David Amidon: All Aboard for Science, June 12, 2017

NOAA Teacher at Sea

David Amidon

Aboard NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker

June 2 – 13, 2017

Mission: Pelagic Juvenile Rockfish Recruitment and Ecosystem Assessment Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Pacific Ocean off the California Coast

Date: June 12, 2017

 

Science Log: 

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A Chrysaora colorata  jellyfish with an anchovy

As I end my journey on the Reuben Lakser, I wanted to prepare a post about the people on the ship. As in any organization, there are a lot of different people and personalities on board. I interviewed 15 different people and, looking back, I am particularly amazed by how much “Science” drives the ship. The Chief Scientist is involved in most of the decisions regarding course corrections and the logistics. It is really promising as a science teacher — NOAA offers a place for those interested in science to enjoy many different careers.  

The people working on the ship can be grouped into broad categories. I have mentioned the science crew, but there are also fishermen, deck crew, engineers, stewards and, of course, the ship’s officers. If you like to cook, there are positions for you here. Same thing if you want to be an electrician or mechanic. Each of those positions has different responsibilities and qualifications. For example, the engineers need proper licenses to work on specific vessels. All of the positions require ship specific training. For some, working on the ship is almost a second career, having worked in the private sector or the Navy previously. Kim Belveal, the Chief Electrical Technician followed this path as did Engineer Rob Piquion. Working with NOAA provides them with a decent wage and a chance to travel and see new places. For young people looking to work on a ship, these are great jobs to examine that combine different interests together. IMG_1930

All of the officers on the ships are members of the NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps, one of the nation’s seven uniformed services. They have ranks, titles and traditions just like the Navy and Coast Guard. Commander (CDR) Kurt Dreflak, the Commanding Officer, or CO and Lieutenant Commander (LCDR) Justin Keesee, the Executive Officer, or XO, are in charge of everything that happens on the Reuben downloadLasker. To reach these positions, someone must work hard and be promoted through the NOAA Corps ranks. They make the ultimate decisions in terms of personnel, ordering, navigation, etc. The XO acts as most people think a First Mate would work. What impressed me was how they responded when I asked about why they work for NOAA and to describe their favorite moment at sea.  They both responded the same way: NOAA Corps provides a chance to combine science and service – a “Jacques Cousteau meets the Navy” situation. They also shared a similar thought when I asked them about their favorite moments at sea – they both reflected about reaching the “Aha” moment when training their officers.  This is definitely something I can relate to as a teacher.

Other NOAA Corps officers have different responsibilities, such as the OPS or Operations Officer, and take shifts on the bridge and on the deck, driving the ship, coordinating trawls and keeping the ship running smoothly in general. Most of the NOAA Corps has a background in marine science, having at least a degree in some science or marine discipline. When I asked them why they decided to work for NOAA, the common response was that it allows them to serve their country and contribute to science. Again, this is an awesome thing for a science teacher to hear!

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A Butterfish

To emphasize how important science is to the organization, two NOAA Corps officers, LTJG Cherisa Friedlander and LTJG Ryan Belcher, are members of the science crew during this leg of the Juvenile Rockfish Survey. They worked with us in the Science Lab, and did not have the same responsibilities associated with the ship’s operations.

 

Cherisa provided a lot of background about the NOAA Corp and the Reuben Lasker  in particular. I am including her full interview here:

  • What is your name?
    • Lieutenant Junior Grade Cherisa Friedlander
  • What is your title or position?
    • NOAA Corps Officer/ Operations Officer for the Fisheries Ecology Division in Santa Cruz,CA
  • What is your role on the ship?
    • I used to be the junior officer on board, now I am sailing as a scientist for the lab. It is kind of cool to have sailed on the ship in both roles! They are very different.
  • How long have you been working on the Reuben Lasker?
    • I worked on board from 2013-2014
  • Why did you choose to work on the Lasker?
    • I originally listed the RL as one if the ships I wanted after basic training in 2012 because it was going to be the newest ship in the fleet. It was very exciting to be a part of bringing a new ship online. I got to see it be built from the inside out and helped order and organize all of the original supplies. The first crew of a ship are called the plankowner crew of the ship, and it stems from olden times when shipbuilders would sleep on the same plank on the deck while they were building the ship. It is a big task.

