Susan Dee: To the Gulf of Maine and Georges Bank, June 1, 2018


NOAA Teacher at Sea

Susan Dee

Aboard NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow 

May 23 – June 7, 2018

Mission:  Spring Ecosystem Monitoring Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Northeastern Coast of U.S.

Date:  June 1,  2018

Weather From Bridge

Latitude: 41° 25.4′ N
Longitude: 068° 16.3′ W
Sea Wave Height: 1-2 ft
Wind Speed: 16 kts
Wind Direction: SE
Visibility: Hz
Air Temperature:  12.5°C
Sky:  OVC

Science and Technology Log

After completing a southern route past Long Island, New Jersey and Delaware, the Henry B. Bigelow  headed north to the Gulf of Maine (GOM).  The first sampling stations in GOM were  located on the continental shelf close to the slope. After sampling in  the  Northeast Channel of the GOM, stations will be dispersed throughout the Gulf of Maine. Phytoplankton is continuously imaged through the Imaging Flow Cyto Bot and collection is going well. Below is a recent image taken.  Can you  find Thallasonemia  or Ceratium?  

phytoplankton 3
Image of Phytoplankton taken by IFCB

At various stations instead of  towing  bongo nets  with a CTD attached,  a CTD, Rosette, is deployed with niskin bottles.  CTD contain sensors that measure Conductivity (salinity), Temperature and Depth.   The data gathered provides profiles of chemical and physical parameters of the ocean.

CTD with 12 canisters on deck
CTD on bottom of instrument with 12 Niskin bottles forming a rosette.


CTD Rosette entering-water.jpg
CTD, commonly known as Rosette. Note the rosette shape at top of bottles

The great feature of the rosette is its ability to collect water using Niskin bottles as hydrographic instruments.  Opened bottles are lowered into the ocean and at the desired depth a   bottle is closed and brought to the surface without mixing with other water so pure samples can be taken at different depths. Back on board, water is  taken from the Niskin bottles and  nutrient, chlorophyll and carbon dioxide tests are run on the samples.

taking water samples susan
Susan taking water samples from niskin bottles to perform chlorophyll tests at 3 different depths.
chlorophyll extraction
Chlorophyll extraction set up

Georges Bank is  in the southern part of the Gulf of Maine.  The bank separates the Gulf of Maine from the Atlantic Ocean.  It is a huge shoal that is 100 meters higher  than the surrounding ocean floor and is a very productive area of the continental shelf.   The mingling of the Labrador current from the north and the Gulf stream on the eastern edge plus sunlight in shallow waters, creates an ideal environment for phytoplankton and zooplankton. Once a bountiful fishery, it is presently recovering from over fishing. Federal Fishery regulations aim to ensure recovery of the area and future sustainability. The data samples collected will give a good idea of the recovery of this area.    The pink line below shows  the route taken by our ship in the southern Gulf  of Maine and  Georges Bank.


When  we were near the Northeast  Channel  in the Gulf of Maine, Latitude 41° 53.2′ N and Longitude 65°47.0′ W,  I deployed a  satellite-tracked Drifter Buoy decorated with our school name May River Sharks.  The drifter buoy will send GPS and temperature data to a NOAA website and students will be able to track its path.  This area was chosen to deploy because the Labrador current   from the north meets with the Gulf Stream and hopefully the buoy will get caught up in one of the currents. It will be fun  for students to track the buoy path in the fall. Wonder where it will go???


Susan decorating Buoy- May River High School Sharks



Buoy 1


Buoy Released
Buoy Released


Buoy splashing into water
buoy floating
Oh where, oh where, will you go?


Personal Log:

So far this trip the weather has been great. Seas have been calm and temperatures good. I have fallen into a nice routine each day.  My shift concludes at midnight; I go to bed till 9:00AM; work out; shower and get ready for next 12 hour shift. I eat lunch and dinner each day and a midnight snack.  The days are long but never boring. The crew aboard the Henry B Bigelow  is awesome.  Internet is sporadic but  I was able to face-time with my daughter. Technology is a big part of this whole operation. All the programs collecting temperature, salinity and phytoplankton rely on computer programs to run. Second  to the chef, the IT person is invaluable.  They are trouble shooting problems all day to make sure the collection  of data is working.   During the longer steams from station to station, I  have the opportunity to talk to crew and other scientists.  Each person is excited about science.  I have never  been involved in real  science research and I  find each day to be fascinating. There is so much time and effort put into collecting the samples.  This cruise  will collect samples from over 100 stations that will be analyzed and supply much data to give a good picture of the state of our Northeast coastline waters and fisheries.

Today was the last day of school for the year for May River High School.  Graduation is Tuesday and my thoughts will be with everyone.  Congratulations to all my students, especially the seniors.

Answers to Phytoplankton Identification:

Thallasonemia- upper left corner

Ceratium- middle top

Dawn White: Sampling the Pacific, June 24, 2017

NOAA Teacher at Sea

 Dawn White

Aboard NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker

June 19 – July 1, 2017


Mission: West Coast Sardine Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Pacific Ocean; U.S. West Coast

Date: June 25, 2017


Weather Data from the Bridge


Date: June 25, 2017                                                         Wind Speed: 22 kts

Time: 4:00 p.m.                                                                 Latitude: 5026.55N

Temperature: 14.3oC                                                      Longitude: 12808.11W


Science and Technology Log


Although the scientists have not performed any fishing trawls since departing San Diego, there is a survey crew on board that has continuously been monitoring the water column for a variety of factors using acoustics and an instrument called a Conductivity/Temp/Depth (CTD) probe.

Last night I was able to observe the launch and retrieval of a small, handheld CTD probe.  It looks very much like a 2 ft torpedo. The electronics and sensors built into the probe measure such factors as salinity, sound speed, depth, and water temperature.  This smaller probe is launched off the tail of the boat and let out on a line of filament from a reel that appears very similar to a typical fishing reel.  It does not take more than a couple of minutes for the probe to sink to a depth of about 300 meters.  Data is collected from the probe at various depths on the way down.  Once the probe has reached its target depth, it is simple reeled back in using a winch to retrieve it.  This requires quite a bit of energy as the probe is deployed with enough line for it to end up about 3 miles behind the ship.  The data from this probe is then blue-toothed to the program used by those monitoring the water column acoustically.  It help the techs make corrections in their acoustical readings.


White_scientists deploying probe_R
Surveyor Jian Liu and scientist Juan Zwolinski deploy the smaller CTD probe off the stern of NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker


The Reuben Lasker also carries a larger version of the CTD probe with the additional capabilities such as water collection at various depths.  However, this version requires the ship to be stationary.  Taking measurements with the unit slows down the work of the day as each stop takes about 30 minutes from launch until retrieval.  The launch of the larger CTD can be seen below.


White_CTD probe in basket
CTD Probe in steel protected basket


The data from the CDT probe is recorded real-time on the survey team’s computers.  Below you can see how this data presents itself on their video screens.


On the left video display you can see that there are several variables that are plotted against a depth vs. temperature. The green line tracks fluorescence (a measure of the chlorophyll concentration); the light blue line tracks dissolved oxygen; the red line represents temperature; the blue line is for salinity.


Extension question for my students reading this:  What correlations or relationships do you see happening as you observe the change in variables relative to changes in depth?


