Kathy Schroeder: Retrieving the Longline, September 30, 2019

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Kathy Schroeder

Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II

September 15-October 2, 2019


Mission: Shark/Red Snapper Longline Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico

Date: 9/30/19

Weather Data from the Bridge

Latitude: 29.47408
Longitude: 85.34274
Temperature: 85°F
Wind Speeds: E 5 mph


Science and Technology Log

Retrieving the Longline

One hour after the last highflyer is entered into the water it is time to retrieve the longline.  The ship pulls alongside the first highflyer and brings it on board.  Two people carry the highflyer to the stern of the ship.  The longline is then re-attached to a large reel so that the mainline can be spooled back onto the ship.  As the line comes back on board one scientist takes the gangion removes the tag and coils it back into the barrel.  The bait condition and/or catch are added into the computer system by a second scientist.  If there is a fish on the hook then it is determined if the fish can be brought on board by hand or if the cradle needs to be lowered into the water to bring up the species. 

Retrieving the high flyer
Retrieving the high flyer on the well deck

Protective eye wear must be worn at all times, but if a shark is being brought up in the cradle we must all also put on hard hats due to the crane being used to move the cradle.   Once a fish is on board two scientists are responsible for weighing and taking three measurements:  pre-caudal, fork, and total length in mm.  Often, a small fin clip is taken for genetics and if it is a shark, depending on the size, a dart or rototag is inserted into the shark either at the base of the dorsal fin or on the fin itself.   The shark tag is recorded and the species is then put back into the ocean.  Once all 100 gangions, weights and highflyers are brought on board it is time to cleanup and properly store the samples. 

sandbar shark
Taking the measurements on a sandbar shark (Carcharhinus plumbeus) Measurements: 1080 precaudal, 1200 fork, 1486 total (4’10”)l, 20.2 kg (44.5 lbs)
tagging smoothhound
Placing a rototag in a Gulf smooth-hound (Mustelus sinusmexicanus)
Tiger shark on cradle
Tiger shark (Galeocerdo cuvier) on the cradle getting ready for a dart tag
data station
Data station for recording measurements, weight, sex, and tag numbers

Fish Data: Some species of snapper, grouper and tile fish that are brought on board will have their otoliths removed for ageing, a gonad sample taken for reproduction studies and a muscle sample for feeding studies and genetics.  These are stored and sent back to the lab for further processing. 

red snapper samples
red snapper (Lutganidae campechanus) samples: gonad (top), muscle (middle), otoliths (bottom)


Personal Log

It has been a busy last few days.  We have caught some really cool species like king snake eels (Ophichthus rex), gulper sharks (Centrophorus granulosus), yellow edge grouper (Hyporthodus flavolimbatus) and golden tile fish (Lopholaatilus chamaeleontiiceps).  There have been thousands of moon jelly fish (Aurelia aurita) the size of dinner plates and larger all around the boat when we are setting and retrieving the longline.  They look so peaceful and gentle just floating along with the current.  When we were by the Florida-Alabama line there were so many oil rigs out in the distant.  It was very interesting learning about them and seeing their lights glowing.  One of them actually had a real fire to burn off the gases.  There were also a couple sharks that swam by in our ship lights last night.  One of the best things we got to witness was a huge leatherback sea turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) that came up for a breath of air about 50 feet from the ship. 

yellow-edge grouper
yellow edge grouper (Hyporthodus flavolimbatus) 891 mm (2′ 11″), 9.2 kg (20.3 pounds)
king snake eel
king snake eel (Ophichthus rex)
king snake eel close-up
king snake eel (Ophichthus rex)

Anne Krauss: The Reel Whirl’d, September 15, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Anne Krauss

Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II

August 12 – 25, 2018

 

Mission: Shark/Red Snapper Longline Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Western North Atlantic Ocean/Gulf of Mexico

Date: August 26, 2018

Weather Data from the Air

Conditions at 0634

Altitude: 9585 meters

Outside Temperature: -38 ℃

Distance to Destination: 362 km

Tail Wind: 0 km/h

Ground Speed: 837 km/h

(While NOAA Ship Oregon II has many capabilities, flight isn’t one of them. These were the conditions on my flight home.)

Science and Technology Log

The idea of placing an elementary school teacher on a Shark/Red Snapper Longline Survey seems like a reality show premise, and I couldn’t believe that it was my surreal reality. Several times a day, I took a moment to appreciate my surroundings and the amazing opportunity to get so close to my favorite creatures: sharks!