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      Cherisa (far right) when the Reuben Lasker was commissioned From: https://www.omao.noaa.gov/learn/marine-operations/ships/reuben-lasker

  • What is your favorite moment on the ship or at sea?
    • I was the first Junior Officer the ship ever had and got to plan and be on board for the transit through the Panama Canal!
  • Why do you work for NOAA?
    • I love my job! I come from a service family, so I love the service lifestyle the NOAA Corps offers while still incorporating science and service. I like that every few years I get to see a new place and do a new job. Next I head to Antarctica!
  • If a young person was interested in doing your job someday, what advice would you give them?
    • Explore lots of options for careers while you are young. Volunteer, do internships, take courses, and find out what interests you. The more activities you participate in, the more well rounded you are and it allows you to find a job you will love doing. It is also appealing to employers to see someone who has been proactive about learning new ideas and skills.
  • Is there anything else you’d like to share about your work or experiences at sea?
    • Working at sea can certainly be challenging. I can get very seasick sometimes which makes for a very unhappy time at sea. It can also be hard to be away from family and friends for so long, so I make sure to spend quality time with those people when I am on land. 🙂

 

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Wrapping up a trawl – measuring & bagging

The remainder of the science crew is at different points in their careers and have followed different paths to be a part of this cruise. Students motivated in science can take something from these stories, I hope, and someday join a field crew like this.   

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Last Haul- off coast of San Diego  Photo by Keith Sakuma

Chief Scientist Keith Sakuma has been part of the Rockfish Survey since 1989. He started as a student and has worked his way up from there. Various ships have run the survey in the past, but the Reuben Lasker, as the most state-of-the-art ship in the fleet, looks to be its home for the near future.

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An octopus

Thomas Adams is an undergraduate student from Humboldt State University. He has kept his eyes open and taken advantage of opportunities as they come up. He has been part of the survey for a few years already and looks to continue his work through a Master’s degree program.

Maya Drzewicki is an undergrad student from the University of North Carolina – Wilmington. She was named as a Hollings Scholar -in her words this is: “a 2 year academic scholarship and paid summer internship for college students interested in pursuing oceanic or atmospheric sciences. I am a marine biology major and through this scholarship program I have learned so much about ocean sciences and different careers.”

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Measuring Northern Lampfish

Rachel Zuercher is a PhD student associated with the University of California- Santa Cruz. She joined the survey in part because the group has provided her samples in the past that she has used for her research.

Mike Force is a professional birdwatcher who was able to make a career out of something he loves to do. He has been all over the globe, from Antarctica to the South Pacific helping to identify birds. As a freelance contractor, he goes where he is needed. His favorite time at sea was also a common theme I came across- there is always a chance to see something unique, no matter how long you have been on ship.

 

Ken Baltz is an oceanographer who ran the daytime operations on the ship. He was associated with NOAA Fisheries Santa Cruz lab – Groundfish Analysis Team. As advice to young people looking to get in the field, he suggests they make sure that they can handle the life on the ship. This was a common theme many people spoke to – life on a ship is not always great. Seas get rough, tours take time and you are working with the same group of people for a long time. Before making a career of life on a ship, make sure it suits you!

 

Personal Log

Sunday, June 11th

I experienced a truly magical moment on the Flying Bridge this evening as we transited off the coast near Santa Barbara. For a good 20 minutes, we were surrounded by a feeding frenzy of birds, dolphins, sea lions and humpback whales. It was awesome! The video below is just a snippet from the event and it does not do it justice. It was amazing!

 

 

 

Monday, June 12th

Sad to say this is my last night on the ship. We had plans to do complete 4 trawls, but we had a family of dolphins swimming in our wake during the Marine Mammal Watch. We had to cancel that station. After we wrapped up, it was clean up time and we worked through the night. The ship will arrive in San Diego early tomorrow morning.