White_Lasker route
Route of NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker

Here is the route taken by the Reuben Lasker during the past 24 hours or so.  As you can see from the chart, the ship has now reached the northern-most end of Vancouver Island.  This is where the CDT recordings, marine mammal watching, deployment of two sets of plankton nets (to be explained later) and fish trawling will begin along the predetermined transect lines.

Note at the base of the screen the other parameters that are continuously recorded as the ship moves from place to place.



Personal Log

The action on-board is increasing dramatically today.  We have arrived at our outermost destination today, along the northernmost coast of Vancouver Island.  The sights from the bridge are amazing…all this blue water and rugged, pine covered coastline.  I am still waiting for that orca whale sighting!

The waves are up today but I’m holding my own.  Yeay!  Especially as the night fishing will begin in a few hours.

Unique activity of the day – I just finished a load of laundry!  The ship possesses 3 small washer/dryer units so we can redo our towels and whatever else we have used up during the course of this first week.  How serviceable can you get! I’ll retrieve mine as soon as dinner is over.  We have set meal hours and if you miss…it’s leftovers for you!  Best part of this is I am actually ready to eat a normal meal, even with the ship rocking the way it is today.

I have now been assigned deck boots and a heavy duty set of rain gear to cover up with when the fish sorting begins.  I can’t wait to see what all we pull up from these nutrient rich waters!


Did You Know?

Much of the data collected by the CTD and acoustic equipment from the Reuben Lasker is entered into a large data set managed by CalCOFI (California Cooperative Oceanic Fisheries Investigation).  Anyone interested in utilizing and analyzing this data can access it via the organization’s website located here.  There is an incredible amount of information regarding the work and research completed by this group found on this site. Check it out!

Terry Maxwell: Time is Not On Our Side, June 14, 2017

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Terry Maxwell

Aboard R/V Hugh R. Sharp

June 6–21, 2017

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographic Area of Cruise: Northeast Atlantic Ocean
Date: June 14, 2017

Weather Data from the Bridge
Latitude: 41 31.54 N
Longitude: 70 40.49 W
Wind Speed 10 Knots (11.5 mph)
Air Temp 20.2 C (68.4 Fahrenheit)

Science and Technology Log

Contrary to the popular Rolling Stones song “Time is on my Side,” time is not on our side while we are taking survey of the scallop population in the Northeast Atlantic Ocean. This survey has been meticulously planned for months leading up to the actually event. There is no time budgeted to sit at a dredge station longer than you have to.

The Nobeltec Cruise Track for the 2nd and 3rd legs of the 2017 Scallop Survey.  You can see this survey has covered 1000’s of nautical miles, and stopped at over 100 dredge stations.

For seven days our noon to midnight science crew has been working at a blistering pace to dredge the ocean floor or take pictures with the underwater camera, HabCam.  We are on a tight schedule, and in a twelve hour period we are able to work through 10 dredge stations.  There has been little down time, and because some of the dredge stations are so close together, there is no time to be unproductive while we are at a station.  Because of this, there are often stations where we simply are not able to individually count all the organisms we collect.  There are many situations where our crew must use the method of subsampling.

For you in the Midwest, imagine you wanted to know how many dandelions were in your yard.  Now if you are anything like me, you have way too many to count.  If you went to count them all individually, it would literally take you all day if not more.  It is just not time efficient to do such a thing.  But if we took a population sample of some random areas in the yard, we could come up with an answer of how many dandelions were in the yard, and get a very close answer to actually counting them individually.

A similar example I can give you is with a recent dredge catch that was full of sand dollars.  In one of our massive dredge catches composed of about 99.5% sand dollars, I completed an estimate sand dollars in a similar manner.  I filled 2 liter pail full of sand dollars.  My count for that pail was 188 sand dollars per 2 liters.  In this catch we had 46 baskets each with a volume of 46 liters.  So at 94 sand dollars per liter with there being 2,116 liters total, you can estimate there are about 198,904 sand dollars in that dredge catch.

sand dollars
A dredge catch that was almost 100% sand dollars.  These sand dollars are dripping with a green algae and cover our buckets and wet gear in a green coating.

We are faced with similar tasks while sorting through the dredge.  When we face those situations, we turn to the method of sampling, and we take a representative sample of our catch.  At most stations we are taking count of sea stars, crabs, waved whelks, all fish, and scallops.  When we collect the dredge, most of the time it would not be time efficient to totally count up all the sea stars, so we turn to subsampling.

Here’s how subsampling works.  Once we have sorted our dredge catch into various pails, we count up our specimens.  For sea stars however we always take a subsample.  To do that our watch-chief takes a scoop full of whatever is in our discard pails, and she does this randomly.  She puts the random sample in a 4.5 liter pail.  From here, she can begin to estimate the number of sea stars in our dredge catch.  For example, if she goes through the 4.5 liter pail and finds six sea stars, and she knows there are four 46 liter pails of discard from the dredge, with a little math work she can figure out how many stars are in the dredge.  If there are four 46 liter pails of discard, then there is a total of 186 liters of discard.  She knows from her random sample that there are 6 sea stars per 4.5 liters which would come out to 1.3 sea stars per liter.  By multiplying that number by 186, you can determine that an expanded estimate for the sea stars in the dredge collection would be 242 sea stars.

An example of our discard baskets from our dredge catches.  This catch was sea star heavy, and this shows it would have taken too much time to count each sea star individually.  Since many sea stars are predators of scallops, a count needs to be recorded.

We also use this method when we have a large catch of scallops.  When we have an overly large scallop catch on the dredge, we are not able to count and measure every single scallop from the catch.  In these cases we use a representative amount.  In one case we caught 24 baskets of scallops, each basket able to hold 46 liters.  If we were to measure all of those scallops we would be at that station far too long to move onto the next dredge.  When we caught enough scallops to fill 24 baskets, we used 3 baskets of scallops as a representative amount.  All of the scallops in the 3 baskets were measured for their shell height.  We would then take a mean average from these scallops to represent the 21 other baskets.  We are also able to estimate the number of scallops in the 24 baskets the same way I estimated the number of sand dollars in a dredge catch.

scallop baskets
A large catch of scallops from one of our dredge stations.  In this case a representative sample of shell heights was taken.


Representative samples and population estimations through sampling are valuable tools that scientists use to collect a lot of data in a more efficient amount of time.  From this data, mathematical models and predictions are developed.  By implementing these methods, we are able to get more data from more locations.

Personal Log

It has been 9 days since I arrived in Woods Hole, Massachusetts to be a part of this journey.  As I shared in my last blog, it is hard to be away from home, but many of the people here are gone more than 100 days per year.  There is one thing that makes that time away easier….eating!  Here on the Hugh R. Sharp, I would imagine I’ve put on some extra pounds.  Most days I feel like a cow grazing.  There are so many snacks on board, that it is so easy just to walk by the galley and grab a mini candy bar, chips, pop, or ice cream.  I have discovered there is no better candy bar than a Baby Ruth.  On top of the snacks and sweets, the cook, Paul, cooks up some mean dinners.   Though I miss my wife’s home cooking, Paul’s cooking is a good substitute.

paul and candy
Lots of candy and snacks and some good dinners is probably leading to some extra poundage!  There are two drawers always full of candy, and a freezer always full of ice cream.  Pictured on the left is the ship’s cook, Paul.

