Allison Irwin: The Journey Extends, August 15, 2019

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Allison Irwin

NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker

July 7 – 25, 2019


Mission: Coastal Pelagic Species Survey

Embarkation Port: Newport, Oregon

Cruise Start Date: 7 July 2019

Days at Sea: 19

Conclusion

Golden Gate Bridge
Golden Gate Bridge Just After Sunrise

On July 25, 2019 NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker and its crew navigated slowly under the Golden Gate Bridge into San Francisco Bay. As the fog smothered entrance to the bay loomed ahead of us, I stood on the bow with the Chief Bosun and a few others listening to, of all things, sea shanties. We passed a couple of whales and a sea lion playing in the water, and we cruised right passed Alcatraz before arriving at our pier to tie up.

San Francisco did not disappoint! I walked a total of 20 miles that day stopping at Pier 39 to watch the sea lions, Ghirardelli Square to get chocolate ice cream, and Boudin Bakery to try their famous sourdough bread. I walked along the San Francisco Bay Trail, over the Golden Gate Bridge, and then back to the ship.

  • Sea Lions at Pier 39
  • Ghirardelli Square
  • San Francisco Bay Trail

Later that evening I went out for dinner with three of the science crew and the restaurant had a couple of local items that I hold near and dear to my heart now – sardines and market squid. It felt like everything came full circle when I ordered the fried sardine appetizer and grilled squid salad for dinner after having caught, measured, and weighed so many of them on the ship. I never would have stopped before to think about the important role those little critters play in our food chain.

The first entry for this blog posted almost two months ago framed an introduction to a journey. Even though I’ve been back on land for three weeks now, I couldn’t quite bring myself to title this entry “The Journey Ends.” Instead it feels like the journey has shifted in a new direction.

I spent a lot of time on NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker thinking about how to integrate lessons from this project into my classroom and how to share ideas with other teachers in my district and beyond. Most of all this trip inspired me to reach out even more to my colleagues to collaborate and design instructional activities that push the boundaries of the traditional high school paradigm.

Karah Nazor: One Week Until I Board and I am Already Dreaming About Fish, May 22, 2019

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Karah Nazor

Aboard NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker

May 29 – June 7, 2019


Mission: Rockfish Recruitment & Ecosystem Assessment

Geographic Area: Central California Coast

Date: May 22, 2019

Hi!  My name is Karah Nazor and I am a science teacher at McCallie High School, an all-boys college preparatory school in Chattanooga, TN, which is also my hometown. It is one week until I board the Reuben Lasker in San Francisco, and I am already dreaming about fish.  I teach marine biology, molecular biology and environmental science and “coach” students in our after-school science research program. We typically have around 20 tanks running at a time in my classroom including three species of jellyfish, a reef tank, zebrafish tanks, and a freshwater shrimp tank.  Ongoing marine research projects in my lab include primary culture of nerve nets of the jellyfish Aurelia aurita, moon jellyfish, (students Jude Raia and Danny Rifai), the effects of ocean acidification on the jellyfish Cassiopea xamachana, upside down jellyfish, (students Ian Brunetz and Shrayen Daniel) and spawning of the lobate ctenophore Mnemiopsis leidyi (Thatcher Walldorf). Seniors Keith Kim and Eric Suh just presented their findings on the effects of river acidification on freshwater snails at the International Science and Engineering Fair in Phoenix, AZ, and sophomore Kevin Ward just wrapped up his research on the effects of a high sugar diet on tumor formation in tp53 zebrafish.

A corner of the Nazor Classroom/Lab
A corner of the Nazor Classroom/Lab
Freshmen Ian Brunetz and Shrayen Daniel Shenanigans
Typical shenanigans with Freshmen Ian Brunetz and Shrayen Daniel
Freshman Danny Rifai and Junior Jude Raia Culturing Moon Jellyfish Nerve Cells
Freshman Danny Rifai and Junior Jude Raia Culturing Moon Jellyfish Nerve Cells

Education

I am a lifelong competitive swimmer who loves the sea, marine mammals, and birds, and like many of my students today, as a high schooler I dreamed of becoming a marine biologist.  I earned a bachelors of science in biology with a minor in gerontology from James Madison University, where I was also on the swim team. I was interested in learning more about the neurodegenerative diseases of aging, such as Alzheimer’s disease (AD), and attended the Ph.D. Program in Gerontology at the University of Kentucky and worked in the Telling Lab.  There I studied the molecular foundation of prion diseases, caused by protein misfolding which forms aggregates in the brain, a pathology similar to AD. I continued this research as a postdoc at the University of San Francisco (Prusiner Lab).

How did I come to raise jellyfish in my classroom?

Chattanooga is home to the world’s largest freshwater aquarium, the Tennessee Aquarium, located on the Tennessee River waterfront.  This non-profit public aquarium has two buildings, River Journey, which opened in 1992, and Ocean Journey, which opened in 2005. The Ocean Journey exhibit “Boneless Beauties and Jellies: Living Art” (2005-2019) featured exotic invertebrates including around 10 species of jellyfish, ctenophores, cuttlefish, giant Pacific octopuses, and spider crabs. On my first visit to Ocean Journey in 2005, I became transfixed with the “comb jelly” (the ctenophore Mnemiopsis leidyi) tank, specifically its rapidly beating ctene rows, which refract light creating a rainbow effect, and function as the animal’s  swimming organ. Many people mistake the light refraction of the beating ctenes for electrical signals traveling along the ctenophore’s body.  This first visit to the comb jellies tank left a lasting impression on me, and I was truly inspired by their beauty and curious to learn more about this gelatinous creature..