Anyone who knows me is aware of my obsession with sharks. Seeing several sharks up close was a hallowed, reverential experience. Reading about sharks, studying them through coursework, and seeing them on TV or in an aquarium is one thing. Being only a few feet away from a large tiger shark (Galeocerdo cuvier) or a great hammerhead (Sphyrna mokarran) is quite another. Seeing the sharks briefly out of the water provided a quick glimpse of their sinewy, efficient design…truly a natural work of art. Regardless of size, shape, or species, the sharks were powerful, feisty, and awe-inspiring. The diversity in design is what makes sharks so fascinating!

A tiger shark at the surface.

Even just a quick peek of this tiger shark (Galeocerdo cuvier) reveals her strong muscles and powerful, flexible design.

A large tiger shark lies on a support framework made from reinforced netting. The shark and the structure are being lifted out of the water.

This female tiger shark was large enough to require the shark cradle. The reinforced netting on the cradle provided support for the 10.5 foot shark.

The snout and eye of a sandbar shark being secured on a netted shark cradle.

The shape of this sandbar shark’s (Carcharhinus plumbeus) head and eye is quite different from the tiger shark’s distinct design.

A great hammerhead's cephalofoil.

Even in the dark, the shape of the great hammerhead’s (Sphyrna mokarran) cephalofoil is unmistakable.

I envied the remora, or sharksucker, that was attached to one of the sharks we caught. Imagine being able to observe what the shark had been doing, prior to encountering the bait on our longline fishing gear. What did the shark and its passenger think of their strange encounter with us? Where would the shark swim off to once it was released back into the water? If only sharks could talk. I had many questions about how the tagging process impacts sharks. As we started catching and tagging sharks, I couldn’t help but think of a twist on the opening of MTV’s The Real World: “…To find out what happens…when sharks stop being polite…and start getting reeled.

Sadly for my curiosity, sharks have yet to acquire the ability to communicate verbally, despite their many advantageous adaptations over millions of years. To catch a glimpse of their actions in their watery world, scientists sometimes attach cameras to their fins or enlist the help of autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) to learn more. The secret lives of sharks… reality TV at its finest.

Underwater camera footage is beginning to reveal the answers to many of the questions my Kindergarten-5th grade students have about sharks:

How deep can sharks swim?

How big can sharks get? How old can sharks get?

Do sharks sleep? Do sharks stop swimming when they sleep? Can sharks ever stop swimming? 

Do sharks have friends? Do sharks hunt cooperatively or alone?

Is the megalodon (Carcharocles megalodon) still swimming around down there? (This is a very common question among kids!)

The answers vary by species, but an individual shark can reveal quite a bit of information about shark biology and behavior. Tagging sharks can provide insight about migratory patterns and population distribution. This information can help us to better understand, manage, and protect shark populations.

Various tools are spread out and used to weigh (scale), collect samples (scissors and vials), remove hooks (pliers, plus other instruments not pictured), apply tags (leather punch, piercing implement, and tags), and record data (clipboard and data sheet).

These tools are used to weigh (scales on bottom right), collect samples (scissors and vials), remove hooks (pliers, plus other instruments not pictured), apply tags (leather punch, piercing implement, and tags), and record data (clipboard and data sheet).

Using several low-tech methods, a great deal of information could be gleaned from our very brief encounters with the sharks we caught and released. In a very short amount of time, the following information was collected and recorded:

• hook number (which of the 100 longline circle hooks the shark was caught on)
• genus and species name (we recorded scientific and common names)
• four measurements on various points of the shark’s body (sometimes lasers were used on the larger sharks)
• weight (if it was possible to weigh the shark: this was harder to do with the larger, heavier sharks)
• whether the shark was male or female, noting observations about its maturity (if male)
• fin clip samples (for genetic information)
• photographs of the shark (we also filmed the process with a GoPro camera that was mounted to a scientist’s hardhat)
• applying a tag on or near the shark’s first dorsal fin; the tag number was carefully recorded on the data sheet
• additional comments about the shark

Finally, the hook was removed from the shark’s mouth, and the shark was released back into the water (we watched carefully to make sure it swam off successfully)!

A metal tag is marked with the number eight. This is one of 100 used in longline fishing.

Longline fishing uses 100 numbered hooks. When a fish is caught, it’s important to record the hook number it was caught on.

Two kinds of shark tags: plastic swivel tags used for smaller sharks and dart tags used for larger sharks.

Depending on the shark’s size, we either attached a swivel tag (on left and middle, sometimes called a Rototag or fin tag; used for smaller sharks) or a dart tag (on right, sometimes called an “M” tag; used for larger sharks).