Outside of eating, there is not much recreational time on the ship.  I do try to get up a couple hours before our shift begins to just enjoy being out on the ocean.  I haven’t been able to make myself get up yet for sunrise at 5:05 AM.  After working a twelve hour shift sorting dredge catches, there’s not much you want to do but sleep.  Sleeping on the boat has been good.  Probably some of the deepest sleep I’ve had since our kids were born.  I’ve gotten used to the motion of the boat, the sound of waves hitting the bow, and the boat stabilizers which sound like a giant snoring.  I’m a sleep walker, so that was a concern coming in that I would find myself on deck, sleep walking.  But I’m sleeping so sound, I don’t think it’s possible.  However I did warn my roommates to stop me if they saw me up in the middle of the night.
Part B of the survey has started, and with that most of my crew got off the ship, and I will have a new crew starting today.  It was a great group of people to work with.

Part A of the survey the day crew from left to right: Crew chief Nicole, myself, Dylan, Sue, and Nancy.  Then the night crew of Lauren, John, Jill, Han, and crew chief Mike.


Did You Know?

Living in Illinois, there are not many times where knowing your parts of a ship come in handy.  However, as I have been living on the Hugh R. Sharp for over a week now I have picked up some terms.  I did not know many of these coming on, so this is a “Did you know?” moment for me.

Front of the ship: bow
Back of the ship: stern
Moving to the front of the ship: forward
Moving to the back of the ship: aft

The left of this picture is port, and the right is starboard.  It took me awhile to figure out what our turn would be like if we were making a turn to starboard.

If you were on the bow, your left would be the: port
If you were on the bow, your right would be the: starboard
Fathom: 6 feet
A heading of zero: North, a heading of 90: East, a heading of 180: South, a heading of 270: West
Heading to a location quickly: steam
Kitchen (where I constantly graze in between dredge stations): galley
Location of the ship’s navigational equipment is: bridge
Bathrooms: the head

Not much use for these terms in the Midwest!


Dana Chu: May 17, 2016

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Dana Chu
On Board NOAA Ship Bell M. Shimada
May 13 – 22, 2016

Mission: Applied California Current Ecosystem Studies (ACCESS) is a working partnership between Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary, Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, and Point Blue Conservation Science to survey the oceanographic conditions that influence and drive the availability of prey species (i.e., krill) to predators (i.e., marine mammals and sea birds).

Geographic area of cruise: Greater Farallones, Cordell Bank, and Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuaries

Date: Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Weather Data from the Bridge
Clear skies, light winds at 0600 increased to 18 knots at 0900, 6-8 feet swells

Science and Technology Log

Ahoy from the Bell Shimada! Today, I will explain three of the tools that are deployed from the side deck to obtain samples of the water and the ocean’s prey species.

First off we have the Harmful Algal Bloom Net, also known as the HAB Net, which is basically a 10-inch opening with a 39-inch fine mesh netting attached to a closed end canister. The HAB net is deployed manually by hand to the depth of 30 feet three consecutive times to obtain a water sample. The top fourth of the water collected is decanted and the remaining water (approximately 80ml) is transferred to a bottle which is then sealed and labeled with the location (latitude, longitude), date, time, vertical or horizontal position, and any particular comments. The samples will eventually be mailed off to California Department of Health Services lab for analysis for harmful toxins from algae that can affect shellfish consumers.

Next we have the hoop net, which is pretty much similar in design to the HAB net, except for a larger opening diameter of 3 feet (think hula hoop) and a net length of nine feet. The net tapers off into a closed container with open slits on the sides to allow for water drainage. The purpose of the hoop net to collect organisms that are found at the various depth levels of the deployment. The hoop net is attached to a cable held by the winch. The hoop net is lowered at a specific angle which when calculated with the speed of the vessel equates to a certain depth. The survey crew reports the wire angle sighting throughout the deployment.

Every time the hoop net is brought back up there is a sense of anticipation at what we will find once the canister is open. Coloring is a good indicator. Purple usually indicates a high concentration of doliolids, while a darker color may indicate a significant amount of krill. Phytoplankton usually have a brownish coloring. Many of the hoop net collections from today and yesterday include doliolids and colonial salps, neither are very nutrient dense. Yesterday we also found pyrosomes, which are transparent organisms that resemble a sea cucumber with little bumps and soft thorns along their body. The smallest pyrosome we came upon was two and a half inches with the largest over six inches long. A few small fish of less than one inch in length also showed up sporadically in these collections as well.

The Scientific team is looking for the presence of krill in the samples obtained. The Euphausia pacifica is one of the many species of krill found in these waters. Many tiny krill were found in the various hoop net deployments. On the last hoop net deployment for today and yesterday, larger sized krill of approximately 1 inch) were found. This is good news because krill is the dominant food source for marine mammals such as whales. Ideally it would be even better if the larger krill appeared more frequently in the hoop net samples.

Finally, we have the Tucker Trawl, which is the largest and most complex of the three nets discussed in today’s post. The Tucker Trawl consists of three separate nets, one for sampling at each depth: the top, middle, and bottom of the water column. Like the hoop net, the tucker trawl nets also have a canister with open slits along the side covered with mesh to allow water to drain. All three nets are mounted on the same frame attached to a wire cable held by the winch. As the Tucker Trawl is towed only one net is open at a time for a specific length of time. The net is closed by dropping a weight down along the tow. Once the weight reaches the net opening, it triggers the net to shut and sends a vibration signal up the cable line back to the surface which can be felt by the scientist holding the cable. The net is then towed at the next depth for ten minutes. Once the last net tow has been completed, the Tucker Trawl is brought back up to surface. Similar to the hoop net, the survey tech reads the wire angle throughout the deployment to determine the angle the cable needs to be at in order for the net to reach a certain depth. This is where all the Geometry comes in handy!

As mentioned already, with three nets, the Tucker Trawl yields three separate collections of the nutrients found within the top, middle and bottom of the water column. Once the nets are retrieved, each collection container is poured into a different bucket or tub, and then into a sieve before making it into a collection bottle. If there is a large quantity collected, a subsample is used to fill up a maximum of two bottles before the remainder is discarded back into the ocean. Once the samples are processed, an outside label is attached to the bottle and an interior label is dropped inside the bottle, formalin is added to preserve the sample organisms collected so that they can be analyzed later back in the lab.

Personal Log

It is so good to finally get my sea legs! I am glad I can be of use and actively participate. Cooperative teamwork is essential to getting everything to flow smoothly and on time. The Bell Shimada’s deck crew and NOAA team work hand in hand with the scientists to deploy and retrieve the various instruments and devices.

In the past two days I am getting a lot of hands on experience with deploying the HAB net to assisting with processing samples from the HOOP Net and Tucker Trawl. It’s always exciting to see what we might have collected. I can’t wait to see what the rest of the week may bring. I wonder what interesting finds we will get with the midnight Tucker Trawl samples.

Lesson Learned: Neatness and accuracy are imperative when labeling samples! Pre-planning and preparing labels ahead of time helps streamline the process once the samples are in hand.

Word of the Day:        Thermocline – This is the depth range where the temperature of the water drops steeply. The region above the thermocline has nutrient depleted waters and while the region below has nutrient rich waters.