A  comb jelly Mnemiopsis leidyi in my classroom tank
A comb jelly Mnemiopsis leidyi in my classroom tank

Six years ago, I visited the comb jelly exhibit again and decided to try to bring jellyfish into my classroom.  I missed swimming in the frigid waters of the San Francisco Bay, so I sought to bring the cold ocean and at least one of it’s critters into my classroom. I chose to raise the Pacific Ocean variety moon jellyfish, which I so often encountered swimming in the San Francisco Bay and at Tomales Point!   A gifted student built a special jellyfish tank, called a Kriesel, and next I contacted the TN Aquarium’s invertebrate specialist Sharyl Crossley to inquire about how to raise jellyfish. I was beyond thrilled when she invited me to train under her for a summer!  That Fall, I began culturing moon and upside down jellies in my classroom and my students began research projects right away. Raising jellyfish is not easy, as they require perfect current, and water the salinity and temperature that matches their native habitat.  Jellyfish require daily live feed of two day old enriched brine shrimp nauplii and rotifers. We actually have to feed the jellyfish’s food. The next year, I was ready to introduce the more difficult to raise comb jellies into the lab and have cultured them ever since.  In 2017, I got to spend a week with Dr. William Brown at the University of Miami to learn how to spawn ctenophores, study hatchlings, and dissect out stem cell rich niches from the animals for in vitro work in the cell culture lab.   You can often find me in the lab late at night at the dissecting scope still mesmerized and awed by the simplistic nature and immense beauty and of ctenophores in their spawning bowl.

Moon Jellyfish (Pacific Ocean variety) in my classroom tank
Moon Jellyfish (Pacific Ocean variety) in my classroom tank

Back to the Bay Area for a cruise on NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker!

The years that I lived in San Francisco for my postdoc were some of the best of my life because of the science plus athletic opportunities afforded by living next to the ocean including open water swimming, surfing, and abalone diving.   I made lifelong friends partaking in these cold and rough water ocean sports. I lived in the Sunset neighborhood and I often went to Ocean Beach for the sunset and swam in the Bay several times per week at the South End Rowing Club (SERC).   In 2008 I swam the English Channel. While swimming in the Bay, we often saw NOAA ships and I never thought I would get to join a cruise one day as part of the science team! While living in San Francisco, I did have the opportunity to go on a couple of whale watching tours and swim all over the San Francisco, Richardson, and San Pablo bays for my training swims, but I have never got to spend much time on a boat and I have never spent the night at sea!  I am a bit nervous about becoming seasick and adjusting to being on the night shift next week.

Swimming with SERC friends in 2017 next to the Muni Pier at Aquatic Park in San Francisco (I am in the center with goggles on).
Swimming with SERC friends in 2017 next to the Muni Pier at Aquatic Park in San Francisco (I am in the center with goggles on).

Even though I was raised visiting the Atlantic ocean for summer vacations and am fond of the Caribbean Islands and the coral reefs, I am partial to the West Coast, where the mountains meet the sea.   I prefer the cold green rough seas, the winter swell, kelp forests, abalone at Fort Bragg, great white sharks at the Farallones, Pier 39 sea lions, harbor seals, salps, humpbacks, orcas and sea otters in Monterey Bay, Garibaldi of La Jolla Cove, sting rays of La Jolla Shores, and elephant seals of Ano Nuevo.  I enjoy kayak fishing for rockfish and yellowtail in San Diego with my brother, Kit.

Karah at Pillar Point near Half Moon Bay, CA in 2018
Karah at Pillar Point near Half Moon Bay, CA in 2018
Abalone shell on top of a cooler or some other white surface
A large beautiful abalone I harvested from about 40 feet down from Fort Bragg, CA in 2007. You can see the algae on its shell. The abalone diving season is now closed until 2021.

The rockfish recruitment survey is a longitudinal research project in its 30th year led by the NOAA chief scientist Keith Sakuma.  I have always been inspired by ichthyologists, specifically Dr. David Etnier, of the University of Tennessee, who worked with my step-dad, Hank Hill, on the snail darter case (Hill v. TVA) in the court’s first interpretation of the Endangered Species Act in 1978.   I am excited to learn from NOAA chief Scientist Keith Sakuma and the other members of the Reuben Lasker‘s science team about the rockfish and groundfish species we will be targeting in the recruitment survey. I look forward to learning how to identify up to 100 additional species of epipelagic fish, most of which I have never seen (or even heard of) before, as well as micronekton including several types of krill, tunicates, and hopefully jellyfish!  

The animals we will be surveying are known as forage species and are mostly primary and secondary consumers in the food web. These young of year rockfish and groundfish, epipelagic crabs, and small fish such as anchovies, sardines, and lanternfish are important prey for tertiary consumers including marine mammals, large fish, and seabirds. Long-term research studies allow for scientists to study the relationships between hydrographic data such as sea surface temperature, salinity, and density and the abundance and geographic distribution of forage species over decades, and in the case of this survey, three decades. An ecological rearrangement of forage species can affect not only the tertiary consumers and apex predators such as orcas and great white sharks, but will also impact the fishing industry. It is important to understand the impact of warming oceans and weakened California upwelling events have had and will have on the diversity and health of the ecosystem of the Pacific Coast.

Kimberly Godfrey: Above all else, Safety First! June 5, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Kimberly Godfrey

Aboard NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker

May 31 – June 11, 2018

Mission: Rockfish Recruitment and Ecosystem Assessment Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Pacific Ocean along the California Coast

Date: June 5, 2018

Data from the Bridge

Latitude: 33º 42.135 N

Longitude: 119º 15.440 W

Sea Wave Height: 1-2 feet

Wind Direction: 125.98º (Southeasterly Winds)

Air Temperature: 17.35º C

Sky: Cloudy

Science and Technology Log

I arrived on NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker on Wednesday, May 31st. However, we just left the Port of San Francisco last night (June 2nd) because the ship had to make sure everything was running properly and pass multiple inspections. Safety is a serious thing out here, and I appreciate that very much. Once we had the green light, we sailed out of San Francisco Bay underneath the Golden Gate Bridge. The winds were about 25 knots (almost 29 mph) with 10 foot swells. Conditions like this are not ideal for data collection, so we sailed about 220 nautical miles to the South where conditions were more promising.  I spent my first night on the job acclimating to the evening schedule. In that time, I learned about some of the equipment and programs we use to collect and analyze our catches and samples.

