Jeff Lawrence, June 19, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jeff Lawrence
Onboard Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp
June 8-19, 2009 

Mission: Sea scallop survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Atlantic
Date: June 19, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge In port at Woods Hole, Mass. 
W winds 5-10 KTs, cloudy overcast skies Light rain, 2-3 foot waves Air Temp. 66˚F

Jakub Kircun watches as a beautiful sunset unfolds.
Jakub Kircun watches as a beautiful sunset unfolds.

Science and Technology Log 

The Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp finally made it into port this morning at the National Marine Fisheries Service in Woods Hole on the Cape Cod coast of Massachusetts.  Although this cruise was not terribly long it is great to be back on land.  Scallop surveying is tedious work that is ongoing on a research vessel 24/7. The people onboard were great to work with and it is always a pleasure to get to know other people, especially those who share a passion for ocean research and science. Few people realize the great effort and sacrifices that people in the oceanography field have to give up to go out to sea to complete research that will help give a better understanding to three-fourths of the planet’s surface.  They must leave home and loved ones for many days to get the science needed for a more complete understanding of the Earth’s oceans.

lawrence_log6The noon to midnight shift includes myself, the Chief Scientist onboard, Stacy Rowe, watch chief Jakub Kircum, Shad Mahlum, Francine Stroman, and Joe Gatuzzi.  We are responsible for sorting each station on our watch, measuring and weighing the samples into the computer.  These people are very good at what they do and quite dedicated to performing the task with professionalism, courtesy, and a great deal of enthusiasm.  It is clear to see that each person has a passion for ocean sciences especially the fisheries division. The NOAA fisheries division carefully surveys and provides data to those that make regulations about which places will be left open for commercial fishing and those which will be closed until the population is adequate to handle the pressures of the commercial fishing industry. I have observed many different species of marine animals, some of which I did not even know ever existed.  Below is a photo of me and the other TAS Duane Sanders putting on our survival at sea suits in case of emergency.  These suits are designed to keep someone afloat and alive in cold water and are required on all boats where colder waters exist.

The Goosefish, also called Monkfish, is a ferocious predator below the surface and above!
The Goosefish, also called Monkfish, is a ferocious predator below the surface and above!

Personal Log 

The fish with a bad attitude award has to go to the goosefish. This ferocious predator lies in wait at the bottom of the ocean floor for prey. On the topside of its mouth is an antenna that dangles an alluring catch for small fish and other ocean critters.  When the prey gets close enough the goosefish emerges from its muddy camouflage and devours its prey. I made the error of mistaking it for a skate that was in a bucket. I was not paying close enough attention as I grabbed what I thought was the skate from a bucket, the goosefish quickly bit down. Blood oozed out of my thumb as the teeth penetrated clean through a pair of rubber gloves. I pay closer attention when sticking my hand in buckets now.  There are many creatures in the sea that are harmless, but one should take heed to all the creatures that can inflict bodily damage to humans. 

Spiny Dogfish caught in the dredge
Spiny Dogfish caught in the dredge

Questions of the Day 
Name four species you my find at the bottom on the Atlantic:
What is another common name for the goosefish?
What is the species name (Scientific name) for the goosefish?
What are the scientific names for starfish and scallops?

Jeff Lawrence, June 14, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jeff Lawrence
Onboard Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp
June 8-19, 2009 

Mission: Sea scallop survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Atlantic
Date: June 14, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
East winds 3 KTs
1015mb pressure
Seas 2-4ft
Partly cloudy early, clearing sunny skies late afternoon

Science and Technology Log 

The bridge of a ship is a very busy place where all activities that are occurring on the ship being managed from this location.  When any equipment is going overboard it is the responsibility of the captain or first mate to ensure that it is done safely and correctly.  The ship must follow a predetermined route for each stations sampling and be kept on tract by precise navigating from the bridge. Whenever anything goes overboard the bridge has to be notified, it is important for the bridge to know everything that is in the water to avoid the boat from being fouled up by miscellaneous line in the water.  This could be dangerous and costly for the ship and crew.