Thank you NOAA and the crew of the Reuben Lasker for an awesome experience!!!

 

 

 

David Amidon: Back to Work, June 10, 2017

NOAA Teacher at Sea

David Amidon

Aboard NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker

June 2 – 13, 2017

Mission: Pelagic Juvenile Rockfish Recruitment and Ecosystem Assessment Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Pacific Ocean off the California Coast

Date: June 10, 2017

Weather Data: 

Latitude: 33 degrees, 43 min North;  Longitude: 119 degrees, 32 min West

Air Temp: 16.7 C    Water Temp: 16.9 C     Wind Speed: 27 knots

 

 

 

Science Log

After our quick stop into port, we were back to the sorting last night.

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Sorting tables ready for the night

I will take you though a step-by-step account of the sort.

  • A science crew member reports to the Bridge for the 30 min Marine Mammal Watch. The fishermen ready the net.
  • We arrive at the Station. Science crew goes on deck for the Outdoor Marine Mammal Watch. The fishermen put the net in the ocean and begin trawling.
  • After a 15 minute trawl, the net is hauled in and the Marine Mammal Watch ends.
  • The crew brings the sample collected in a bucket into the Science Lab.
  • Based on the size of the catch and the organisms present, the crew determines an appropriate sample size. This time we went with a 250 ml sample as there were a TON of small pyrosomes. 

  • We sort based on visual identification. 

  • People sorting will call out their counts of each species and record the numbers collected.
  • Isolate a sample of krill to be specifically analyzed. They determine the species in the sample and number of each. 

  • Determine a second sample size to analyze. At each subsequent sample, we will stop counting specific organisms, such as tonight when we stopped counting the pyrosomes because we had enough data to extrapolate a value for the number collected. Then we stopped counting anchovies, etc. until we are just looking for outliers, or creatures in such low abundance an estimate would not be acceptable.

 

  • Repeat the steps until we have gone through the entire catch.
  • Afterwards, information is logged into the database and representative samples are measured and recorded.

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    Sorting the catch

  • The last step is to prepare samples for onshore analysis. Many labs have a standing request if samples are available, such as 5 Hake or a sample of anchovies. Specifically, the juvenile rockfish will undergo DNA analysis as well as having otoliths removed for further analysis. Basically, fish grow these little ear bones with rings like a tree. The more rings, the longer a fish has been alive. Therefore, the researchers can determine the age and growth rates of the fish based on these features. 

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An Argonaut – basically an octopus with a shell

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A Pyrosome under the microscope. This is really a COLONIAL organism, not truly multicellular.

 

Personal Log

Thursday, June 8th

We arrived in port today, so nothing on the science end to report. As we conducted the trawls the night before, I was still on the night schedule and missed out on a chance to explore San Diego. However, we did go to dinner with the other science personnel that work the daytime shifts, which was nice.

Friday, June 9th

The repairs went well and we returned to the ocean. We arrived at a station just after midnight and worked on 3 trawls. Waves started picking up during the shift. It is supposed to be windy again, which means the waves action will increase too.

Saturday, June 10th

Did I mention the winds were going to pick up? Wow. They were right – and tomorrow won’t be any better. I put the patch back on, which is unfortunate because my major side effect is that it really makes me tired. Or it could be that I have a tendency to visit the Flying Bridge to watch the sun come up.

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View of sunrise from the Flying Bridge

Tonight we caught adult anchovies – and a lot of them. We ended saving a lot of the catch for other labs and for bait.

 

DID YOU KNOW?

At night, the officers piloting the ship keep all the lights off on the bridge. All displays are illuminated with red lights. In this way, the people on the bridge will keep their eyes adjusted to the dark and they will be better prepared to spot potential problems on the water.

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At night, bridge displays are illuminated with only red light, which keeps officers’ eyes better adjusted to the dark.

 

Christopher Tait: “What Do They Do When Out to Sea?” March 18, 2017

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Christopher Tait

Aboard NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker

March 21 – April 7, 2017

Mission: Spring Coastal Pelagic Species Survey

Geographic Area: Pacific Ocean from San Diego, CA to San Francisco, CA

Date: Saturday, March 18, 2017

Weather Data

Current weather at home in Wingdale, New York is 39F and we just had 3 snow days in a week after 24 inches of snow.