Melissa George: Crossing the Line, July 25, 2013

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Melissa George
Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
July 22 – August 9, 2013

Mission:  Pollock Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise:  Gulf of Alaska
Date:  Thursday, July 25, 2013

Current Data From Today’s Cruise 

Weather Data from the Bridge (at 6:00 am Alaska Daylight Time)
Sky Condition:  Fog
Temperature:  12° C
Wind Speed:  11 knots
Barometric Pressure:  1017.5 mb
Humidity:  87%

Sun and Moon Data
Sunrise:  5:51 am
Sunset:  10:40 pm

Moonrise:  10:57 pm (July 24, 2013)
Moonset:  10:37 am

Geographic Coordinates (at 6:00 am Alaska Daylight Time)
Latitude:  58° 30.5′ N
Longitude: 148° 47.7′ W

The ship’s position now can be found by clicking:

Oscar Dyson’s Geographical Position

Science and Technology Log

How can you determine the population size of species?  You could count every member of the population.  This would be the most accurate method, but what if the individuals in the population move around a lot? What if the population is enormous and requires too much time to count each individual?   For example, krill is a small crustacean (usually between 1 and 6 cm long) that accounts for 400-500 million metric tons of biomass in the world’s oceans.  Would you want to count all of the krill in the Gulf of Alaska?

Krill (and a Few Capelin)
Krill (and a Few Capelin)

Often, ocean populations of animals are just too large to count.  Sampling, or collecting a manageable subset of the population and using the information gathered from it to make inferences about the entire population, is a technique that ocean scientists use.   There are a variety of ways to sample.

One method is called mark and recapture.   In this method,  one catches individuals from the population, tags them, and releases them in a certain area.  After a set amount of time, an attempt is made to recapture individuals.  Data are compiled from the recaptures and the population is mathematically calculated.  Tuna populations in some areas are monitored this way;  fishermen are required to report any fish that are recaptured.  (Photo courtesy of Western Fishboat Owners’ Association)

Tuna with Tag Locations
Tuna with Tag Locations

Another method is quadrat sampling.  The organisms in a subset area (quadrat) are counted and then the overall population in the entire area is calculated.  For example, in the picture below, one quadrat would be randomly selected and the organisms counted.  From this count the overall population would be extrapolated.  (Photo courtesy of BBC Bitesize Biology)

Quadrat Sampling
Quadrat Sampling

The sampling method used on the Oscar Dyson employs the use of a transect line.  The picture below illustrates the use of a transect line.  On various increments along the transect line, samples of populations are taken.  Imagine the Oscar Dyson’s path  on the sea as the measuring tape and the trawl net is the sampling square.  (Photo courtesy of Census of Marine Life Organization)

Transect Line Sampling
Transect Line Sampling

The overall survey area of the pollock study this summer is the northern Gulf of Alaska between the shore and the continental break.  Within this area transect lines were established.  These are pathways that the Oscar Dyson will travel along and periodically take samples of the fish.

The current set of transects are 25 nautical miles apart and are parallel, but transects in other areas may be 2 or 5 nautical miles apart.  One nautical mile is equal to 1/60 of a degree (or 1 minute ) of latitude. Transects that we are following now are located on the shelf and are perpendicular to the coastline.  Transects in inlets and bays may run differently, perhaps even zigzag.

Screen Shot of Oscar Dyson Transect Line Travel
Screen Shot of Oscar Dyson Transect Line Travel

If fish are located through acoustics monitoring off the transect line,  the ship might break transect (a mark is made on the map), circle around to the desirable position, and collect a sample by trawling.  The population of pollock can then be mathematically calculated from counting the sample.  After trawling, the ship will return to the break and continue along the transect line.

Most days, scientists hope that the Oscar Dyson will finish a transect line by nightfall and then the ship can be at the next transect by sunrise.  This maximizes the time for detecting fish acoustically and trawling to collect samples.

Personal Log: 

In his 1943 paper “A Theory of Human Motivation,” Abraham Maslow, a developmental psychologist, proposed a hierarchy of needs which focus on describing the stages of growth in humans.  The largest, most fundamental needs are at the bottom, and as those are satisfied, individuals are able to progress up the pyramid.  So, I am going to use this diagram (somewhat tongue-in-cheek) to discuss how  basic needs are met on the ship.  In today’s blog, I will begin the discussion at the bottom level (where else?).
A Version of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs
A Version of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
The bottom layer includes the most basic physiological needs one requires for survival:  food, water, warmth, and rest.  (We might also include exercise in this level).   So, let us begin at the beginning.

Food is available in the galley.  It is planned for and shopped for before the mission.  Chief Steward, Ava, and Second Cook, Adam, do an excellent job preparing and executing delicious, healthy meals at set times during the day (Breakfast: 7 to 8 am, Lunch 11 am to noon, Dinner 5 to 6 pm). Since the staff on the ship are working around the clock, there is always food available (salad bar, cereal, yogurt, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches) if meal time is missed for sleeping.  Below is a photo of the galley.  (What are those neon yellow things on the bottom of the chair legs for, do you think?)

Oscar Dyson Galley
Oscar Dyson Galley


Water is needed for in several capacities on the ship.  The staff on the ship needs potable water to drink and to cook with.  Additionally,  water is needed for washing dishes, bathing, flushing toilets and doing laundry.

To get clean drinking water, we pump the salt water from the ocean into a desalination unit (a distiller). The distilled water is then sent to a 10,000 gallon holding tank. When water is needed, it is pressurized so that it will move to the faucets, drinking fountains, showers, and so on.

Water is also needed on the ship in the lab and on the deck to clean up after the catch is hauled in and processed.   The water used here is salt water and is pumped onto the boat directly from the ocean.


Half of the staff on the ship is working around the clock; the other half is resting.   For the science staff, there are two shifts, a morning shift (4 am to 4 pm) and an evening shift (4 pm to 4 am).  The shifts are staggered at these hours so that the evening shift will be able to share two meals with the rest of the staff (usually lunch and dinner).  In most cases, two people share a stateroom:  one works days and the other works nights.  Because the quarters are close on a ship, this gives each person some time alone in the room to sleep, bathe, and take care of other personal needs.  A stateroom consists of a bunk bed, a desk, two lockers, and a bathroom/shower.  Below are some photos of the stateroom that I share with my roommate, Abby.  (Note:  Because rooms are small and space is shared, it is not advisable to bring a large purple suitcase that won’t fit inside one’s locker.)

Oscar Dyson Stateroom
Oscar Dyson Stateroom
Oscar Dyson Stateroom Bath
Oscar Dyson Stateroom Bath


There are two workout areas on the ship.  One workout area has a treadmill, an elliptical machine, a bike, and a yoga mat; the other has a treadmill, a rowing machine, and some free weights.  There are limited walking spaces on the ship, so these machines provide a way to stretch one’s legs, so to speak.