For more information on shark tagging: https://www.nefsc.noaa.gov/nefsc/Narragansett/sharks/tagging.html 

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Other fish were retained for scientific samples. Yellowedge grouper (Epinephelus flavolimbatus), blueline tilefish (Caulolatilus microps), and red snapper (Lutjanus campechanus) were some of species we caught and sampled. Specific samples from specific species were requested from various organizations. Generally, we collected five different samples:

• fin clips: provide genetic information
• liver: provides information about the health of the fish, such as the presence of toxins
• muscle tissue: can also provide information about the health of the fish
• gonads: provide information about reproduction
• otoliths: These bony structures are found in the inner ear. Similar to tree rings, counting the annual growth rings on the otoliths can help scientists estimate the age of the fish.

A yellowedge grouper on a table surrounded by sampling equipment.

Samples were taken from this yellowedge grouper (Epinephelus flavolimbatus).

Samples were preserved and stored in vials, jars, and plastic sample bags, including a Whirl-Pak. These bags and containers were carefully numbered and labeled, corresponding with the information on the data sheets. Other information was noted about the fish, including maturity and stomach contents. Sometimes, photos were taken to further document the fish.

 

Personal Log

Thinking of the Oregon II as my floating classroom, I looked for analogous activities that mirrored my elementary students’ school day. Many key parts of the elementary school day could be found on board.

A 24-hour analog clock.

Sometimes, my students struggle to tell the time with analog clocks. The ship uses military time, so this 24-hour clock would probably cause some perplexed looks at first! We usually ate dinner between 1700-1800.

Weights, an exercise bike, resistance bands, and yoga mats.

Physical Education: Fitness equipment could be found in three locations on the ship.

A dinner plate filled with cooked vegetables.

Health: To stay energized for the twelve-hour shifts, it was important to get enough sleep, make healthy food choices, and stay hydrated. With lots of exercise, fresh air, and plenty of water, protein, and vegetables, I felt amazing. To sample some local flavors, I tried a different hot sauce or Southern-style seasoning at every meal.

A metal first aid cabinet.

There wasn’t a nurse’s office, but first aid and trained medical personnel were available if needed.

With my young readers and writers in mind, I applied my literacy lens to many of the ship’s activities. Literacy was the thread that ran through many of our daily tasks, and literacy was the cornerstone of every career on board. Several ship personnel described the written exams they’d taken to advance in their chosen careers. Reading and writing were used in everything from the recipes and daily menu prepared by Second Cook Arlene Beahm and Chief Steward Valerie McCaskill in the galley to the navigation logs maintained by Ensign Chelsea Parrish on the ship’s bridge.

A clipboard shows the daily menu for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

The menu changed every day. You could also make your own salad, sandwiches, and snacks. If you had to work through mealtime, you could ‘save-a-meal,’ and write down your food choices to eat later. This was kind of like indicating your lunch choice at school. Instead of a cafeteria, food was prepared and cooked in the ship’s galley.

Shelves of books in the ship's library.

Library: The ship had a small library on board. To pass the time, many people enjoyed reading. (And for my students who live vicariously through YouTube: that sign at the bottom does say, ‘No YouTube’! Computers were available in the lab, but streaming wasn’t allowed.)

I often start the school year off with some lessons on reading and following directions. In the school setting, this is done to establish routines and expectations, as well as independence. On the ship, reading and following directions was essential for safety! Throughout the Oregon II, I encountered lots of printed information and many safety signs. Some of the signs included pictures, but many of them did not. This made me think of my readers who rely on pictures for comprehension. Some important safety information was shared verbally during our training and safety drills, but some of it could only be accessed through reading.

A collage of safety-related signs on the ship. Some have pictures, while others do not.

Without a visual aid, the reader must rely on the printed words. In this environment, skipping words, misreading words, or misunderstanding the meaning of the text could result in unsafe conditions.

A watertight door with a handle pointing to 'open'.

On a watertight door, for example, overlooking the opposite meanings of ‘open’ and ‘closed’ could have very serious consequences.

A watertight door with a handle pointing to 'closed'.

Not being able to read the sign or the words ‘open’ and ‘closed’ could result in a scary situation.

 

Did You Know?

Thomas Jefferson collected fossils and owned a megalodon tooth. The Carcharocles megalodon tooth was found in South Carolina. One of the reasons why Jefferson supported expeditions to lands west of the Mississippi? He believed that a herd of mammoths might still be roaming there. Jefferson didn’t believe that animal species could go extinct, so he probably liked the idea that the megalodon was still swimming around somewhere! (There’s no scientific evidence to support the idea that either Thomas Jefferson or the megalodon are still around.)

