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

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Terry Maxwell

Aboard R/V Hugh R. Sharp

June 6–21, 2017

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

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

Science and Technology Log

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Personal Log

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

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

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

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


Did You Know?

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

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

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

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

Not much use for these terms in the Midwest!


Terry Maxwell: An Incomparable Experience Approaches, May 30, 2017

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Terry Maxwell

Preparing to board R/V Hugh R. Sharp

June 5 – June 21, 2017

Mission: Sea Scallop/Integrated Benthic Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise: Northeastern U.S. Atlantic Coast
Date: May 30, 2017

Personal Log

How do you prepare yourself mentally for something to which you have no comparison? I, Terry Maxwell, have wrestled with this question since I was notified on February 1st, 2017 that I would be a part of a research cruise in the NOAA Teacher at Sea Program.  Do not get me wrong, the people at NOAA have been awesome in answering my questions and providing resources to interact with to prepare for this mission.  However, I have lived my whole life in the flat land of Illinois.  I am used to seeing for miles in all directions, but cannot imagine the views out on the ocean.  I have taught science now for 13 years, but have never had an opportunity to work with scientists doing actual fieldwork and research.  My mind is trying to process this upcoming incomparable experience right now.

My flat land views will soon be exchanged for a view from the Hugh R Sharp.

About Me

I am a science teacher at Seneca High School in Seneca, Illinois.  I will be starting my 6th year at Seneca High School next year, and going into my 14th as an educator.  I mainly teach freshman physical science, but occasionally get the opportunity to teach a junior/senior environmental science class.  Along with teaching I also am an assistant

Teaching and coaching leads to a full year.

football coach, assistant track coach, science club sponsor, and FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) huddle leader.  I wear many different hats throughout the year, and have the support of an awesome family at home.  It will be difficult to be away from my family for a couple weeks after a busy school year, but this is an amazing opportunity I had to apply for.

It will be hard to leave my wife and kids for a couple weeks, but they have been supportive.  In the background, you can see the type of “vessels” I am used to!

Why did I apply for Teacher At Sea?

I attended a NOAA workshop at Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, Illinois titled “Why and How We Explore the Deep Ocean.”  I went to the workshop to see if there was any ocean content I could work into my Integrated Physical Science class.  At the workshop, I discovered the amount of ocean content that fits in with the physics and chemistry content I currently teach is numerous.  The workshop was fantastic (if you are a teacher reading this I highly recommend you attend this workshop if it is available at a nearby location).  Towards the end of the workshop, the presenter discussed the Teacher at Sea opportunity.  I instantly knew I wanted to apply.  I came home from the workshop and told my family, “I’m going to apply to go on a research vessel with NOAA this summer.”  To which my wife (who has heard so many crazy ideas come out of my mouth) said, “Uh huh…okay.”  My oldest daughter responded, “Only if I can go with you.”  My son responds, “As long as it’s not over my birthday.”  My youngest just put the free NOAA bag from the workshop on her head like a helmet, and ran around the room.  So, with the obvious support of my family, I applied.

I had never felt so strongly about something.  I wanted to be a part of this experience for many reasons.  A) I wanted an experience working on an actually research mission.  I consider this extremely valuable for my classroom moving forward.  I envision taking research methods I learn from this trip and emulating them in my classroom.  B) I seek to strengthen my weaknesses.  My knowledge of ocean ecosystems is weak.  Part of this is being land locked in Illinois.  What better way to gain knowledge and appreciation for ocean ecosystems than to be a part of a team researching them?  I think when you lack understanding about something it is much easier to disregard it.  Ocean ecosystems are far too important to give little attention to them.  C) Being about a 1/3rd of the way into my teaching career I am looking for an experience that can ignite new ideas, and help me grow as an educator.  I am motivated and inspired by all kinds of simple things; I cannot imagine what this opportunity could do for me.  D) I like fish.  Simple I know, but its true.  The science club I run is called Conservation in Action (yes the CIA), and one of the projects we currently have running is keeping cichlids that are endangered or threatened in the wild, in our classroom.

A male Lipochromis melanopterus that is housed in an aquarium in my classroom and cared for by members of our science club.

We currently have about 15 aquariums that some of our club members maintain with the goal of informing people of the plight of the Lake Victorian cichlids and other endangered fish, and keeping their population numbers in captivity healthy.




How can you prepare with me?

I would like to leave you with some resources that you can prepare for this trip with me.  There have been several sources given to me by NOAA, and some others I have found to be valuable as well.

A) What ship will you be on?  I will be on the Hugh R Sharp.  You can find out more about this vessel here.  This site from the University of Delaware even includes a video tour of the ship.  This will answer a lot of questions about what day to day life may be like for me on the trip, though I will be posting more about that in the coming weeks.

B) What is a scallop survey?  From what I understand, we will be collecting large amounts of samples from the ocean floor through dredging.  The samples would be brought on board and counted.  A record of overall population and populations at different life cycle stages is taken.  A report from a past survey is found on the NOAA website, and that is linked here.  This report by Dvora Hart is a great look at some of the technology and methods that may be used on this upcoming mission.

Did you know?

NOAA is predicting a more active than normal hurricane season in the Atlantic in 2017.

FINAL 0523 Hurricane Graphic_pie chart-700x400
Always a good article to read right before heading out for a couple weeks into the Atlantic Ocean!  However, I am not worried by this because I am in the hands of experts.  It is always good to be prepared and aware though.  The article is a good read with lots of links about NOAA’s weather predicting capabilities.
Above-normal Atlantic Hurricane Season is Most Likely This Year




Donna Knutson: Last Leg of Leg III Atlantic Sea Scallop Survey 2016, June 24, 2016

NOAA Teacher at Sea Donna Knutson
Aboard the Research Vessel Sharp
June 8 – June 24, 2016

2016 Mission: Atlantic Scallop/Benthic Habitat Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise: Northeastern U.S. Atlantic Coast
Date: June 24, 2016

Last Leg of Leg III Atlantic Sea Scallop Survey 2016

Mission and Geographical Area: 

The University of Delaware’s ship, R/V Sharp, is on a NOAA mission to assess the abundance and age distribution of the Atlantic Sea Scallop along the Eastern U.S. coast from Mid Atlantic Bight to Georges Bank.  NOAA does this survey in accordance with Magnuson Stevens Act requirements.