Oscar Dyson's Exercise Room
Oscar Dyson’s Exercise Room
Did you Know?
With a bachelor’s degree in science, math, or engineering and a 6 month training program at the US Coast Guard Academy in New London, CT, one can serve the United States as a member of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Commissioned Officer Corps (NOAA Corps).  Members of the NOAA Corps serve as operational experts, taking researchers to sea and helping to generate environmental intelligence.  My roommate, Abby, serves as a member of the NOAA Corps.
Abby Controlling the Oscar Dyson
Abby Controlling the Oscar Dyson
This is Abby’s second cruise with the NOAA Corps.  She has a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and just completed her NOAA officer basic training.  One of her tasks is to be ready to deploy specific measures in case of a fire on board.  Below, she is reviewing all of the locations on the Oscar Dyson with fire response equipment.  For more information on NOAA Corps, click on the link.
Abby Locating Fire Response Equipment
Abby Locating Fire Response Equipment
Something to Think About
Knowing geography is essential to various positions on the ships such as scientific exploration and navigation.  Many types of maps are seen on board, for example, computer generated bathymetric maps show the contour and depth of the ocean.  Equally valuable are the “old school” tools (paper maps, compasses, straight edges, and pencils) used to plot the ship’s course.
Navigation Tools
Navigation Tools
Plotting Transects
Plotting Transects

Fun Fact

Etymology is the study of the origin of words.  Many of the words in science originate from ancient languages such as Greek or Latin.   For example, the word etymology comes to us from two Greek words: etymon meaning “the true sense of a word combined with  logia meaning “doctrine, study.” Combining these two roots gives us “the study of the true sense of words,” which can be said to be the meaning of the word etymology.

Here are some root words I came across today all originating from Greek words:

zoo-from zoion meaning “animal”

phyto-from phyto meaning “plant”

plankton-from planktos meaning “drifting” or “wandering”

vorous-from vorous meaning “eating”

In the blogs thus far, I have discussed two species:  walleye pollock and one of their prey, krill.  Krill are classified as zooplankton, literally “animals that drift. ” Krill eat phytoplankton, or “animals that drift.”  Pollock are considered to be zooplanktivorous, or “drifting animal eaters.”  An award winning short video explaining The Secret Life of Plankton can be viewed by clicking on the link.

Patty McGinnis: Anchovies, Shrimp, and Krill, May 28, 2013

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Patty McGinnis
Aboard R/V Ocean Starr
May 20 – 29, 2013

Mission: Juvenile Rockfish Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise: Pescadero, California
Date: Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Weather Data from the Bridge
Latitude: 37 16.941 ° N
Longitude: 123 07.440° W
Air Temperature: 14 Celsius
Wind Speed: 25 knots
Wind Direction: NE
Surface Water Temperature: 12.8 Celsius
Weather conditions: foggy

Science and Technology Log

I’ve come to realize that each trawl is a whole new adventure; although Chief Scientist Keith Sakuma has the historical data to predict what might be found at each station, he is occasionally surprised at the treasures that are yielded by the ocean’s pelagic zone. The majority of our trawls are conducted at 30 meters below the surface. The area that falls between the surface and 200 meters below the surface is known as the epipelagic zone. The next zone, the mesopelagic, is the area that lies 200 meters to 1,000 meters below the surface. Last night our first trawl of the night was a deep water trawl. Although described in the Project Instructions, this was our first opportunity to conduct a deep water trawl. Keith was taking advantage of the fact that the captain wanted to unwind one of the trawl winch cables so that it could be carefully rewound onto the spool.

putting out the net
The crew of the Ocean Starr cheerfully assisted with the trawls each night

During the deep water trawl, the net was dragged for 15 minutes at a depth of 300 meters, rather than the traditional 15 minutes at 30 meters. In addition to a large number of adult hake, we pulled up a long-finned dragonfish. Like many fish that live in the deep ocean, the dragonfish has an organ on its head that produces a bioluminescent light. This light is used by some species to attract prey and can also serve to help the fish see its surroundings. Tonight we found another type of deep dwelling fish; the stoplight loosejaw fish, so named for its large jaw. Its red spot is capable of producing red light to help it navigate. We also pulled in several King of the salmon specimens. The King of the salmon is not a real salmon, but is a type of ribbon fish. It has a very flat, ribbon-shaped body and a long dorsal fin that runs down the entire body. Deep water fish like the stoplight loosejaw and King of the salmon tend to get pretty banged up in the trawl.

deep water trawl haul
I stand next to the results of our deep water trawl haul
stoplight loosejaw
This stoplight loosejaw is a type of dragonfish that lives in deep ocean waters
king of the salmon
King of the salmon fish

Lindsey good-naturedly dissected out a handful of otoliths (ear bones) from the adult hakes so that I could have a memento of my NOAA Teacher at Sea voyage. I anticipate using the otoliths to create a lab activity for the middle school science classroom. The hake lengths were then measured on a special board and a small piece of tissue was cut from five of them to be frozen and analyzed later.

adult hake
Adult hake
These otoliths, or ear bones, came from adult hakes
These otoliths, or ear bones, came from adult hakes

We conducted five additional trawls at 30 meters. Prior to and during each haul one of us does a mammal watch. This consists of listening and watching for mammals that may appear alongside the ship during the trawl. Should we encounter any marine mammals, the protocol is to stop the trawl immediately to avoid injuring any mammals. As of today, we have yet to be accompanied by any marine mammals during our trawls.

One of the surprises of the night was a catch of northern anchovies. I was surprised at their size; rather than the small fish I had envisioned, these fish were solid, robust, and at least 6 inches in length. Keith was pleased with the number of anchovies we hauled in given that very few or none were obtained the last two years. As he explained, the anchovy population tends to go through boom and bust cycles and have been down for the last several years. We also pulled up a North Pacific spiny dogfish, a shark named for its sharp dorsal spines.

Watch out for the dorsal spines on the North Pacific spiny dogfish

Other hauls yielded large amounts of juvenile rockfish and market squid. I have a great fondness for the squid, which I dissect annually with my students each spring. The small market squid we pull up, some barely an inch in length, pale in comparison to the adult squid which I use in my classroom. There is, however, no mistaking the miniature squid for anything else, so strong is their resemblance to their full-grown relatives that make their way from California’s pelagic waters to my classroom in Eagleville, Pennsylvania.

We pulled up this beautiful squid in one of our trawls
Measuring Squid
I measure market squid as part of my work on the Ocean Starr
juvenile rockfish
juvenile rockfish

Krill, of course, are well-represented in the hauls as well. The abundance of the tiny crustacean makes it easy to envision the humpback whale straining out mouthfuls of krill as they make their annual trek to Alaska each spring.


Since identifying and counting the majority of all the organisms for each trawl would be too labor intensive, we concentrate on a subsample. Keith then extrapolates the data from the subsample to obtain an estimation of what the total haul contained. Depending on what is present in the haul, we generally identify a subsample of 1,000 or 5,000 millilitres. Difficult sorts such as one that consists primarily of krill and small shrimp, may be restricted to 1,000 millilitres, whereas easier sorts may be up to 5,000 millimeters. Regardless, the total volume of the trawl is always recorded, as is the total volume of krill. Keith bags some of the catch for later use, carefully labeling each bag with the haul number, cruise number, and species identification code. Up to 30 specimens of each important species are also measured and recorded. In the morning, it will fall to Don Pearson to transfer the data from the data sheets to the computer. These numbers are then cross-checked the following evening to ensure that the data is accurate. The result: the groundfish stock assessments NOAA produces are as accurate as possible, an important factor for fisheries management.