Recommended Reading

If Sharks Disappeared written and illustrated by Lily Williams

This picture book acknowledges the scariness of sharks, but explains that a world without sharks would be even scarier. Shown through the eyes of a curious young girl and her family, the book highlights the important role that sharks play in the ocean food web. As apex predators, sharks help to keep the ocean healthy and balanced.

The book includes some mind-blowing facts, such as the concept that sharks existed on Earth before trees. Through easy-to-follow examples of cause and effect, the author and illustrator explores complex, sophisticated concepts such as overfishing, extinction, and trophic cascade. The glossary includes well-selected words that are important to know and understand about the environment. Additional information is provided about shark finning and ways to help save sharks. An author’s note, bibliography, and additional sources are also included.

The cover of a children's book about the important role that sharks fill in the ocean food web.

If Sharks Disappeared written and illustrated by Lily Williams; Published by Roaring Brook Press, New York, 2017

 

Nathan Pierantoni, Thursday 4.7.11

NOAA Teacher at Sea: Nathan Pierantoni

University of Miami Ship R/V Walton Smith

South Florida Bimonthly Hydrographic Survey

Florida Bay, in transit from Dry Tortugas to Key West.

Thursday, April 7 2011

Weather Data from the Bridge

1400 hrs Local Time

Barometric pressure = 1017 Millibars

79 F

78% Humidity

Visibility = good

Wind SE 16 knots

Science and Technology Log

Dr. Neslon was very gracious and gave me free reign to learn as much as I could while aboard the R/V Walton Smith. Water sampling requires the most manpower and it is most common thing we are doing for this cruise, and therefore I have been involved in many vertical casts of the CTD. CTD stands for Conductivity, Temperature, and Depth, and when I refer to “the CTD” I am referring to the hefty apparatus that is pictured below, sitting on the fantail (the open deck at the stern of the ship). The procedure is as follows: as we get to our stations along our survey route, the boat stops and the we don our hardhats and life jackets and go out to the fantail,. We then lower the safety lines and prepare for a cast. Next, the captain goes to the stern of the upper deck where there is a winch cabin, from where he can pilot the ship and control the cast. The CTD is attached to a cable and is raised and lowered via an A-frame. The scientists give signals to the captain, and together, the device is lowered into the water where it does its work.

The CTD is actually a dual-purpose piece of equipment. It has sensors that measure conductivity (salinity), temperature, depth, chlorophyll, and dissolved oxygen. These sensors are built into a unit at the base of the apparatus and are protected by a metal cage.Above the sensor array is a rosette of tubes, which are able to collect water samples. Each tube holds 10 L of water, and our CDT has 12 tubes, called Nisken Bottles. The whole thing is electronically linked to the science deck through its cable, and in addition to the 2 scientists on deck who deploy the device, there is a CTD operator inside who monitors water parameter changes as the CTD goes from the surface to the bottom. This scientist is in communication with the captain in the winch cabin, and as the device returns to the surface the scientist is able to fire the Niskin bottles so that they fill with water. For example, we just finished a 340m CDT sample, and Nelson fired the CTD at three depths, 338 m, 70m, and 2 m. On the way down he was able to determine ‘where’ in the water column he wanted to collect his samples, because he was able to ‘watch’ the water parameters change on his computer monitor as the data from the CTD’s sensors streamed in. Interestingly, they fire two bottles at each depth in case one of them fails. It’s just another way to prevent against errors that would be too time consuming and thus too costly to fix. Once at the surface, the scientists and the winch operator guide the CTD back aboard the ship, and secure it to the deck.

While data from the sensors is logged and converted electronically to graphs, the chemical oceanographer begins her work. Cheryl Brown, aka ‘CB’ is an ocean scientist who I have had the pleasure of working with on the day shift. Cheryl works for the Cooperative Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Studies, a University of Miami institute that receives funding through NOAA. She participates in a variety of water quality projects, and spends about 25% of her time at sea. The other 75% of her work is in the lab, where she has multiple responsibilities that include filtration, data processing, and plotting of the samples from her fieldwork. This is common to most areas of field science, where for every hour of fieldwork yields at least double the time in the lab. CB has a degree in marine science, and specialized in marine invertebrates before finding her way to Miami.

The responsibilities on the chemistry deck are numerous. For each CDT deployment, there are a variety of samples that must be prepared from the water collected by the CTD. Each of this same series of samples is required for each depth of water that has been tested. On average, three depths are sampled per CTD deployment, but on this cruise some casts have collected water from four depths, and some have only collected water from the surface. The water from each depth is transferred to a bottle, which has been rinsed three times to avoid contamination, and brought into the wet lab. From there, a nutrient samples, chlorophyll samples, and dissolved CO2 samples are taken.