Science and Technology:DSCN7770 (2)me best

Latitude:  41 29.84 N

Longitude:  070 38.54 W

Clouds:  partly cloudy

Visibility: 5-6 nautical miles

Wind: 3.58 knots

Wave Height: 6 in.

Water Temperature:  53  F

Air Temperature:  67 F

Sea Level Pressure:  30.0 in of Hg

Water Depth: 26 m


It has been an action packed two weeks.  The men and women who dedicate themselves to the scallop survey are extremely hard working scientists.  It is not an easy job.  The sorting of the dredged material is fast and furious, and it needs to be in order to document everything within the catch before the next one comes in.  The baskets are heavy and it takes a strong person to move them around so quickly.

DSCN8159 (2) dredge team
Han, Jill, Mike, Vic, Me and Ango

In small catches every scallop is measured.  In dredges with many baskets of scallops, a percentage is measured.  It is a random sampling system, taking some scallops from each of the baskets to get a general random sample of the whole.  Mike led an efficient team, he told us what to look for and oversaw the measuring.

DSCN7780 (2)mike and nicki
Mike and Nikki

He often set samples aside to show me later, when we were not as busy. A few examples were how to tell the difference between the red and silver hake or the difference between the Icelandic and Atlantic sea scallop.  He showed me how the little longhorn sculpin fish, “buzz bombs” known to fisherman, vibrate when you told it in your hand.

DSCN8008 (2)buzz
Longhorn sculpin

Mike even took the time to dissect some hake and to show me the differences in gonads, what they were feeding on by opening their stomach, and the otolith within the upper skull.  The otolith is a small bone in the inner ear that can be used to identify and age the fish when in a lab looking through a microscope.  Mike answered my many questions and was always eager to teach me more.

Another helpful team member was Vic.  Vic taught me how to run the HabCam.  He has been involved in the HabCam setup since it started being used four years ago.  There is a lot of work to do to set up the multiple monitors and computers with servers to store all the images collected by the HabCam.  Vic overlooks it all from the initial set-up to the take down.  I admire Vic’s work-ethic, he is always going 100% until the job is completed.  Sometimes I just needed to get out of his way, because I knew he was on a mission, and I didn’t want to slow him down.

DSCN8132 (2) monitors
Control center for Habcam and Dredging

When we weren’t dredging, but rather using the HabCam, there was a pilot and copilot watching the monitors.  The HabCam, when towed behind the ship, needs to be approximately 1.7 m off the ocean floor for good resolution of the pictures, and keeping it at that elevation can be a challenge with the sloping bottom or debris.  There is also sand waves to watch out for, which are like sand bars in a river, but not exposed to the surface.

When not driving HabCam there are millions of pictures taken by the HabCam to oversee.  When you view a picture of a scallop you annotate it by using a measuring bar.  Fish, skates and crabs are also annotated, but not measured.  It takes a person a while to adjust to the rolling seas and be able to look at monitors for a long period of time.  It is actually harder than anticipated.

DSCN7768 (2)skate
HabCam Picture of a skate.

Han was making sure the data was collected from the correct sites.  She works for the Population Dynamics branch of NOAA and was often checking the routes for the right dredges or the right time to use the HabCam.  Between the chief scientist Tasha and Han, they made sure the survey covered the entire area of the study as efficiently as possible.

DSCN7839 (2)tash han mike
Tasha, Han and Mike discussing the next move.

Dr. Scott Gallager was with us for the first week and taught me so much about his research which I mentioned in the previous blogs.  Kat was with us initially, but she left after the first week.  She was a bubbly, happy student who volunteered to be on the ship, just to learn more in hopes of joining the crew someday.  Both vacancies were replaced by “Ango” whose real name in Tien Chen, a grad student from Maine who is working on his doctoral thesis, and Jill who works in Age and Growth, part of the Population Biology branch of NOAA.  Both were fun to have around because of their interesting personalities.  They were always smiling and happy, with a quick laugh and easy conversation.

DSCN8131 (2)the three
Jill, Ango and Han after dredging.

The Chief Scientist, Tasha, was extremely helpful to me.  Not only does she need to take care of her crew and manage all the logistics of the trip, plus make the last minute decisions, because of weather or dredges etc, but she made me feel welcome and encouraged me to chat with those she felt would be a good resource for me.  On top of it all, she helped me make sure all my blogs were factual.  She was very professional and dedicated to her work, as expected from a lead scientist leading a scientific survey.

DSCN8146 (2)tash and jim
Evan, Tasha and Jimmy discussing route.

I spent as much time as possible getting to know the rest of the crew as well.  The Master, Captain James Warrington “Jimmy” always welcomed me on the bridge.  I enjoyed sitting up there with him and his mates.  He is quick witted and we passed the time with stories and many laughs.  He tolerated me using his binoculars and searching for whales and dolphins.  There were a few times we saw both.

He showed me how he can be leader, responsible for a ship, which is no small feat, but do so with a great sense of humor, which he credits he inherited from his grandmother.  The other captains, Chris and Evan, were just as friendly.  I am sure all who have been lucky enough to travel with them would agree that the RV Sharp is a good ship to on because of the friendly, helpful crew and staff.

DSCN7785 (2)KG
KG, oceanic specialist, helped with dredges.

Because this was my second experience on a survey, the first was a mammal survey, I have really come to appreciate the science behind the study.  It is called a survey, but in order to do a survey correctly, it takes months of planning and preparation before anyone actually gets on a ship.

There is always the studying of previous surveys to rely on to set the parameters for the new survey.  Looking for what is expected and finding, just that, or surprising results not predicted but no less valued, is all in a scientist’s daily job.  I admire the work of the scientist. It is not an easy one, and maybe that is why it is so much fun.  You never know exactly what will happen, and therein lies the mystery or maybe a discovery to acquire more information.

DSCN8127 (2)big goose
I had to hold the largest goose fish we caught!

It was a challenging two weeks, but a time I’m so glad I had the opportunity to have with the members of Leg III of the 2016 Atlantic Sea Scallop Survey.