Chief Scientist Keith Sakuma obtains a subsample
samples in bags
Samples are carefully labeled and stored for later analysis
catch data sheet
The haul from all trawls are recorded on data sheets

As busy as the night shift is, the day shift keeps busy with important work, too. Don conducts CTDs throughout the day, while Jamie filters phytoplankton from water samples that the CTD captures.

ame filters phytoplankton
Graduate student Jamie Lee filters phytoplankton obtained from CTD sampling
Doug watches the computer as part of conducting a CTD
Fisheries biologist Don Pearson watches the computer as part of conducting a CTD
deploying CTD
Deploying the CTD

As I am sleeping the ship periodically conducts transects over the ocean floor. These transects are conducted in areas where upwelling tends to occur. Upwelling is caused when a predominantly northwest wind pushes water offshore. Water rises up from below the surface to replace the water that was pushed away. In doing so, nutrients from the ocean bottom are transported from the sea floor to the water column. These nutrients serve to promote the growth and reproduction of phytoplankton, which is the basis of all ocean food chains. Upwelling areas therefore attract fish, birds, and marine mammals. While the ship is running transects, a computer in the lab is continually monitoring evidence of sea life at different frequencies. The picture below shows four graphs that monitor for krill, invertebrates, and fish. Fisheries biologist Don Pearson explained that it takes a practiced eye to spot patterns in the data. These patterns should correspond with the birds and mammals that Sophie spots on deck as seeing lots of organisms on the computer means lots of food for the birds and mammals. As much as I’ve enjoyed the night shift, part of me wishes that I had been able to have spent more time on the lookout deck with Sophie.

These graphs indicate the presence of marine organisms
transects on computer
The computer tracks the transects conducted by the Ocean Starr by day

All of this takes an enormous amount of preparation. Keith, Don, Amber, and oceanographer Ken Baltz spent the better part of a day setting up the equipment which will be used over a six-week span. This includes the trawling net which has been built to a specific length, opening and mesh size. The use of a standardized net is important because it enables the scientists to compare catches throughout the years. Other equipment includes an array of computers, the CTD, and miscellaneous equipment needed to sort through catches.

trawl net
Trawl net Photo credit: Kaia

Personal Log

It is interesting getting used to life on ship; this small community consists of 17 crew and 8 scientists (including myself). This vessel, in addition to being equipped with the necessary science equipment, houses its inhabitants in “staterooms.” I have been partnered with Kaia, a reflective wildlife biologist whose company I thoroughly enjoy.

This is where I slept while on the Ocean Starr
Kaia was a wonderful roommate!

I have taken note that you can set your clock by the four meals served each day. Our ship’s steward, Crystal, and her assistant Liz, never fail to amaze me with the diverse menus that they faithfully create for us each day. The mess, or the room where we eat, has snacks and sodas available at all times of the day and night. Crystal also keeps a refrigerator stocked with leftovers that are available for anyone to access at any time. If that wasn’t enough, there is an entire freezer which houses nothing but a variety of ice cream bars (which the night shift enjoys on a regular basis). The mess is a popular place to hang out between meals. Two large televisions are constantly on; I’ve noticed that sci-fi movies (especially B-rated ones) and old war movies seem to be the favored among the crew.

Monday dinner
The ship steward consistently prepares wholesome and delicious meals
What’s for dinner?
ice cream
Ice cream was a favorite treat for the night shift

Yesterday I had an opportunity to do my laundry using one of the ship’s two washing machines. When I first came on board I asked Keith about fresh water on the ship. He explained to me that as long as the ship is moving that it is able to make fresh water through a desalination process. Since the Ocean Starr is in constant movement other than when the CTD is being employed, having fresh water has not been an issue. Regardless, taking the type of long showers favored by many of my students is something I did not indulge in.

The Ocean Starr has all the comforts of home

As I write this the ship rocks gently from side to side. I think of how quickly I have adapted to my new surroundings and to the companionship of my new friends. As Keith had promised, after three days of working the night shift my body has adjusted and has acclimated to the routine. My time here is drawing short, however…three days from now I’ll be back in my classroom sharing stories and photos with my students.

Did You Know?

Commercial fisherman use a big spotlight to attract market squid?

Here is a list of some of the fish I have seen this week:  barracudina, northern lampfish, blue lanternfish, Pacific hake, pallid eelpout, yellowtail rockfish, shortbelly rockfish, cowcod, blue rockfish, boccacio, lingcod, cabezon, Irish lord, wolf-eel, medusafish, Pacific sanddab, speckled sanddab, rex sole, Dover sole, and many more


Kathleen Brown: This Week at Sea! June 12-14, 2011

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kathleen Brown
Aboard R/V Hugh R. Sharp
June 7 – 18, 2011

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Atlantic
Dates: June 12-14, 2011

June 14, 2011

Weather Data from the Bridge
Time: 3:32 PM
Winds 13.0 KTs
Air Temperature: 10.78 degrees C
Latitude 41 40.26N Longitude 068 19.96W

Science and Technology Log

Basket of Scallops
Basket of Scallops

Today I have been thinking about sampling. On this leg of the Scallop Survey, we may dredge up to 150 times. Each dredge is called a station. The stations on the trip are generally selected at random, from the places along the bottom of the ocean that scientists expect to find scallops. Once in a while we stop at a non-random station. This is a location that scientists have been studying for a number of years. By selecting the same location over and over again, scientists can see how the scallop population is changing. One scientist uses the data collected at the non-random stations to age the scallops. Scallop shells have rings that scientists can count to see how old the scallop is. (This is similar to the way that a scientist might tell the age of a tree.)

Every time the net is hauled onto the table, we sort every item that has been pulled up from the ocean. Of course sea scallops are the species that are being studied, but we count all the fish as well. The scallops are placed in orange baskets, similar in size and shape to a round laundry basket. Once a basket is filled to the top, we grab another basket. On some tows, there are no sea scallops. On tows where scallops are abundant, there have been as many as 30 baskets full of scallops. If we have collected a few baskets of scallops, we will measure the length of each animal. However, imagine trying to measure and count every scallop in thirty baskets. (My fellow scientist Aaron and I have found that we typically measure 250-300 scallops per basket.) It would not be practical, especially in locations where stations are close to each other. There just wouldn’t be enough time. In those cases, the Crew Chief will select, randomly, the baskets that will be sorted and measured. Usually, it is one fourth of the total sea scallop catch. This is called a sub-sample. Scientists can use the data to extrapolate (estimate) the size and character of the catch.

Smaple a scallop
Sampling a scallop

Scallops that come up from the tows vary in ways other than in size and age. Some of the oldest sea scallops that have been dredged up have been covered with small ecosystems. Barnacles, sea sponges, and algae are firmly attached to the shell. Many of the sea scallops have been so crusted that we had to remove the colonies of barnacles before we could measure them.

We have not been able to see any stars at night, as it has been overcast the whole trip. I had hoped to see a brilliant night sky. Last night I was able to count three other vessels out on the water – small lights bobbing off in the distance.

Personal Log

The day crew has developed a great bond. We have fun joking and telling stories. Before we head out on deck, we each guess the number of species that we might see in the tow. The friendly competition makes us laugh. In the galley, there is a satellite television. If the ship is traveling in a certain direction, we can receive a signal. Can you imagine being 200 miles out in the ocean and watching the Boston Bruins and the Vancouver Canucks play in the Stanley Cup finals? Go Boston!

Question of the Day

In areas where American sea scallops are abundant, what other marine animals would scientists expect to find?