A nutrient sample is a general measure of ocean health, and includes many of the same samples that might be taken in a home aquarium, like ammonia, nitrates, and nitrites. To prepare the sample, we manually filter 50 ml of seawater into a sterile container, and preserve it with chloroform. It is then placed into the lab cooler. Finally, the time, location, depth, sample number, and collection number are logged.

The next step is to prepare a chlorophyll sample, and this is done with another process. In order to increase accuracy, two-200 ml samples are filtered through a small pad that is connected to a vacuum system. The water passes through the filter and is discarded, but the dissolved chlorophyll stays behind. Both small filters are placed into one vial, and the vial is stored in a liquid nitrogen container on deck. Then the samples are logged.

At some of our stations we have collected dissolved CO2 samples. This measure is also an important measure of ocean health, because CO2 is important to the photosynthetic processes that many reef organisms require. To collect a CO2 sample, a sterile flask is filled to the top with seawater, and 2 microliters of Mercury Chloride (HgCl2) are added. These samples are also logged.

This entire process gets repeated for each depth of water that was brought up in the tubes on the CTD. In the end, a whole lot of lab methods are practiced in a very short amount of time. You can imagine that as the week has gone on, these tasks have become easier and easier. At first, we were running stations about every half an hour, and the seas were quite rough. The amount of work to do in short intervals was a little bit overwhelming, but Cheryl let us all know that is would get easier as the week went on, and we she was right! As I finish up this log and we steam from the Tortugas back to the Keys I am looking forward to perfecting my CTD technique before we finish off the week!

Personal Log

It’s been really inspiring to get to know more about the people I am working with. Everyone here is very passionate about the work they are doing, and it is clear that if it weren’t for the love of the job they wouldn’t be out here bobbing around in the ocean! It is also interesting to hear about the different routes that people have taken to get here. This morning during breakfast I had the chance to talk at length with Cheryl about her recent Peace Corps experience. She was sent to the South Pacific island nation of Vanuatu for 27 months to do environmental work and to help facilitate a bank that was going to make micro-loans to women in business. When she got there, plans changed, and she ended up living on a small island called Paama. The island was 2 miles x 7 miles and has 21 villages spread around the coast. What had been an environmental mission turned into an educational one, and she ultimately spent her time on Paama rebuilding a primary school that had been destroyed by a cyclone. She had a canoe specially built for her so she could move about roadless island, and while on Paama she had to adapt to the lifestyle that sounds a lot like backcountry camping to me! Ultimately she had to jump islands on small planes, bargain with shipping captains and work with the entire community to get the school completed.

As I listened to Cheryl tell her story, enthralled by the adventure and romance of her experience, I was reminded of how lucky we are in America to have the education system that we have. It is my hope for my students and colleagues that you all really take advantage of the resources, facilities, and especially the technology what we probably take for granted at times. As I learn more about the future of oceanography I have been especially interested in the direction it is moving, toward space. As more and more remote sensing capabilities are developed, the need for ground proofing will also increase. What is clear to me is that oceanography, like all fields of science, will require dedicated researchers who are passionate about their work and skilled in technology, math, and engineering. There is only one place to get these skills, and its at school, and it requires practice, time, and patience. Thanks to Cheryl’s work, students in that small village on the coast of Paama are able to work toward their education. I challenge everyone at Heights Middle School, myself included, to do their personal best to taking advantage of all of the resources we have in order that our students will become the problem solvers of tomorrow!

I’ll keep posting pictures when I can, and I’m excited to come back to school on Monday!

Here is a shot from the CTD monitor inside the ship. The operator can see what is going on on deck, and follow the ater parameters at the same time.

CTD Monitor inside the ship

CTD Monitor inside the ship

In this shot Cheryl and I are preparing to Launch the CTD. I am signaling the winch operator.

Launching the CTD

Launching the CTD

Another shot of the fantail, and you can see the CTD controlled by a cable via the A-frame.

Fantail

Fantail

Here is the CTD collecting a surface sample.

Collecting a Surface Sample

Collecting a Surface Sample

Here I am in the process of collecting water out of a Niskin bottle, so that I can take it inside for preparation. Notice the instrumentation on the bottom of the CTD.

Collecting Water

Collecting Water out of a Niskin bottle

Here is a shot of Cheryl getting started in the lab on the sample preparation.

