

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

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

Personal Log 

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

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

Jeff Lawrence, June 14, 2009

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

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

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

Science and Technology Log 

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

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

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

Personal Log 

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

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

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

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

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

Jeff Lawrence, June 13, 2009

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

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

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

Magnetic measuring board
Magnetic measuring board

Science and Technology Log 

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

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

Personal Log 

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

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

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

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

Duane Sanders, June 12, 2009

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

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

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

Science and Technology Log 

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

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

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

Personal Log 

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

Jeff Lawrence, June 11, 2009

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

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

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

Science and Technology Log 

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

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

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

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

Personal Log 

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

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

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

Name two predators of scallops. 

Duane Sanders, June 10, 2009

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

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

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

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

Science and Technology Log 

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

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

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

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

Personal Log 

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

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

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

Jeff Lawrence, June 9, 2009

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

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

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

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

Science and Technology Log 

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

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

Personal Log 

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

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

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

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

Elise Olivieri, May 19, 2009

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

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

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

Still sorting!
Still sorting!

Science and Technology Log 

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

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

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

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

Elise Olivieri, May 18, 2009

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

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

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

Scallops and sea stars
Scallops and sea stars

Science and Technology Log 

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

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

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

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

Animals Seen Today 

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

Elise Olivieri, May 17, 2009

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

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

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

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

Science and Technology Log 

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

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

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

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

Animals Seen Today 

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

Elise Olivieri, May 16, 2009

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

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

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

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

Science and Technology Log 

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

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

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

Personal Log 

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

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

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

Elise Olivieri, May 15, 2009

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

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

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

Science and Technology Log 

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

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

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

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

Personal Log 

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

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

 

Lollie Garay, May 15, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Lollie Garay
Onboard Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp
May 9-20, 2009 

Mission: Sea scallop survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: May 15, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Temperature: 13.5˚C
True wind: 4.1 KT
Seas: 3-4 ft

Science and Technology Log 

See the green secretions around the Sand dollars and the Jonah Crab?
See the green secretions around the Sand dollars and the Jonah Crab?

We’ve been at sea for seven days now and the daily sampling continues. Winds are not as strong as yesterday and we’re all glad. Skies are overcast and a thick fog surrounds us. Nothing out of the ordinary occurred today. By the time our shift ended we had completed 9 sampling stations. The majority of the dredges brought up were full of sand dollars. Lots of sand dollars mean slimy green secretions all over everything! Live sand dollars have a felt-like coating of fine spines. They shuffle through loose sand and feed on diatoms and microorganisms. Flounders and other bottom fishes feed on them. Their color is highly soluble and stains.

Lollie and Larry Brady measure special samples in the wet lab.
Lollie and Larry Brady measure special samples in the wet lab.

I’ll continue my conversations about my day shift crew. Larry Brady is a Biological Science Technician with the NOAA Fisheries Service. A former business manager with McGraw-Hill, he began volunteering with the Northeast Region Fisheries Services Sandy Hooks Lab in New Jersey. He found he really enjoyed what he did. One thing led to another and he has now been with the NOAA fisheries for 9 years. His responsibilities include maintaining the FSCS hardware and auditing data.

Dr. Shayla D. Williams is a research chemist at the Howard Marine Science Laboratory in Sandy Hook, New Jersey. She is researching fatty acid chemical tracers in two Northeast fisheries key resource species: Summer Flounders and Black Sea Bass. Fatty acids are a reflection of one’s diet.  As Dr. Williams says, “You are what you eat.” Gary Pearson is on his first survey cruise. Formerly with the Massachusetts Military Reservation, 102nd Fighter Wing division, he has been with the NOAA Fisheries Service maintenance department for three years. Gary works with just about every physical aspect of this survey, except for data entry. 

Personal Log 

Dr. Shayla Williams rakes the catch for sorting.
Dr. Shayla Williams rakes the catch for sorting.

As the night shift came on duty tonight, “Doc” A.J. told me that he had sandwiched his head between pillows to keep from rolling around and slept just fine through the tempestuous day. So, once I finally got to my bunk I thought about what he said. I only had one pillow, but I did have my life jacket. So, I tucked myself between the life jacket and the wall. He was right! I didn’t roll either and slept all through the night!

New Animals Seen Today 

Spiny Dogfish (2) Pipe fish

Gary Pearson sorts out the fish after a catch.
Gary Pearson sorts out the fish after a catch.
A Pipe Fish
A Pipe Fish

Elise Olivieri, May 14, 2009

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

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

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

Sorting the catch!
Sorting the catch!

Science and Technology Log 

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

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

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

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

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

Personal Log 

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

 

Elise Olivieri, May 12, 2009

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

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

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

Science and Technology Log 

The dredge
The dredge

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

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

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

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

Personal Log 

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

Marilyn Frydrych, September 24, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Marilyn Frydrych
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
September 15-25, 2008

Mission: Atlantic Herring Hydroacoustic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: New England Coastal Waters
Date: September 24, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge 
41.27 degrees N, 70.19 degrees W
Partly Cloudy with winds out of the W at 19 knots
Dry Bulb Temperature: 26.0 degrees Celsius
Wet Bulb Temperature:  20.9 degrees Celsius
Waves: 2 feet
Visibility:  10 miles
Sea Surface Temperature:  21.6 degrees Celsius

Science and Technology Log 

Marie Martin, the bird watcher, came rushing down from her perch on the flying bridge in the early afternoon announcing that she had just spotted a humpback whale close by.  We all rushed here and there to get a view. I went up to the bow and looked for about 10 minutes.  As I came back through the bridge LT(jg) Mark Frydrych, the OOD (Officer of the Deck), and Marie were talking about a right whale entangled in a net.  Mark called the captain seeking his advice.  Whenever a situation like this is observed the captain is expected to report it.  The captain told Mark to report it and let the trained people steam out to try to find it.  I interjected that I never did spot the pilot whale. Everyone said, “What pilot whale?”  Mark said he saw a right whale. Marie piped up that she had said it was a humpback whale.  Then I remembered that indeed she had said humpback whale.  At that point the whole thing was moot because the humpbacks are not endangered. Then we asked Mike, the chief scientist, what would happen if a right whale got caught in his net. He said he didn’t want to think about it.  When a sturgeon got caught he said he had two weeks of doing nothing but filling out forms.  If a right whale got caught he would probably have 2 months of paperwork.

Marilyn Frydrych, September 23, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Marilyn Frydrych
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
September 15-25, 2008

Mission: Atlantic Herring Hydroacoustic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: New England Coastal Waters
Date: September 23, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge 
42.42 degrees N, 67.39 degrees W
Cloudy with wind out of the N at 32 knots
Dry Bulb Temperature: 15.5 degrees Celsius
Wet Bulb Temperature:  11.6 degrees Celsius
Waves: 6 feet
Visibility:  10 miles

Science and Technology Log 

Yesterday we were fairly busy doing CTD casts and trawls. Today we woke to find the night crew just starting to record the lengths and weights of their large catch. We grabbed some cereal and took over from them at 5:45 a.m. They had collected and sorted all the fish. Jacquie and I took about two hours measuring, weighing, and examining the innards of the half basket of herring they left us. Our chief scientist, Dr. Mike Jech, summarized his findings so far in a short report to everyone including those back at Woods Hole: “Trawl catches in the deeper water near Georges Bank have been nearly 100% herring with some silver hake.  Trawl catches in shallow water (<75 m) have occasionally caught herring, but mostly small silver hake, redfish, butterfish, and red hake.

A night haul of herring.  Notice the brilliant blue stripe on the top of the herring. The camera’s flash is spotlighted in the reflective tape on the life vests.
A night haul of herring. Notice the brilliant blue stripe on the top of the herring. The camera’s flash is spotlighted in the reflective tape on the life vests.

Small being less than 5-6 cm in length.  We caught one haddock this entire trip.  Trawl catches north of Georges Bank have been a mix of redfish and silver hake, with a few herring mixed in.” This afternoon the Officer of the Deck, LT(jg) Mark Frydrych, gave me a run down of many of the instruments on the bridge.  I spotted a white blob on the northeastern horizon and pointed it out. He showed me where it was on the SIMRAD FS900, a specialized radar.  The SIMRAD FS900is often able to identify a ship and its name.  This time it couldn’t.  Looking through binoculars we could see it was a large container vessel.  Then we looked at a different radar and saw both the ship’s absolute trajectory and its trajectory relative to the Delaware 2.  It was on a path parallel to the Delaware2 so Mark didn’t worry about it intersecting our path.  We also noticed another ship off to the west and north of us on the radar, but we couldn’t yet see it on the horizon. It too was projected on a path parallel to us.

Then Mark pointed out an area on the SIMRAD FS900 outlined in red. It’s an area where ships can voluntarily slow to 10 knots in an effort to avoid collisions with whales. It seems that sleeping right whales don’t respond to approaching noises made by ships.  There are only about 350 to 500 of them left and they are often killed by passing ships. The Delaware 2 was steaming at about 7 knots because in the 6 ft waves it couldn’t go any faster. However the container ship was steaming at 15.5 knots.  Few ships slow down in the red zone.

Mark showed me how to fill out the weather report for that hour.   I typed in all my info into a program on a monitor which assembled all my weather data into the format the weather service uses. I first recorded our position from an instrument displaying the latitude and longitude right there above the plotting table.  I read the pressure, the wet bulb temperature and the dry bulb temperature from an instrument which had a readout in a room off to the starboard of the bridge.  The ship has two anemometers so I averaged these to get the wind speed and direction.  We looked at the waves and tried to imagine standing in the trough of one and looking up.  I figured the wave would be over my head and so estimated about 6 feet.  We also looked at the white foam from a breaking wave and counted the seconds from when it appeared until it rode the next wave. The period of the wave we watched was four seconds.  Next we looked out the window to search out any clouds. It was clear in front of us but quite cloudy all behind us.  I estimated the height of the clouds. I typed all this information into the appropriate boxes on the monitor.  It was all so much easier than my college days when we had to gather the information manually then switch it by hand into the code appropriate for the weather service.  The OOD sent this information to NOAA Weather Service on the hour, every hour operations permitting.

Personal Log 

Though my son was instrumental in persuading me to apply for the Teacher-at-Sea position I haven’t seen much of him thus far.  He’s standing the 1 to 4 shift both afternoon and night.  When I’m free he seems to be sleeping.  We don’t even eat meals together.  That’s why I made a special trip to the bridge today to meet up with him during his watch.

Marilyn Frydrych, September 22, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Marilyn Frydrych
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
September 15-25, 2008

Mission: Atlantic Herring Hydroacoustic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: New England Coastal Waters
Date: September 22, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge 
42.52 degrees N, 68.06 degrees W
Cloudy, wind out of the E at 11 knots
Dry Bulb Temperature: 15.2 degrees Celsius
Wet Bulb Temperature:  14.0 degrees Celsius
Waves: 1 foot
Visibility:  10 miles
Sea Surface Temperature:  16.9 degrees Celsius

Science and Technology Log 

Today was more of the same–more CTD’s and trawls.  Just after lunch we had our weekly fire drill. This time the fire was in the galley and Jon Rockwell, the chief cook, was supposedly overcome with fake CO2 smoke.  After everyone except Jon was accounted for the search for him began in earnest.  The Hollywood style smoke machine produced smoke so thick the crew had difficulty finding Jon “passed out” on the floor of the galley.  Part of the drill was lifting Jon on a stretcher up the stairs and out onto the fantail.  Our station was redirected to the bridge this time where we were allowed to listen as LT(jg) Mark Frydrych conducted the exercise.  I had noticed emergency firemen gear here and there in the halls.  Always there was a radio charging next to the gear. That’s how they communicated.  All in all I was very impressed with the expertise and calmness of everyone even when plan A didn’t work and plan B had to be tried.  Safety always came first. For a good 45 minutes following the drill the crew and officers talked over possible improvements.  There was no messing around.  Everyone was in earnest and aware of the seriousness of the drill and the debriefing.  Yet this group had been practicing fire drills weekly every time they were at sea.

Personal Log 

I already knew three people aboard when I arrived.  My son, LT(jg) Mark Frydrych, was the Operations Officer. He’s the one who suggested I apply for the Teacher-at-Sea position.  On a previous visit to Woods Hole I had met Erin Earley, the engineer wiper.  We had hit it off then and continued to get to know each other better on this cruise.  Then there was my hiking pal from Colorado, Jacquie. She and I both work at Pikes Peak Community College in the math department.  She’d taken the semester off and was looking for an adventure.  After applying for the Teacher-at-Sea position I learned that the Herring Legs needed volunteers.  Jacquie signed up for the first two legs. This cruise was her second leg.  I experienced a tremendously easy adjustment stage because of these friendships.

 

Marilyn Frydrych, September 21, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Marilyn Frydrych
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
September 15-25, 2008

Mission: Atlantic Herring Hydroacoustic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: New England Coastal Waters
Date: September 21, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge 
42.00 degrees, 68.06 degrees W
Partly cloudy, wind out of the SE at 6 knots
Dry Bulb Temperature: 18.0 degrees Celsius
Wet Bulb Temperature:  15.7 degrees Celsius
Waves: 1 foot
Visibility:  10 miles
Sea Surface Temperature:  17.7 degrees Celsius

Red Fish waiting to be sorted and later in a clothes basket.
Red Fish waiting to be sorted and later in a clothes basket.

Science and Technology Log 

We returned to a spot that Mike had marked on our computers as a place where he would have liked to have sampled the fish when the seas were high and we were unable to fish.  We sent down a CTD at dawn and then deployed our net.  I’m learning more about the importance of the man at the helm.  If he speeds the boat then the net will rise.  Conversely, if he slows the net falls.  The desire of the scientist is to get a representative sample of the fish in the area, but not to take more than what is needed since we return very few alive to the ocean. The NOAA Corps officer at the helm knows this as well and has his own sonar so that he knows at what level the fish are located.  He adjusts the speed of the boat as he sees fit to catch an appropriate number of fish while checking with the chief scientist or watch chief to ensure the net is where they want it. I also learned that red fish are often associated with American herring.  Red fish are a sweet delicious fish, which were over fished during World War II.  They’ve been on the US’s banned fishing list since that time.

frydrych_log6aWe brought up in today’s catch about 200 small fry red fish.  We also collected about 20 good-sized ones running to about 12”.  The large ones take up to 60 years to grow to the size where they are worth harvesting to eat.  We only brought up 5 herring.  This time there was one 8” squid. We deployed the Tow Body this afternoon around 3:30 p.m.  It’s an undersea camera.  Unfortunately the wires connecting the Tow Body to the computers had gotten broken as it sat on the fantail. Possibly the wires got jostled during clean up.  (We use a fire hose to clean the fantail after each trawl.) Possibly people stepping on and over the wires as they walked about on the fantail broke the wire.  This wasn’t learned until moments before we were to deploy the instrument.  The ET specialist, Dave Miles, figured out where the wire was broken fairly quickly and reconnected it. That gave us connectivity, but still there was a problem of the Tow Body not responding to commands from the computer.  The chief scientist, Mike, tackled that part of the problem.  Somehow he fixed the software. We got the go ahead signal about three hours later. 

Getting ready to deploy the Tow Body
Getting ready to deploy the Tow Body

This was the only deployment in which the scientific crew was allowed on the fantail as part of the deployment.  Like the fishermen we had to wear a life jacket and hardhat.  Four of us held onto lines that kept the Tow Body from twisting as it entered the water.  Unfortunately one of the lines got loose. Displaying great skill fisherman Jim Pontz used a grappling hook to retrieve it.   By now we had drifted so far off course we had to circle back into position.  When we finally got the instrument in the water our fish had left the area.  We could tell that by the echograms.  The plans were to leave the Tow Body’s lights off until the camera was surrounded by fish.

Otherwise the fish swim away from the lights.  Only later when we again came into a school of fish did we learn that the lights weren’t responding.  The endeavor was aborted.  From a scientific standpoint we did learn something.  The Tow Body needed more work.  We also learned that we should start disconnecting the wires from the Tow Body when it’s stored on the fantail.