Donna Knutson: The Absolutely Amazing Atlantic Sea Scallop, June 12, 2016

NOAA Teacher at Sea Donna Knutson
Aboard R/V Hugh R. Sharp
June 8 – June 24, 2016


2016 Mission: Atlantic Scallop/Benthic Habitat Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise: Northeastern U.S. Atlantic Coast
Date: June 12, 2016

Mission and Geographical Area: 

The University of Delaware’s ship, R/V Sharp, is on a NOAA mission to assess the abundance and age distribution of the Atlantic Sea Scallop along the Eastern U.S. coast from Mid Atlantic Bight to Georges Bank.  NOAA does this survey in accordance with Magnuson Stevens Act requirements.

Weather Data from the Bridge

Latitude:  40 26.375 N
Longitude:  68 19.266 W
Clouds: overcast
Visibility: 5-6 nautical miles
Wind: 21 knots at cruise speed of 4 knots
Wave Height: 4-6 occasional 8 ft.
Water Temperature:  56 °F
Air Temperature:  70 °F
Sea Level Pressure:  29.7 in of Hg
Water Depth: 100 m

Science and Technology Log

! TAS 010There are four types of scallops that are found around the United States.  The Sea Scallop is the largest and found primarily along the Eastern coast.  Therefore, it is called the Atlantic Sea Scallop.  Bay scallops are smaller, found closer to shore and are not usually harvested.  The Calico mollusk is the smallest and rare, and is primarily located around the coast of Florida.  The Icelandic scallop is also occasionally sighted around the United States.

The Atlantic Sea Scallop Placopecten magellanicus  is a deep sea bivalve mollusk.  It has a smooth shell and edges.  Young scallops have a pink/red color with darker stripes radiating outward form the hinge. The older sea scallop is more orange in coloration and may fade into white.  Photoreceptive eyes along their pale pink mantle, allow the scallop to sense changes in light allowing it to protect itself from possible dangers such as incoming predators.

Alantic sea scallop
Atlantic sea scallop

Some mollusks are hermaphroditic meaning they have both sex organs in the same animal, but the Atlantic sea scallop has two distinct sexes.  It is impossible to tell what the sex of a scallop is from its outward appearance.  When looking inside at the gonads it is easy to detect.  The male gonads are creamy white and the female gonads are pink/red in color.

The female can reproduce after they are one-year-old, but four year olds release many more eggs.  The older scallop may emit one to two hundred seventy million eggs at one time.  Spawning occurs twice a year, once in the spring and another in the fall.  Males will release their sperm into the water where the eggs have been released, and then the fertilized egg sinks to the bottom of the ocean to develop in groupings called beds.

Adult scallops will filter feed on phytoplankton and microscopic zooplankton.  The immature larva are filter feeders as well, but can also absorb nutrients though their tissues.

Atlantic sea scallops play an important role in the ecosystem as they become food for other animals such as starfish, crabs, lobsters, snails, and fish such as cod, American plaice, wolfish, and winter flounder.


Wikipedia, May 30, 2016

US Atlantic Sea Scallop, March 31, 2013


Personal Log

Leg III of the Atlantic Scallop/Benthic Habitat Survey started out a bit rough, bad weather came in from Hurricane Collin and caused a few delays.  The lead scientist Tasha O’Hara decided to push back the departure times in hope of gentler seas.

We set sail on Thursday June 12, 2016 around 7 p.m. from NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center in Woods Hole.  The Sharp started the third leg of four on the scallop survey.  The last leg will end on June 24, 2016.  The survey team will use a camera to take pictures of the bottom called a HabCam, which stands for Habitat Mapping Camera, and also dredge the ocean bottom periodically for physically counting and measuring specimens.

I have been allowed to participate in the driving of the HabCam and also the sorting, measuring and recording of animals brought up from the dredges.  My blogging got a bit behind as I was trying to immerse myself in the new experiences when the sea sickness hit.

Donna holds a Goosefish

I did not get sick once on the last month long experience, but conditions here are a bit different.  The captain of the Sharp, James Warrington, explained the gyre (oceanic current pattern) is unique here.  We are in a cruising within circular gyre and with weather conditions forcing high waves into the flat bottomed boat, we are getting a lot of motion.  So, yes, I now know what sea sickness is like.  Today the wind has died down a bit so the waves are not as high, and I feel much better.  I have been placed on the midnight to noon crew so that has been an adjustment as well.  I’m sure you morning classes will agree I’m more active in the afternoon.  Not really a morning person. J

Snake eel
Snake eel

Everyone is so great to me here.  They were very considerate during my seasick time.  I actually have been sitting up on the bridge with Captain Jimmy.  I can see the horizon and feel more stable.  Otherwise we are below decks looking at computer screens for the HabCam or working on the back deck looking at the dredged creatures.

Today we are doing some back tracking to get a start on more dredging and that has allowed me to get this blog in.  I really wanted it to be sooner, but that’s the story.







Trevor Hance: Day 4 Aboard The Beagle, June 14, 2015

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Trevor Hance
Aboard R/V Hugh R. Sharp
June 12 – 24, 2015

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical area: New England/Georges Bank
Date: June 14, 2015

Deck selfie
Yours truly (note:  quite fun to break out the overalls!)

Science and Technology Log

It’s Day 4 aboard the Beagle, and the crew has full confidence in Captain Fitz Roy… Okay, I’m not Charles Darwin, but, I am reading two very inspiring books while on this cruise.  First, as this is my first scientific voyage, I am revisiting Darwin’s trip aboard the Beagle to channel some of the wonder and “magic” of that extended journey.  The other book I’m reading is the sequel to my favorite book, The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate.  If you teach G4-G8, I highly recommend you get to know “Callie Vee.” The book is a wonderful bit of historical fiction that details the life of a young woman/girl in central Texas in 1899 who wrestles with her interest in science and the conventions of “proper” society.

Life Aboard Ship and the Science Behind the Voyage

Thus far aboard the R/V Hugh R. Sharp we have enjoyed favorable seas, good food and very welcoming company.  Shifts for the science-crew last 12 hours and run 12-to-12, and there are about six people assigned to each shift (note:  the captain and ship’s operational crew keep a different schedule.)  I am on the day shift, so I work from noon to midnight — which I imagine would fit quite nicely with the schedule many of my students are currently keeping now that they are on their summer break!  Our mission is primarily to perform a scallop survey, moving from point to point while making observations related to population densities and spatial distribution.  Late in the cruise we will be doing some exploratory work in an effort to better understand the lobster populations in this area of the Atlantic Ocean.  Our work centers on two primary observation methods:  habitat camera (aka – “HabCam”) and dredge.