The first thing that I noticed was a GPS system used to track the ship’s location and the locations for each trawl. The boat icon shows the location of the ship, and the dots indicate locations where we plan to survey. Those with a triangle inside are the trawling locations, while the others indicate spots where we need to perform CTD tests. This systems marks locations using latitude and longitude, and can provide an estimated time of arrival.

GPS

GPS Program used to plot survey points and map the location of the ship in real time.

The second program I learned about was NOAA’S Scientific Computer System (SCS). This system allows the ship to record a variety of environmental and positional data immediately into the computer. While some data is still recorded by hand, this system reduces human recording errors, in turn allowing for analyses that accurately represent the data collected.  I also had the opportunity to interview our Survey Technician, Jaclyn Mazzella. Jackie is one of the NOAA Crew members on board, but she is also one of the most important people that serves as a liaison for both the scientists and the crew.  Read the interview below:

What are the responsibilities of the Survey Technician?

The Survey Technician is responsible for data management. All the data collected on the ship is recorded in the Scientific Computer System Database. This includes data from the thermometers, anemometer (wind speed), TSG (thermosalinograph), fluorometer, etc. The data is organized and then delivered as a data package to the scientists. There are two major types of files, continuous files and snapshot files. A continuous file may include data that is taken every 30 seconds, like latitude and longitude, speed over ground, course over ground, etc. A snapshot file provides information about a very specific event. For example, their system records every single step in the trawling process, including the moment the net hits the water, “shooting the doors” that hold the net open, begin fishing, and then every step in the return of that process. While this is happening, all the environmental parameters are simultaneously and continuously being recorded. Jackie maintains these files until the end of a survey and then gives the data to the chief scientist in a document known as the MOA, or the Marine Operations Abstract. The information is also sent to the National Center for Environmental Information, the world’s largest active archive of environmental data. These archives are available to the public.

Continuous Files

This is the continuous system that records conditions in the water, such as conductivity, temperature, and more. This is done every 30 seconds.

Snap Shot

This component tracks each individual step of any activity we do on the ship during a survey.

Why did you apply to work for NOAA?

At first, I didn’t know what NOAA was. I originally wanted to study things like Marine Biology, Astronomy, and Physics. I was attending the Borough of Manhattan Community College as a liberal arts major. I planned to transfer to another school for Physics and Astronomy, but my counselor suggested another option, knowing my interest in Marine Science. I then went to SUNY Maritime in the Bronx to study Marine Environmental Science (State University of New York), a school I never knew existed considering I lived right down from the street from it. Upon graduation, I received an email from a former classmate also working for NOAA, stating that NOAA was seeking Maritime Majors for this position. She gave me a contact, I sent my resume, and I got the job.

What is the most important tool you need to do your job?

The SCS is the most important thing I need, and am fortunate that NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker has up-to-date, top-of-the-line equipment. We are one of the most technologically advanced ships in the world.  We also have back-ups for almost everything on board which is nice to have while at Sea.

What advice would you give to someone interested in pursuing this position as a career?

Being a Survey Technician requires you to have a degree in science. Be certain that if you apply for a position, be sure to know what you are applying for.  Much of my training was on the job training, and I was fortunate to work with Phil White, Chief Survey Technician with years of experience. I learned a lot from him. Phil also developed course for those wanting and needing to learn the ins and outs of a Survey Technician.

If you didn’t work for NOAA, what career would you choose?

Working in Astronomy or Physics because I had a strong interest in both. However, I would say that joining NOAA was one of the best decisions I ever made. I came from a rough background growing up, and now I get to experience things I never would have imagined. NOAA provides an acceptable salary, nice benefits, leave time, vacation time, and paid overtime. When I take leave, I travel to other countries. This is something I always wanted to do.

What are your hobbies?

I love trying new foods when we go in port. I love drawing, painting, and playing video games. And I love to travel. I’ve already been to Egypt, Qatar, Europe. In the next year for two occasions, I plant to travel to Italy, then [for my honeymoon] to Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, and the Maldives.

Analyzing data can be a daunting task. “R,” a coding language used for statistical computing and graphics, allows scientists to analyze their data in a variety of ways. The program can be used to perform statistical computations of large amounts of data to show underlying patterns and trends. It can also be used to create plots of specific sects of data if one wanted to highlight a location or time. Many scientists like this program because it is very user friendly, and if one needs help with a program (code), there is a free and open community of users available to provide advice and feedback.

Personal Log

When I arrived at the NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker, we expected to sail on May 31st. However, we were delayed in port for 2 extra days, officially leaving port on June 2nd. During the waiting period, I explored the piers along the Embarcadero. I had the chance to visit the Exploratorium, the Bay Aquarium, and the famous Pier 39. Pier 39 is where the Sea lions aggregate every day and, apparently, have been doing so for 28 years.

Sea lions

The Pier 39 Sea Lions

Coit Tower

Coit Tower

I hiked up the stairs to Coit Tower, a historic landmark built in 1933 (Lillian Hitchcock Coit, a rich socialite, bequeathed over $100,000 back in 1929 to restore and beautify sections of San Francisco). Hey WINS girls, remember how we climb the steps coming out of Tumbling Waters, and how you felt like you were going to die before you reached the top…I almost died twice climbing those stairs! By the second time it was easier.

When on the ship, I would read or sit out on deck and watch the pelicans, gulls, cormorants, terns, and common murres. I also got to do a little bird watching heading to Coit Tower, where I saw lots of Anna’s humming birds, chestnut-backed chickadees, and song sparrows. It was interesting because I don’t recognize the calls of west coast birds. Even the song sparrow, which are also common Philadelphia, have a variation in their song, like an accent or a dialect.

As of June 2nd, we have been out to sea. I’ve been assigned to night shift, which means I will be working a lot on sorting the overnight hauls (Stay tuned for the next blog). However, the weather leaving the bay on the first night was rough, so we sailed south to find calmer waters. I didn’t mind so much because as soon as we passed the Golden Gate Bridge, I got to see something I wanted to see my whole life, humpback whales! It was worth the wait.

