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?