Scallop shell
An Atlantic Sea Scallop shell. They have different patterns, and are beautiful shells

Atlantic sea scallops are a bivalve, along with clams, mussels, oysters, etc. that can get up to about 200 mm (about 8 inches) across, and most three year olds are in the 80-90 mm range.  Commercially, they are targeted between 4 ½ – 5 years old.  Scallops feed by filter-feeding through their mantle, which is housed inside the beautiful orange and white outer shell.  Scallops move using a form of jet propulsion that makes it look like they are swimming (they “bite” at the water as they propel themselves up from the seafloor, pushing the water out of the openings near the umbo at the back of the scallop shell).  The physics changes as they get bigger, so it gets more difficult to push themselves off of the sea floor, but the little ones can get up to about 10 feet off the bottom of the sea floor.

Natural predators of scallops include various species of starfish, such as Astropecten and Asterias.  These starfish use distinct predatory tools.  The larger starfish, the Asterias, has a hydrologic musculature that allows it to essentially pull apart the shell of the scallop, inject digestive enzymes (aka – “putting its stomach inside the scallop”) and enjoy! The Astropecten is quite different because they completely engulf the scallop and digest it internally.  The two types of starfish target different-aged scallops: Astropecten eat them when they are small enough to be fully engulfed, and Asterias when the scallops are older and the shells are larger and harder, making it too difficult for digestive fluids to assist with the process.  Other predators of the scallop include humans and Cancer crabs.

Starfish Comparison
Astropecten vs Sclerasterias (same family as Asterias, different genus):  the size makes the feeding distinction pretty obvious


NOAA has been conducting these surveys for approximately 40 years.  Before the mid-1990s, scallop fishing was largely unregulated, meaning that commercial and private fishers could operate anywhere at any time.  In the 90’s, the government started to use various management tools to support population sustainability through efforts such as limiting the number of people allowed aboard a commercial vessel, limiting the number of days available in a season, changing the ring-size used on the dredges to catch the scallops and closing fishing areas on a rotational basis.  The commercial fisheries have also set aside funds that are used to support research that will help keep the scallop populations healthy.

After the regulations went into place, scientists observed a strong, positive development in size and overall population of scallops.  With strong data that covers a forty year period, policy makers are sufficiently informed to manage scallops on finer and finer spatial scales, including things like small scale, temporary closures and altering the timing for re-opening temporary closures.  (note:  Over the next few blogs, I will show how this science and these relationship relate to our state learning standards, but for now, let’s just set the table.)


The first day of the cruise was spent steaming out to the first observation point while getting the HabCam system running on all cylinders.  The HabCam (pictured below) is a 3,400 pound, steel-framed “camera cage” that is towed behind the vessel as it moves (we’ve been traveling at about 6 knots) through a determined course in areas that have been observed using the camera for the past four years (note:  dredge surveys in this area have been conducted for the entire 40ish year period).  We moved towards the south for the first two days along the Great South Channel and are now heading east along the southern edge of Georges Bank.

HabCam is towed and controlled from the ship by a winch with fiber-optic wire connected to the dry lab where all pictures are received and can be assessed while in motion
HabCam is towed and controlled from the ship by a winch with fiber-optic wire connected to the dry lab where all pictures are received and can be assessed while in motion

The science crew uses three primary areas aboard the vessel:  the back deck, where all dredge-related operations are conducted; the wet lab, where samples are weighed and measured; and a dry lab, which houses about 25 computers that run various programs relating to everything from weather to analyzing the positioning of the dredge underwater.

A dredge in action.  Fish, scallops, crabs, starfish and "trash" are sorted into baskets and buckets, then taken into the wet lab where they are measured and weighed
A dredge in action. Fish, scallops, crabs, starfish and “trash” are sorted into baskets and buckets, then taken into the wet lab where they are measured and weighed
Dr. Scott Gallager and me taking measurements of scallops we caught on a dredge
Dr. Scott Gallager and me taking measurements of scallops we caught on a dredge
NORAD… I mean, the scientific dry lab
NORAD… I mean, the scientific dry lab

Over the first two days, I (tried to!) learn how to drive the HabCam, keeping it about 2 meters off the bottom of the seafloor.  The seafloor in this area has been a relatively smooth mix of sand and shell hash, but, there are naturally occurring topographical changes that require the HabCam driver to remain constantly vigilant and adjust as appropriate.

Katie, seated next to me, is a PhD candidate at Cornell.  I’ll share her research in a future blog
Katie, seated next to me, is a PhD candidate at Cornell.  I’ll share her research in a future blog

There are two cameras on the HabCam and they are set to take 6 photographs per second (standard sample rate).  The two cameras give a scientist the chance to view images in 3-D.  This point is important when you remember that scallops swim, which means scientists can use the 3-D imagery to tell whether the scallops are in motion or stationary when photographed (as well as how far up in the water column those scallops are swimming).  At 6 shots per second, there can be millions of photos taken over the course of a season (likely 8,000,000 pairs of photos over 4,000 km of track this year!), and NOAA scientists are recruiting YOU, dear Citizen Scientists, to help filter through the photographs through websites like projectfishhunter.org (set to launch this fall) or seafloorexplorer.org, which is a project started by one of the scientists on this mission, who is a researcher and professor at MIT/Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute.

My students will find a parallel between the HabCam and the six game cameras we have set up in our Preserve that take 3 shots in succession when triggered.  We monitor those cameras weekly and depending on traffic and false hits due to wind-noise, we could have as many as 2,000-3,000 photos on a camera in a given week.