Personal Log 

I watched the Broncos play this afternoon.  No one else was interested.  Four or five of the crew watched different football games throughout the day.  They seemed to have time for their favorite team, but no one seemed to spend hours and hours watching game after game.  The most popular form of relaxation was watching movies.  There must be over a hundred DVD’s to choose from. The screen is a large flat panel screen.

Fisherman Jim Pontz using the grappling hook to retrieve a loose line attached to the Tow Body.
Jim Pontz using the grappling hook to retrieve a loose line.

Marilyn Frydrych, September 20, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Marilyn Frydrych
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
September 15-25, 2008

Mission: Atlantic Herring Hydroacoustic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: New England Coastal Waters
Date: September 20, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge 
42.53 degrees N, 67.51 degrees W
Cloudy, wind out of the E at 11 knots
Dry Bulb Temperature: 15.2 degrees Celsius
Wet Bulb Temperature:  14.0 degrees Celsius
Waves: 1 foot
Visibility:  10 miles
Sea Surface Temperature:  16.9 degrees Celsius

A goosefish, also called a lumpfish.
A goosefish, also called a lumpfish.

Science and Technology Log 

We did a CTD with an attached water bottle and then deployed a net. We backtracked today and redid the sites we found yesterday which had good herring potential. About 10:30 in the morning we collected about 1/3 of a clothesbasket of fish. Most of that were herring and mackerel, with the usual small butterfish, goosefish or lumpfish, red hake fish, small jellyfish, and Ilex squid. The catch included an unknown two inch fish which Mike, the chief scientist, conjectured had gotten caught in a warm eddy off the Gulf Stream and ended in the wrong part of the ocean much like the jet stream blows birds off course. Part of sorting the fish involved gutting one to three each of the different lengths of herring to determine their sex, age, and what they had been eating. With practice and much patience on Robert and Jacquie’s part I learned to recognize the stomach and sex organs of the fish.  None of the herring today had anything in their stomachs, while those of two days ago had lots, mostly krill.  With two of us working it took about 45 minutes to measure the length and weight of each herring.  They varied When we finally collected the net we had 3 basketsful of redfish, half a basket of silver hake, 4 herring, one large goosefish about a foot long, and a rare Atlantic Shad about 2 feet long.

To measure our fish we used the magnetized pointer in the upper right hand corner of the picture.  It looks like a cigarette.  We lined up the fish’s head against the black backstop. Then we stretched the body straight out.  When we pressed the pointer against the end of the fish’s body an electrical circuit closed and the computer automatically recorded the fish’s length.  The fish are silver hake.
To measure our fish we used the magnetized pointer. We lined up the fish’s head against the black backstop and stretched the body straight out. When we pressed the pointer against the end of the fish’s body an electrical circuit closed and the computer automatically recorded the fish’s length. The fish are silver hake.

We froze samples which we’d opened up for Mike and then one ungutted sample from each of the nine categories for the University of  Maine. We did another CTD about 11:30 and deployed the net again. All did not go well this time. The sonar showed that the net was twisted and the opening blocked. The fishermen were called upon to bring it in and straighten it.  The first thing they did was to take the two 400 pound chain weights off. Then they sent the net back out hoping it would straighten itself.  Alas, they had to bring it in and send it out a couple more times as they manually untangled all the lines. It was very strenuous work and took them about 45 minutes.  As a result we steamed about 3 miles past the point where we intended to fish.

We’ve sorted a smaller catch on the measuring board. We measured and weighed these fish, but never opened them to determine their sex.  We did that only for herring.  The scale is under the gray container on the right.  We only had to press a button for the computer to record the weight.
We’ve sorted a smaller catch on the measuring board. We measured and weighed these fish, but never opened them to determine their sex. We did that only for herring. The scale is under the gray container on the right. We only had to press a button for the computer to record the weight
 

Marilyn Frydrych, September 17, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Marilyn Frydrych
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
September 15-25, 2008

Mission: Atlantic Herring Hydroacoustic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: New England Coastal Waters

Deploying the fishing net
Deploying the fishing net

Date: September 17, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge 
41.27 degrees N, 70.19 degrees W
Partly Cloudy
Wind out of the W at 19 knots
Dry Bulb Temperature: 26.0 degrees Celsius
Wet Bulb Temperature: 20.9 degrees Celsius
Waves: 2 feet
Visibility: 10 miles
Sea Surface Temperature: 21.6 degrees Celsius

Science and Technology Log 

A fisherman dumping the catch
A fisherman dumping the catch

The third day out was much like the second day. Our first job was to fish with the big net.  This time the chief scientist wanted to know what some small vertical echoes on the echogram were. He guessed that they were shrimp or krill. The acoustic echogram used three frequencies:  18 kHz, 38 kHz, and 120 kHz. If dots appeared in all three then he was pretty sure it was fish and most likely herring. These particular vertical dots appeared only in the 18 kHz echogram.  He guessed they were very small fish, but wanted to determine if the signature belonged to opening were huge metal doors.  They looked like doors, but in fact never closed. They were actually more like the front edge of an airplane wing. Their purpose was to stay parallel to each other and keep the net open. The net was rolled up on a large roller, which sat at the center back of the fantail. It was about 250 ft long.  When it was time to deploy, the fishermen used a winch to unwind the net. The person at the helm had to be extremely careful that the boat kept at a steady headway of about 3 to 4 knots. The doors were stored at the very end of the stern. With the help of their own hydraulic winches they were lifted to a spot where they could be attached to the net.  There was a place on each side of the net where the side wire changed to a chain link. The metal doors were clasped on these links and then dragged into the sea.  Another link in the wire was for heavy chains. Their weight of about 400 pounds each held the sides of the net down.

Fishermen setting up the recorder which is sent outwith the net.
Fishermen setting up the recorder sent outwith the net.

The night crew, on from 6:00 pm to 6:00 am were busy Wednesday night and on into the morning.  They did two CTD’s and three net deployments.  They left us about 50 herring and silver hake to observe in the morning.  Richie Logan, one of the fishermen, used these to write a birthday note to his daughter. Here’s his picture. Each time we sent out a net we were hoping for about half a clothes basketful of fish. Last night they filled 30 baskets.  Only about 1/3 of a basket is ever measured and weighed. The rest are tossed back.  Our chief scientist said he can remember processing enough to fill 60 baskets. So far most of the biomass in the basket has been krill. Mixed in with the krill are small anthropoids maybe a half inch square, jelly fish about twice that size, Illex squid from 2 to 6 inches long, baby silver hake, butterfish, or red hake. These last three are all in the neighborhood of 1 inch long.

This morning we pulled up a lamprey eel about 2 feet long and a couple two inch lumpfish in the evening.  Most of the fish were dead when we got to them.  We had to wait until the fishermen were totally finished with winding the net and had dumped the net’s contents onto the deck before we were allowed on the fantail. Then we sorted the large fish into clothes baskets and the smaller ones into small trays. Wednesday Jacquie Ostrom, another volunteer from Colorado Springs, noticed that two 3-inch lumpfish were moving.  She added some water to our rectangular sorting pan and a piece of clear hard plastic we had thought was some molt or litter also started to move. No one seemed to know what the “plastic” was.  After a quick reference to the Internet we learned it was the larva of the spiny lobster.

Richie Logan making a Happy Birthday email for his daughter.
Richie Logan making a Happy Birthday email for his daughter.

Personal Log 

We must have passed by the north-south migration path of the whales.  We didn’t spot any today. The work load is really light compared with teaching.  We work two or three hours cataloguing the catch after each trawl, clean up with the saltwater deck hose, and then wait for the next trawl maybe three or four hours later. A 20 minute CTD deployment every now and then is the only other work we are expected to do. The cruise is turning out to be very relaxing. I spend quite a bit of time just staring out at the sea, immersing myself in its gentle rhythm.

Seven basketsful of herring from a haul in the deep waters near Georges Bank.
Seven basketsful of herring from a haul in the deep waters near Georges Bank.
The piece of “plastic” turned out to be the larva of a spiny lobster.
The piece of “plastic” turned out to be the larva of a spiny lobster.

Tiffany Risch, August 5, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Tiffany Risch
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II 
July 28 – August 8, 2008

Mission: Clam and Quahog Survey
Geographical Area: South of Long Island, NY
Date: August 5, 2008

Tiffany uses a measuring board to obtain quahog lengths.
Tiffany uses a measuring board to obtain quahog lengths.

Weather Data from the Bridge 

  • Partly to mostly cloudy, with patchy a.m. fog
  • Surface winds: West-Northwest 10-15 knots
  • Waves: Swells 3-5 feet
  • Water temperature:  16o Celsius
  • Visibility:  7 nautical miles

Science and Technology Log 

We’ve almost completed the entire research cruise here on the DELAWARE II. With a few more stations to cover, it is amazing how so many clams can be processed in only a week and a half at sea. Here on the DELAWARE II, scientists use digital recording devices such as scales and measuring boards to obtain accurate records. They also use computer programs that are specialized for the research being done.

When a tow is completed and the catch sorted, each surf clam or quahog goes through a series of measurements.  Each bushel of clams is massed, and then each one is digitally measured.  With sometimes over 2,000 clams to process, this technique is helpful because we can complete a station in as little as 30 minutes.  The computer program used for this purpose asks the measurer to select the species, and then it automatically records whatever the clam measures width wise on the measuring board.

There are only about twelve stations left to go before we arrive in Woods Hole, Massachusetts.  Most stations turn up a moderate number of surf clams and quahogs.  Tonight, we ended up hitting an area that contained a lot of rocks.  All of them must be cleared from the dredge by the crew before the next tow can be performed.  This sometimes can take as long as an hour, depending on what is collected.  Scientists then sometimes question whether there could be surf clams and quahogs in this specific area, so they’ll prepare to do a set-up. A set-up involves towing the region five times with intervals of 200 yards separating each tow. This allows scientists to examine what exactly could be=2 0in a specific area, and if it was just chance that allowed so many rocks to be brought up in one specific tow. Also in the future, this clam survey will be done by commercial vessels; therefore a calibration needs to be done using the current dredge versus a commercial one.  Set-ups help with this process.

Something else found in a recent tow: Scallops!
Something else found in a recent tow: Scallops!

Personal Log 

I am very happy that I had this experience as a Teacher At Sea. In the past two weeks, I have gained a wealth of knowledge regarding surf clams and quahogs, bur also what life at sea is like, and who the people are that conduct research to hopefully understand more about populations dynamics.  I also have not been as tired before as I have been on this trip! Getting used to a time change by working through the night, and conducting so m any tows in a twelve hour period leaves your body fatigued.  At 1:00pm when I’m finished with lunch, all I can think about is sleep.

When tows are brought to the surface, a neat variety of other things are often brought up as well.  I have significantly contributed to my seashell collection by finding lots of different whelk, scallop, and snail shells, along with some sand dollars.  I also kept a surf clam and a quahog shell as a reminder of my trip.  Because each shell has its matching other half, they are each known as a clapper. I can’t wait to share all of my interesting stories, pictures, and experiences with my students back in Coventry, Rhode Island when I return.  I could only hope that people who truly have an interest in science could experience something like this one day!

Tiffany Risch, August 2, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Tiffany Risch
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II 
July 28 – August 8, 2008

Mission: Clam and Quahog Survey
Geographical Area: South of Long Island, NY
Date: August 2, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge 

  • Mostly cloudy with isolated showers
  • Surface winds: 5 to 10 knots
  • Waves: Swells 2-4 feet
  • Water temperature:  23o Celsius
  • Visibility:  7 nautical miles
The dredge being brought back up onto the ship after being deployed
The dredge being brought back up onto the ship after being deployed

Science and Technology Log 

As I began my shift, I noticed on the map hanging in the dry lab that we are working our way towards an area southeast of Nantucket called Georges Bank.  Georges Bank is a shallow rise underwater where a variety of sea life can be found. Before long, we were called to the deck for our first station of the morning.  We set the dredge, hauled it back, sorted the catch, measured and recorded data, and moved on to the next station. Recording data and sorting are two of my favorite things to do, especially when it involves shucking the clams for the meat to be measured!  My watch seemed to be on a record pace, as we managed to complete seven hauls all before breakfast at 5:00am.  This process happens around the clock on the DELAWARE II, maximizing the amount of data we collect while at sea for two weeks.  

Later in the day, the winch that is used to haul the dredge back from the water suffered a power problem.  I and the person controlling the dredge noticed this right away, as one of my jobs is to switch the power on to the pump that the dredge uses.  I alerted my watch chief, and also the chief scientist for this cruise who quickly began to assess the situation.  Over the next hour or so, things became very busy on the back deck as the captain, engineers, and scientists tried to solve the problem.  They did manage to get the power back to the winch again, which enabled the dredge to be brought back onboard the ship. The amount of talent exhibited by so many people on this ship continues to amaze me.  They always have answers for everything, and Plan B for any situation is always on their minds!

Collecting and sorting the variety of marine life that we find. Here, TAS Risch holds up some sea stars.
Collecting and sorting the variety of marine life that we find. Here, TAS Risch holds up some sea stars.

Personal Log 

Today was a really exciting day of sorting, as my watch found a variety of different organisms.  I actually saw a live scallop clapping in the bucket after it was hauled up!  Other interesting creatures included a Little Skate (Raja erinacea), which is a fish made of cartilage and is closely related to rays and sharks, a sea robin, sea squirts, hermit crabs, some sea stars, and even a few flounders. One of the more unusual characters that we encountered onboard was called a Yellow boring sponge, otherwise known as a Sulfur sponge or “Monkey Dung”. We take measurements of all of these things and quickly return them to their home in the ocean. Very early this morning, around 1:00am I visited the bridge, or the area where the captain controls and steers the ship from, to see what everything looks like at night. Crew member Claire Surrey was on the bridge tonight, making sure the ship stayed on its course.  The area was very quiet and dimly lit by the various monitors that broadcast

information back to the officer in charge.  The ocean was pitch black, and I could only see faint lights of a few other ships bobbing up and down in the waves very far away.  What a cool experience to see the ocean at night, with a starry sky, and know that all types of instruments are guiding my voyage through the sea!

New Words/Terms Learned 

Min-logs:  sense temperature, depth, and pressure underwater on the dredge, and are brought back to the surface and recorded via computer.

Starboard: the right side of a ship

Port: the left side of the ship

Tiffany Risch, July 30, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Tiffany Risch
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II 
July 28 – August 8, 2008

Mission: Clam and Quahog Survey
Geographical Area: South of Long Island, NY
Date: July 30, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge 

  • Hazy in the morning with less than 6 miles visibility
  • Calm seas with little cloud cover
  • Wind speed = 5 knots
  • Waves = Wind drives waves < 1 foot
  • Water temperature:  23o Celsius
Tiffany uses a measuring board to obtain quahog lengths.
Tiffany uses a measuring board to obtain quahog lengths.

Science and Technology Log 

Today started with an early morning shift, working from 12:00 am to 12:00 pm.  As my watch took over, the DELAWARE II began steaming towards the first station of the day to conduct a survey of the surf clam and quahog size and abundance inhabiting this specific area. In order to complete a survey of the area, a dredge is used to capture any surf clams or quahogs that are pushed out of the bottom sediment.  On the top of the dredge are hoses that push pressurized water onto the bottom to loosen up any bivalves.  A bivalve is an organism that has shells consisting of two halves, such as in a clam or a scallop. The dredge is towed behind the DELAWARE II for five minutes at a speed of 1.5 nautical miles per hour.  Attached to the dredge are sensors which transmit dredge performance information back to scientists in the dry lab to record and analyze.  The accuracy of the survey depends greatly on the credibility of the sensor data, and therefore, scientists must monitor variability of the dredge.  After the dredge is brought back to the surface, the load must be sorted, measured, and then discarded.

After listening to a presentation by Larry Jacobson, I learned a lot of new facts about both Atlantic sufclams (Spissula solidissima) and Ocean quahogs. Surf clams live only about 15 years, grow very fast, and can inhabit ocean waters stretching from Cape Hatteras in North Carolina to Newfoundland.  These bivalves are found in waters less than 50 meters of water. Ocean quahogs on the other hand can live for greater than 100 years, are very slow growing, and are found in ocean waters between 50 and 100 meters deep from Cape Hatteras, around the North Atlantic to the Mediterranean.

Giving power to the hydraulic pump.
Giving power to the hydraulic pump.