Left: The bridge of the ship; Right: Crewmembers on the bridge discussing the cruise operational procedures
Left: The bridge of the ship; Right: Crewmembers on the bridge discussing the cruise operational procedures

Captain Bill Byam has been very helpful to me and my fellow teacher at sea making sure we have the availability of the crew and ship to write our journal entries and then submit them online to NOAA. The ship’s crew is also responsible for deployments and retrieving of all instruments put overboard the ship. Along with the dredge and occasional CTD is deployed to get a profile of the water column and collect water samples at varying depths.  The water samples can be used for a variety of things, such as water filtering to see what microscopic critters may be present, chemical analysis, as well as conductivity or salinity of the water.  The CTD is standard instruments used on most science research vessels.  The crew on the Sharp are very proficient, professional, and hard working as they also help with assisting the scientist with some of the work on deck.

Personal Log 

Shad and Stacy repair the net on one of the dredges
Shad and Stacy repair the net on one of the dredges

The cruise has gone very smoothly with lots of scientific data have been collected for future analysis. I have worked closely on the deck with members of the noon to midnight shift for almost two weeks.  In that time we have collected many samples of scallops, crabs, starfish, sand dollars, sea urchins, many varieties of fish, and even occasional pieces of trash left from man’s misuse of the ocean.  I hope to be able to take the knowledge gleaned from this experience and the scientist onboard the ship and give my students back in Oklahoma a better understanding of our oceans and how their health impacts everyone around world even those in land-locked Oklahoma.  It has been my goal to better inform my 5th-8th grade students, my college students who are training to become teachers, and the general lay member how all of us impact the health of the oceans and how important the oceans are to us all in maintaining a homeostatic balance with the Earth’s biosphere and atmosphere.   We all have much to gain with a healthy ocean system and much more to lose if we are not adequate in our stewardship of our oceans.

I would like to give a special thanks to Chief Scientist Stacy Rowe for allowing me to participate in all aspects of the cruise and collecting samples.  The team I am with are very cordial and extremely helpful in answering all my questions.  They made me feel a part of the team and not an outsider. It was great to work with a group of people who are so dedicated.  When one team member finished a task they simply moved to help another team member until the whole catch was sorted, measured, and weighed.  It is good to work with people who are equally vested in their work. No one person stood and watched as others worked, each did an equal share of the work and made sure the task was completed in a timely and organized fashion.  This made the long hours of the shift seem shorter and the days went by much quicker.  It is always good to be a part of a good team.  Thanks to the crew aboard the Sharp, and the scientist that made this trip a profitable one, not only for me but also for my students back in Oklahoma.  Thank you Bill Byam, captain aboard the Sharp and all of his dedicated crew.  The ship’s crew, were hospitable host and I really enjoyed meeting you all.  Thanks to NOAA for allowing a previous teacher at sea another opportunity to learn more about the oceans and have another lifetime memory to share with others. 

Questions of the Day 
What instrument does a ship use today to navigate in precise lines? (hint cars use it also to find their way around town)

Who is Hugh R. Sharp? (ship is named after him)

Jeff Lawrence, June 13, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jeff Lawrence
Onboard Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp
June 8-19, 2009 

Mission: Sea scallop survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Atlantic
Date: June 13, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
East winds 3 KTs
Temperature: 13˚C
Seas 3-4ft
1015 mb of pressure

Magnetic measuring board
Magnetic measuring board

Science and Technology Log 

There is a lot of sophisticated equipment aboard a science research vessel of today. Shad who is one of the scientists aboard the ship explained to me how they used to do scallop surveys on older ships just a few years ago. Then they would catch scallops using the dredge net that was then hauled onboard and dumped on the deck.  The scientist would then get on their hands and knees and sort through the pile for scallops or whatever they were looking for. The pile would have to be scoured twice to ensure everything was accounted for. There was a lot of shoveling and moving of the pile as things were being sorted. The work was long, dirty, and backbreaking.