Can you loan me five (sand) dollars?
Can you loan me five (sand) dollars?
Belly-side of a yellow-tail flounder
Belly-side of a yellow-tail flounder
Dr. Gallagher using a 3-D handheld camera (wow!) to take pictures of male and female scallop.  The ones with the bright pink are the females and the white and grey are males.
Dr. Gallagher using a 3-D handheld camera (wow!) to take pictures of male and female scallop.  The ones with the bright pink are the females and the white and grey are males.
Big mouth monkfish
Big mouth monkfish
At Mother’s Café in New Orleans, they’d call this the makings of a debris sandwich.
At Mother’s Café in New Orleans, they’d call this the makings of a debris sandwich.
We caught this little seahorse and I know my daughters will have a million questions about it!
We caught this little seahorse and I know my daughters will have a million questions about it!
Fair winds, my friend
Fair winds, my friend


In Cajun parlance, “lagniappe” means a little something extra.  In my classroom blog I include a “lagniappe” section at the end to help extend lessons, give folks a chance to plug in to what we’re studying from a different perspective, or just include a “little something” that I find interesting.  Because I can’t really do additional research while aboard this vessel due to limited internet availability, I’ve decided that my Lagniappe section will be more like a “People In Your Neighborhood,” which we all remember from watching Sesame Street as kids.

One of the challenges we face as teachers is capacity building, meaning we have to work to inspire and encourage all students to pursue any areas of learning that interest them, paying particular attention to defeating stereotypes regarding barriers to entry in certain industries.  Our cruise has a pretty broad group of people aboard, so I’ll use my blog to introduce you to “the people behind the science” in this section.  The first “person in my neighborhood” you’ll meet is our Chief Scientist, Nicole Charriere.

Nicole’s early interests in marine studies stemmed from her experiences scuba diving and snorkeling while visiting her mother’s family in Belize.  Her love for the ocean did not waiver as she grew, and she received her undergraduate degree in Marine Biology from the University of Rhode Island.  Prior to graduation, she did an internship at URI’s Graduate School of Oceanography and one of her advisors invited her to crew aboard a 29-day scientific mission to the Pacific side of Panama/Costa Rica aboard a Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute research vessel.  During that experience, Nicole realized that sea-life was the life for her because it gave her a chance to be on the front end of data collection and analysis for a broad spectrum of scientific missions, while simultaneously working with a diverse group of people from around the world who were passionate about their work.  She’s been working aboard vessels for several years, with her recent work centering primarily on scallop and shellfish surveys and other research experiences aboard the R/V Hugh R. Sharp, NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow, as well as on commercial vessels.  Her career keeps her at sea between 130-140 days per year.

Science Chief, Nicole Charriere
Science Chief, Nicole Charriere

As the Chief Scientist, she is in charge of the flow of scientific operations, meaning she oversees the scientific operations, helping to insure that the equipment needed to conduct the studies is available and in working order (obviously, the salt-water, constant-motion, marine environment requires you to be ready and resourceful!), makes sure that the relationship between the ship’s operational crew fits with that of the science party, and (where I’m concerned) helps to coordinate a fair transition to understanding your role as part of the working team aboard a vessel.  One very interesting point I learned is that there are many opportunities for people interested in research to volunteer to be part of a research team aboard a vessel, and Nicole said she rarely remembers being on a cruise where volunteers weren’t part of the crew.  I highly encourage any students who might read my blog that have an interest in marine science to explore this opportunity while an undergrad to see if sea-life really fits with your-life!

I’ll update about our dredge operations and another member of our science crew in the next blog post.

Current dry lab playlist:  Tom Petty, Bruno Mars, Abba

Carol Glor: Back from the Beyond, July 12, 2014

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Carol Glor

Aboard R/V Hugh R. Sharp

July 5 – 14, 2014

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey (Third Leg)

Geographical area of cruise: Northwest Atlantic Ocean

Date: July 12, 2014

Weather Data from the Bridge: Wind 12 knots, 005*, Seas 1-3 foot swells, Visibility – unlimited!!

Science and Technology Log:

Maritime meets Science

NOAA has a unique relationship with the shipping industry. Ships are traditionally built with specific uses in mind. The R/V Hugh R. Sharp is owned by the University of Delaware and was completed in 2006 as a state-of-the-art research vessel. Marine architects and engineers designed mechanical and electronic  systems to launch scallop dredges, the HabCam, and the CTD (conductivity, temperature, and depth) scanner. The ship can accommodate 9 crew members and 12 science staff members. The University leases the vessel to the NOAA scientific crew for specific missions or surveys. Each year NOAA sets up research surveys to collect data concerning many aspects of the fishing industry along with studies centered around conservation. The sea scallop survey is one such research project which has been a yearly event since 1977. It began as a bottom trawling event taking place for several legs (mission time periods) between May and July.

Sea scallops are a bivalve subgroup of mollusks. They take years to mature to a size that is sought after by fishermen. As with any species, overfishing is a major concern. Ideally, a species’ survival is dependent upon a consistent population. The Northeast Fisheries Association determines the scope and location of “open” fishing areas for all species of fish and shellfish. NOAA is called upon to collect data concerning the abundance or lack of scallops in a traditionally rich fishing locale or in a closed area. During our leg of the survey, we collected data using the HabCam as well as towing a scallop dredge. A map of the fishing locations is analyzed to determine the dredge or HabCam areas that are to be investigated.

Each dredge “catch” contained a variety of marine species with the inclusion or exclusion of scallops. At one event, we hauled in 16 baskets of baby scallops. These were an encouraging sign that the scallop population is prolific. At other times, no scallops were present but there was a bumper crop of sand dollars. This was because the area that they were collected is considered an “open” scallop fishing area. The range in size of the scallops that were brought in varied between 55 and 155 mm?

Fourspot Flounder
Fourspot Flounder
Carol on Sharp
Carol prepares to sort the dredge.
Silver and Red Hake
Silver and Red Hake
wet lab
Data collection inside the wet lab of the Sharp.


Personal Log:

Yesterday we completed our dredging events. A glorious sunset was the backdrop for this momentous occasion. Too bad there were no scallops in the dredge. We did, however collect many scallops of different sizes throughout our watch. The fog that was present for most of our dredging days finally burned off to reveal calm seas and a blue sky. The watch team that I was a member of worked like a well-oiled machine. Each member had a specific task to complete to carefully collect scientific data from each dredge event. Science is messy work and handling different species is not for sissies.

shucking scallops
The research team and crew members gather to shuck scallops.
Another spectacular sunset aboard the RV Sharp.