 

 

Christopher Tait: “Water, Water, Everywhere. Nor any drop to drink.” April 8, 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 of Cruise: Pacific Ocean from San Diego, CA to San Francisco, CA

Date: April 8, 2017

Science and Technology Log

“Water, Water, Everywhere. Nor any drop to drink.”

IMG_4912

Sunrise somewhere over the Pacific Ocean

If you think about a famous quote about the ocean, this one might be one of the first you would think of.  It is from “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge.  I don’t know the first time I heard that quote, but it gave me a view of the ocean as a foreboding place. People like to use quotes to capture a thought or a feeling or an idea that someone else said near perfect. It is a way of remembering ideas of others and being remembered. It is also a way to communicate a deep truth in a memorable fashion. If said well, the quote rings in someone’s head.

The greatest technology a scientist has is their ability to communicate to the public their science. All the measurements in the world, the most exacting procedures, and the best control of variables die on the hard drive if they are not effectively communicated and shared with others. Said well, it will ring in the head of the recipient.

Scientist Profile:

“We are what we do repeatedly. Excellence therefore, is not an act, but a habit.”

Aristotle * see footnote

                If you have a career or are retired, you can think back to the path that took you to one of the most important aspect of your life. The people, opportunities, experiences, dreams, or something else that inspired you to take the career you chose. If you are in school, you are being exposed to influential people, ideas, and values that will shape your life. I have to say, the best aspect of this fisheries expedition has been the amazing and inspirational people I have met along the way.  The group of people that were on the Reuben Lasker cover a large span of skill sets that are critical to run a long term research trip.  From the NOAA Corps, to the ship operations, to maintaining the complex systems of the ship, to deploying the scientific equipment from the deck, to the planning, conducting, and evaluating the results of the science, everyone brings to the table their invaluable contributions.  I have not thus far been associated with such an endeavor and I thank everyone for sharing their expertise with me.  I asked the scientists I worked with three simple questions to get an understanding of the events that took them down the path to their career with NOAA.  I’m sure you can relate to these stories and have stories of your own that have brought you to your career.  If you still have many big decisions ahead of you, maybe you can use this as a sign post to reflect upon as you move along your path.  Below is a picture of the scientists I had the privilege to learn from, work with, and share an amazing experience.

 Figure 1:

 

DSC_0266

Scientist (left to right) Dave Griffith, Kevin Stierhoff, Bev, Lenora, Bill Watson, Sue Manion, Chris Tait (Teacher at Sea) & Megan Human

Dave Griffith

How did you become a NOAA scientist?

I was working at Hubbs Marine Research as a laboratory manager prior to coming to NOAA.  A group of us had started what turned out to be a long term project combining aquaculture and natural population enhancement known as OREHAP. One of the aspects of the OREHAP project was describing the micro-habitats of Mission Bay and San Diego Bay.  Many days were spent in the field sampling the various habitats of each bay. One of the scientists that would join us on occasion was Sharon Kramer. At the time Sharon was working on her PhD from Scripps and was also an employee of NOAA’s Southwest Fisheries Science Center. Sharon alerted me of an opening at the center working for the Coastal Fisheries Resources Division headed up by Rich Charter, one of the best supervisors she had known, and I agree. The rest is history. I’ve now been with NOAA for 27 years; most of them spent at sea and have experienced sights that many people may only read about. No regrets whatsoever.

What do you like best about your career?

This is probably one of the easier questions. What I like and cherish most about my career is the people I have had the privilege to know and work with.  Not only some of the best scientists in the world but just good people. The world of marine science, especially fishery science, is a relatively small community. They become your family. Throw into the mix that I also get to do something that I have wanted to do since high school and I realize that it wasn’t a bad choice.

What advice would you give to a student who would like to follow a similar career path?

In your early academic life, keep an open mind. There are so many aspects to science that you may not realize until you begin your formal education. Take a look at everything. I spent a short time at a city college exploring various avenues before making my commitment to a four year university. If you can, volunteer. It is definitely not time wasted.  For a career in science, earn the highest degree or degrees you possibly can. And lastly, a major component of a career in science is being able to communicate. Learn to write well. I have found that an excellent way to improve your writing is to read. Read everything. Read novels, magazines, journals, newspapers, whatever you can get your hands on and never stop.               

Lanora

How did you become a NOAA scientist?

Growing up, I loved mysteries and figuring out why things worked the way they did. I was also fascinated by the marine environment.  Having learned about NOAA and its missions from relatives, I participated in a co-op program while in college where I worked at a NOAA Fisheries lab.  That work experience helped me realize that this was a field I would like to make a career.

What do you like best about your career?

I would definitely have to say the challenge of the work.  The marine environment is so dynamic and ever changing and evolving.  Working with so many amazing scientists to better understand this environment and the organisms in it is very fulfilling.

What advice would you give to a student who would like to follow a similar career path?

If this is a career path a student is interested in, I recommend looking into volunteer and internship positions.  These experiences help get an understanding of the work in this career and if it’s a right fit for you.  It also helps to build your experience and make contacts in this field.

Sue Manion

How did you become a NOAA scientist?

I graduated from Michigan State University with a BS in Fisheries Biology. After graduation, I joined Peace Corps and worked for 3 years on the aquaculture program in the Dominican Republic. Upon my return to the states, I applied for and was accepted as a sea-going technician for NOAA at the Southwest Fisheries Science Center in San Diego.  I have been an employee here since 1989.

What do you like best about your career?

What I like best about my job is the variety of tasks I perform. I was looking for a career where my job was outdoors and physical.  I spend 1/3 of the year working on fisheries research vessels.  I process trawl catches and assist in oceanographic sampling.  In the past, I have been a marine mammal observer on a tuna boat, and have tagged sharks.

The rest of the time I work in an office processing data and prepping gear for our next research survey.