Today the Sharp has a sorting table onboard which makes the job much easier and gives the ship and crew the availability of adding more stations to the survey and getting much more work done than in past seasons. Below is a photo of a magnetic measuring board.  The scallop or fish are placed on the board and a magnetic wand is put at the end of the sample where an accurate measurement is made and placed into the computer showing the size of the sample.  This process is much faster than measuring and recording by hand.  They are also weighed in large baskets to determine average weight of the catch.

Personal Log 

Scallops opening in the warm sun!
Scallops opening in the warm sun!

Some days have been very long at times yet fruitful.  A week has passed and we have collected thousands of scallops, hundreds of thousands of starfish, and many other species of bottom dwelling fishes and animals.  I have observed many varieties and species of animals that I have never seen before except on TV or in a textbook.  This hands-on experience will leave an indelible picture in my mind for many years of what research life is like onboard a research vessel. There are many dedicated scientist and crewmembers in NOAA fisheries that are insuring the viability of certain species so that commercial fishing does not over fish areas of our oceans.

These scientists do valuable research in the labs around the United States but also go out on research vessels and get their hands dirty, work extremely hard, and commit a large part of the personal lives to preservation of species in our oceans so that future generations can enjoy the wide diversity that our oceans provide for us today.  NOAA has scientist working all around the oceans of the United States as well as other parts of the world to give science a better understanding of the vital role each species has in its environment and how that species overpopulation or disappearance could impact the immediate area, larger habitat of the ocean, and the world as a whole. I feel more at ease knowing that there are dedicated people in the world ensuring not only the interest of humans but are also advocating for all species.  The diversity on earth is better understood every year giving scientist and the general public a better understanding of each species role on the world stage of life.

Question of the Day 
What does the term Keystone species mean?

Jeff Lawrence, June 11, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jeff Lawrence
Onboard Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp
June 8-19, 2009 

Mission: Sea scallop survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Atlantic
Date: June 11, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
NE winds 15-20KT
Seas 4-8ft, cold front moving off land
Temperature at Sea 68˚F
Foggy with low visibility, light rain periodically

Science and Technology Log 

The crew is busy collecting scallops.  Occasionally between tows, the crew shuck scallops to eat onboard, this is allowable in open areas.  A meal of freshly shucked scallops will be enjoyed by those onboard the ship.  Shucking scallops is a skill that can be learned over several days.  A long curved skinny knife is inserted between the shells and part of the scallop is cut away from the shell.  With a little skill one more quick cut of the knife and all the inside parts of the scallop are whisked away leaving behind a cylinder shaped piece of white meat that is the part of the scallop enjoyed by people around the world.

TAS Duane Sanders (left) is busy sorting scallops while others shuck the scallops (right).
TAS Duane Sanders (left) is busy sorting scallops while others shuck the scallops (right).

Some dredges produced scallops exclusively, while others produce very few scallops and lots of starfishes or sand dollars.  Scientists are trying to understand the dynamics between the starfish and scallop populations as well as other species.  Getting rid or over fishing one species can have a profound effect on other species especially if that species is considered a keystone species in that particular environment.

The R/V Hugh R. Sharp (Lewes, Delaware)
The R/V Hugh R. Sharp (Lewes, Delaware)

Personal Log 

The Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp is one of the newer ships in the fleet of research vessels along the Atlantic coast. The ship is 146 feet long with state of the art equipment onboard to help it complete missions vital to ocean research.  It cost about $14,000 dollars a day to keep the ship doing research while at sea. The ship is very versatile and has completed a varied amount of differing research cruises along the east coast of the United States.  I am amazed at how quiet the ship is when running. I have been on two other research vessels, and they were much louder when underway.  The Sharp has diesel engines that run electric motors making it run much quieter and smoother than other research ships. The ship will also turn on a dime usually it takes quite of bit of time and space to turn a ship around. This is not true on the Sharp it will turn very quickly due the bow thrusters onboard the ship. The ship may be smaller than many research vessels, however it is versatile and efficient when conducting research along the Atlantic coast.

The crew which are captained by Bill Byam are well trained and prepared for the task required of them to make sure the science is completed in a timely manner and efficiently for the scientist aboard. I have found working with the crew to be an enjoyable experience.  The food onboard is superb, Paul is a great cook and prepares unique dishes for every meal and is also an avid fellow soccer fan.