Science and Technology Log

I will be joining the team aboard the Reuben Lasker to do the Spring Coastal Pelagic Species Survey.  The goal of the survey is to determine the distributions and abundances of the planktivorous (plankton eating) fish such as Pacific sardine (Sardinops sagax), Northern anchovy (Engraulis mordax), jack mackerel (Trachurus symmetricus), and the Pacific mackerel (Scomber japonicus) in the California Current between San Diego and Cape Mendocino, California.  This will be achieved using multi-frequency acoustic backscatter (sonar), sampling the fish with trawls, sampling spawned fish eggs in the water column, aerial surveys using UAS (unmanned aircraft system), sampling plankton, and measuring the abiotic environment such as temperature, salinity, oxygen levels.

Personal Log

TaitFebruary 1st I walked into work, opened up my email and saw a message from NOAA. I opened the message and saw “On behalf of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Teacher at Sea Selection Committee, we are pleased to inform you that you were selected to participate in NOAA’s Teacher at Sea (TAS) Program – 2017 Field Season!”  I couldn’t believe what an opportunity to learn from scientists and to enrich the classroom experience for my students!  I teach AP Environmental Science at New Fairfield High School, in Connecticut, Biology at Western Connecticut State University, and teach field research and study the community structure of fish in Candlewood Lake, CT with Project CLEAR supported by the Candlewood Lake Authority and EdAdvance.

Growing up my family would go to Cape Cod, Massachusetts to visit my uncle.  I remember always feeling this sense of awe about the ocean as my uncle would drive us around to his favorite beach spots, as I would learn about the amazing way the sea shaped the culture in this place.  I went back after finishing up graduate school in Earth and Planetary Science and writing countless papers using NOAA resources. I went to Woods Hole to see this hub of marine research and the NOAA ships sitting in their docks.  I remember wondering “what do they do when out to sea?”

A couple of weeks after I got my acceptance message and medical clearance, I got a research cruise placement on the Reuben Lasker out of San Diego, California!  With three weeks to prepare, I did everything I could to cover my bases at home, school and prepare for the experience of a lifetime.  I don’t think I have the words right now to express the gratitude I feel toward NOAA to have a program that allows a teacher to embed within their scientific community for a moment to experience what happens on those ships and bring my students behind the scenes of world class science.  I look forward to going to San Diego soon and meeting everyone from NOAA that I have been corresponding with!

 

 

Adam Renick, Getting Ready to Sail, June 7, 2013

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Adam Renick
NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
June 12th – June 26th, 2013 

Mission: Kona Integrated Ecosystems Assessment http://www.pifsc.noaa.gov/kona_iea/
Geographical area of cruise: The West Coast of the Island of Hawaii
Date: June 6, 2013

Personal Log

TASPhotoAdamRenick

Me in San Diego

Hello from San Diego, California! My name is Adam Renick and I am an Earth and Planetary Sciences teacher at Health Sciences High and Middle College (HSHMC) in the City Heights neighborhood of San Diego. Health Sciences High is the best school in the universe and specializes, as its name implies, in preparing students for careers in the health sciences field. Students at our school begin weekly internships at local hospitals and college-level health classes during their freshman year of study so that they are equipped with four years of specialized training and career pathway experience by the time they graduate. The staff and students at our school are truly special and it is an honor to represent them during this Teacher At Sea experience.

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Violet and I in Niagara Falls, NY

Here is a picture of my incredible wife Violet and I at Niagara Falls. We both love the outdoors and have nature-related careers. She is a marine ecologist and someday maybe we will get to go on a research cruise together. Until then, she will be back in San Diego studying the effects of environmental pollutants on fish in San Diego.  She will also be playing extensively with our canine best friend, Higgs. With the addition of Higgs to our family I have fallen into third place in our house in the categories of intelligence, cuteness and talent. Higgs and I are currently tied in the messiness category and ability to say “Sorry!”