I look forward to returning home to be with my family and friends. The life of a sailor/scientist was an incredible experience and I am excited to share all that I have learned with my students at West Genesee.  Many thanks go out to the Captain and crew of the R/V Sharp and the NOAA science staff for making my journey unforgettable.

Final dredge
The final dredge for the third leg of the scallop survey 2014.

The following quote sums up my experience as part of the Teacher at Sea program.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”  Mark Twain

Carol Glor: Awe Shucks! The Mission Continues, July 9, 2014

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Carol Glor

Aboard R/V Hugh R. Sharp

July 5 – 14, 2014

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey, Third Leg

Geographical area of cruise: Northwest Atlantic Ocean

Date: July 9, 2014

Weather data from the bridge: Wind 204* 15 knots, Seas 4-6-10-12 ft. mixed directions, Visibility – overcast

Science and Technology Log:

Today we began dredging for scallops. The ship follows a predetermined path and the dredge is lowered to the ocean floor at specific locations along the path. These locations are chosen by the Scallop Assessment Biologist at NOAA because they are an accurate representation of the scallop population in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean. The area that we are focused on is known as Georges Bank. It is a broad, shallow submarine plateau forming the seaward boundary of the Gulf of Maine. The average depth is between 30 and 75 meters deep. It is home to an assortment of marine life including the Atlantic Sea Scallop. Several computers are employed to record all of the data that is pertinent to each dredge event. These include: ocean depth, air temperature, salinity, barometer, air speed, wind direction, fluorometer, and wind direction. The lab is in constant communication with both the bridge and the engineer who operates the winch system. Depending upon the ocean depth at the dredge station location, a specific amount of dredging cable (called line) to which the dredge net is attached, is released in order to create the best angle for the dredging operation.


map of Georges Bank
3D map of Georges Bank at the Woods Hole Aquarium.
Map of dredge stations.
offloading the dredge
The dredge is offloaded onto the sorting table.

After 15 minutes the dredge is hauled up to the surface and the net is emptied out onto the sorting table. All members of the science team are poised and ready to sort the catch. Each sorter is outfitted with foul weather gear. This consists of rubberized jacket, coveralls and rubber boots. Also required is a life vest, heavy duty gloves, and a hard hat (if the winch is in use). Several baskets and buckets are arranged around the sorting table. One is reserved for scallops, one for assorted fish and skate, one for crabs and whelk, and the last is for items that are not part of the study. This is known as trash.

When everyone has completed their preliminary sorting, it is time to count and sort each species that was collected. Trash is also accounted for. Each basket that is returned to the ocean is counted and data is recorded. The sorting and trash data is entered into the computer system inside the wet lab (also known as the van). At the three stations inside the van, a measuring tray is utilized to quickly measure and record the length of certain fish, scallops and skate. The first large scallop from each dredge event is photographed as a representation of that event. All large scallops are then weighed and shucked and the scallop is sexed (recorded as a male or female). The sex organ is weighed as well as the meat. The shells of the large scallops are cleaned, labeled, and placed into a muslin bag in order to be further analyzed at a NOAA laboratory back on shore. At the conclusion of the dredge event and sorting process, the lab is cleaned and prepped for the next event.

During our first watch, our team completed seven dredge events. Each event can take more than an hour from start to finish. Our catches included a variety of marine species: scallops, sand dollars, ocean pout, windowpane flounder, yellowtail flounder, four spot flounder, and gulfstream flounder, silver and red hake, quahogs, barn-door and winter skate, haddock, sand lance, cancer and hermit crab, sea mouse, sea sponge, fawn cusk eel, wave whelk, and monkfish (goosefish).

Sorting the dredge.
Carol measures a skate inside the lab
Baby Scallops
Baby Scallops to be counted, weighed, and measured.


Personal Log:

As an inexperienced sailor and scientist, the NOAA staff all worked hard to train me to complete many of the tasks required during our watch. Scientific method and protocol was followed to a “T”. It was an awesome and intense responsibility to fly the HabCam, annotate images recorded by the HabCam, monitor environmental data, set up the dredging event on the computer system, and record the sample data. Throughout the scheduled watch we witnessed whales spouting and breaching, and porpoise antics. During our down time we enjoyed the company of each other as well as the delicious meals prepared by Chef Paul.

Life at sea can be challenging. The weather is checked often in order to adjust the dredging route. High waves can make a dredge event difficult. They can also be a safety issue out on deck. For this reason, each person is required to wear a life vest and boots. Anyone on deck during a dredge drop or haul back is also required to wear a hard hat.

After a long, hard day, sleep is usually the best thing that you can do for yourself. The cabin area is quiet at all times because everyone is on a different shift. I am in a 4-person cabin but my roommates are all on the opposite shift. The rocking of the ship, and background engine noise makes it easy to fall asleep for long periods of time.

Did you know?

Scallops can be male or female. The simplest way to determine the sex is to open the scallop shell and examine the gonad. Female scallops have a pink gonad and males are cream-colored.

male and female scallops
Female scallop is on the left and a male scallop is on the right.

Photo Gallery

sea stars
An assortment of Sea Stars
Fin back whale
Fin Back Whale sighting
Dolphins at play
Ocean Pout
Ocean Pout – eats sand dollars

Answer to last poll:

The R/V Hugh R. Sharp has at least 88 computer monitors on board. An equal number are part of the navigational  and monitoring systems as well as the scientific research components.

Janet Nelson: Steaming for Home, June 25, 2012

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Janet Nelson Huewe
Aboard R/V Hugh R. Sharp
June 13 – 25, 2012

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographic Area: North Atlantic
Monday, June 25, 2012

Weather Data from the Bridge:
Latitude: 41 24.21 North
Longitude: 069 54.98 West
Wind Speed: 13.7 kt
Air Temperature: 17 C                    

Final Log:

We are steaming for home. Woods Hole, MA that is. In the past ten days we have conducted 71 scallop dredge tows and processed 15, 979 scallops. We also took over 4 million images with the HabCam in 691 nautical miles of this leg. We have been a little busy.

A tow of scallops

This morning (0600 hrs.) we mustered in the dry lab and began our assignments, ranging from swabbing the decks to vacuuming our state rooms. Tonight I will be in Boston and then on my way back to Minnesota. I am ready to go home, but I know I will think back fondly on a few things. The rocking of the boat when I’m going to sleep.  Meals prepared for me. The sound of waves and water. The hum of the engines. Seeing what comes up in the scallop dredge. Being on deck and on the bridge. A hap chance at seeing whales or dolphins. New friends and fun banter. Even though this journey began with an unpleasant introduction, it is ending with fond feelings.