What advice would you give to a student who would like to follow a similar career path?

My advice for someone who would like to follow a similar career path would be to go beyond a BS and get a Master’s.  I recommend taking all the math classes, computer classes and writing classes that are available to supplement whatever field of Science one chooses.

Bill Watson

How did you become a NOAA scientist?

After receiving undergraduate degrees in oceanography and zoology from the University of Washington I went to the University of Hawaii to do a master’s degree working on distributional ecology of fish eggs and larvae. While at UH I visited the larval fish laboratory at the NMFS Southwest Fisheries Center in La Jolla, California, to meet the staff and learn what I could to improve my skill in identifying fish eggs and larvae. I subsequently stayed in touch with the SWC larval fish lab while working first at UH, then for North Carolina State University doing biological monitoring studies at a coastal nuclear power plant as well as ecological studies of fish and shrimp larvae in an estuary and adjacent salt marshes, and then in southern California for a consulting company doing a wide variety of mainly coastal biological studies. While at the consulting company I received a call from the supervisor of the SWC larval fish group letting me know that a vacancy was coming up in the group and to keep an eye out for the job announcement if I was interested. When the announcement came out I applied, and got the job. Interestingly, the person I replaced was the person I started my larval fish career with in Hawaii 20 years earlier.

What do you like best about your career?

I like fish larvae, so having the opportunity to go to sea to collect samples, and being able to spend part of my time in the laboratory looking at fish eggs and larvae through a microscope often are as much entertainment as work.  In addition to the routine sample processing that we do in support of biomass estimations for commercially important fishes, we regularly conduct analyses to look at how the California Current ecosystem functions from a fish perspective. We can do this because most fish species in our area have planktonic larval stages, so with one set of samples we can look at fish assemblages ranging from deep-sea meso- and bathypelagic fishes to rocky reef and shorefishes. In recent years we have added genetic tools to improve our taxonomic resolution, and have added squids to our repertoire. Most of the studies done in my lab are group efforts, in many cases in cooperation with universities and other NOAA Fisheries labs.

What advice would you give to a student who would like to follow a similar career path?

I always tell student interns in our lab that if they plan to be scientists, they need to pay attention in English classes. Research isn’t really done until it’s published, and if a manuscript is poorly written the likelihood is that it will be rejected by scientific journals. Writing is actually one of the more important skills to develop for someone interested in a career in science. Beyond paying attention in English classes, a postgraduate degree is almost a requirement these days to have any chance at doing independent research. Getting some real world work experience between undergrad and graduate school can be useful to help in setting a career course that you will be happy with, for example when I graduated from UW I planned to specialize in algology, but during a postgraduate internship working on the effects of tritium exposure on early development of rainbow trout, I discovered that I liked fish better and have been doing that ever since.

Megan Human

How did you become a NOAA scientist?

My career path with NOAA began during my junior year in college. I had been volunteering at the Seattle Aquarium for several years and decided to apply for an internship opportunity that was collaboration between the University of Washington and the NWFSC working with phytoplankton. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to work with plankton, but I ended up loving it and was offered a contracting position when my internship was up. In 2014 I ended up moving to San Diego, and thanks to some connections I had from the NWFSC I was referred to a position working with ichthyoplankton (larval stage of fishes).

What do you like best about your career?

I love getting to work with fish and see all the diversity the ocean has to offer. I‘ve also had the opportunity to conduct an egg rearing experiment where I get to raise fish eggs to larvae at sea and in the lab. While it presents many challenges, it is such a great feeling to be able to do hands research in the field. Once you start working on one question, you realize there are so many unknowns out there and it is exciting to get to be a part of a team that is trying to find the answers.

What advice would you give to a student who would like to follow a similar career path?

The best advice I could give to someone who wants to get into a career with marine sciences is to volunteer. There are usually many opportunities associated with local aquariums, NOAA or University vessels, and research laboratories. These are a great way to experience the different avenues of marine science and provide a lot of valuable experiences and connections with individuals in the field. It is also a great way to find what areas you are most passionate about as well as discovering what fields aren’t the best fits.

IMG_4963

Contemplating a successful fishing voyage as we sail under the Golden Gate Bridge.

Personal Log

As the boat motors under the Golden Gate Bridge and into the port of San Francisco, I think about how this experience will impact me.  How can I take what I have learned and effectively communicate to my students the importance of researching how our planet functions? How will the planet change in the face of growing stressors from impacts of human population growth?  How can I motivate others around me to be mindful of our impacts and to work towards a more sustainable future?  Well, with any great study, you generally end up with more questions than answers.  I thank my friends from the Reuben Lasker for helping me communicate to others about the ocean, their science careers, and marine sciences in general.

IMG_4971

Arrival to port at the Exploratorium in San Francisco!

For hope and encouragement I turned to my students for quotes of their own.

What quote would you use to describe your perspective on the world as you finish up school?

“For me, this class helped me decide to go into environmental studies. I always cared about the environment, but I realized that the more I know, the more empowered I will be to make a difference.” Abi Brown NFHS ‘17

“I am going into the heath field so it was very interesting knowing about all of the toxins that are having consequences on our health.” Ashley Parkinson NFHS ‘17

“This class really opened my eyes to the environmental issues I wasn’t all that aware of. I knew that climate change was occurring but I didn’t know all the contributing factors in my daily life could build up and add to global warming. Just being aware has made me change my lifestyle drastically.”  Courtney Surovy NFHS ‘17

“Taking this class taught me how large of an impact humans have on the environment. It is hard to believe that just one person can make a change, but the more you know, the more you can take action to save the environment.” Emily Glueck NFHS ‘17

“After taking this class, I found myself constantly going home and sharing with my family what I learned. I wanted them to become as passionate as I became. This class has sparked my interest and motivated me to be more conscious of my actions and look at how all possible results can impact the Earth.”  Maya Scocozza NFHS ‘17

“This class has given me a newfound love for the world that I live in, inspiring me to help improve the quality of the environment for current and future generations by doing even simple things such as recycling.” Olivia Hanisch NFHS ‘17