Scientists on this cruise are also interested in studying other aspects of the clam populations, such as a condition called Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning. Because bivalves are filter feeders, they eat by filtering food out of the waters around them.  Sometimes, algae can contaminate clams using a toxin that is harmful to humans.  When this happens and humans eat the shellfish, they themselves can become quite sick.  Samples of clam meats are being taken during this research cruise to be studied back at a lab and determine what exactly is happening in regards to Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning.

Personal Log 

Today has been quite interesting, as I moved through the many stations that are involved with conducting this survey. I was trained on how to measure clams in the wet lab, how to apply the power to the dredge in the dry lab, and even how to shuck a clam to retrieve the meat which is also measured.  I was also quite amazed regarding how efficient everyone is on the ship, as we all have a job to do, and it all gets done before we arrive at the next station.

One of my highlights today was overcoming my sea sickness and finally getting my sea legs!  Everyone is so supportive, from the officers, to the scientists, and to the volunteers who are all so nice and helpful. I’m looking forward to my next eight days at sea and learning more about the research being conducted.

Laurie Degenhart, July 23, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Laurie Degenhart
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II 
July 14-25, 2008

Mission: Clam Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: July 23, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Winds at 170° at 23 knots
Sea temperature: 18.9° C
Air temp 22.6° C
Swells: 1
Atmosphere: Clear

Laurie and some fellow crewmembers are covered with clay and mud after climbing in the dredge
Laurie and some fellow crewmembers are covered with clay and mud after climbing in the dredge

Science and Technology Log 

The last two days have been less hectic.  The scientists have had to make several repairs.  The sensors on the dredge were having problems recording data.  Sean Lucey, Chris Pickett, and TK Arbusto, as well as other scientists have spent several hours replacing sensors and making sure that the sensors were logging accurate data.  In order for the survey to be reliable the scientists at sea and in the lab decided that the ship needed to return to previously tested sites to  insure that the sampling techniques had not changed with the changes in the sensor.

We have sampled both Quahogs and Surf Clams today.  It seems that some locations are dominated by the Quahogs, while others are mainly Surf Clams. The weather has been hot and humid.  So far in the trip, the Delaware II has been able to avoid the storms farther to the south. Tonight however, the winds are starting to pick up. We may see rain! Today I climbed up in the dredge compartment when it was full of clay.  Even though I knew that the dredge was very safe, I still worried that I might fall into the ocean.  The clay was very dense with rocks. Sean Lucey, chief scientist, used a high pressure hose to loosen the majority of the mud, but it was still a big slippery muddy job.  John, the Chief Bosun, told me that a full load of mud weighs almost 9000 pounds!  There were very few clams in the load.

Personal Log 

This shift has been very busy. The tows have been pretty much back to back.  All the people on my shift have formed a great team.  Though the work is hard we seem to be able to make it fun….

I continue to be impressed with the NOAA officers and scientists.  The scientists have to have knowledge of oceanography, marine biology and statistics in order to execute accurate sampling.  Another area of expertise is in trouble shooting all the scientific equipment… after all there is no running to the hardware store for spare parts. Today when the sensors broke the scientists, mechanical engineers, and the bosun had to work together to correct the problem.

Both the NOAA officers and the scientists have to be able to cope with volunteers (me included) that have no knowledge of life at sea. Each new crewmember has learn to fit in…I’m sure that this tries the patience of the seasoned crew.  Being aware of all the ins and outs of life at sea is quite a learning process. For example, I went to the bridge after dark… it seemed to be pitch black…. actually the Executive Officer was “on watch”  having the lights out made it easier for him to see both the ocean and the electronic equipment that he had  to use in order to safely captain the ship.

One of my goals for the trip is to put together a collection of photographs that depicts all the aspects of life aboard the Delaware II.  So far I have over 300 photographs.  The crew seems quite pleased…many members ask if I can take more pictures.

During this voyage I have learned a great deal about how a ship runs.  I am very pleased to have had the opportunity to work aboard the Delaware.  I will create a DVD with the images and video clips that I have gathered. I want to share my experience with students, teachers, and student teachers. NOAA offers great resources for educators and a vast selection of careers for those who wish to live a life that is rewarding and exciting.

Laurie Degenhart, July 20, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Laurie Degenhart
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II 
July 14-25, 2008

Mission: Clam Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: July 20, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Winds at 200° at 23 knots
Sea temperature: 24.2° C
Air temp 24.6° C
Swells: 0
Atmosphere: Clear

Science and Technology Log 

Scientists and volunteers sort dredge materials.
Scientists and volunteers sort dredge materials.

We are now into day 7 of our clam survey.  Everyone on the ship pulls together as a team to make each tow a success.  Each location for a dredge site is called a station.  The NOAA crew in charge of the ship must not only be at exactly the correct longitude and latitude, but the depth of the water, the speed of the tow, and the condition of the sea (waves and swells) must also be considered. There are three separate places on the ship where these decisions are made.  The bridge controls the location of the ship and notes the conditions of the sea.  The chief bosun controls the dredge towing. He manages the cables, depth, and length of the tow. The scientist in the lab choose the exact location of the tow and the depth.  The scientists use sensors attached to the dredge to log data about the tow. The bosun reels the cable back to the ship and onto the platform.  After the tow has been made the deck hands secure the dredge compartment where the catch is.

The scientific crew then measures and counts the clams.  A scientist from the FDA, Stacey Etheridge, has the science crew shuck a certain number of clams.  She then homogenizes them in a food processor to take back to the laboratory to test for possible toxins.  The NOAA scientists collect data on the different types of clams as well as the size and weight.  They are also trying to determine the age of the clam given the rings on the shell. In addition to the scientist on the Delaware II, there is an entire NOAA crew.  There are engineers, ship’s officers, and fishermen.  Everyone has specific assignments.  The NOAA officers are at sea approximately 244 days a year.  The NOAA careers website here.

Personal Log 

The scientists must have many skills in order to keep the study going.  Not only do they have to know about the clams, but also how to fix problems with the computer program and its sensors, as well as the mechanical operation of the dredge equipment.

The weather at sea has been very hot and humid.  The hours are long. We do approximately 10 tows on a twelve-hour shift.  Think about this… each tow gathers around 4 thousand pounds of material off the ocean floor.  That makes 40,000 pounds.  There are 7 people on our shift. That means each of us sorts and moves around 5700 pounds in a shift…. that’s as much as a small car!  I guess I can have dessert with lunch today.  The work is enjoyable.

Tina and I have shucked over 500 clams.  We ROCK, or should I say CLAM, at shelling Quahogs.  The Captain told me that we may feel the effects of tropical storm, Cristobol.  I sure hope I don’t get seasick.  I learned a new skill…swabbing the deck.  It is amazing the range of tasks each crewmember has to have to keep the ship running smoothly.

Our Chief Scientist, Sean Lucey, oversees all of the roles of the scientists and volunteers.  It’s a big job and he sets the tone for the rest of us.  Everyone is positive and willing to do whatever is needed. Jakub, the Watch Chief, oversees the general operation of sorting and measuring the clams.  Both Sean and Jakub are great at teaching me the ropes so that I can do my best.  One time as I was on my way to my “station” Sean remarked,  “I know you’ll be ready.”  I thought that was great, sometimes I get anxious about doing the exact right thing at the right time.

I am starting to think about the lesson plans that I am going to write.  I want to make a simulation of a clam survey for elementary students using Oreo Cookies to gather data.  Sean is going to give me data from the trip to use in my lesson plans.  One of my goals for my presentations is to go to various Vocational Classes to talk about all the facets of NOAA as a career path. I also want to develop a presentation about the roles of a scientist, showing the different aspects of the skills that they have.

Once again the meals have been great.  I was told that the Stewards, John and Walter, have a reputation for providing the best food of all the NOAA ships.  Sure seems right to me!  We have had great meals. One night we had Sea Bass, another night we had lamb chops.  There is always an abundance of vegetables and fruit. Then there is dessert… apple pie!

Laurie Degenhart, July 15, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Laurie Degenhart
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II 
July 14-25, 2008

Mission: Clam Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: July 15, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Winds at 200° at 7 knots
Sea temperature: 20.7° C
Air temp 24.4° C
Swells: 160 4’ 12 sec.
Atmosphere: Clear

Science and Technology Log (Monday, July 14 – Thursday, July 17) 

NOAA Teacher at Sea, Laurie Degenhart, gets ready to set sail on the DELAWARE II.
NOAA Teacher at Sea, Laurie Degenhart, gets ready to set sail on the DELAWARE II.

We set sail midday on Tuesday, July 15, 2008. Monday was spent with repairs. We heard a presentation by Dr.Larry Jacobson, the head of the Clam Survey Project.  He explained that there was a general shift in the populations of Surf Clams and Ocean Quahogs.

This study is collecting data for his team to use in determining the changes and possible causes of the change.  NOAA and the clam fishing industry enjoy a good relationship, working handin-hand to protect the clam population and promote clam fishing. We were taken to the NOAA storeroom and outfitted with our “foul weather gear.” We wear the gear on board to sort and shuck clams. We each were issued boots, yellow bib overalls, and an orange rain slicker….I look quite dashing.

Laurie dons a survival suit during a ship safety briefing.
Laurie dons a survival suit during a ship safety briefing.

Chief scientist, Sean Lucey, gave us a general description of the work that we would be doing.  Sean stressed how important accuracy is in all the facets of the Clam Survey.  There are several assignments.  Each person is assigned a shift.  My shift is from Noon until midnight.  That’s 12 hours! We are not to return to our room until our shift is over, because the other women I share the room are on the opposite shift and will be sleeping. I am on a team with Jakub Kircun, as the Watch Chief.  He is very patient and kind, even when I make a mistake.  There are seven people on our team: four NOAA scientists, one graduate student who is studying plankton, one volunteer, and me, the Teacher at Sea.

General Description of a Clam Dredge 

The back of the Delaware II has a large metal dredge (it looks like a giant square shifter-See photo.) The cage is lowered to the sea floor at pre-determined random locations and dragged by a special cable called a hauser for exactly 5 minutes.  Then the dredge is hauled back to the boat and its contents are dumped on a platform.  We all sort through the dredged material sorting out clams and other sea life, throwing the rest back out to sea. The clams are measured, weighed, and some meat specimens are taken for examination.  Computers record a vast array of information for the scientists.  Sean Lucey (Chief Scientist) is always making decisions where we go and provides the lab and other scientists information about the catch.  The team does around 10 or so tows in a twelve hour shift.

First Assignment 

I was assigned by, Jakub Kircun, Watch Chief, to record information about the tow a using computerized data collection system called SCS (Scientific Computer Systems). I go into a room on the bridge and listen to the deck department communicating with the bridge and I record when the dredge is on the bottom, towing, and back on deck.  The information is tracked in SCS with button pushers. I also log information about wave height, swell direction, and swell height, which I receive from the officer on watch.  I also need to record depth, time, and speed of the boat during a dredge tow. This provides accurate data for the scientists back on land to analyze. As soon as that part of my job is finished, I come down stairs to help sort and shuck the clams..

The clam dredge aboard the DELAWARE II
The clam dredge aboard the DELAWARE II

Personal Log 

Holy Cow, a 12 hour shift….from noon until mid-night!  I was worried, but the shift seems to fly by. There is always something that needs to be done.  I was assigned by Jakub Kircun, Watch Chief, to record the sensors for the dredge itself.  What a responsibility!!! Talk about pressure.  Sean, Chief Scientist, has been really great. His sense of humor has helped ease my stress.  I never realized how much computers are used aboard a ship to monitor experimental data.  Not to mention the general running of the ship….. There are 31 computers in all. For each tow which Sean and Jakub call a station, I do the recording for the dredge then come down stairs…put on my boots and bib overalls and head out to sort the clams with the others on my team.  It’s a big job…good thing I am used to working in the woods of Wyoming… otherwise, I don’t think I could keep up!!!

Laurie sorts clam on the fantail of the ship.
Laurie sorts clam on the fantail of the ship.

After we sort the clams, Tina, a graduate student from University of Connecticut, and I measure and weigh the clams using a special computerized machine called a Limnoterra Fish Measuring Board. Tina and I are becoming great clam shuckers. We need to weigh the clams both with and without the shell. Joe, the other volunteer, also helps weigh and shuck the clams.  Sometimes they are sweet smelling… but sometimes not!  They look nothing like Howard Johnson’s Clam Strips!

I have started a shell collection to bring back to my school.  I will be working with the Science Coordinator to design science experiments that use data from our trip.  The Chief Scientist, Sean Lucey, is working with me to develop lesson plans that use the data being collected. Just learning to find my way around the ship has been a challenge.  I’ve learned to find the galley…. great food. Walt and John, the ship’s stewards, are fantastic chefs.  Today we had crab cakes with lemon sauce, vegetables, and peach cobbler with whipped cream for dessert.  I am telling myself that as much physical work as I am doing I can eat what I want….that’s my story and I am sticking to it!

All the crew has been welcoming and accepting.  Richie and Adam, NOAA crewmembers, take care of securing the dredge. It looks like a dangerous job to me!  They both have a great sense of humor.

Sue White, June 7, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Terry Welch
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
May 27 – June 7, 2008

Mission: Juvenile Rockfish Assessment
Geographical Area: Central California Coast
Date: June 7, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge for Sat. 06-07-08 19:00 GMT 

Screen shot 2013-05-24 at 7.34.30 AM

The DAVID STARR JORDAN Deck crew watches from the bow
The DAVID STARR JORDAN Deck crew watches from the bow

Science and Technology Log 

Heading for San Francisco!

The weather has again had an effect on the scheduled research tasks. As the week went on the weather deteriorated so that some nights we could only do one trawl before the waves crashing over the aft deck made it too dangerous to be out there. Safety was the primary issue in everyone’s mind on the ship – bridge officers and the scientists discussed weather conditions and forecasts and the deck crew were careful to point out safety concerns involving equipment or wearing protective clothing. Even with the ship feeling like it was doing a wild tango at one point, I felt very secure.  Last night was a complete wash as far as doing the scheduled work.  By evening the ship officers decided to stay out the night in Drake’s Bay since the peninsula would give some shelter from the wind and waves.  We used the time to prepare for a new group to come aboard in San Francisco, cleaning our staterooms and doing laundry.    

I sorted through notes and organized the dozens of photos taken over the last 12 days.  Here are some squid facts Ken Baltz, the cruise leader told me about earlier in the cruise:

  • The Humboldt squid we caught were probably around 5 months old and will only live about 1 year
  • These squid are one of the fastest growing organism
  • They have a very rapid metabolism, eating about 20% of their body weight daily vs. our human requirement of 0.5 to 1%
Keith not only can tell you the scientific name of this big cephalopod, he can identify an incredible number of ocean animals
Keith not only can tell you the scientific name of this big cephalopod, he can identify an incredible number of ocean animals

The bongo plankton tow ties in with the squid sampling in an interesting way.  It shows how all of the research coordinated on the DAVID STARR JORDAN this cruise (and really all NOAA projects) is working towards understanding what life is like in the ocean and how the distribution of organisms is changing.  One plankton sample from each bongo tow was preserved in ethanol. The other sample was preserved in formalin (a formaldehyde solution).  The rationale behind this was that formalin denatures or destroys the structure of an organism’s DNA.  The ethanol sample could be used to do genetic testing. When the samples are examined back in the lab, the researchers are hoping to find paralarvae of the Humboldt squid in the same location as the adults collected this cruise. This would give credence to the idea that they are now breeding off the coast of California, rather than in the tropics as has been the accepted understanding.  Bill and Robert (two of the volunteers on this leg of the cruise) had great questions while Ken was explaining this part of his research. Bill (and the others) had been using a fluorescent lure to “jig” for squid. Squid are attracted to the bioluminescence found in some ocean animals, like the “headlights” on a California Headlight fish.

NOAA Teacher at Sea Sue White shows how gripping life at sea can be.
NOAA Teacher at Sea Sue White shows how gripping life at sea can be.