June 12, 2011

Weather Data from the Bridge
Time: 12:50 PM
Winds 18.7 KTs
Air Temperature: 11.33 degrees C
Latitude 41 18.20N
Longitude 066 49.56W

Science and Technology Log

The Chief Scientist, Kevin, shared some information with me this morning that helps to put our work into perspective. NOAA conducts an annual sea scallop survey, which covers an area from Cape Hatteras to Georges Bank. I am traveling on the second leg of the 2011 survey. Over time scientists and fisherman use the data to track the distribution of the sea scallops. The scallop catch is reported in numbers and disaggregated (broken down) by the size of the animals. Catches are categorized by the size of the scallops’ shell height: less than or equal to 90 mm, greater than 90 mm, and greater than or equal to 100mm. (Notice how scientists use the metric system of measurement to report their results.)

To be sure that the information being compared is valid, scientists use the same type of equipment and the same procedure on every tow and on every trip. According to Kevin, fifteen-minute tows are made at the speed of 3.8 KTs. That means that the dredge is pulled behind the boat for the same time and at the same speed. The dredge (think big, square fishing net) is called a modified 8-foot New Bedford type scallop dredge and it travels along the bottom of the ocean floor to get the sample. It is made of chains linked together and has a liner made out of nylon rope that helps to keep the small scallops in the dredge. Nate, the Crew Chief on my watch, and Sam, a graduate student studying scallops, share with me their experiences on a commercial scallop boat. Those vessels typically have two dredges, each one approximately fifteen feet wide. Imagine the numbers of scallops those ships can catch!

On selected tows, random scallops are studied. On one tow, Aaron and I work together to sample five scallops. First we scrub the outside of the scallop really well, using a wire brush. When we measure and weigh the scallop, we will work to get as accurate a result as possible. Once we have collected data on the exterior of the scallop, I cut it open. Immediately we can tell if the scallop is a male or a female. If the scallop is a male, the gonad is white. If a scallop is a female, the gonad is red. We weigh the gonad and then we weigh the “meat.” The meat is the part of the scallop that most people eat. It is the muscle of the animal. Finally, we save the shells for the scientist back on land who has requested the data.

I have been taking lots of photographs of everything that we have been studying on the cruise. I will upload them when I return to land because of the limited Internet connection on the ship.

Personal Log

I have been sleeping really well on this ship. It doesn’t take very long, once I get to my cabin and climb into my bunk, for me to fall asleep. Working twelve hours in the salt air can make a body tired! Once in awhile, the ship will rock back and forth in a way that wakes me up. I look at my wristwatch and return to sleep. What a great feeling to wake up rested in the morning.

Question of the Day
What does by-catch mean? Why is it important that scientists measure the number and size of the by-catch in each tow?

Barbara Koch, October 5, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea Barbara Koch
NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow
September 20-October 5, 2010

Mission: Autumn Bottom Trawl Survey Leg II
Geographical area of cruise: Southern New England
Date: Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Weather from the Bridge
Latitude 40.63
Longitude -72.92
Speed 4.80 kts
Course 293.00
Wind Speed 19.13 kts
Wind Dir. 139.69 º
Surf. Water Temp. 18.76 ºC
Surf. Water Sal. 31.62 PSU
Air Temperature 16.20 ºC
Relative Humidity 89.00%
Barometric Pres. 101.44 mb
Water Depth 28.52 m
Cruise Start Date 10/2/2010

Science and Technology Log

In addition to collecting data about fish species in the Southern New England Atlantic Ocean, NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow is also collecting information about the ocean’s climate and plankton numbers. lankton refers to microscopic plants (phytoplankton), animals (zooplankton), decomposers (bacterioplankton), and the fish eggs and larvae of larger fish (ichthyoplankton). Plankton forms the base of the ocean food web. Phytoplankton is the food source for zooplankton, which in turn is the food source for larger fish. Water salinity and termperature (climate) are directly related to the production of plankton. A change in climate can cause a decrease in the production of plankton, therefore, less food for developing fish species. Low numbers of fish at the bottom of the food web means less food for fish at the top of the food web.

Reviewing Data
Reviewing Data

Plankton samples are taken at random trawl stations during the cruise. I had the opportunity to observe and assist the Senior Survey Technician, Jim Burkitt, during one sampling. Burkitt uses a Bongo Paired Zooplankton net system, which consists of two stainless steel cylinders with instruments that measure water flow, and two cone-shaped, fine mesh nets attached. The nets are lowered into the ocean and dragged alongside the ship for a specified amount of time, and at all levels of the ocean column. Burkitt monitors the location of the nets via computer during the sampling to ensure that the nets do not touch the ocean floor, thus gathering sediment instead of plankton.


Retrieving the nets
Retrieving the nets

The crew retrieves the nets at the end of the sampling period and places it on the deck of the ship. Once the nets are back on deck, we rinse the plankton from the top to the narrow, tied end of the nets byspraying the nets from the top towards the bottom.

Rinsing the plankton
Rinsing the plankton

Finished Sample
Finished Sample

When the catch is located at the bottom of the nets, we untiethe bottom and continue rinsing the sample into metal strainers. The top strainer has a large mesh screen to trap jelly fish and other organisms trapped in the net and to allow the smaller plankton to fall through to the lower strainer, which has a very small mesh screen used to collect the plankton sample. Here is what the sample looked like.

Finally, we carry the samples into the lab where we rinse the plankton into jars, add formaldehyde as a preservative, and seal the jars. The jars will be taken to the lab in Woods Hole for further analysis.

Personal Log

Northern Stargazer
Northern Stargazer
Armored Searobin
Armored Searobin

Even though many of our towing days were lost to gale force winds, we did end the cruise by catching some interesting species. First, was the Northern Stargazer (Astroscopus guttatus). The Northern Stargazer is found in shallow waters along the eastern seaboard from North Carolina to New York. It has a large head, small eyes on top of its head, and a large upward turned mouth. The Northern Stargazer buries itself in the sand on the ocean floor and waits for prey to swim by. Northern Stargazers also have an electrical organ around the eyes that can give us a jolt if we touch it.

Another interesting catch was the Armored Searobin (Peristedion miniatum). This species is bright crimson and is totally covered with bony plates. It can grow to be 13-14 inches long. It is found in the warm waters along the outer edge of the continental shelf in waters from Georges Bank off of Cape Cod, Massachusetts all the way down the Atlantic to Charleston, South Carolina.


We also caught Monkfish or Goosefish (Lophius americanus). This fish is found along the eastern seaboard of the United States from Grand Bank down to Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. Monkfish live on the bottom of the ocean in sand, mud and shell habitats, and feed on whatever prey is abundant. The meat is said to taste a lot like lobster tail, and therefore is often referred to as “poor man’s lobster.”

striped sea bass
striped sea bass
More striped sea bass
More striped sea bass

Our most exciting catch came when we hauled in 212 striped sea bass! Striped bass occur along the Atlantic coast from the St. Lawrence River in Canada all the way down to Florida. They live near the coast, in bays and tidal rivers. Striped bass have been very important to the United States fishing industry for centuries. The largest one we caught was 103 cm long and weighed 11.26 kg!