“As an incoming freshman to UConn’s MEM program, a dual business and engineering major, this class will forever impact my actions in the product design industry. Every step I take in my career will include consideration on how to engineer a product that is both marketable as well as environmentally sustainable.” Hailey Altobelli NFHS ‘17

“Taking AP Environmental Science allowed me to evaluate the destructive choices humans, including myself, make on a daily basis and how it amounts to significant impacts on our global climate and the surrounding ecosystems. Even something as little as leaving your lights on in an empty room or leaving water running while brushing your teeth can cause negative impacts on the environment. When individuals refuse to change their smaller habits on smaller issues, it becomes difficult for widespread change to occur. The class opened my eyes to how little changes make a big impact.”                 Matt Trewartha NFHS ‘17

“I will be pursuing a Mechanical Engineering degree via Rensselaer. A successful career to me will be one in which I have assisted in progressing the world environmentally and technologically.”  Matt Sousa NFHS ‘17

“By taking this class, I have realized how much everything impacts the environment. From the cosmetics we use to the food we purchase, we greatly impact the earth’s land and its resources. By working on making sustainable choices, we can make a big impact on the earth.” Hadley Starr NFHS ‘18

“When environmentally friendly energy options become economically beneficial to large corporations and industry, global sustainability will become a tangible goal.”                Kyle Van Vlack NFHS ‘17

“One thing I learned from this class is that little thing you do has an effect. Every bottle you throw out and every shower you take does affects the environment.”                      Leah Anderson NFHS ’17

“As someone who is interested in the field of policy making, this class greatly informed me regarding the hidden dangers in our treatment of the planet. I feel like I am much better educated about the harmful consequences of climate change, pollution, and many other topics.” Matt Rossi NFHS ‘17

“By taking AP Environmental Science, I have become more aware of the destructive effect humanity has on the planet, and thus the necessity of advocating for sustainability. If we wish to preserve the environment, we all must educate ourselves about the severity of climate change and do whatever we can to minimize the negative impact of our lifestyle; even the actions of one person can help make a difference. By becoming catalysts for positive change, we as a society will be one step closer to achieving harmony between humans and the environment.” Nicole Cennamo ‘17

“This class has helped me develop an understanding of the natural world which we live in, and as I move towards studying Biology in college, I believe I have the resources necessary to be successful and have an impact in the world.” Josh Sproule NFHS ‘17

“As a future Political Science major, learning about the massive environmental destruction caused by humans has taught me that fixing the environment should not be politicized, and we should all be committed to doing what is right for the environment.” Mike DaSilva NFHS ‘17

“After this class, I have grown to be able to be more conscientious about my actions and how I affect the world. I care more for the animals and their environment and now have a passion for protecting them as much as I can.” Emily O’Toole NFHS ‘17

“This class has encouraged me to take responsibility in helping to save our planet. I learned that everyday things such as long, hot showers or leaving the lights on actually contribute to the global problems we see today. Taking this class this year has definitely inspired me to take action in helping our planet survive.” – Jackson Lathrop NFHS ’17

“I have gained a lot of knowledge through this class that has helped me to fully understand the impact humans have on the environment, and how to prevent further harm to our world. As I plan to become a business major, this knowledge I now have will impact the choices I will make and influence how I live and go about my daily life, always keeping in mind my environmental footprint.” – Noah Alviti NFHS ’17

*footnote: This quote is actually a misquote of Aristotle.  It was used by Matt Light of the New England Patriots at his retirement speech.  Will Durant deserves the actual quote from his book “Ethics and the Nature of Happiness” where he paraphrased Aristotle’s words from “Nicomachaen Ethics.” 

Mark Wolfgang: First Impressions, April 12, 2017

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Mark Wolfgang

Aboard NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker

April 11 – April 22, 2017

 

Mission: Spring Coastal Pelagic Species (Anchovy/Sardine) Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Pacific Ocean

Date: April 12, 2017

Weather Data from the Bridge:

Lat: 35o 21.1’ N            Long: 121o 26.9’ W
Overcast, rainy with quite a bit of fog
Temperature: 14oC (56oF)
Wind speed: 9.26 knots
Barometer: 1015.17 mbar
Visibility: Very limited

TAS Mark Wolfgang 4-13-17 Mark on deck

TAS Mark Wolfgang on board NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker, passing under San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge

Scientific and Technology Log:

Last night/this morning, we did our first two trawls. These two trawls were kind of “blind” because they had not started doing acoustic trawls. I think I am starting to get the hang of how things happen during a trawl, which I know will be put to the test tonight.

TAS Mark Wolfgang 4-13-17 pulling in net v2

The deck crew reels in the trawl net

As the net is pulled in, a team goes out and removes the camera from the net. The camera is used to monitor the net during the trawl, as well as monitoring the MMED (Marine Mammal Excluder Device) which records animals and their condition as they encounter the metal bars and are excluded through the opening in the top portion of the net. The deck crew continues to pull in the net. The organisms collected in the end of the net are put into buckets and brought into the wet lab. The first trawl had a small sunfish in the catch, but I missed it because I was putting my foul-weather gear on.

TAS Mark Wolfgang 4-13-17 market squid

Contents of the trawl (mostly pyrosomes and market squid) on the sorting table

The organisms are dumped onto a table and sorted. After sorting, the organisms are put on the scale and the mass is recorded. The number and type of fish were recorded. Both trawls had mostly pyrosomes (a colonial tunicate) and market squid. I have taught about tunicates in my zoology class, but never knew they were so common in the Pacific Ocean. Other than the pyrosomes and squid, the two trawls contained some lantern fish, several red pelagic crabs, and some other very small fish as well as a moon jelly.

Since we had no sardines or anchovies to process, we focused our time on the market squid. A random sample of 50 squid are taken. For each squid, we measure the length of the mantle, place the squid on a balance and record the mass. If the squid were larger than 75 mm, the squid was given a tag and placed in a bag. The squid smaller than 75 mm are all placed together in a bag.