Sample Preparation

Sample Preparation

I like this shot, it shows a clean filter pad and a ‘dirty’ one. The pad attached to the vacuum has just finished filtering 200 ml of seawater. The materials on the pad will be analyzed back in Cheryl’s lab on land.

Filter Pads

Filter Pads

Here is a shot of Nelson Melo. He has been operating the CTD during the day, and he is holding a graph that charted Chlorophyll, temperature, O2, and salinity. This CTD was launched to a depth of 340 m.

Nelson Melo

Nelson Melo

Nelson’s work (which I described in my Tuesday log) and the data Cheryl pulls out of the samples we’ve collected will help to refine scientist’s capabilities for remote sensing in oceanography. I think its pretty significant that the latest issue of the scientific journal

Oceanography Journal

Oceanography Journal

Oceanography has a satellite on it. This is the direction that ocean science has headed!

Nice Sunset! Almost as good as our New Mexico sunsets!

Sunset

Sunset

Donna Knutson, September 12, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea Donna Knutson
NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
September 1 – September 29, 2010

Mission:  Hawaiian Islands Cetacean and Ecosystem Assessment Survey
Geograpical Area: Hawaii
Date: September 12, 2010

Pearl and Hermes

Me on the “Big Eyes”.

 

Mission and Geographical Area:  

The Oscar Elton Sette is on a mission called HICEAS, which stands for Hawaiian Islands Cetacean and Ecosystem Assessment Survey.  This cruise will try to locate all marine mammals in the Exclusive Economic Zone called the “EEZ” of Hawaiian waters.  The expedition will cover the waters out to 200 nautical miles of the Hawaiian Islands.
Also part of the mission is to collect data such as conductivity for measuring salinity, temperature, depth, chlorophyll abundance. Seabirds sittings will also be documented.

Jay, a steward, checking out the action!

Science and Technology:
Latitude: 27○ 40.6’ N
Longitude: 175○ 48.7’ W  
Clouds:  3/8 Cu, Ci
Visibility:  10 N.M.
Wind:  12 Knots
Wave height:  1-2 ft.
Water Temperature:  27.5○ C
Air Temperature:  27.0○ C
Sea Level Pressure:  1021.2 mb

A busy flying bridge.

Pearl and Hermes is the name of an atoll named after two English whaling ships, the Pearl and Hermes, which ran into the surrounding reef in 1822.  The twenty by twelve mile atoll is under water most of the time.  It has a rich history including shipwrecks, over harvesting of oysters, a military site for war practice, and finally conservation.

Atolls are the remnants of ancient volcanoes.  Over millions of years, volcanic eruptions spill magma onto the sea floor.  The lava eventually becomes higher than sea level creating an island.  With the surface exposed, the now dead volcanoes began to shrink and erode.  Over time the island becomes very flat and barely above the water.  Corals grow in shallow water around the boundaries of the island.  Eventually the island erodes away only leaving the coral reefs around them and a large lagoon in the middle.  Through the actions of wind and waves, sand and coral debris come together to make up small islands called islets in a few places where the original large island used to be.

Ernesto and Allan ready to shoot for biopsy samples.

In 2003 the Pearl and Hermes reef measured 300,000 acres.  This area is home to thirty three species of stony coral.  The islets provide a needed stopping and resting area for seals, turtles and birds.  About 160,000 seabirds of seventeen different species nest at Pearl and Hermes.
The ocean surrounding Pearl and Hermes had never been properly surveyed for cetaceans.  The HICEAS cruise discovered the water is also rich in wildlife, particularly cetaceans.  The beaked whale is one of these cetaceans.  There are twenty different species of beaked whales, but the two found in these waters were the Curvier’s and Blainville’s Beaked Whales.
One way to tell them all apart from each other is their teeth.  The males all have different sizes, shapes and positions of their teeth in their bottom jaw.  The females and juveniles do not have teeth and need to be identified by other means such as the shape of their beak (rostrum).  Curvier’s Beaked whale has virtually no beak, the melon of the head slopes smoothly onto a short thick beak. It has a sort of “fish face”.  The Blainville’s Beaked Whale has a moderately long beak.  The melon for the head is small and flat.

Yvonne and Sussanah listening in.

Blainville’s and Curvier’s Beaked Whales seem to have opposite coloring.  The Curvier’s Beaked Whale has a white face and the white coloring continues on to the top of back.  The Blainville’s Beaked Whale has the dark gray color on the back and the lighter grey on the underside.
Size is another difference between the whales.  The Blainville’s Beaked Whale is smaller with adult males measuring up to fourteen feet six inches and the Curvier’s whale at twenty three feet.  All male beaked whales are smaller than the females, but not by much and that is unusual compared to the other species mentioned in previous logs.
Personal Log:

Eddie looking at whales.