He asked if the squid are caught in the nets because they are hoping to feed on the small fish being concentrated there. His hypothesis was to see if luminescent lures in the net would increase the number of squid caught.  Robert asked about using radioactive isotopes to label squid and then look for the radioactive label in the paralarvae as a way to see patterns in breeding. Such intriguing thinking.  I was not alone in wanting to be awake for our entry into San Francisco Bay.  We enjoyed a hot breakfast for the first time in days (and for some the first time ever on the ship!) and were invigorated by bright sunshine. Well, the sun seemed bright through the San Francisco haze after being on the night shift! Everyone was outside by the time land was sighted and we enjoyed watching the Golden Gate Bridge get closer. For days I had not noticed much traffic at sea (especially at night)  so it felt like driving into a major city in that the traffic kept increasing the closer we got to the Bay.  Huge shipping barges and small personal sailboats were all out on a beautiful Saturday morning.

The map distance from Drake’s Bay was not far, but our speed entering the bay was such that it took several hours to get around the bend and in to where the piers are in San Francisco. Just as in leaving San Diego, the ship officers were busy piloting the ship to its place at the pier.  Staff from the Santa Cruz lab were waiting to help offload specimens, some ship personnel were already off duty and looking forward to a day in the city, and my husband was patiently waiting on the pier to hear my stories of life at sea.

Personal Log 

After almost two weeks at sea it was interesting to adjust to life on land. I did feel the ground moving as I walked and especially felt phantom ocean waves when I tried to sleep or take a shower (no grab bars to steady yourself on land though!). The sounds were so different too with less of the ongoing sound of the ship engine or the air system in my stateroom and more collective noise of traffic and airplanes. I had missed the simple sounds of my backyard birds, but did not notice this until I realized how wonderful the familiar can sound.  I am brimming with new information and connections to make with classroom labs and activities.  I (and my husband) can  hardly wait until school starts so I have a new audience for my Teacher at Sea stories.

Challenge Yourself 

  • Think about the area where you live. How many people in your neighborhood can you name?  List the types of dogs that live in your neighborhood, too.
  • Name any of the birds that may fly into your area.  (Is this naming business getting harder?)
  • Name any other wildlife that may inhabit your neighborhood.  (Remember that wildlife can be small and not all will be mammals!)
  • How many insects can you identify?  Can you name specific types of one kind of insect? In other words, can you tell the difference between a monarch and swallowtail butterfly? What about a skipper and a sulfur butterfly?
  • Scientists, from experience, can name an incredible number of organisms.  Often they can even give the scientific name for exactly one species that differs only slightly from another. You can also increase your naming ability with practice… what would you like to become an expert in identifying???
A unique view below the Golden Gate Bridge
A unique view below the Golden Gate Bridge

“We can only sense that in the deep and turbulent recesses of the sea are hidden mysteries far greater than any we have solved.”     ~Rachel Carson

What mysteries will I see next?

Sue

Sue White, June 1, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Terry Welch
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
May 27 – June 7, 2008

Mission: Juvenile Rockfish Assessment
Geographical Area: Central California Coast
Date: June 1, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge for Sun. 06-01-08 04:00 GMT 

Screen shot 2013-05-24 at 7.22.35 AM

Joao Alves treats us to squid and salsa, Brazilian style.
Joao Alves treats us to squid and salsa, Brazilian style.

Science and Technology Log 

It’s shrimp night!  We continue on up the coast of California.  The transect schedule for tonight is off Point Reyes, north of San Francisco. The catch tonight surprised us (again) by being completely unique from earlier trawls. Usually the largest part of what we sort is krill.  The first night it was very strange to see all of those eyes, but now the krill just seem like background to look past as you see other colors and textures. When we spread the catch out on our trays tonight, it was an orange pink instead of the typical brownish color. The nets were loaded with market shrimp!  Joao took off with some after we sorted and came back later with boiled shrimp and cocktail sauce. This was the second time he had acted as a seafood chef for everyone. Friday night Joao brought down the squid he had saved from Tuesday and Wednesday night.  He had been marinating it in his special recipe and spent the time before his shift sautéing squid strips for us.  He had also made some salsa that was perfect with it . . . and the saltine crackers some of us were needing tonight due to the waves. It brought to mind this passage from John Steinbeck’s introduction to The Log from the Sea of Cortez: “…we could see the fish alive and swimming, feel it plunge against the lines, drag it threshing over the rail, and even finally eat it.”

Vlad Zgutnitski, Sam Brandal, and Jose' Coito ready to do a trawl
Vlad Zgutnitski, Sam Brandal, and Jose’ Coito ready to do a trawl

We have a pattern down for the nights now. The scientists, deck crew and bridge are seamless in their coordination of a trawl. Everyone knows their job now and down to who turns the deck lights off once the nets are in the water seems to be done intuitively.  As soon as the nets are brought in, the sorting starts. Big fish, or worse the big jellyfish, are caught as the nets are being rolled up.  Some fish and the jellies are measured and added to a database by location.  Jellyfish are especially hard on the nets because of their weight.  If they become too plentiful, trawls can be cancelled to keep the nets from being destroyed.

Looking for rockfish - Gabe, Ben, Keith, Bill, and Robert (left to right)
Looking for rockfish – Gabe, Ben, Keith, Bill, and
Robert (left to right)

Here is my count from one tray of catch tonight:

  • 38 Myctophid (fish)
  • 22 Californian Headlight (fish)
  • 8 Sergestid ( tiny red dot shrimp)
  • 5 Black Smelt (fish)
  • 3 Black-tip (squid)
  • 1 Blue Lantern (fish)
  • 1 Gonatus (squid)

The fish are more familiar by now.  The Myctophid and Headlight fish looked so similar at first, but now I can see the two bioluminescent dots between the eyes on the Headlight fish. With more experience, it became even more obvious that there were many differences differences, but harder when they are hidden behind the more generic krill, or in the case of tonight’s haul, the pinkish shrimp.  The rockfish (Fig. 4) also have to been identified as separate from other fish also similar in size and color.  Side by side it is easy to see that these fish that are both dark in color.

Personal Log 

Juvenile Rockfish Sebastes saxicola
Juvenile Rockfish Sebastes saxicola

The waves just keep getting rougher as the cruise progresses.  The motion onboard varies with different activities. The bars to grasp in the shower and at various places around the ship are very practical, to say the least. Sleep is an interesting process where you can wake up with tired muscles from trying to keep yourself in place! Those with more experience have said that it is physically tiring to be onboard and that we should expect to need more sleep.  It is amazing how I have adjusted to sleeping during the day now.  The volunteers have been great to work with. They are now bringing their music down to play as we sort the catch from each trawl.

Unsorted catch (krill, Sergestid shrimp, fish, squid)
Unsorted catch (krill, Sergestid shrimp, fish, squid)

It is fun to hear the eclectic playlists they have.  I have also been impressed with how well-read they are.  We have been able to talk about books that range from Steinbeck to environmental awareness.  They also enjoy the oddities we find on our sorting trays… anything with suckers must be stuck on your finger to see how long it will hold on (little squid or octopi require peeling off!)  One night we had double tailed fish.  Somehow several of the fish that night managed to get one head caught in the other’s to the point that it looked like the head was in the center with a tail going off each side.

Challenge Yourself 

  • Look at Figure 6 above. How many different types of animals do you see? (Hint: Different colors are easy to spot, but also look for different eyes since some of the animals we found were transparent!  )
  • Can you find any animals that are not fish?  We found tiny squid and octopi most nights.  Squid tended to have really big eyes for their overall size.  Most of what you see in Figure 2 is krill.
  • Describe what makes the juvenile rockfish different from the sand dab shown above.

“We can only sense that in the deep and turbulent recesses of the sea are hidden mysteries far greater than any we have solved.”     ~Rachel Carson

What mysteries will I see next?

Sue

Amy Pearson, August 24, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Amy Pearson
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
August 13 – 30, 2007

Mission: Ecosystem Monitoring Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic Ocean
Date: August 24, 2007

Teacher Amy Pearson and Kim Pratt dressing up as plankton
Teacher Amy Pearson and Kim Pratt dressing up as plankton

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Air temp: 19.9
Water temp: 16.8
Wind direction: 185
Wind speed: 10 kts.
Sea wave height: 1to2 ft.
Visibility: 4

Science and Technology Log 

Early this morning we were at the southeastern edge of George’s Bank. Last night my team (Betsy and I) had collection stations at about 5:10 p.m., 7:30 p.m., 10:30 p.m., and 2:20 a.m. (today!). At 2:20 a.m. we were at a very deep location (305 meters depth) and about 200 miles offshore. I was surprised to come on deck and see 3 lights from other boats.  Two were just small single lights. The other ship had bright lights on and was moving away from us, probably fishing.  We first did a vertical drop of the CTD to get the temperature and salinity with depth all the way to the bottom. At 298 meters it was 6.7 degrees Celsius.  One can look at the salinity and temperature here and predict if this continental slope water is coming from the north (Labrador Current) or from the continental shelf.  It will be less salty and cooler if coming from Labrador.  Betsy predicts it is coming from Labrador, based on the data.  go to sleep around 3 a.m. and wake several times, hearing foghorns from our ship.  At 10:30 a.m. there is pretty dense fog, and while we are underway we must sound a foghorn once every 2 minutes.  If we are limited in our movements (plankton tow) we must sound one long and two short sounds. It is quite humid (we are in a cloud!) and the air temperature at 1 p.m. is about 19 degrees Celsius.  Our 75th station samples were loaded with gammarid amphipods that Betsy nicknamed clingons because they cling to the plankton net. This fog does make seeing whales more challenging.  Hope it lifts soon!

Jerry Prezioso, Amy Pearson, Kim Pratt, Joe Kane with 1 weeks worth of plankton samples collected during the southern leg of Ecosystem Cruise
Jerry Prezioso, Amy Pearson, Kim Pratt, Joe Kane with 1 weeks worth of plankton samples collected during the southern leg of Ecosystem Cruise

What Is the Mission of This NOAA Cruise? 

The primary objective of the cruise is to assess changing biological and physical properties which influence the sustainable productivity of the living marine resources of the mid-Atlantic Bight, southern New England, Gulf of Maine and Georges Bank portions of the northeast continental shelf ecosystem.  The following items are being measured: water column temperature, salinity, and chlorophyll-a fluorescence, and ichthyoplankton and zooplankton composition, abundance and distribution. The teachers aboard will deploy a surface current drifter buoy that will allow our students to track water movements and temperatures in near real-time on an Internet website.  We will also collect Pseudonitzchia (a red-tide pinnate diatom) samples from the ship’s flow-through seawater system for mapping the distribution of it in the Gulf of Maine and George’s Bank.  Zooplankton is also being collected for the Census of Marine Zooplankton Project (formerly called the Zooplankton Genome Project).

Small puffer fish and salps mixed w/ other plankton
Puffer fish and salps mixed with plankton

From my perspective, I never thought there would be such big differences in the type and amount of plankton we collect at different locations.  The diversity is very interesting, from large jellies to small zooplankton.  We have seen amphipods (tiny crustaceans), tiny crabs (still maturing), brownish phytoplankton, salps (clear jellies the size of a small walnut), to brownish creatures too small to see, krill, arrow worms…and many more.  The scientists are quite knowledgeable and usually predict what we will be seeing at each spot. I’ve put a few photos here to illustrate the diversity.

 

Small fish, large jelly fish and other types of plankton
Small fish, large jelly fish and other types of plankton
A plankton sample full of amphipods
A plankton sample full of amphipods

Amy Pearson, August 22, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Amy Pearson
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
August 13 – 30, 2007

Mission: Ecosystem Monitoring Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic Ocean
Date: August 22, 2007

Morning light in Woods Hole Harbor
Morning light in Woods Hole Harbor

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Air temp: 18.7
Water temp: 17
Wind direction: 75
Wind speed: 15kts.
Sea wave height. 2 ft.
Visibility: 7 nm

Science and Technology Log 

Woke to the sound of engines warming up.  We were docked in Woods Hole having arrived at 6 p.m. on Tuesday to exchange scientists.  Scientist Joe Kane who supervised my shift was departing and a new scientist, Betsy Broughton, was joining us.  Yesterday, the crew and scientists were very excited for the chance to get on land.  Many joined their families who live nearby.  I met my husband for dinner at a location about half-way between here and my home.  It was great seeing him. The DELAWARE II would be departing Woods Hole at 6a.m. The water was very calm and the morning light just beautiful. Everyone seemed recharged for the final leg of our cruise. After an early morning walk, I got on the exercise bike for a while.

Martha’s Vineyard Lighthouse being restored
Martha’s Vineyard Lighthouse being restored

Today I had a tour of the engine room, a place I had observed engineers entering with earphones but hadn’t seen. I followed Engineer Chris O’Keefe down a ladder into a very warm and noisy engine room.  It is huge and very clean. We first went into the office/control room where it was quiet and he showed me the many dials, switches, and screens that monitor the different systems of the ship.  There is one engine, two generators for producing electricity, and another generator in the bow to run the bow thrusters and hydraulic winches. There is also a system for making fresh water from sea water, utilizing a heat exchanger. Cool salt water condenses the steam to form fresh water, which is then chlorinated. The ship has about 10 fuel tanks and can carry 70,000 gallons of fuel. There is also a machine shop below with tools and some space to work.  I am very impressed with the organization of materials, cleanliness of the space and the size of the engine. There is a lot to keep track of down here, and it is well organized and clean.

Jerry Prezioso and Betsy Broughton changing CTD batteries
Jerry Prezioso and Betsy Broughton changing CTD batteries

As we left Woods Hole, we passed north of Martha’s Vineyard and I noticed a light house with an orange ladder next to it. I recalled that a friend of mine, Marty Nally, was going to be restoring this lighthouse at this time.  Right is a photo of the lighthouse with the orange ladder, Marty must be nearby! The CTD (conductivity, temperature, and depth) unit that we use can work for about 90 times before it needs a battery change. It is close to 60 stations and Jerry decided to change the batteries. He and Betsy (our new scientist on board) did this today during a calm moment.

My first plankton sample was done at around 9 p.m., and loaded with amphipods, tiny crustaceans that have little hook-like structures on their legs that make them very hard to remove from the nets.  Our midnight sample was about the same.  We were collecting at an area called Nantucket Shoals, east of Nantucket. It is shallow and has a hard bottom. I was surprised to get on deck to see at least 15 lights from fishing boats, fairly evenly spaced in a long line.  I heard that we had to change our collection site a bit due to the position of all of these boats.  I was quite tired and went to sleep at about 12:30 until 2:20 a.m. when I thought we would be at our next station.  I discovered that it would not be happening on our shift and went to sleep.  One thing about this ship, there is always noise, humming of some piece of equipment.  Headphones are very helpful in blocking it out…whether there is music, a book on tape, or just no noise.  It looks like tomorrow will be a much busier night, so I hope to stock up on some rest tonight! 

Amy Pearson, August 19, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Amy Pearson
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
August 13 – 30, 2007

Mission: Ecosystem Monitoring Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic Ocean
Date: August 19, 2007

Amy Pearson hosing down plankton net
Amy Pearson hosing down plankton net

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Air temp: 24.8
Water temp: 24.3
Wind direction: 200
Wind speed: 11 kts.
Sea wave height: 1-2 ft.
Visibility: 10+

Science and Technology Log 

Woke at 8 a.m., had some breakfast, and then went back to my cabin to read and sleep more.  Lunch was wonderful, including smoked salmon Sunday and some great butternut squash soup. I visited the bridge to collect some data and learned that the ship receives XM satellite radio to gain weather data.  As I was shown the Nobeltec software system along with a map that showed the currents in different locations, LT Monty Spencer remarked that sometimes he felt like he was “driving the ship with a mouse”….so much important computer-based navigation.

Opening the cod end of net to release plankton
Opening the cod end of net to release plankton

It was a busy sampling shift, with collections at about 6 p.m., 8:30 p.m., 11 p.m., 1:10 a.m., and 2:45 a.m., though the other shift workers came early and told us to go to sleep. Our first sample occurred off Delaware Bay and was loaded with lots of heavy jellies and brownish green phytoplankton. As we moved north the plankton changed. The 8:30 p.m. sample was still high in jellies and phytoplankton but had some amphipods.  The 11 p.m. sample had a small puffer fish puffed out, several worms, and amphipods.  The 1:10 a.m. sample had a worm and lots of amphipods.  The photos in this log show me hosing down the plankton within the nets, and then hosing it into a sieve which will be taken into the wet lab where the plankton will be preserved with formalin.  I saw the glow of Atlantic City from the sea—it was a long white light with a red light near the middle.