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Higgs playing ball and warming hearts.

I applied for the NOAA Teacher At Sea program for a variety of reasons. As a teacher of the marine environment I know that this experience will allow me to deepen my knowledge of the content I teach about and to understand the scientific processes that contributes to our knowledge of the oceans.  The ocean plays an integral part of my life. I can smell the salty mist of the Pacific from my house and I am playing at the beach or riding the waves almost every single day (unless I am in the mountains). The first international adventure I ever went on was to explore the reefs off the coast of Belize. I am not sure what mysteries await me in my time at sea but I know I can rely on mother nature to reveal some of her knowledge to me over the next three weeks. It is my goal to share the discoveries of my journey with you.

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Map of the cruise region.

My journey begins in Honolulu, Hawaii where I will be boarding the vessel Oscar Elton Sette with a team of scientists to embark on a 15-day assessment of the marine ecosystem of the west coast of the Big Island near Kona. The primary scientific goal of our trip will be to collect data to gain a better understanding of the characteristics of the oceanography and associated cetacean activity off the leeward coast of Hawaii. Cetaceans are a classification of marine mammals such as dolphin and whales. I will be providing details on how this is done in upcoming posts and am very excited to learn more about the behaviors of such incredible creatures.

You can learn more about our Ship and the Mission here to learn more about where I’ll be! I am very excited to be part of this experience as it will contribute to my understanding of the world and myself. As I gear up and head to the airport next Monday I will be thinking of my family, whom I thank for giving me the world and of my many students who allow me to share my world with them. See you in Hawaii!

Best,

Adam Renick

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Jennifer Richards, September 5, 2001

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jennifer Richards
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown
September 5 – October 6, 2001

Mission: Eastern Pacific Investigation of Climate Processes
Geographical Area: Eastern Pacific
Date: September 5, 2001

Latitude: 32.7°N
Longitude: 117.2° W
Temperature: 75° F

Seas: Since we are still at port in a protected harbor, there is no swell. The water is extremely calm.

Science Log: Research has not yet started. The scientific crew was notified in a ship briefing that they are not allowed to gather and record data until the ship leaves Mexican waters.

Travel Log: This morning, my husband Rob and John Kermond from NOAA came to watch the ship depart. Rob brought me an extra pair of shoes since mine were still stuck in the drawer. Then I realized the drawer had a special latch that had to be pushed in, and my shoes weren’t locked in after all! Dork mistake #1.

There was a lot of activity around the ship as the crew and scientists rushed to tie everything down- from computers to bottles and flasks, to heavy equipment and cranes on deck. Everything on the ship must be securely locked or tied down or bolted to something prior to departure, since the movement of the ship could cause things to start flying.

Finally, the big departure at 10am. We sailed for an hour up to the fueling dock at Point Loma, where we docked for another 5 hours. It was evening before we were out at sea.

As soon as the ship left the protected harbor, I was very aware of the swaying, and knew I would need something to prevent me from getting seasick. Some people wore special wristbands that use acupuncture to suppress seasickness. Other people wore a patch behind their ear that releases medication into their bodies. I chose an over-the-counter medication called Meclizine. It works well, but puts me to sleep.

I started reading the “Voyage of the Beagle” which is Charles Darwin’s journal of his 5-year voyage in the 1830s to the Galapagos Islands and all over the world. You may recall that Darwin developed the theories of evolution, natural selection, and survival of the fittest that we still believe today. Did you know that Darwin was seasick during the entire voyage??!! How miserable that must have been. During the 5-year journey, he was only on the ship for 18 months, and never more than 45 days at a time (I’ll be on this ship for 31 days). He was 20 years old when he left Britain on the HMS Beagle, and 25 years old when he returned home, only a few years younger than me, and not too much older than my high school students. It’s pretty inspiring to think of someone so young contributing so much to the scientific community. I’ll fill you in on more Darwin stuff as I keep reading his journals.

Question of the day: One of today’s photos shows a “marine layer” (see photo descriptions below). What causes the marine layer to sit over coastal land in San Diego?