It was impressive how all team members got right to work and functioned like a well-oiled machine. I am also impressed with how all individuals think of safety first. Starting at sunrise, they began doing acoustic trawls, so we may have better luck catching sardines and anchovies tonight.

Personal Log:

I have enjoyed my first days on the Reuben Lasker. The crew and science team have been very accommodating and welcoming. I am trying to be helpful and not get in the way. My roommate is a UAS drone pilot, but the weather has not been good enough to fly today – it is quite foggy and rainy and the seas are choppy. I hope I get a chance to see it fly sometime soon. I am trying to get used to the sleeping schedule and since I couldn’t sleep this morning, I took a little tour today and went to the bridge and spoke to some of the crew on the bridge as well as the Commanding Officer (CO). They showed me around a little and described some of the different navigational equipment. The chief electrician showed me around the computers in the acoustic lab. It is crazy to see all of the technology and to hear about how they handle all of this data with limited internet access on the boat. I am so pleased that everyone was been so friendly. The food has been great (we had an incredible crème brulee last night) and I have not been sea sick so far.

Did you know?

Pyrosomes are colonies of hundreds of individuals known as zooids. These zooids are joined by a gelatinous tunic and work in unison to propel the colony through the water.

Sandra Camp: Aloha from San Francisco! June 5, 2015

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Sandra Camp
Soon to be aboard NOAA Ship Hi’ialakai
June 14 – 24, 2015


Mission: Main Hawaiian Islands Reef Fish Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Hawaiian Islands, North Pacific Ocean
Date: Friday, June 5, 2015


Personal Log

ocean and bay

The Golden Gate Bridge between the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay

My name is Sandra Camp, and I teach math and science to 5th graders at Robert Louis Stevenson Elementary School in the Sunset neighborhood of San Francisco in northern California. San Francisco is located on a peninsula, which means it is surrounded by water on three sides. On the eastern part of the city lies San Francisco Bay. The western side is bordered by the Pacific Ocean. The famous Golden Gate Bridge spans the divide between these two large and important bodies of water.

 

tide pools

Me exploring tide pools

 

The Pacific is sometimes called the “Mother of all Oceans” because it is the largest ocean on our planet. Although we have many beautiful beaches here, in San Francisco the Pacific Ocean is much too cold for humans to swim in. Even though I can’t swim in it, I do love to go tide pooling along the Pacific Ocean, looking for tiny sea creatures when the tide goes out like sea stars, crabs, and anemones.

 

sea star

Sea star in tide pool

 

elephant seals

Elephant Seals

kelp forest

Kelp Forest – photo courtesy of NOAA

Being surrounded by so much water makes us care a great deal about the health of the world’s oceans and the plants and animals that live there. In our part of the Pacific Ocean, there are giant kelp forests. We are also home to many different kinds of marine animals, such as sea otters, harbor seals, elephant seals, crabs, sea lions, bat rays, and sharks. When there are healthy populations of these creatures living off the coast of northern California, it indicates that our part of the Pacific Ocean is healthy.

I am very excited, because in about a week I will be visiting a different part of the Pacific Ocean, a part where the ocean is warm enough to swim in! Hawaii is a chain of islands located in the northern Pacific Ocean.  Unlike San Francisco, islands are surrounded on all sides by water, and because the ocean water there is warmer, it allows coral reefs to grow.  I will be flying to Honolulu, Hawaii where I will board the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) Ship Hi’ialakai at its home port in Pearl Harbor. Do any of you know what Pearl Harbor is famous for?  If so, write your answer to me in the comments section of this blog.  As a Teacher at Sea, I will spend 10 days aboard the ship while scientists conduct reef fish surveys around the main Hawaiian Islands. This means that they will be studying the fish that normally live in the coral reefs around the islands. If there are healthy populations of these fish in the reefs, then that means the coral reefs are healthy. If not, then that indicates the reefs are having problems. Here is a picture of the Hi’ialakai. Its name means “embracing pathways to the sea” in Hawaiian.

Hi'ialakai

The Hi’ialakai – photo courtesy of NOAA

It takes a lot of people to run a ship this big.  Stay tuned, because in addition to the scientists, I will introduce some of the people who work aboard the ship to you in my upcoming blogs.


Science and Technology Log

coral polyps

Coral Polyps – photo courtesy of NOAA

What exactly is a coral reef, anyway? Coral reefs are ecosystems located in warm, shallow ocean water that are home to a very diverse amount of sea creatures, including fish, crabs, turtles, octopus, sharks, eels, and shrimp. Reefs are structures that are made from the skeletons of colonies of tiny animals called coral. The individual animals that make up the colonies are called polyps.  Polyps usually have a cylindrical-shaped body with a mouth surrounded by tentacles at one end.  The polyps use these tentacles to catch tiny animals that drift by called zooplankton, which they eat for food.

 

coral reef

Coral Reef – photo courtesy of NOAA

 

The coral polyps have a symbiotic relationship with algae. The algae help corals build their skeletons, and the corals provide the algae with protection and compounds they need for photosynthesis. Coral reefs are the largest structures built by animals on Earth! Sadly, coral reefs around the world are in danger because of human factors like pollution, over-fishing, and global warming.

 

diver

Scientist Diving – photo courtesy of NOAA

Most of the scientific work aboard the Hi’ialakai will be conducted by scientists who are scuba diving. While they are under the water, scientists can take pictures of the ocean floor and the coral reefs, as well as count the number of reef fish they find. The information they gather will help them determine if the reefs around Hawaii are healthy places for animals to live. I will be sharing a lot more about the work they do with you in the blogs I write while I am aboard the Hi’ialakai.

 


Did You Know?

The Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia is over 1400 miles long! Even though coral reefs are the largest structures built by animals and are home to so many diverse species, they cover less than one percent of the ocean floor.