A phytoplankton sample with small pufferfish
A phytoplankton sample with small pufferfish

Life on a Research Vessel 

Working on a scientific research vessel requires adjusting to some changes from life/work on land. Basics like smaller living space, meals at designated hours, a limited area to live, are changes I have observed. Working 24 hours means shifts for all.  The scientists work from 3 a.m. to 3 p.m. and another group works from 3 p.m. to 3 a.m. The NOAA officers on the bridge work 4 hours on, 8 hours off, then 4 hours on again. At night a crewmember joins the officer on the bridge, to provide a second set of eyes.  I was amazed to find the bridge dark at night with the exception of the instruments.  This allows them to see what’s on the water clearly. The engineers work similar hours: 4 hours on, 8 hours off. The crew works 12 hours on, 12 hours off, from 12 to 12.  The wiper works a day shift beginning about 6 a.m., for about 8 hours. The chief steward (head chef) and second cook work over 12 hours, as breakfast begins at 6 a.m. and dinner ends at 6:20 p.m.

Amy takes a spin on the stationary bike
Amy takes a spin

Then there is clean up. Because someone is always off shift, one must be quiet so as not to wake up those sleeping. If you share a room with someone who is sleeping, you are not supposed to go into the room when they are sleeping. Free time can be spent sending email, on deck (there are some chairs), in the galley, or in your room if no one is sleeping. The galley has satellite TV at one end and a big screen at the other where movies can be watched.  The ship receives about 20 new movies per month that rotate among ships. ENS Claire Surrey has the responsibility of updating a movie list. There are also many other movies that stay on the ship. There is also an exercise bike and some free weights for those interested in this form of exercise. 

Rebecca Himschoot, June 29, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Rebecca Himschoot
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
June 21 – July 10, 2007

Mission: Summer Pollock Survey
Geographical Area: North Pacific Ocean, Unalaska
Date: June 29, 2007

Pollock from a trawl sample
Pollock from a trawl sample

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: 10 nm (nautical miles)
Wind direction: 307° (NW)
Wind speed: 23 knots
Sea wave height: 5 foot
Swell wave height: 1 feet
Seawater temperature: 5.6°C
Sea level pressure: 1014.7 mb (millibars)
Cloud cover: stratus

Science and Technology Log: Survey Techniques and Data 

When the science team on the summer pollock survey “see” enough fish to warrant trawling, a net is cast and a sample is collected.  The deck crew on the OSCAR DYSON fish the same way commercial fishermen do, just in smaller quantities. The net is placed in the water, and the front end is attached to a “door” on the port and starboard sides. These doors are released into the water and help to open the net. The net is lowered to the depth where the scientists are “seeing” the most fish.  After the net has been dragged long enough it is brought back on board and the sample is processed.  Once the net is on board, the fish are placed in a bin.

The fishing and deck crew of the OSCAR DYSON release the net for a trawl sample.
The fishing and deck crew of the OSCAR DYSON release the net for a trawl sample.

The bin can be slowly emptied onto a conveyor belt, where the science team culls out the bycatch and sorts it by species. Each species is documented and weighed, then returned to the sea. Some of these bycatch fish will survive, most will not due to the trauma of the net and being moved so quickly from depth to the surface.  Some common bycatch in the summer pollock survey are various flatfish, starfish, come cod and some crabs. The pollock are then also weighed and sorted by gender. Data are collected on gender and length for a large sample, and on a smaller sample more detailed information is collected, such as age. To weigh the fish, a large scale is used for the tubs of pollock, and a net weight can be obtained from the fishing crew.  Individual fish are weighed on smaller scales.  To know the gender of the fish, a slit is cut in the gut in order to see the gonads.  For scientists to know the age of the fish, otolith, or ear bone, samples are taken for later analysis. Each bit of data is collected in the processing area using watertight touch screen computer equipment and scales.  Rather than hand writing each fish weight, length and gender, the scientists use a barcode scanner to read each of these data points.

Scientist Sarah Stienessen weighs a sample.
Scientist Sarah Stienessen weighs a sample.

Personal Log 

We have settled into a routine, and the night shift is getting easier. The trawl samples are still unpredictable, but we’re doing more of them. Yesterday was a long shift in the lab, but it’s more interesting to see what we catch than to sit around waiting to fish.  There were some storm petrels today, as well, to add to my Bering Sea bird list.  The seas are getting calmer again, and I’m hoping for a good night’s sleep tonight!

Question of the Day 

Answer to the last question:  (Scientists use Latin names for each animal or plant they find even though Latin is no longer a living language.  How do scientific (Latin) names get selected and why are they important?)

The scientific name for each organism is derived from two Latin names.  The first name is the genus the organism belongs to, and the second is its species; these are the narrowest branches of scientific classification (kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, species). In the case of the walleye pollock, it belongs to the genus Theragra, and within that genus it is the chalcogramma species. There could be many other fishes in the Theragra genus, but only one is the species chalcogramma.

Senior Survey Technician Colleen Peters measures a sample.
Senior Survey Technician Colleen Peters measures a sample.

A scientific name can be descriptive, or it may indicate a geographical location, or it may even be named for the individual who discovered the species.  In the case of the walleye pollock, Theragra is from the Greek roots ther (beast) and agra (food – of fur seals) and chalcos (brass) and gramma (mark).  The first word in the Latin name is capitalized, the second begins with lower case, and the whole thing is always written in italics.

The scientific name of an organism is important because it is distinctive, so that each organism has only one name (usually).  This way a scientist from Russia can communicate clearly with a scientist from Alaska and know that they are speaking about the same organism.  Common names can be confusing, and there can be many different names for the same organism (for example, there are many kinds of “salmon,” but only the Oncorhynchus tshawytscha is the king, or chinook salmon).  It is important to be aware that scientific names undergo changes as discoveries are made and classifications are refined.

Today’s question: What is an “otolith” and why is it important?

Linda Depro, August 9, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Linda Depro
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 31 – August 11, 2006

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: Georges Bank, New England
Date: August 9, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

The dredge caught a monster lobster today.  The scientists seemed to think it was more than twenty years old. When held up it was the size of an adult’s length from shoulders to knees, and two hands were needed to hold it!  A spiny dogfish (looks like a shark) was also caught. I held it to have my picture taken and I plan to hang it on my classroom door! Otherwise the catches were the usual—some with lots of rocks, some with sand, others with many star fish or skates.  All these fantastic sea creatures that I have only seen in books have become part of my life here on board the ALBATROSS IV.  The star fish and hermit crabs are my favorites, skates are cool to look at and pick up by the tail and put in the bucket, goosefish (known as monk fish in the grocery store) have a face that “only a mother could love”, and the scallops, even though I’ve seen thousands of them are each a little different.

Personal Log 

Sunset was beautiful again tonight and the moon is spectacular.  With my binoculars the craters were very clear. A lone seagull followed us for a while; his white body against the black sky would have inspired me to write a poem if I were a poet.  Hard to believe the adventure is coming to an end, and what an adventure it was.  The crew has been super, very kind, and willing to talk and answer questions.  The scientists have an important job collecting and recording data; they are an interesting group to work with.  Thanks to all for making my time on the ALBATROSS IV the adventure of a lifetime.

Patti Conner, August 8, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Patti Connor
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 31 – August 11, 2006

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: Northwest Atlantic
Date: August 8, 2006

Data: (collected very early morning, 3AM) 
Air temperature = 18 C0 (65 F0 )
Water temperature = 18.9 C0 (68 F0)
Weather = rain
Depth of trawl = 98 meters (remember, a meter and a yard are pretty close)
Water salinity = 31.28 ppm
Wind speed = 18 knots

Two-shelled mollusks and a one-shelled mollusk
Two-shelled mollusks and a one-shelled mollusk

Science and Technology Log 

We have been very busy collecting samples of scallops and fish.  We are weighing and measuring the scallops.  Some of the dredge amounts are huge so we collect all the scallops and take a sub-sample and weigh and measure those.  Another sample of scallops is cleaned, measured and frozen to determine the age of the scallops which is done at a lab on shore. We collect cancer crabs and starfish and count them as they eat scallops and we want to see the amount of predation. We are covering all 24 hours so there is a day watch from noon to midnight, and there is a night watch (mine) from midnight to noon.  When you eat a scallop, you are eating the abductor muscle.  This muscle can be quite large in a Sea Scallop which allows it to “swim” across the ocean floor and not creep along like a clam does.

Personal Log 

Two days ago the weather was warm and sunny.  I was lucky enough to see whales. I have never seen a whale out of captivity before and it was beautiful to see.  This morning there were very heavy rains and lightning. It didn’t take long for that weather front to move on. I am tired as my body is still adjusting to the work schedule. The work is also very physical as much of what we are sampling ends up back in the ocean.  We are collecting, shoveling, measuring and cleaning all the time. A few more day and we’ll be back to port at Woods Hole.  I will be returning to finish teaching summer school on Monday.  I can’t wait to be in the classroom and see my students again.

Answer to last log: The picture was the internal structures of a scallop, a two-shelled mollusk. The black dots were eyes. I read that the eyes are fairly complex structures with retinas, lenses, and a large nerve fiber.

Linda Depro, August 7, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Linda Depro
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 31 – August 11, 2006

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: Georges Bank, New England
Date: August 7, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

It’s a small world here on the ALBATROSS IV.  Chad Meckley is a 1996 Wilson High School graduate. Wilson is in Berks County and I live in Lancaster County, less than forty minutes away.  If you want to talk to Chad, look on the bridge.

Chad earned a geography/environmental science degree from Shippensburg University and moved to Colorado to be near the mountains.  After working several years in sales, Chad happened to be talking to a friend who knew about the NOAA Corps.  He applied, was accepted, and began training in February 2006.

We are on Leg 2 of the Sea Scallop Cruise and it is Chad’s third cruise with NOAA.  He enjoys being on the ocean and plans to continue his NOAA career.  Chad has two goals: to become Officer of the Deck (so he can command the ship) and to experience his first winter at sea.

It is evident that Chad enjoys what he’s doing; you can see it in his smile.  Best Wishes, Chad!

Last watch was not quite as busy as the night before.  We had two stations that were mostly Brittle Stars, very interesting little starfish.  They are a tannish color about the diameter of a coffee mug, with long thin arms that visibly move. When they were shoveled into laundry size baskets each time we had two baskets full, and that’s a lot of Brittle Stars!

Personal Log 

Yesterday, Sunday, was an absolutely, drop dead gorgeous day on the ocean.  The sun was out and the water was calm.  Whales were sighted, but in the distance.  I did see them surfacing and took pictures. Imagine a 4×6 all bluish-green and a fourth-inch dot of black. Sunset was working on spectacular, but just as the sun reached the water it went behind a layer of clouds. We are almost at full moon and the night time was just as beautiful in its own way.

Linda Depro, August 5, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Linda Depro
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 31 – August 11, 2006

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: Georges Bank, New England
Date: August 5, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

Yesterday was quite a day—many stations, lots of scallops, and BIG rocks.  I am amazed that the trawl net liner was not damaged.  Last night, though, a rock the size of a small car was hauled onto deck—that one did tear the liner.  It’s interesting to watch the winch drop it in the ocean.

My new special position (I’m still sorting, shoveling, and measuring) is taking the inclinometer, or bottom contact sensor, reading.  To you landlubbers, it’s a device attached to the trawl that gathers data and tells the scientists whether the net was parallel to the bottom of the ocean. So when the net comes up with very little the information from the inclinometer is helpful.

Here’s what I do. I have an optic shuttle (about the size of a hot dog) that I secure in the inclinometer located on the trawl.  Each part has sensors and when put together properly the inclinometer sends the data to the optic shuttle (like a zip) and when all information is received and a little green light flashed I take in into a computer and transfer the data onto the hard drive. It’s an important piece to the mission.

What I have been doing here is an example of how important hands-on learning really is for understanding and transfer. I could have read all about this experience (like you are with this journal), but until I held the fish, scrubbed the scallops, cut into a Monk fish to discover the ovaries, etc., I had no real understanding.  Amazing!

Personal Log 

The weather remains beautiful, the people are great, and the food is delicious.

Linda Depro, August 4, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Linda Depro
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 31 – August 11, 2006

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: Georges Bank, New England
Date: August 4, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

If you are observant you will notice that I’m on my second Friday in a row.  Time is a hard thing to keep track of here on the ocean.  Last watch, Thursday I think, we entered Canadian waters. I was looking for a sign the said “Welcome to Canada”, but I must have missed it.

I am a scallop scrubber!  With each haul five scallops are chosen at random to gather in-depth data on (all other scallops are weighed and measured only).  The shells are scrubbed clean so the scientists on shore can determine the age.  Scallop shells are a little like a tree trunk. Age is determined by growth rings.  The larger scallops can be five years and older. The scallop is measured for length and weighed individually then opened. The sex is entered into the computer next.  Male scallops have a white gonad and females have a pink gonad.  The gonad is weighed, and then the muscle (what we would call the “scallop”) is cut out and weighed.  The shell is dried and numbered to match the data, bagged, and frozen.  Some scallops are very clean, but others can have barnacles, “weeds”, sponges, and/or slime (don’t know the scientific term!) growing on their shells. As a shell scrubber you get to know these things and the best way to remove them!!  Finally the whole station is hosed down for the next haul.

Personal Log 

The noise of the engines and the rocking of the ship are becoming second nature.  The weather has been kind and swells small.  I am really, really hoping that is stays this way.  Laundry is my goal for the morning.  The washer and drier are behind a metal door called a hatch. There are six dogs (big metal latches) that must be closed when the ship is at sea. I have opened and closed those six dogs so many times I’ve given them names: King, Lassie, Rin Tin Tin, Lady, Spot, and ToTo!  So many things to learn.

Patti Conner, August 4, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Patti Connor
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 31 – August 11, 2006

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: Northwest Atlantic
Date: August 4, 2006

Data: (collected mid-morning) 
Air temperature = 17 C(62.6 F0 )
Water temperature = 19.2 C0 (66 F0)
Weather = hazy
Depth of trawl = 85 meters (remember, a meter and a yard are pretty close)
Water salinity = 31.06 ppm
Wind speed = 10.56 knots

I am working in the Biology Lab which is located on the back deck of the ALBATROSS IV
I am working in the Biology Lab which is located on the back deck of the ALBATROSS IV

Science and Technology Log 

The 12 hour shift is going very well. It is a little cooler out here than I expected, but the water temperature does affect the air. It is quite foggy today as we continue to travel northeast around Georges Bank. We have been in a little deeper water today, and have collected fewer scallops but we continue to bring in fish and many broken mollusk shells. Surprisingly, we brought up more algae than before even though the water is deeper. The main fish we are collecting are: Flounder, Hake, Skates, Sculpin, and Goosefish (also know as Monk Fish). I will be sending some pictures of the fish as well as some more invertebrate pictures.

Personal Log 

I miss being at home and respect those who are at sea working. It is demanding work, but when the sun rises over the water it is an impressive site and makes everything seem worthwhile. I wouldn’t care to be out here in the winter, but the boat and crew are except for a few weeks of the year. Next time we have a snow day, I’ll be thinking of my friends out here on the boat in howling winds. Today we had a little time between dredging so I was able to come up with several new labs for next year. My students will have a few new labs for our Under The Sea Unit. We will have some fish, and reptile (Sea Turtle) identifications to make using taxonomic keys. I am also working on a Squid dissection lab in addition to the Starfish dissection lab. Of course there will be a lab on Scallops (no, we are not going to eat them!).

Invertebrate identification from previous log = Echinoderms (Sunstars), and Vertebrate identification = Me! 

What invertebrate is this?  Look at the number of shells.  What are the small black spots?

connor_log3a

Linda Depro, August 3, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Linda Depro
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 31 – August 11, 2006

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: Georges Bank, New England
Date: August 3, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

Life happens here aboard ALBATROSS IV in twelve-hour intervals. My watch is from twelve noon until twelve midnight and the other watch is from twelve midnight until twelve noon.  I feel fortunate to have the “day watch” because at midnight I fall into bed dead tired and let the ocean rock me to sleep.  After breakfast I have time to write in my journal, read, do laundry, or sit and talk to the many interesting people who are aboard.  Lunch at 11:15 and then it’s off to work at 11:50.  If the stations are close together that means there is not much steam time and hauls can come in in 45 minutes or less.  So far that has been enough time to log all the data from the previous haul, freeze any biological samples to be worked up at the on shore lab, and clean up.  If steam time is longer I can read a book, get a snack (there is always fresh fruit out – I am a happy camper!), or eat dinner.