Photo Descriptions: Today’s photos focus on the beautiful scenery of San Diego harbor. You’ll see pictures of a variety of ocean vessels, the picturesque Coronado bridge, and the “marine layer” off the coast. The marine layer is an area of the San Diego coast that is fogged in, even when the sky above the water and the sky further inland is perfectly clear and sunny.

Keep in touch,
Jennifer

Jennifer Richards, September 4, 2001

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jennifer Richards
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown
September 5 – October 6, 2001

Mission: Eastern Pacific Investigation of Climate Processes
Geographical Area: Eastern Pacific
Date: September 4, 2001

Latitude: 32.7° N
Longitude: 117.2° W
Temperature: 75° F

Seas: Since we are still at port in a protected harbor, there is no swell. The water is extremely calm.

Travel Log

Tomorrow the ship departs San Diego, California for its big adventure! I saw the ship for the first time this morning, and had the opportunity to meet Captain Dreves and Chris Fairall, the Chief Scientist. At 274 feet long, the ship certainly isn’t small, but it is docked at the Naval Station and is surrounded by huge grey navy ships, dwarfing the RONALD H. BROWN. Some of my students had asked if the captain has a white beard, smokes a pipe, and has a peg leg or a patch on his eye. The answer is “no” to all of those questions (sorry to disappoint you). I’ll be sure to take his picture as soon as I unpack my camera.

The pre-trip hoopla was pretty exciting and tiring. A reporter from the Navy Compass and a cameraman from KUSI, a local television station, came to the ship to interview the captain, Chris, and me. The weatherman at KUSI did a nice 2.5 minute piece about the cruise on the evening news in which he spoke about the importance of the research being conducted, and the Teacher at Sea (me!). Dr. John Kermond from NOAA gave me a tour of the ship, which Captain Dreves described very eloquently as “an industrial workplace with an enhanced chance of drowning.” On the inside, it has laboratory areas, a mess hall, small library, lounge with a television, lots of staterooms, and a lot of industrial areas filled with heavy equipment and people with dirty shirts. There’s something for everyone!

This afternoon John Kermond came up to my school (Guajome Park Academy in Vista, California) so I could say goodbye to my students. They wanted to know if I’m going to miss them, so let me put it in writing right here- YES! I really enjoy spending my days with my 9th and 10th grade Earth Science and Math students, and I will miss getting to see them every day.

Finally, I made it home to get my suitcase and say goodbye to my dog and cat, Birch and Hobbes. Birch knew something was going on- he gets nervous when suitcases leave the house and he’s not invited. Then back to the ship for a photo shoot with the San Diego Union-Tribune newspaper. What a busy day! I’m definitely not used to being in the spotlight like this, and I felt pretty awkward with cameras on me the whole day, but I survived.

Once things settled down, my husband, Rob came to the ship to see me. John and I gave him the tour, and I was very happy to see him before my big departure. Although the ship doesn’t leave until tomorrow morning, I thought I would spend the night here so I can get used to is layout before it gets too wobbly in the ocean.

My first adventure on the ship went something like this: I was getting ready for bed and put my sneakers in a drawer in my stateroom. When it was time to visit the head (bathroom) I found that it had been locked from the inside. Since I share a head with another room, I thought someone was using it. After waiting a while, and realizing that the only way in was to go through my neighbor’s room, I went to get my shoes on. Now, you need to understand that I received at least a half-dozen emails prior to getting on the ship telling me to bring shoes that cover my whole feet, because anything else will not be allowed outside of the stateroom. Well, when I went to get my shoes on, so that I could walk down the hall to the neighbor’s stateroom, so that I could get into the bathroom, I realize the drawer had locked!! Without shoes, I couldn’t leave my room, and I couldn’t unlock the head! So I poked my head out of my room until someone walked by and I asked for help. The Chief Scientist showed me how to unlock the head with a penny, but we had no luck unlocking my shoes.

Question of the Day: The name of the ship I am on is the “R/V RONALD H. BROWN.” This question has two parts: 1. What does R/V stand for, and 2. Who is Ronald H. Brown?

Keep in touch,
Jennifer