Question of the Day 
What and how do scallops eat to survive?

Name two predators of scallops. 

Elise Olivieri, May 12, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Elise Olivieri
Onboard Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp 
May 9 – 20, 2009 

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Northwest Atlantic
Date: May 12, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Air Temperature: 11.56 Degrees Celsius
Barometric Pressure: 1019 mb
Humidity: 88%

Science and Technology Log 

The dredge
The dredge

Sea Scallops are found in western North Atlantic continental shelf waters from Newfoundland to North Carolina in waters cooler than 20 Degrees Celsius.  Commercial fishing is conducted in waters off the Gulf of Maine, on Georges Bank, and in the Mid-Atlantic offshore region.  Scallops grow rapidly during the first several years of life. Scallops increase 50-80% and quadruple their meat weight between the ages 3 to 5. Sea Scallops become sexually mature at age 2, but scallops younger than 4 contribute little to the overall egg population studies explain. Spawning occurs in late summer and early autumn. Eggs become buoyant after fertilization, and larvae remain in the water column for 4 to 8 weeks before settling to the bottom of the sea floor.

Communication between all the people on board is key to successful sea scallop tows.  Operational procedures must be put in place to ensure all parties know exactly what is expected of them and when.  The bridge has a list of all station numbers which is provided by the Chief Scientist. The bridge announces over radio “10 minutes to station” and the science team lets the bridge know if more time is needed to prepare for the tow.  Every third tow and twice per day a water sample is taken.  These samples are collected before the dredge enters the water.  One technician ensures the inclinometer has been offloaded in time before the dredge is emptied and sorted. The bridge makes sure the tow passes through the middle of the station and retains 75% of the catch. If there is a problem the bridge notifies the science team.  The science team then checks the Knudsen Depth Display to determine the designated wire out or scope that is needed for the station.  The bridge will then come up to speed of about 4 knots. At this time the bridge will announce to begin deployment of the dredge and the winch operator (dredge operator) will set the dredge over the stern.  The winch operator will stream enough cable to reach the “0” mark in the wire and then set the winch metering to zero.

The dredge is then deployed as quickly as the winches can spool which is approximately 60-65 m/sec.  When the winch man has achieved the desired scope and locked the brakes, they should observe the trawl tension.  Start tow begins once this occurs. The scientist will then start the countdown for the 15 minute tow.  The bridge sets the speed over bottom at 3.8 knots.  The scientist in the lab running the event will give several warnings; 1 minute warning, 10 second warning, and then finally haul back.  The winch operator will start hauling back at maximum allowable speed to pull the dredge off the bottom. Once the dredge is on deck, inclinometer should be offloaded, the catch is dumped, and the dredge is secured. The vessel then heads to the next station on the Chief Scientist’s list.  These standard operational procedures discourage any errors that might occur if procedures were not in place. 

After the catch is on the table it is sorted and sampled by using a FSCS computer database.  The Fisheries Scientific Computer System is a collection of integrated electronic devices used to gather and store station and biological data.  FSCS uses tough screen monitors and motion compensation scales with electronic measuring boards.  This helps reduce human error and is a very sophisticated instrument.

Personal Log 

We started out the night shift with two medium sized clean tows.  There was very little sand and clay which helps the sorting process go very quickly.  I personally counted 236 cancer crabs and over 300 sea scallops. The nature of sorting is becoming very familiar to me, and I enjoy learning new things everyday. I spoke with the Chief Scientist Vic Nordahl for a while and discussed various ways of incorporating all the data being collected into the classroom.  Vic is extremely busy but makes time to discuss and plan out activities for the Teachers at Sea to bring back to the classroom.  Lollie Garay is the other Teacher at Sea aboard the Sharp. She is a middle school teacher from Houston, Texas.  We both enjoy learning how research is collected out at sea.  There are 22 people total aboard the Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp and everyone communicates and is friendly with one another. I really learned a lot about protocol today and now I completely understand how everything runs so smoothly.  I can’t wait to get some sleep.  Fisheries work is not easy!