Personal Log 

Yesterday morning I was showering before breakfast.  As I was soaping I looked out the port hole that is in the shower. It was one of those “wow” moments.  Where else can a person take a shower with white caps splashing against the window?  I recounted my experience with the watch chief. She said, “Wait until the porthole is underwater.”  I certainly will be holding on the grab bars!

I’ve talked to the head cook and his assistant several times, both very kind men who obviously enjoy their jobs. Their food is excellent.  Each meal includes two entrees and many sides.  One lunch entree was unbelievable – blackened scallops prepared by using the scallops that had been part of the biological sampling in the wet lab.  Talk about fresh – and were they delicious!!

Patti Conner, August 2, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Patti Connor
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 31 – August 11, 2006

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: Northwest Atlantic
Date: August 2, 2006

Data: (collected mid-morning) 
Air temperature = 17 C0 (62.6 F0 )
Water temperature = 15.5 C0 (60 F0)
Weather = sunny, windy
Depth of trawl = 45.4 meters (remember, a meter and a yard are pretty close)
Water salinity = 31.54 ppm
Wind speed = 13.52 knots

NOAA Teacher at Sea, Patti Connor, helps to sort sea scallops aboard NOAA ship ALBATROSS IV.
NOAA Teacher at Sea, Patti Connor, helps to sort sea scallops aboard NOAA ship ALBATROSS IV.

Science and Technology Log 

Today we are sailing northeast of our sailing position yesterday. We are going to circle Georges Bank counterclockwise. Our dredges today were interesting. We continue to bring scallops in, but my watch team tells me there are more plentiful spots to come.  At one site, we found so many sand dollars that I couldn’t believe my eyes.  This particular species of sand dollar produces a very brilliant green colored pigment which stains everything (starfish, algae, fish and me!).  I am learning to identify the many species of starfish that we bring in.  One of my jobs is to count them at various sites by randomly selecting from the dredge material.  At one site, I was counting hundreds of them.  It’s amazing how well they can hide and are camouflaged in the algae.  Many of the scallops have thick red layers of red algae on them (remember that red algae can grow at deeper depths because the red pigment can trap the minimal amount of sunlight needed for photosynthesis), and they also can be found carrying Porifera (sponges) on them which also helps them to be camouflaged.

Personal Log 

I do love it out here. My inner ear and brain has adjusted to the perpetual motion of the boat. I have not had a problem with seasickness yet.  It has helped that the weather has been nice. I am also doing well with the midnight to noon work schedule.  It is a little funny to see the fog roll across the deck of the boat in the darkness of the night.  Sunrise is my favorite time as the light changes how everything looks, especially the dredge samples, and it is nice to see the waves and the great expanse of the water.

Yesterdays invertebrate sample: Starfish (phylum = Echinodermata).

Today’s invertebrate sample: starfish!
Today’s invertebrate sample: starfish!

Linda Depro, August 1, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Linda Depro
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 31 – August 11, 2006

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: Georges Bank, New England
Date: August 1, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

To quote that famous seaman, Popeye, “A sailor’s life for me!!”  I’m thinking about joining him and changing careers – this experience is fantastic.

The ALBATROSS IV is conducting the second leg of the Atlantic scallop survey, and we are in Georges Bank off the coast of New England.  In specific stations (areas of the ocean) the scientists are keeping data;  the number of scallops, their size, and weight, the number and kind of fish, the volume of the entire catch, and at specific stations the number of crabs, or the number of starfish.

The vessel steams to each station where the dredge is lowered and then AIV trawls for fifteen minutes.  The haul is brought in and emptied onto the aft deck where the scientists, volunteers, and me (teacher at sea) sort through and put the scallops and fish into different baskets. With that completed we go back and shovel all unneeded shells, sand, etc. into baskets that are recorded (for volume) and returned to the sea.  The scallops and fish are taken into the wet lab where they are counted, weighed, and measured.  Five random scallops are chosen to be individually surveyed.  The shells are scrubbed clean (one of my jobs) so their age can be determined later; each is measured, weighed, and opened. The sex of the scallop is recorded, the gonad weighed, and the abductor muscle weighed.  Finally the shell is numbered to correspond to the data (in a computer) for each.  The shells are bagged, marked, and frozen for later study.

Personal Log 

All my expectations about this adventure pale to the experience that it has been so far.  When Patti Connor (the other Teacher at Sea) and I saw the ALBATROSS IV for the first time we were awe-struck.  My excitement at that moment wiped away any worries or fears about the adventure. Tony, the first bo’sun, was on deck and welcomed us aboard.  He was the first, and with each new crewmember, from the steward to the engineer to the captain we met I felt more and more “at home.”

The staterooms hold three scientists; my bed is on the bottom of the bunk bed.  We have two portholes for light, a sink, two closets, and some storage drawers.  The head and shower are shared with the next stateroom.  The room is pretty much for sleeping and showering because I cannot go in while one roommate on the opposite watch is sleeping.  It is amazing how the roll of the boat puts me to sleep, and so far I have been sleeping quite well.

Sorting through the piles that are brought up from the bottom of the sea is very exciting.  Even those who have been doing this for a while are enthusiastic about the catch.  I am picking up REAL LIVE hermit crabs, flounder, scallops, crabs, starfish, sand dollars, and more!

Dennis Starkey, July 29, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Dennis Starkey
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman
July 16 – August 4, 2006

Mission: Pollock Survey
Geographical Area: Bering Sea
Date: July 29, 2006

“It Looks Like a Giant Milk Bottle” 

Science and Technology Log 

The MILLER FREEMAN’s next task was to aid two fisheries researchers conduct a trial attempt at catch and release salmon tagging.  A net system is employed to haze the salmon into the center of the net.  Salmon are fairly shallow surface feeders so the trawls would not be deep. In fact, our trolling regions were within two miles of Dutch Harbor.

What makes this trawl interesting is the device that gathers and stores the salmon at the end of the netting. It could accurately be described as a large old-fashioned milk bottle made of aluminum that serves as the retaining device and tank.  The flowing water and salmon are swept into a 724-pound portable live tank.  The ocean water is held in the confines of the tank with all kinds of surface fish and jellyfish.  After the fishermen crank it up, the back of the boat with a winch, we opened the door and had live salmon to measure, tag, take a scale sample, and sometimes put on a satellite-tracking device!

The need for such a device arose from the high mortality rate of netted, and hook and line tagging procedures. The more handling and scale loss incurred during a capture results in a dramatic decrease in immediate survival for the salmon.  The outcomes success rate and eventual retrieval of the tag becomes slim.  The scales on the sides of the salmon are a precious defense mechanism that needs to be retained to ensure a healthy immune system and this is why the “Box Trawl” device was made.  This tank system of netting was first developed by the Norwegians to further their studies of ocean fisheries.  This particular model was drawn up by the Biologists and manufactured locally in Dutch Harbor.

Unfortunately, the welder probably didn’t realize what the purpose of this device was.  It roughly built with sharp edges, aluminum slag pocking, and a heavy free-swinging fish door. After the first tow with these flaws, it was apparent modifications were needed to make this more fish “friendly”.  Fire hoses were slashed and wrapped to cover sharp edges as were rubber tubing to cover blunt surfaces.  A grinder was used to take the burs off the metal sheeting, and the door was removed to prevent added banging upon the fish.  Everyone on the fishing deck seemed to help out.  The results were amazing!  The first trawl saw some very banged up salmon with a high loss of scale coverage.  After the corrective measures, there was hardly a glitter from scale loss in the tank.

The six trawls over the two-day period resulted in an average capture of about 15 to 20 salmon per tow.  Other species of fish were caught as well.  Atka mackerel were numerous, and a 14-inch herring was in the tank as well.  The largest catch was estimated at having about 60 fish in it.  Fortunately, they all could be released unharmed due to the trawl tanks successful features.

The biologists, Jim and Jamal, are targeting Pacific King, Chinook, and Coho salmon for their study. They choose the highly commercial, or highly respected recreational varieties, because the success rate of a returned tag is higher for those particular types of salmon because of the desire for humans to obtain them.

Out of the Tank 

After the door was opened and we could see what we had caught, a hose with freshly pumped seawater was inserted into the tank to supply fresh water and oxygen.  Without this, fish in the tank would quickly use up their oxygen supply.  Then Jim brought over a fish hammock with two handles and a button that was about a meter long.  This was a “settling” device connected to a car battery.  The fish obviously don’t wish to cooperate when they are removed from the water, so they are zapped with some voltage that calms them for not more than a minute and a half.  Each fish is identified by species, measured for length, and plucked of a single scale sample.  A tag is then inserted by means of a hollow sharp probe that contains a small round red and white tag number and information on whom to return the tag to if found.  The tag itself is attached to a plastic bubble zip tie that holds the dime size tag in place.  About six of the fish were fitted with satellite tracking devices as well.  These state of the art clear plastic devices are about the size and shape of an average Lego block. Each one costs about $125. This technology allows the biologists to locate this particular fish for about 5 years.  These devices were installed in much the same way as the round tags.

Everyone on board enjoyed gathering around the big “milk bottle” to see what was in the tank. I especially enjoyed helping transport the fish out of the tank and helping measure them.  The most satisfying part of the process was taking them over to the side of the boat and releasing them!

Personal Log 

The scientific parts of my journey are now over.  We will head to Kodiak Island for the end of my stay at sea.  I have enjoyed the educational aspect of every mission I was able to observe and participate in. I also can appreciate the team effort that it takes to complete each mission.  The ship’s fishermen have to be versatile at all kinds of fishing techniques as well as be the deck hands. The ship’s officers are top-notch navigators and responsibility lingers in every decision they make.  The scientists visit the ship as a vehicle for their ideas and creations.  It becomes a portable platform for the fieldwork that is contrived in their offices. The mechanics and engineers man the power plant that gives the MILLER FREEMAN life and sustenance. The ship’s galley and the cooks give everyone a touch of home cook’n that we all miss out on when at sea.  A satisfied mind comes with a satisfied belly!

 

Dennis Starkey, July 21, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Dennis Starkey
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman
July 16 – August 4, 2006

Mission: Pollock Survey
Geographical Area: Bering Sea
Date: July 21, 2006

Gathering Pollock Data and “Getting Slimed” 

The scale used to acquire data on the Pollock
The scale used to acquire data on the Pollock

Science and Technology Log 

My job on board is to work closely with the fisheries biologists to collect specific information from the sample of the fish we catch in our nets. The first step is to dress in boots and full rain-gear attire. They don’t call the area we process Pollock in the, “slime lab” for nothing! All the fish in the net are accounted for in some way.  Different species are separated at the sorting table first. Each kind of fish species we catch is also weighed and recorded even though they are not our target species. After separating the kinds of fish, we count off about sixty Pollock at a time into what look like heavy-duty laundry baskets. We then take them over to a scale that is networked with computer software program call FSCS. This program specializes in data collecting, coordinating, and reporting.  After the contents of the trawl are weighed, a workable representative of the sample is collected from the entire catch.  The biologists determine the amount of Pollock to be “worked up” based on the large or small volume of fish caught. The unneeded fish are deposited overboard to either swim away or return to the sea expired as potential energy for the food chain.

Roughly five baskets containing about sixty mature fish each are then checked for gender. We do this by making an incision into the abdomen and find either two yellow egg sacks on a female or a ribbon like vessel that is the testes on the male.  From personal experience, I’ll tell you this can get extremely difficult in the small immature Pollock.  The egg sacks almost become invisible and the testes become nearly non-existent!

The gender specific baskets are separated into separate containers and are moved over to the measuring device.  Again, this measurement technology is tied into the FSCS system for ease of data entry. We use a device called an Icthystick to enter this data.  It looks like a space aged metal tray that is about 90 centimeters long with blinking lights.  It works by using an electro magnetic current to mark the length of the fish in centimeters.  It has a stylus that attaches to a person’s finger that contains a small magnet.  When the stylus momentarily stops where you want it, at the fork of the fish’s tail, a tone is heard and the length is noted on the computer screen.  The software is set to record all of the males, and then the females, as we work toward processing them all.  At this point it may have taken an hour and a half to process about 400 fish.

Occasionally we catch different size and aged Pollock.  When this happens, a sub sample is collected.  This is pretty labor intensive because the three age classes are separated before being processed with the steps mentioned above.  “Ones” are first years, “seconds” are two-year growth, and “three” are mature and up.  Smaller fish tend to come in larger amounts and take twice as long to determine gender.  Each age class is also weighed to find a general ratio between ages found in the school.  When there are smaller fish it can take as long as three hours to perform all the required steps!

“Brain” Surgery 

After that, a representative number of fish of each age category are randomly selected to have their individual weight, length, gender, and age confirmed.  This is usually done by two people. One person weighs, determines length and gender, and then makes an incision on the top of the fish’s head near the brain to remove two otolith ear bones from each side of the brain.  The second person extracts them, washes them, and puts them in a capped vial. These two white half-crescent shaped bones are defining factors for determining the age of the fish.  Length of the fish is an estimated measurement for age.  The otolith bones are marked with microscopic growth rings that show if they are one or two years of age. After they are inserted into a specimen vial they are preserved with alcohol, and are brought back to a laboratory on land for final confirmation.  By this time the slime lab is very messy.  Scales and certain organ parts fall from the fish cavity during this process. Everything gets hosed off, even the “touch” monitors and people!  The sea birds that follow us love it when the big red fire hose comes out to blast the “slime lab” clean again.  They pick up tidbits and small fish when they get carried over the side of the ship.

Personal Log 

Our shifts are broken up over a twenty-four hour period.  I am ready to work from 4 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day.  It is not like I must work that entire time but I need to be ready to process the fish. Sometimes there is a catch ready at 4 .am. and other days there are back-to-back hauls. I actually had one day where we didn’t have a trawl at all. I try to take a nap right after supper and wake up to catch a movie. Then it’s right back to sleep. My sleeping quarters are warm, I rarely use any covers!

Did You Know? 

Since the MILLER FREEMAN was commissioned as a government work ship it has been watched continuously for years! What this means is that an officer is on watch any time the ship is in the water. That includes out at sea or at port. Even when repairs are needed and the ship is dry-docked, there is a responsible person to administer to the ship at all times. How would you like that babysitting job? Actually, it is an act of ultimate respect and security for the ship affectionately called “SALLY” by the office staff on board.

Dennis Starkey, July 18, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Dennis Starkey
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman
July 16 – August 4, 2006

Mission: Pollock Survey
Geographical Area: Bering Sea
Date: July 18, 2006

“Way Out There!” 

Science and Technology Log 

We are now 529 nautical miles out into the Bering Sea.  I thought there would be an occasional sea bird of some kind.  I was mistaken.  There are tons of sea birds to see!  The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is also conducting a survey of the density of bird life in the Bering Sea. Tamara, our bird Biologist, spends daily shifts on the Captain’s deck recording the birds that she sees in a 300-foot swath in front of the ship’s path.  She has been busy. She enters the species and numbers of birds on a computer program that works in conjunction with the ship’s radar. Some of the common species are, Northern Fulmars, Murres, Kittiwakes, and my favorite, Puffins.  The results give an impression of the density, or how many of each kind in a specific section, for the Bering Sea area. Tamara informed me that the last survey of this kind was in the 1980’s.  The weather looks calm and “beautiful sailing” conditions prevail.  There is a stratus cloud cover, but the sun has peeked out on occasion.  The temperature is currently 8 degrees Celsius.  The overall temperature range has been a bit warmer than this and has been comfortable to dress in a sweatshirt.

“How Do You Know There Are Fish Down There?” 

You see, we are not catching tons of fish. We do this on purpose.  In the past, fishermen would report catch amounts and that information would be analyzed and that was about all. This left speculation as to many variables that were not consistent.  Reports were not always accurate, locations were not disclosed, and weights weren’t reliable.  By having a research vessel conduct the survey, the results can have reliability and consistency measures.