Important Words

peninsula – a body of land surrounded on three sides by water

symbiotic – a relationship between two different species that benefits them both

polyp – the individual body of a coral animal, which is shaped like a cylinder, and has a mouth surrounded by tentacles at one end

zooplankton – tiny aquatic animals

Patty McGinnis: San Francisco–Home to Alcatraz, Angel Island, and Sea Lions, May 22, 2013

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

Mission: Juvenile Rockfish Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise: San Francisco
Date: May 22, 2013

Personal Log

Early Monday I flew out of Philadelphia and landed a few hours later on the west coast—a trip that would have taken the pioneer settlers a half a year or more to accomplish. The first leg of my flight landed in Los Angeles, followed by a short hop up north to San Francisco. The plane followed the California coastline nearly the entire time. I found myself mesmerized by the Pacific Ocean as it hugged the shoreline as if to embrace the homes that dotted the land. I had spent many years of my youth growing up in San Diego, and watching the water brought back many memories of lazy summer days complete with gritty sandwiches and sunburned skin.

My first night in San Francisco was spent in a hotel near the airport; yesterday morning I took an expensive (nearly $60!!!) taxi cab to my current accommodation. I was lucky—the hotel had a room free early in the morning so I dumped my bag and went exploring. It was only a short walk to Fisherman’s Wharf—the place where San Francisco fisherman have historically unloaded their catch—most notably the Dungeness crab. The crab gets its name from a town in Washington where it was first harvested (although I didn’t have an opportunity to taste the crab, I wondered how it compares to the Chesapeake Blue Crab).

Although the sun was out, I found it was a mere deception once I got close to the water. The air temperatures were in the 50’s and the wind was blustery at times. Up and down the waterfront are numbered piers; I walked down to Pier 33 in hopes of buying a ticket to Alcatraz Island. Alcatraz, or the “The Rock” is quite visible from the Fisherman’s Wharf area. Although many know it as a famous prison, it has also been a Civil War fort and was home to the first lighthouse on the west coast. The only way to get onto the island, which is managed by the National Park Service, is by purchasing a ticket through a ferry company. Despite it being midweek and not quite summer, all the tickets had been sold out for the entire day.

Alcatraz

Alcatraz Island doesn’t seem that far away from San Francisco but cold, rough water means few prisoners escaped

Disappointed, I trudged down towards Pier 39—a famous tourist attraction. I settled for a tour of the bay, which included a good look at both the Golden Gate Bridge and the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. Both are engineering marvels. The Bay Bridge, which opened in 1936, is actually a double-decker bridge that is part suspension bridge and part cantilever bridge. Originally the top deck was for cars and the bottom deck was for trains and trucks but now cars can travel on both levels. The Golden Gate Bridge is a suspension bridge that opened in 1937. It is possible to walk across the bridge and today was no exception. As our boat passed under the bridge, I could see people waving at us from high above. Our boat had a loud speaker that provided interesting information about the history of San Francisco, but the noise from the wind made it difficult to make out what was being said. Our boat was rocked around by the wind and swells, making me wonder what the water outside the relative shelter of the bay was doing. I do know that rough seas have changed the location where I’ll be boarding the Ocean Starr. Later today I’ll be picked up and driven to Santa Cruz, a town south of here that lies along the Monterey Bay.

On the water with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background

On the water with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background

While on the tour of the San Francisco Bay, I learned about Angel Island—a quiet wildlife area that is a California state park only accessible by ferry. I found the lure of visiting a relatively uninhabited area after the hustle and bustle of Fisherman’s Wharf too strong to ignore. Interested in doing a little hiking, I grabbed an afternoon ferry over to the island and was delighted by the unusual plant life and the opportunity to listen to waves crashing against the shore (check out the Angelcam for a view from the Visitors center). During my walk, I spied numerous succulents, as well as some beautiful (and unidentifiable by me) trees with bark reminiscent of the sycamore.

The bark on this tree reminded me of the sycamore

The bark on this tree reminded me of the sycamore

Angel Island has a fascinating history. Although it is a California park today, at one time it served as an immigration point for nearly a million immigrants, most of whom were Chinese. Unlike European immigrants who passed through Ellis Island, however, the Chinese immigrants were detained until they could prove that they had family in the United States (a process that often took years). Angel Island was also at one time the home of a U.S. Army base called Fort McDawgell and served as a quarantine station to prevent the spread of illness to San Francisco.

It was late afternoon when I returned to Fisherman’s Wharf, where I spent quite a bit of time at Pier 39 observing the resident colony of California sea lions. The sea lions, the majority of which are male, reminded me of some middle school students I know. Although many napped in the sun, others jostled and pushed each other around and off the docks and some brayed loudly as if to say “look at me.” Sea lions have always been present in the bay, but using the docks as a haul out for sunning has only been occurring since 1989. Researchers aren’t sure what prompted the animals to begin using the dock as a habitat, but plentiful food and an absence of predators are two reasons that the animals stay around. Yesterday nearly all the dock space was packed with wall-to-wall sea lions who crowded near each other as they slept. This behavior of seeking out physical contact is known as positive thigmotaxis. The sea lion numbers evidently fluctuate in response to food availability and mating season as many of the “bachelors” head off in search of a girlfriend. You can check out their antics on the Sea Lion webcam.

Look who took over Pier 39!

Look who took over Pier 39!

These sea lions are displaying positive thigmotaxis when they lie on top of each other

These sea lions are displaying positive thigmotaxis when they lie on top of each other

As I finish my writing, I think about the adventure ahead. I’ll soon be picked up soon by two scientists and driven to Santa Cruz, where we will board the Ocean Starr. I worry a bit about the rough seas and the likelihood of seasickness. I also wonder what it will be like to conduct night trawling. I’ve been assigned to the 8:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. shift; why is it that trawling is done at night? Are fish feeding at that time and more likely to be caught? Does night trawling reduce by-catch (organisms that are caught unintentionally)? Or perhaps it is because you catch more at night? I guess I will soon find out. In the meantime, I better study the picture below so I can help identify the fish we catch!

Which fish would you buy at the supermarket?

Which fish would you buy at the supermarket?