The past two days we have been circumnavigating the Pearl and Hermes Atoll.  There are only two other “land masses” before we reach the top of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.  This region has more animals than anticipated.  The science crew of the Sette had 16 sittings and 17 biopsy samples to report.  It was a very exciting couple of days.  The little boat was launched both mornings and was traveling around the atoll also, but at a closer distance to the coral on its own mission.

In addition to the sightings, Yvonne Barkley, Sussanah Calderan and Niky where listening attentively to the sounds picked up by the array.  The array has four mini-mircophones housed in a long rubber cable that picks up various sound frequencies.  The acousticians are inside the ship recording and  analyzing the sounds they hear.  Working together really paid off!  A lot of ocean was covered and many animals were discovered.

Beaked Whales

I brought a plastic lawn chair up on the flying bridge because even though I want to write, I don’t want to miss out on any of the action.  I wasn’t the only one who wanted a look at the animals, the second steward Jay came up to also take a look through the “big eyes”.   I can’t imagine a boat that has a friendlier, more supporting crew!

Bottlenose Dolphin

Some of the sightings included Bottlenose Dolphins, the Curvier’s Beaked Whale, the Blainsville’s Beaked Whale and Sperm Whales (mentioned in log #3), Spinner Dolphins, and Rough Toothed Dolphins (mentioned in log#2).
To me the most exciting part of the two day survey was when the Bottlenose Dolphins were swimming in front of the bow.  At one time there were sixteen abreast.  All sizes of dolphins playing and “singing” right in front of us!  Their whistles were much louder than I ever imagined!
The dolphins were jumping over each other and swimming on their sides and on their backs belly up.  It almost seemed to be a contest on silliness.  It makes your heart warm when they look you in the eye and seem to want your attention.  They had my attention the whole time they swam there!  I had to get up on tip toe just to look over the edge as they were so close to the rush of water caused by the ship.  The group was traveling and frolicking effortlessly in front of a ship going ten knots! I stayed on tiptoe until the last dolphin drifted away to join the rest of the pack.
The Bottlenose Dolphin is definitely the friendliest, playful cetacean I have seen for far!

Peggy Deichstetter, September 5, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Peggy Deichstetter
Aboard Oregon II
August 29 – September 10, 2012

Mission: Longline Shark and Red Snapper Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Gulf of Mexico
Date:  September 5, 2010

Well, I think this coffee has done away with my caffeine habit. I’m down to a half cup diluted with water and that is only because I needed to wake up. I’ve noticed that most of the people on this ship are tea drinkers. Now, I know why.

our shark

Our watch began with sailing to the next plankton station. A squall began, so it was time to get my raingear on. During the squall birds seemed to be attracted to the ship. Toward the end of the storm a little warbler landed on deck. He kept trying to find a place to land away from people. Finally, he was so tired, he landed at my feet. After a few seconds he flew to the edge of the stern. He contently waited out the storm there.

I asked Laurie, one of the marine biologists if she had any ideas on why the birds were following us. Apparently, there was a birder on the last trip that explained because we are close to shore (one of my favorite spots, Corpus Christi) the insect were attracted to our lights and the birds are attracted to the insects.
Again we had problems with the plankton tow. After they got the equipment fixed another squall started and the deployment of the equipment was delayed, once again, until the end of the storm.

Taking Samples

Taking Samples

We finally got to the Shark Station. Not too exciting tonight. We only caught two dogfish sharks. I didn’t even take pictures because it paled to what we have all ready done.

We are at the last Shark Station for our watch. I guess we saved the best for last. Hook number 82 gave an 16 foot Sand Shark,. Too big to be brought on deck, she was measured and weighed in her basket. Tissue samples were taken and she was tagged before we let her go. Exciting!!!!

Shark in basket

Shark in basket

Story Miller, July 24, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea: Story Miller
NOAA Ship: Oscar Dyson

Mission: Summer Pollock III
Geographical Area: Bering Sea
Date: July 24, 2010

View from the Deck

View from the Deck

Time: 1837 ADT
Latitude: 62°11N
Longitude:177°52W
Wind: 15.1 knots (approx. 17.4 mph)
Direction: 156° (SW)
Sea Temperature: 8.3°C (approx. 47°F)
Air Temperature: 7.4°C (approx. 45.3°F)
Barometric Pressure (mb): 1007
Wave Swells: 4 – 5 feet
Wave Height: 1 – 2 feet
Combined: 5 – 6 feet

Scientific Log:
Today started out with the launching of another CTD (Conductivity, Temperature, Depth) and XBT to measure the salinity and temperature of the ocean. On average we typically deploy a little more than one per day, depending on whether we are wanting to hit key locations. Today when we launched two and contrasted locations where there were pollock to locations where there weren’t so we could better analyze how sea temperature affects where the pollock prefer to hang out.