To go out into the Bering Sea and drag nets all over the place does not make economic sense. A better solution is to find traditional fishery areas in the Bering Sea and survey those areas. Those areas happen to be along the continental shelf.  This is a comparatively shallow area of the ocean where currents of warmer and cooler water converge and circulate, allowing ideal conditions for life to flourish.  This is an area rich in phytoplankton (plants or algae) that are producers of food, which can feed lower end primary consumers (krill), that feed secondary and tertiary consumers and so on.  The Pollock find this area a favorable habitat for this reason.

So, you can’t catch them all, especially with one or two boats, so what do you do? Use technology! The computers, program software, and technology devices used make the survey possible. Echo sound is proving to be a fantastic way to find and quantify data.

Consider this scenario: It works sort of like this: You are in your bedroom reading when you hear a truck outside. You think, “It’s a big truck,” based on the type of sound and your experience listening to sounds. You knew it was a truck even though you never saw it. In order to confirm what you were hearing was a truck, you tell your mother to look out the window and let you know if it is a truck.  She might yell back, “It’s a fire truck at the neighbor’s house next door!” After she physically sees it, she can provide you with the details by providing color, length, and function of the truck.  The echo-scientists can’t exactly see each individual fish as we go by at 12 knots, but what they can do is be reasonably sure that different sound frequencies bounce back to the sonar equipment in a predictable fashion based on species. I’m informed that the fish’s swim bladders are the telltale sign. They do see a mass of colors and bunches on the computer monitor, but you can’t measure that information yet until confirmed.  Even jellyfish have their own particular patterns as do krill, and whales for that matter. The next step is to have a system to indeed find out for sure that the fish are there.

This is the part where mom is your eyewitness.  Fisheries scientists then return to the site by using satellite technology to where the characteristic patterns are detected.  Then a trawl net is lowered and dragged. What is caught is recorded.  My experience here in four trawls has shown 100% accuracy each time!  We take the collected specimens and put them on a 10ft x12ft x10-inch table for sorting.  We sort by species, gender, weight, and other collectable characteristics requested by the lead biologist. We now have the specifics of the truck, and the Pollock for that matter, based on circumstantial and physical evidence. Sounds a bit like CSI doesn’t it? A sample of less than four hundred fish is desired to make the data collection a success.  Often we get more.  The sorted data is entered in the computer and the information is combined with the cumulative data of the survey to demonstrate trends and density results for the Walleye Pollock.

Personal Log 

The MILLER FREEMAN doesn’t turn off the engine.  This diesel-powered ship runs all the time!  As we transect the grid course day in and day out, the boat maintains a rate of about 12 knots. The only time it slows is during trawl operations.  Trawling occurs when the chief scientist feels it would be good to get a sample of what she sees on the four sonar frequencies. The result to your ears is comparable to a commercial jet airliner from inside the coach.  I’d say the crew is totally used to it.  It actually seems to help me sleep!

I have participated in four Pollock hauls now.  They have all been successes!  It takes about two, to two and a half hours to conduct the scientific processing of a catch.  It is pretty slimy business!

Did You Know? 

British Scientists are researching the slime found on fish to develop a drug that would defend the body against diseases. The hope is to replicate the protection properties that fish provide to trout on our bodies. Could you imagine your roll on slime dispenser? I’m sure that’s not what they have in mind!

Dennis Starkey, July 17, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Dennis Starkey
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman
July 16 – August 4, 2006

Mission: Pollock Survey
Geographical Area: Bering Sea
Date: July 17, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

We made a krill trawl today to check the sonar equipment.  It was a check on one of the primary food sources of the Pollock and it helps the echo-integration specialists hone their skills at identifying Pollock versus other schools of marine organisms.  The trawling device was designed to catch a small bucket of krill of which it did. The specimens were weighed and then photographed on a scanner for later base study analysis. The greatest thing about the cruise so far is the warm, helpful welcome I received on board and the willingness of everyone to spend some time with me to share conversation, and bring me up to speed on what is taking place.

Members of the fisheries biology staff begin to count out and weigh the Walleye Pollock from the sorting table.
Members of the fisheries biology staff begin to count out and weigh the Walleye Pollock from the sorting table.

Personal Log 

I had a few days to visit Dutch Harbor while the scientific staff rotated and the ship restocked. The most impressive observation for most people living in the lower forty-eight states must be the abundance of our national bird, the Bald Eagle.  They congregate here for the free fish that spill overboard at one of the many fishing plants. They are rather like pigeons here. The harsh climate does not suit trees well so the eagles perch on the hillsides and, more often, on the store rooftops and streetlights right in town.

Living on the 205ft MILLER FREEMAN takes some getting used to.  I am not accustomed to the small living quarters on board yet.  I am rooming with the two Russian scientists in a “cozy” 54 sq. ft. bunkroom. I sleep on the top bunk and have been pleasantly lulled to sleep by the drone of the engine the past two nights.  The sea has been calm but overcast.  I have had the chance to see Minke whales, Dall’s porpoises, fur seals, and incredible amounts of sea birds!  I have been getting used to the many hatches, decks, and stairways. I still find myself laughing out loud when I come to a dead end or the wrong deck just trying to get to my room.

Susan Just, June 26, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Susan Just
Onboard NOAA Ship Oregon II
June 15 – 30, 2006

Mission: Summer Groundfish Survey
Geographical Area: Gulf of Mexico
Date: June 26, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: 10 nautical miles (nm)
Wind direction: 144 ◦
Wind speed: 2.5
Sea wave height: 0-1
Swell wave height: 1
Seawater temperature: 28.0
Sea level pressure: 1013.2
Cloud cover: 3/8 Altostratus

Science and Technology Log 

Today we had stormy weather around us during the night.  This caused the moon, if any, and the stars to be obscured and increased the intensity of darkness both above and below the surface. This may have been a factor which contributed to the amazing catch we made shortly after sunrise.

When the net was pulled in, it was obvious that it was very full.  As it was lifted out of the water, it became clear that it contained many small fish, mostly Croker, approximately 4-5 inches in length. The unloaded catch was too much to be held in the fish box on deck.  When they came along the conveyor belt, there were no snapper to be seen and very few shrimp.  It appeared as if we had captured an entire school of fish.  The final catch weight was 985 Kilos. Out of this, there were approximately four gallons of shrimp, all varieties included.

Interview

Alonzo Hamilton:  Watch Leader for the Midnight to Noon scientific watch on the OREGON II summer fisheries survey of the Gulf of Mexico.

What is the title of your position?
Research Fishery Biologist

Were you a good student in school?
Average

In what school year did you make up your mind to become serious?
Community College

Did you go to College?
Yes.

What kind?
Two years at Community College then a BS in Biology at Jackson State University, Jackson Mississippi

Do you have any scientific degrees?
Masters Degree in Marine Environmental Science

Why do you enjoy about this work?
I like everything about it. I like the freedom of being out in the field and then I like the finished product that comes from what we do, in terms of data analysis.

What percentage of your work year is spent at sea?
125 days per year

When you are ashore, what kind of work do you do?
I’m analyzing data, editing data and being the Safety Officer at the laboratory. It’s a desk job

Is your family comfortable with this lifestyle?
They’re more comfortable with it than I thought they would be. Do they like when I’m away, no. But they also don’t like the disruption that I cause when I’m at home. So it’s a trade-off. I think they’ve adjusted to the lifestyle itself. They know that when I’m home I’m there and they know that when I’m away, I’m at work and they accept that.

If you could be anything you want, what would you be?
A fishery biologist.

What advice would you give to young people who are interested in this career path?
Do it because you enjoy it. Don’t do it for any other reason. Regardless of what you are doing, do it because you enjoy it.

Personal Log 

Today I worked at the beginning of the line instead of the end.  All this time I have been primarily looking for shrimp and the select species which, on this cruise, is mainly red snapper. However, when I dug into the sample rather than the full catch, I had a great time.  There were lots of terrific looking crabs that I’ve never seen.  There were some interesting fish. I was surprised that I am actually able to decipher the differences between the species.

Question of the Day 

Why are the conductivity, temperature and depth measurements important?

Answer: These pieces of data are used to compute salinity.

Susan Just, June 25, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Susan Just
Onboard NOAA Ship Oregon II
June 15 – 30, 2006

Mission: Summer Groundfish Survey
Geographical Area: Gulf of Mexico
Date: June 25, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: 10 nautical miles (nm)
Wind direction: 205 ◦
Wind speed: 10
Sea wave height: 1
Swell wave height: 1
Seawater temperature: 27.8
Sea level pressure: 1015.0
Cloud cover: 3/8 Cumulus

Science and Technology Log 

At this point in the survey, the stations are not far apart but they are up, down, in and out.   We are actually steaming back to one of the day stations in order to do the same area as a night station.  All of this activity is taking place in the general vicinity of Corpus Christi.  This area receives a great deal of fishing pressure year around, both commercially and recreationally.

Our last night catch pulled in a beautiful collection of shrimp.  The total for the catch was about 25 Kilos and we ended up with more than 18 Kilos of shrimp.  When you account for the trash that was included, that left a very small volume of fish other than the shrimp.  When the net came up and spilled out into the baskets it was a lovely golden color.

Question of the Day 

What do the letters CTD stand for?

Answer: Conductivity, temperature and depth.

Susan Just, June 24, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Susan Just
Onboard NOAA Ship Oregon II
June 15 – 30, 2006

Mission: Summer Groundfish Survey
Geographical Area: Gulf of Mexico
Date: June 24, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: 10 nautical miles (nm)
Wind direction: 153 ◦
Wind speed: 09
Sea wave height: 1-2
Swell wave height: 2
Seawater temperature: 27.6
Sea level pressure: 1014.8
Cloud cover: 4/8 Cumulus

Science and Technology Log 

This morning when we came on watch we were informed of a new procedure.  We will now be keeping one specimen or each type caught along with one species of skate. These will be placed together in a plastic bag and returned to the lab for further study. There is a relationship study being conducted between the species.

A Hemingway fish was waiting for us this morning too.  It is red all over and has big poofy cheeks. It is interesting to look at and this one was about thirteen (13) inches long.  The catches today were much smaller than the previous night.  By morning we were not catching many shrimp at all.

Personal Log 

I had a much better time today.  It was possible to get all the work done without rushing and we were also able to keep the baskets and the lab relatively clean. When the mud gets thick, the place takes on a bad smell that becomes oppressive.  It is important to maintain a constant vigilance on the fish odor to keep the bacterial buildup under control.

Question of the Day 

During what part of any twenty-four hour period can you expect to catch the most shrimp?

Answer: The dark time.  The shrimp hide in the mud during the day and come out to feed in the dark when the predators are not able to see them as easily.

Susan Just, June 21, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Susan Just
Onboard NOAA Ship Oregon II
June 15 – 30, 2006

Mission: Summer Groundfish Survey
Geographical Area: Gulf of Mexico
Date: June 21, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: 10 nautical miles (nm)
Wind direction: 105 ◦
Wind speed: 10
Sea wave height: 1-2
Swell wave height: 2-3
Seawater temperature: 27.7
Sea level pressure: 1012.8
Cloud cover: 2/8 Cumulus

Science and Technology Log 

Things started out fairly normal this morning.  There were fish waiting on the deck when our watch began. We then steamed to a new location. This station went as planned. On the next station the trawl went out and things were going well. We were processing fish when we smelled something strange. We concluded that there was something burning and we went out onto the deck.

Yes, something was burning. It was a clutch. This was an engine part, not an actual fire. There was no need for a fire alarm to sound. The problem was recognized. Although we are now short one Power Transfer Output (this is what takes engine power and uses it for winches and other power tools) we can continue our mission.

Personal Log 

The engine problem was really no big deal. It was much like burning up a clutch in a car. The smell is pretty awful and there is a little smoke but no fire. The smoke comes from the rubbing together of the surfaces under pressure. It was great to see the various ship’s personnel work together so smoothly and quickly to discover and correct any problems.

After going off watch and showering, I made a mistake. I did not remember that we have weekly drills. So, there I was, fresh out of the shower standing in the middle of the room when the alarm sounded and my roommate came running in to gather survival gear and personal flotation devices. I jumped into the nearest clothing, my pajamas, and joined in the drills.

Question of the Day 

As part of the Commerce Department, what is the goal of NOAA science research?

Answer: To collect information which can be used to answer the scientific and policy questions which impact our shared environment.

Susan Just, June 20, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Susan Just
Onboard NOAA Ship Oregon II
June 15 – 30, 2006

Mission: Summer Groundfish Survey
Geographical Area: Gulf of Mexico
Date: June 20, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: 8-10 nautical miles (nm)
Wind direction: 023 ◦
Wind speed: 11.6
Sea wave height: 1-2
Swell wave height: 2-3
Seawater temperature: 27.8
Sea level pressure: 1012.5
Cloud cover: 3/8 Cumulus

Science and Technology Log 

Most of this watch will be spent steaming to the first southern station. Our ETA (estimated time of arrival) is 8:00 am.  We are planning to do a full station meaning CTD, Neuston, and a Trawl. It is midnight now and I am hoping to get an interview with our Chief Scientist prior to beginning the station.

The first Bongo is scheduled for noon. Dan Carlson, a graduate student at Florida State University, is aboard researching his master’s thesis. He is utilizing the water samples from the Bongo to learn more about the development and origination of red tides which bloom in the Gulf of Mexico.

I have just been put “in charge” of the Neuston for this station. That means I am responsible for seeing that the net is dragged for ten minutes, that the organisms which are gathered are washed down into the cod end and that the sample is then gathered are delivered to the plankton transfer table.

Personal Log 

The Chief Scientist has been actively engaged with data collection and correction activities. I understand that a server has failed and that all time/date information must be hand entered into all data sheets. This is time consuming but very necessary for the sake of accuracy.

Question of the Day 

What is red tide?

Answer: It is an organism, named Karenia Brevis, which produces a neurotoxin which, in turn, is toxic to virtually all sea life.

Susan Just, June 17, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Susan Just
Onboard NOAA Ship Oregon II
June 15 – 30, 2006

Mission: Summer Groundfish Survey
Geographical Area: Gulf of Mexico
Date: June 17, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: 8-10 nautical miles (nm)
Wind direction: 356◦
Wind speed: 11.1
Sea wave height: 0-1
Swell wave height:1-2
Seawater temperature: 28.2
Sea level pressure: 1016.7
Cloud cover: 5/8 Cumulus, Altocumulus

Science and Technology Log 

This watch began, again, with fish waiting on the deck. We processed that catch just as we had all the others. While we were processing, another catch of fish were being collected. A CTD was also performed. When the fish catch has been processed, it is necessary to return the processed organisms to the sea. There is a shoot in the wetlab designed for this purpose. The shoot has not been working properly so far on this cruise. During our watch it backed up completely. Water was rising up through the drain in the floor. Clearing the blockage took several hours.

The catch was sitting on the deck and we had no reason to believe that we would get the shoot clear any time soon. The Watch Leader elected to process the catch “dry” so we separated and identified the species without the benefit of water to clean the organisms. Following this catch, the shoot was cleared and the lab was cleaned. We are now making our way south to assess the Texas Gulf Coast shrimp prior to the beginning of their season..

Personal Log 

What a mess! Each organism had to be dipped into water just so that we could be sure it was identified properly. We found hundreds of little shrimp that are not even harvested for food purposes.

Question of the Day 

Where do the shrimp live?  Answer: In the mud on the bottom of the sea.

Susan Just, June 16, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Susan Just
Onboard NOAA Ship Oregon II
June 15 – 30, 2006

Mission: Summer Groundfish Survey
Geographical Area: Gulf of Mexico
Date: June 16, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: nautical miles  8-10 (nm)
Wind direction: 205.5 ◦
Wind speed: 11.3
Sea wave height: 0-1
Sea swell height: 1-2
Seawater temperature: 28.7
Sea level pressure: 1016.6
Cloud cover: 5/8 Altostratus and cirus

Science and Technology Log 

Tonight we began with a Neuston. Now I know that a Neuston is a rectangular frame to which has been attached a “sock” style net with a round portion at the bottom known as the “cod end.” The Neuston drags at the surface and catches sargassum (sea weed) and also plankton. Why? I’ll need to find out.