Me and a barndoor skate!
Me and a barn door skate!

Being on this boat has been interesting for several reasons. I have learned new things about ocean life that I can take back to my classroom as well as a few souvenirs. I can honestly say I have never seen more scallops in my life, not to mention sand dollars and sea stars! I am looking forward to sharing this experience with my family, students, and friends. As I write this last blog, I am thinking of what a privilege it has been to be a member of this team of researchers. I am honored to learn from them. To my team: Jon, Nicole, Mike, Jess, Alexis, Ted, Nick (TG), and TR, thank you!! This experience would not have been the same without you! I will remember you fondly for many, many days to come.


L to R, TR, Ted, Mike, Jess, Jon, Nicole…my crew

Jessie Soder: Happy as a Clam, August 12, 2011

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jessie Soder
Aboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
August 8 – 19, 2011 

Mission: Atlantic Surfclam and Ocean Quahog Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise:  Northern Atlantic
Date: Wednesday, August 12, 2011 

Weather Data
Time:  12:00
Location:  41°47.405N, 67°21.702W
Air Temp:  18.4°C  (65°F)
Water Temp:  17°C (63°F)
Wind Direction:  South
Wind Speed:  8 knots
Sea Wave height: 1 foot
Sea Swell:  2 feet

Science and Technology Log

TK holding a monkfish caught in the dredge

When I was a little girl I was always excited to pull the minnow trap up from the end of the dock to see what oddities I had caught accidentally while trying to trap minnows.  I am reliving this excitement on a much larger scale on this research cruise.  The dredge we are using to fish for ocean quahogs and surfclams is 5ft x 20ft, weighs 2500lbs, and is pulled for ¼ nautical mile each time it is towed.  (That means it covers an area of about 9000 square feet.)  As you might imagine it accidentally catches things besides the ocean quahogs and the surfclams that we are fishing for.

The dredge is lowered into the water off the back of the ship.  Once it hits the ocean floor a powerful jet of water is sprayed into the ocean floor in front of it to “liquefy” the sand or mud on the ocean bottom.  This loosens the clams and suspends them in the water, just above the bottom.  (Ocean quahogs and surfclams aren’t far below the bottom; just a few inches.)  Then, while they are suspended in the water the dredge scoops them up.  The dredge is brought back up to the ship and dumped and we sort through the catch.  The ocean quahogs, surfclams, and a few other species are kept to weigh and measure.  Below is a video of the dredge being hauled back on the back deck of the ship.

After three watches I am getting pretty good at identifying ocean quahogs and surfclams.  What is the difference between an Atlantic surfclam and an ocean quahog?  Well, they are very similar!  They are both bi-valve mollusks, which means that they have two shells covering a soft body.  They both burrow into the sand so that only their siphon sticks out.  Both of them filter their food, algae and plankton, through their siphon.  One of the biggest differences between them is in the way that their shells connect, or hinge together.  Another difference is their lifespan.  The ocean quahog lives for more than 150 years and the Atlantic surfclam lives for approximately 30 years.  Their size and shape are different too.  Ocean quahogs are rounder than the Atlantic surfclams, which have a triangular shape.  The  Atlantic surfclam also grows larger than the ocean quahog.

Ocean Quahog (left) Atlantic Surfclam (right)

Just like I was excited as a kid to find crayfish and bullheads in my minnow trap I am excited to see what the dredge brings up each time.  So far our biggest catch was 4400 quahogs!  Conversely, our smallest catch was just three quahogs! Sometimes the dredge is filled with empty shells, or empty shells and sand dollars, or thousands of clams, or sometimes it is really sandy.  Each time it is a surprise and it gives you a brief glimpse of what the bottom looks like.

Personal Log

Empty shells and sand dollars

There are many potential dangers that you can face every day while working on a ship.  In fact, since being aboard we have run three drills; man overboard, fire, and abandon ship.  These drills are run on every trip so that everyone knows exactly what to do.

I think that there is something about being at sea on a ship that heightens your awareness of yourself.  I have experienced that same sort of feeling when I am sea-kayaking in big water, or hiking on a bear trail.  It is the feeling that there is something out there that is bigger than you are.  You sense things in a much clearer and acute way.

This evening the sun was going down on the starboard side of the ship and the moon was coming up on the portside.  We could see for miles and miles.  Earlier today we watched a school of tuna swim past and dolphins in the distance.  It was a beautiful clear and sunny day and we were 140 miles from land.  We are lucky.

Questions to Ponder

The clams and quahogs are collected on this research cruise from the sea floor using a hydraulic dredge.  The dredge is lowered and run along the seafloor for about 5 minutes in order to pick up the clams and quahogs.  Each time this is done it is called a “tow.”  How many people do you think are needed to conduct (operate the machinery and collect the data) one tow for clams and quahogs?  How many different jobs are there during one tow?

Anne Artz: July 26, 2011

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Anne Artz
Aboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
July 25 — August 5, 2011

Mission: Clam and Quahog Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: July 26, 2011

Weather Data from the Bridge
Location: 40 32.672 N070 43.585 W
Temperature: 18.5 C
Winds:  Easterly at 3-4 knt
Conditions:  Sunny today, some clouds, ocean calm

Science and Technology Log

Our first full day at sea (and at work)!  We left the dock at Woods Hole, MA yesterday at 2 pm and headed out past Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.  While steaming towards our sampling site, we practiced two very important safety drills — a fire drill and the abandon ship drill.  The abandon ship drill was unique in that we had to don our survival suits (supposedly in a minute but I think I took longer than that) that protect us in the water from hypothermia and also help keep us afloat.

Survival Suit
Anne Artz in her survival suit

Around 6 pm we reached our first sample location and the “day team” (that’s me and some fellow volunteers) started our work.  The testing protocol is fairly simple: sample sites have been predetermined by computer.  Survey sites are selected based on depth and location (latitude and longitude).  When we reach those locations, a large sled-like cage called a dredge is lowered into the water and dragged along the ocean floor for a prescribed amount of time (generally 5 minutes).