Survey Tech, Robert Spina, taking samples from the CTD

We attempted to launch the Cam-Trawl this morning but as is typical with new equipment, we encountered some problems once it was in the water. And as my students have learned, sometimes it’s necessary to make modifications and try the science experiment again! Even the pro’s must go through the Scientific Method multiple times before they can publish their findings!

Ovaries of a female Walleye Pollock

At approximately 1030 we deployed the AWT and went fishing for more pollock. This time we were able to gather a variety of different ages between the years 1-3. Once the fish are dumped from the codend, they are placed on a type of conveyor belt that allows us to do a preliminary sort through the fish. For example, jellyfish are commonly caught in the net and so we place them in a separate bucket to measure later. Sometimes we accidently catch other fish in the net, this is called bycatch, and they too need to be separated. At the end of the conveyor belt another person weighs baskets of fish and records the weights in the computer. Afterward, we take a random sample of about 400 fish and sex them. This sample is used to determine how many fish of each size are in the sample.  Unfortunately we do not have a way to identify the sex of the fish without having to cut into them to see. In addition to measuring, weighing, and sexing the fish, we again took samples of pollock stomachs and otoliths. We conducted two fish hauls during my shift and we will probably do two more tonight.

Testes of a male Walleye Pollock

When we finish collecting the data we must clean the lab. The best part of this cleanup is that the dissected fish become food for the numerous Northern Fulmars trailing our ship and then the lab is simply hosed down, including the computers! We clean the lab after every fishing event because if the fish scales dry out, they become impossible to remove, much like cereal crusted in a bowl! Not to mention all the fish parts would become unbearable stinky when we have a rare, sunny, warm day!

Pollock stomach contents: Amphipods (dark) and some type of fish.

Personal Log:
When I walked outside to observe the activity on the deck (where the fishing nets are located in the back of the ship) the fog was very thick. Of course, living in Dutch Harbor, I have become accustomed to such conditions but being out on the boat gave me an entirely new feeling. The boat rocked calmly, pitching every-so-often and overall there was an eerie silence among the crashing of the waves. The fog creeped aboard the boat drifting like fingers into every space available and subtly created a chill when it brushed against your neck. I can understand why sailors are prone to superstitious beliefs.

Northern Fulmars trailing the boat on the starboard side.

Later, the weather cleared into a gorgeous blue sky and the golden sun glistened on the water. I had an exciting day as I was allowed to launch an XBT and able to advance my skills in fish dissecting as I extracted stomachs and otoliths along with my regular fish duties of sorting, sexing, and measuring.
Today was a full day of work and when I when I walked into the mess hall for supper, I could not believe my eyes. There is nothing better than having a chef aboard a ship that cares for his crew. There was turkey, ham, bread dressing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, candied yams, salmon tetrazzini, brown gravy, Tom Yumm Soup, dinner rolls, and corn bread! In addition, we had the lovely view of food art as our chef Ray Capati created a swan out of an apple, bouquets of baby bok choy and celery, “water lilies” made of grapefruit or oranges and mixed with flowers, and palm trees made of carrots and green bell peppers! I feel like I’m eating in a 5-star restaurant aboard the Oscar Dyson!

Ray Capati behind another fantastic, aesthetically pleasing buffet!

Animals Spotted Today:
Today is known by the “birders” from the US Fish and Wildlife folks as the Day of the Jaeger because we were able to see all three species: Longtail, Parasitic, and Pomarine!
Northern Fulmars
Black-legged Kittiwake
Common Murre
Thickbilled Murre

Slaty-backed Gull

Least Auklet
Slaty-backed Gull (Russian seagull)
Jellyfish (Chrysaora Melanaster)
Walleye Pollock
Rock Sole
Silver Salmon (Coho)
Arrowtooth Flounder
Digested shrimps, euphausiids, amphipods, and copepods from pollock stomachs!

Something to Ponder:
Random samples are important in scientific observations because we want to obtain a general idea of what is in the ocean. Imagine if a scientist only selected the largest pollock caught in the codend. How would that skew the data samples and the information given to the public about the pollock in the ocean?