Next we pulled in the Bongos. These are round shaped “sock” nets with cod ends. In the cod ends, plankton and other sea life are collected from either the bottom or a maximum depth of 200 feet. The “catch” from both the Neustons and the Bongos are placed into jars with formaldehyde as a preservative. Forty-eight (48) hours later they are transferred to alcohol. They are then shipped out for processing.

The CTD was performed to capture water samples and hydrological data. All of the information is assembled and accompanies the samples to the lab for processing. Finally, we weighed and sorted the catch. Each species is identified by its scientific nomenclature which means we hear a great deal of latin in the wet lab.

Personal Log 

OK, I’m not quite as confused now. I had a great night’s sleep. I am beginning to learn some of the scientific names and I have gotten my fingers onto the computers that record the data regarding the organisms we classify. I’ve started having intelligent conversations with people and I am beginning to make sense of the activities aboard the ship.

Question of the Day 

What is the purpose of collecting the organisms in the Neuston and the Bongos? Answer: Plankton data is part of a long-term study regarding trends in fish populations.

Susan Just, June 15, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Susan Just
Onboard NOAA Ship Oregon II
June 15 – 30, 2006

Mission: Summer Groundfish Survey
Geographical Area: Gulf of Mexico
Date: June 15, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: 8-10 nautical miles (nm)
Wind direction: 147◦
Wind speed: 0.1
Sea wave height: 0
Swell wave height: 1
Seawater temperature: 28.6◦
Sea level pressure: 1015.9
Cloud cover: Light Haze

Science and Technology Log 

Our watch began at midnight.  When we arrived in the lab there were fish awaiting processing. All commercial quality shrimp were separated from the catch and a representative sample of the whole was reserved for sorting. The sort included many species which were identified, counted, and weighed.  Individual members of each species were measured and counted, up to twenty (20) per species.  Finally, Two hundred (200) brown shrimp were counted out, separated according to sex and then measured and weighed, individually. Bongo, Neuston and CTD samples were drawn but I was occupied with the fish catches. These catches were repeated constantly throughout the watch until noon at which time we were relieved. Bongo, Neuston and CTD samples were drawn but I was occupied with the fish catches.

Personal Log 

What have I gotten myself into?  I am on the night watch.  This means that my sleeping hours have changed, literally overnight, to between noon and midnight.  Dinnertime has disappeared. Lunch has become the big meal of the day.  I can best describe myself as confused.

So far my impression is that all members of the ship’s crew and the scientific party are professional, helpful and “nice.”  It is easy to recognize the ship’s officers because they are dressed in uniforms.  Everyone else is arrayed in their personal gear and, generally, there is a state of designed “disarray.”

Question of the Day 

What is the most important skill to be learned before becoming a field scientist? Common courtesy/etiquette (be polite!).

Mike Lynch, June 21, 2005

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

Mission: Clam and Quahog Survey
Geographical Area: New England
Date: June 21, 2005

Heavy dredge equipment
Heavy dredge equipment

Weather Data

Latitude: 3948.669 N
Longitude: 07302.329 W
Visibility: Clear
Wind: 6-8 mph
Wave height: 1ft.
Swell Height: 3ft.
Swell Direction: 150 degrees

Science and Technology log

Changing one’s hours to six on and six off could be a subject for a scientific study in itself. Our first day on board was a short one. We left Woods Hole at 3PM and began our sail south. We stopped to do a test drop with the trawl and received a crash course in the computerized world of fishery research. The NOAA vessel uses two computer systems to bottom dredge. Computer times are constantly calibrated to ensure that different machines are reading data at the same time. The onboard systems are the Fishery Science Computer System (FSCS), and the Scientific Communication System (SCS). The computers monitor the ship’s exact, location, the time of the dredge, the speed, the water temperature the substrate composition and aspect of the dredge to the bottom. Later this week we will be attaching the video feed as well.

Working in the lab
Working in the lab

This sure isn’t your grandpa’s fishing. Once the dredge is secured to the ship, and the power is shut down the scientific crew is released to the aft deck to release and sort the contents of the dredge. The clams are sorted by variety and by size. Other invertebrates and fish are sorted weighed measured and released. The contents of the dredge are analyzed and catalogued for its overall percentage of substrate, shell debris and fish and animals. The clams are then measured, weighed and analyzed for age. The weighing and measurements are done electronically and simultaneously cataloged into the database. The ages of the clams and quahogs are determined through visual inspection of growth rings. This takes a practiced eye, especially with the ocean quahogs, which grow very slowly and can reach ages of one hundred fifty years. One of the on board scientists indicated that they will soon receive a scanner that will be able to read the rings on the surf clams and ocean quahogs and determine their precise age and growth rate. It’s all pretty amazing stuff. Needless to say, some monster computer mainframe is crunching numbers and providing some great information in determining the health of the stock, the overall biomass and the condition and patterns in the environment. It’s hard not to be impressed, and somewhat overwhelmed.

Sample sorting
Sample sorting

We all have a lot to learn about our new duties onboard. We had a quick run down on other experiments we would be conducting at the request of our chief scientist throughout our adventure, and then were on our way to the Delmarva Peninsula (Delaware, Maryland, Virginia). We will start on our first stations at about 3 AM. This will be fishing for real, and learning on the job. We will start in the Delmarva area, and then work our way back up the New Jersey coastline. The New Jersey offshore waters are the area of the greatest concentration of surf clams and also the greatest concentration of commercial fishing. This area is of specific interest to the scientists who are anxious to measure the health of the stock in relation to findings of previous surveys. It is now 1 AM, and we are awaiting our arrival at our first station. I am spending my time reading about surf clams and ocean quahogs. I am so intrigued, I feel compelled to share. Spisula Solidissma, more commonly known as the Atlantic Surf Clam, can be found from the Gulf of St. Lawrence to Cape Hatteras. The largest concentrations are off the Delmarva Peninsula, New Jersey and the Georges Bank. Landings of clams off the coast of Virginia and New Jersey have traditionally accounted for half the landings nationwide.

Measuring clams
Measuring clams

The Georges Bank however has been closed to commercial fishing since 1990 due to high concentrations of Paralytic Shellfish Poison (PSP). The surf clam can be found in varying depths from the beach to 60 meters, but concentrations below 40 meters tend to be low. Surf clams can reach a maximum size of 222.5cm (8.9in.), but surf clams larger than 20cm (7.9in.) are rare. Surveys are done because clam populations can, and indeed do, move. Movement predominantly occurs in the larval period. Eggs and sperm are shed into the water column, and may bee carried by currents for as many as three weeks before recruitment to the bottom occurs. The ages of surf clams can be determined by counting the rings on their shells. The rings are formed when a thin tissue adheres to the inner surfaces of the shell, called the mantel, and a thickened rim of muscular tissue at the mantel edge deposit new material at the mantel edge. The resulting rings show how old the clam may be. More on the elusive Ocean Quahog will follow tomorrow.

Personal Log 

Who the heck sits up reading about clams at one AM? Is this nuts or what? The life of a scientist is indeed a crazy one. I myself do not qualify as a scientist, but they sure are interesting to hang out with. I am learning tons, and anxious for our day to begin. The food is great, everyone is friendly, but the sleeping part is somewhat sketchy. I’m sure it will catch up with us all pretty darn soon.

Mapping and lab work
Mapping and lab work

Jeff Grevert, June 15, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jeff Grevert
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
June 8 – 16, 2005

Mission: Surf Clam Survey
Geographical Area: New England
Date: June 15, 2005

The dredge
The dredge

Weather Data

Latitude: 41° 12′ N
Longitude: 070° 45′ W
Visibility: 2 nm
Wind Direction: 220°
Wind Speed: 13 kts.
Sea Wave Height: 2 ft.
Swell Wave Height: 2 ft.
Sea Water Temp.: 13.3° C
Sea Level Pressure: 1007.9 mb
Cloud Cover: 5/8 (Altocumulus, Cirrus)

Science and Technology Log

0000- 0600: After one successful trawl, an electrical component on the dredge lost power. During the next four hours, scientists and engineers dismantled the component and realized that it had a leak which allowed water to enter. The component was most likely damaged when the dredge was dragged over rocks yesterday. The component was repaired by the end of my watch. We then went off watch and ate dinner. When I awoke for my next watch, I learned that the next watch (0600-1200) also experienced power loss to the component.  Again it had to be dismantled and repaired.

1200-1800 The dredge and all components worked smoothly for my second watch.  Our trawls yielded few clams however.  One trawl filled the dredge with nothing but benthic sediment.  After being relieved by the next watch I ate dinner and went to work on lesson plans and interviews.

grevert_log8a

Jeff Grevert, June 14, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jeff Grevert
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
June 8 – 16, 2005

Mission: Surf Clam Survey
Geographical Area: New England
Date: June 14, 2005

Skates!
Skates!

Weather Data

Latitude: 40° 28′ N
Longitude: 69° 27′ W
Visibility: < 1nm
Wind Direction: 230°
Wind Speed: 12 kts
Sea Wave Height: 1 ft.
Swell Wave Height: 3 ft.
Sea Water Temp: 10.3° C
Sea Level Pressure: 1004.1 mb
Cloud Cover: 1/8 (Altocumulus)

0000- 0600 Went on watch. Conducted a few trawls which yielded ocean quahogs. Bycatch included little skates and starfish. At the end of my watch I ate breakfast and went to sleep.

1200-1800 Conducted more successful trawls. This was the first day that my watch had two uninterrupted watches.  We got a lot of work done and had good clam yields.  Interesting bycatch included a goosefish. Not knowing any better, my cabin mate stuck his hand in the goosefish’s mouth and got bitten.  At the end of my watch I ate dinner and went to work on my lesson plans.

On the next watch the dredge hit an underwater rock field and got mangled.  The crew and scientists successfully replaced the front blade assembly with a spare. This halted operations for a while but soon we were back to work.

The goosefish has sharp teeth!
The goosefish has sharp teeth!

Jeff Grevert, June 13, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jeff Grevert
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
June 8 – 16, 2005

Mission: Surf Clam Survey
Geographical Area: New England
Date: June 13, 2005

Clam sizes
Clam sizes

Weather Data

Latitude: 41° 12′ N
Longitude: 070° 45′ W
Visibility: 2 nm
Wind Direction: 220°
Wind Speed: 13 kts.
Sea Wave Height: 2 ft.
Swell Wave Height: 2 ft.
Sea Water Temp.: 13.3° C
Sea Level Pressure: 1007.9 mb
Cloud Cover: 5/8 (Altocumulus, Cirrus)

Science and Technology Log

We’re back underway 🙂 The repairs went well and the Delaware II set sail at 1400 hours. It was about a three-hour steam to our first sampling station.  Once we arrived, there was time on my watch to conduct one trawl. Only one Ocean Quahog was collected. Some bycatch included sea stars, sponges, sand dollars and a crab. At 1800 hours I went off watch and ate dinner. Later I worked on my lesson plans and collected data from the ship’s weather log.  Currently I’m waiting for my second watch (midnight).  I think I’ll get some rest.

Taking measurements and collecting data
Taking measurements and collecting data

 

Jeff Grevert, June 11, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jeff Grevert
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
June 8 – 16, 2005

Mission: Surf Clam Survey
Geographical Area: New England
Date: June 11, 2005

grevert_log4Weather Data
Latitude: 38 39 N
Longitude: 73 50 W
Visibility: < 0.5 nm
Wind Direction: 190
Wind Speed: 10 kts
Sea Wave Height: 2′
Swell Wave Height: N/A
Sea Water Temp: 15.8 C
Sea Level Pressure: 1021.4 mb
Cloud Cover: Fog

Our entire day was spent steaming en route to Woods Hole, MA. We arrived around 1600. Many of the scientists and crew dispersed to go home to their families.  No scientific research took place.

grevert_log4b

Jeff Grevert, June 10, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jeff Grevert
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
June 8 – 16, 2005

Mission: Surf Clam Survey
Geographical Area: New England
Date: June 10, 2005

Sampling surf clams
Sampling surf clams

Weather Data
Latitude: 37° 51′ N
Longitude: 74° 25′ W
Visibility: 7 nm
Wind Direction: 182°
Wind Speed: 13 kts
Sea Wave Height: 2′
Swell Wave Height: N/A
Sea Water Temperature: 16.1° C
Cloud Cover: N/A, Clear

0000 – Went on watch.  Shortly after my watch started, we experienced generator issues.  The overhead lights in the science lab went out momentarily and we were on an emergency generator to keep the computers on.  Both generators are required to work the wench that controls the dredge, so operations ceased for approximately the next four hours. At around 0400 the ship’s engineers fixed the problem, and trawling continued.  The few trawls we were able to conduct yielded fewer shellfish than in previous days. The watch chief explained that it probably had to do with the location of those specific stations we were sampling in the vicinity of Delaware Bay. Bycatch included a stargazer fish (Astroscopus sp.) and a horseshoe crab (Limulus polyphemus).

Sorting baskets
Sorting baskets

0600 – Finished the assigned duties of my watch, ate breakfast, and went to sleep.

1200 – Went on watch.  We conducted one trawl with a small yield.  The catch included ocean quahogs (Arctica islandica) and several specimens of Chestnut Astarte (Astarte castanea). I must say that working with someone educated outside of the U.S. helps you to appreciate the value of binomial nomenclature.  Common names for the same organism are different all around, but the scientific name remains the same.

Soon after our first trawl, we experienced technical difficulties with the power pack that controls the wench which drives the sampling dredge weighing in at approx. 7,000 lbs (empty).  The ship’s engineers were unable to fix it with the present resources.  At this point, it was decided to turn around and head back to Woods Hole to obtain the parts necessary for repairs. We are currently on a 25hour trip back north from Delaware Bay to Woods Hole. After the power pack is repaired we will set out to continue sampling most likely in the vicinity of southern New England.

Since no sampling can take place, we are not standing watches at this time.  Most of the scientists are using this time for R&R by sleeping, listening to music, watching satellite TV, and viewing one of over 500 films on 8mm provided by the U.S. Navy Motion Picture Service.  Some of the films are still in theatres!  R&R is always nice, but I am eager to get back to work.

Making repairs
Making repairs

Jeff Grevert, June 9, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jeff Grevert
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
June 8 – 16, 2005

Mission: Surf Clam Survey
Geographical Area: New England
Date: June 9, 2005

Catch of the day
Catch of the day

Weather Data
Latitude: 38 39 N
Longitude: 73 50 W
Visibility: < 0.5 nm
Wind Direction: 190
Wind Speed: 10 kts
Sea Wave Height: 2′
Swell Wave Height: N/A
Sea Water Temp: 15.8 C
Sea Level Pressure: 1021.4 mb
Cloud Cover: Fog

0530 – I was awoken by a NOAA scientist.  He informed my cabin mates and me that the 6-12 watch had to wake up, and the 12-6 watch only had to wake up if they wanted breakfast. I got up to get a bite to eat.

1000 – Woke up and started preparing for the day. Ate lunch.

1200 – Went on watch.

Sample sorting
Sample sorting

1500 – Arrived to our first sampling site.  Donned foul weather gear. We are now sampling in the Atlantic Ocean approximately 30 – 40 miles off Delaware Bay.  Our first trawl yielded Ocean Quahogs (Arctica islandica) and Sea Scallops (Placopecten magellanicus).  Some bycatch included a few skates, a crab and some razor clams (Ensis directus). In a later trawl, I volunteered to go up into the trap to clear out any amount of the catch that was stuck in the apparatus.  I received instruction from the chief scientist on checking for bent valves in the water pump apparatus.  When the trap is lowered to the sea floor, a high-pressure water pump shoots water into the benthic zone directing shellfish into the trap.  The valves must be checked after every trawl to ensure that they are straight and clear. Bent valves must be replaced. I checked the valves for the remaining trawls in my watch and had to replace one.  After assisting with sorting the catches, I began to collect data on the Ocean Quahogs. Shell length, total mass and meat mass were collected.

1800 – Off watch. Ate dinner. Elected to stay awake to complete log entry and gather meteorological data from the ship’s weather log.  Preparing to back on watch from 0000 June 09 – 0600 June 10.

Activities on deck
Activities on deck