I thoroughly enjoyed my time working and learning during the second leg of the Autumn Bottom Trawl Survey cruise. It was a great opportunity to see research at work in a real world setting, and I’m sure my students will benefit from everything I’ve experienced. I want to thank the scientists from the Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC), the NOAA Teacher at Sea Program, and the crew aboard NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow for allowing me to be a part of your lives for twelve days. If any of you teachers out there are interested in applying to the Teacher at Sea Program, I highly recommend it. Check out their website at

Steven King, July 30, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea Steven King
R/V Kilo Mauna
June 30, 2010 – August 2, 2010

Mission: Ocean Atmosphere Dynamics
Geograpical Area: Hawaii
Date: July 30,  2010

On the Night Shift


For the past two nights I have been on watch from 9 pm to 5 am. I helped out with the implementation of the CTD Rosette which measures conductivity, temperature, oxygen anddepth of the ocean. The Rosette is also used to take water samples at different depths in the ocean. The Rosette descended to 500 meters below the surface of the ocean to take measurements and collect water samples. That is about 1,640 yards, or the same as lining up about 16 football fields end to end. This is a picture of me taking a water sample from the Rosette. One reason why the water samples are taken is that the water can be analyzed on land with tools to give precise measurements. These measurements are then compared to the measurements taken by the electronic equipment that is submerged in the water. Consequently, the two sets of measurements are compared to make sure the electronic equipment is accurately measuring the different elements of the water. Scientists also use the water samples to test for phosphorus as well as examining the samples for organisms living in the water.It is really quite phenomenal how the entire process occurs. On the side of the Rosette is a series of bottles which we set opened to a trigger system. The entire Rosette is attached to a cable on the crane. If you look at the bottom of my blog, you will see the crane and its operator. The netting, which you see behind me, is taken down and set aside. The crane picks up the Rosette, and two people tag it, or help it into the water using guide lines. The purpose of the tagging is to prevent the Rosette from spinning or careening into the side of the boat.

Yesterday, when the Rosette came back up, it was covered in a clear, viscous material. The gel appeared to have small black spheres suspended in it which makes me theorize that it could have been some sort of egg spawn that the Rosette collected when it was in the water. One scientist believed it could be also have been some sort of bacteria.

Last night I also went to one of the upper decks to see what it was like, and was it ever dark out. Dr. Weller explained to me that there are no lights on at that time so that the captain and his crew can see at night. Man-made lights make it hard for the pilot of the ship to navigate at night. This would be similar to keeping the dome light in your car off during nighttime driving so that your night vision is not affected.

So here I am in the picture taking the water sample. We had just brought the Rosette back in from the ocean. This was all done in the darkest of nights. Sounds kind of scary, doesn’t it? Actually, it was kind of exhilarating seeing the waves crashing against the stern of the boat while the Rosette descended into the surf. Of course, there were plenty of people supervising me and making sure I was safe and sound. I was also wearing a life jacketwhich also has a light attached to it in case I should fall overboard. It is important in science and in life to always take the necessary precautions from danger.

Kimberly Lewis, July 12, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea Kimberly Lewis
NOAA Ship: Oregon II
July 1 -July  16 2010

Mission: SEAMAP Summer Groundfish Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico
Date: Sunday, July 19, 2010

National Seafood Inspection Lab

doors up
doors up

Weather Data from the Bridge
Time: 0730 (7:30 am)
Position: Latitude 28.18.6 N; Longitude 95.19.4 W
Present Weather: party cloudy
Visibility: 10 nautical miles
Wind Speed: 12.35 knots
Wave Height: 2 feet
Sea Water Temp: 28.9 C
Air Temperature: Dry bulb = 29.1 degrees Celsius; Wet bulb = 25.4 C
Barometric Pressure: 1014.30 mb

Science and Technology Log

What is science technology? One simple definition can be ‘tools to help humans do science’. We have talked about some of the tools used aboard the Oregon II, like FSCS and CTD, but what are some other tools used that are not high tech?
Believe it or not, a shovel is an important tool on the ground fish survey. When a catch comes in, the net hovers over empty baskets and the catch is slowly released to fill the baskets. Once all of the catch has been emptied from the net, shovels are used to pick up the rest of the catch from the deck that fell out during emptying. In the wet lab we use scrappers to move the catch along the tray where we sort the organisms. When it comes to identification paperback field guides and laminated posters can help with ID.

So what do we do with the organisms we collect data on and identify?
It was mentioned that the SEAMAP survey collects data for many different agencies, but during the data collection we also save specimens for scientist from universities and other research groups. If a scientist is doing research on a particular species of batfish for example, once we collect data on the batfish we print a label for that scientist, bag the fish in zip loc baggies, and then put the specimens in the freezer below deck.

Station Board
Station Board

Station board – stations with a star beside them are NSIL stations. Stations with a “B” are stations where we drop the bongo nets (mentioned in an earlier log).

For commercial seafood we bag specimens to go to NSIL (National Seafood Inspection Lab). Not every station we drop the nets for is a NSIL station, but when we do have a NSIL station we follow a similar sample saving protocol to the one used for research scientists. These samples get labeled, placed in zip-loc baggies, and then they’re sent on to the freezer. However, because of the Deep Water Horizon oil spill in the gulf, the way we saved some of the samples for NSIL was different, because these samples are going to be sensory tested. In other words ‘sniff’ tested. For this test, the specimens had to be wrapped in foil to help contain any scents so that the ‘sniff testers’ (people trained to pick up petroleum scent at an amazing 100 ppm) can identify if petroleum products are present. For leg II the focus is on chemical sampling for petroleum. However, protocols can change daily when you are sampling during a disaster.

Wrapping brown ship in foil to go to NSIL

Packed for NSIL
Packed for NSIL

Wrapped in foil, tagged, and ready for the freezer.

A few days ago our new protocol called for storing NSIL samples first to ensure we have enough freezer space, then other requesters samples may be saved if time permits.

Here is a CNN video clip about seafood safety.

We have a long list of the scientific names of seafood that need to be collected for NSIL but here is a list of more popular common names of seafood that you may recognize.

Some Common Commercial seafood for the Gulf Region for our groundfish survey 5-60 fathoms: Brown, White, and Pink Shrimp, Red Snapper, Gray triggerfish, crevalle jack, sand seatrout, silver seatrout, yellowedge grouper, snowy grouper, lane snapper, butterfish, wenchman, cobia, vermillion snapper, amberjack, shoal flounder, dusky flounder, and swimming crab.

Snapper on deck
Snapper on deck

Red Snapper freshly caught

Red Snapper in a fish taco, mmmm.

Personal Log:

Well the seas have been calm which is allowing me to get in a good 8-9 hrs of sleep each day. That is much better than the rockin’ and rollin’ I had been experiencing in bed. It is hard to sleep when you are sliding a few inches from head to foot of the bed, and side to side. It also creates an uneasy stomach as all of your stomach contents get mixed around.

Yesterday was a beautiful day as we could see for 10 miles (as mentioned above). One thing about night shift is that we only have 5 hours of daylight. This can be good or bad. Good part is that we have a cooler working environment and I don’t need as much sunscreen. (But believe me we still get stinky from all of the shrimp and fish juice!). The bad part about night shift is we can’t see into the sea as well. So 12 hours of collecting organisms we probably miss a lot of the other interesting things that are swimming near our boat when we haul up a catch.

4 days of fishing to go, then we will be cleaning the lab and heading to Mississippi.