Sampling dredge on the Delaware II
This cage goes on the ocean floor scooping up samples for our analysis.

The dredge is then brought up and the contents emptied onto the deck.  Our work then takes 10-15 minutes to sort through what is brought up, keeping those items we are surveying or counting, and throwing the rest back into the water.  We attempt to identify organisms we bring up and we count all live bivalves, any gastropods, hermit crabs, starfish and all fish.  Species we identify and measure are the surfclam, the ocean quahog, the southern quahog, and sea scallops.  Once we’ve separated out what we need, we weigh the catch then measure the size of each item collected.  We throw everything back into the water and clean up the deck while heading to our next location.  The procedure is repeated about twice each hour.  For our work on the deck we wear protective clothing, hard hats, and of course, a life vest.

Personal Log

There are seven volunteers aboard this trip, including myself.  They are a varied group from all over but are all very interested in ocean science.  Some of them are college graduates, some are still in college and we are all first-timers on this type of research vessel.  We were assigned a 12-hour shift, either noon to midnight or midnight to noon.  I feel fortunate to be on the noon-midnight shift as that means I don’t have to alter my sleeping pattern much.  It’s tiring work but the good part is there are breaks between each haul so most of us have our books with us on the deck (so handy to have a Kindle!).  The crew here is as varied as the volunteers, from all over the country and they are all very good at what they do.  I initially thought having 4 girls sleeping in a room the size of a walk-in closet would be difficult but it’s not.  At any given time two of us are on deck, on duty, so the room is available for sleeping, changing, showering, etc.  We all respect quiet below deck because at any given time, someone is always trying to sleep!

Interesting Things Seen Yesterday

A shark with a rather large fin above the water was following us from a distance for a while — maybe curiosity?  We brought up several skates (they look like rays) the largest being about 12 inches long.  They are incredibly beautiful up close, looking almost angelic.  It seems a shame they have such a bad reputation!

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

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

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

June 14, 2011

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

Science and Technology Log

Basket of Scallops
Basket of Scallops

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

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

Smaple a scallop
Sampling a scallop

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

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

Personal Log

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

Question of the Day

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


June 12, 2011

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

Science and Technology Log

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

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

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

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

Personal Log

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

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

Kathleen Brown: First Days at Sea, June 8-9, 2011

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

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Atlantic
Dates: June 8-9, 2011

June 9, 2011

Weather Data from the Bridge
Time: 10:00 am
Winds 10 to 20 knots
Seas 3 to 4 feet 

Science and Technology Log

R/V Hugh R. Sharp
R/V Hugh R. Sharp

This morning is the first day that I have awoken on board the ship. It will be my first twelve-hour shift. The scientists work either from noon until midnight or from midnight to noon. Kevin, the chief scientist, has assigned me to the day shift. I am very happy about this! We suit up in our foul weather gear. Those who have done this before explain to me that it is easiest to slip on the black rubber boots and rain pants like a firefighter who just got a call might do. We eagerly wait for the winch to pull the catch out of the water. The net drops everything out on the table. When we receive word from the engineer that all is clear, I don a hardhat, and hop up on the table with a white board that lists the station, strata and tow. My shipmate, La Shaun, snaps a photo record of the catch. We stand around the table and begin the inventory. We are looking for sea scallops and any we find go into a big orange basket. Other species that we separate out include: red hake, monkfish, haddock, skate, and ocean pout. We measure the length of the fish that we have separated. I imagine how the data might be used by scientists back on land to indicate the health of that portion of the ocean. As soon as we finish the haul and clean up, it is time to do it all over again. Every third catch we count the number of starfish and cancer crabs. I am excited to hold sponges, sea urchins, and hermit crabs. I am surprised to learn that the sand dollars are red.


Once all the sea life on the table has been sorted, it is time to head to the wet lab. There, the buckets of animals are counted and measured. Two persons work at each table measuring the fish. The fish is laid flat against the scale and one scientist uses a magnetic tool to capture the length electronically. During one catch, Aaron and I measured the length of 37 skate. I am impressed by the knowledge of the scientists who can easily tell the difference between a winter skate and a little skate. I hope by the end of the trip, I will be able to do so as quickly as they can.

Personal Log

I hardly notice the rocking of the ship while we are working. I think I may be starting to get my sea legs. On this first day there is very little time in between stations, and there is no real down time. I have learned how to shuck a sea scallop and seen the anatomy of the animal for the first time. I had been promised that I would get to work hard out on the open ocean and I am not disappointed.

Question of the Day Do you know the shape of the sea scallop shell? If you open the shell of a sea scallop you can immediately tell if it is a male or a female. How?

June 8, 2011

Personal Log

I reported to the Woods Hole dock at 7:30 in the morning. The day was bright and sunny, with temperatures in the 70s. The sight of the ship docked next to the NOAA building was so exciting. I climbed on board and introduced myself to Captain Jimmy who showed me right to the galley and offered me a cup of coffee. He was so welcoming! The ship had arrived in port at about 5:00 am and the crew and scientists were working to get everything ready to go by noon. I was shown my room, which is meant for four persons and has two sets of bunk beds. The room is so much bigger than it appeared in the photographs I saw! I chose a lower bunk and stowed my duffel bag underneath the bed in a cubby that was designed just for that. As more of those traveling on the journey arrived, I was interested to find that five of us have ties to Maine. We gathered to hear a briefing on the research that we will be supporting while on board the ship. Did you know that the American Sea Scallop is the most valuable fishery in the United States? Then we went off to lunch in the galley. The cook, Paul, served us an amazing lentil soup and sandwiches. The galley is full of snacks, a fridge with ice cream, and milk juice, coffee and tea, all of which are available day and night. As we were eating, I felt the ship start to move. We were told our first station is about eight hours away. (A station is a place where we collect a sample of the sea life.) Away we go!

Question of the Day What is the reason that Woods Hole became the location on Cape Cod for ocean research?

Channa Comer: Crabs and Stars, May 15, 2011

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Channa Comer

On Board Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp
May 11 — 22, 2011

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey Leg 1
Geographical area of cruise: North Atlantic
Date: Monday, May 15, 2011

Weather Data from the Bridge
Air Temperature: 16.2C, Mostly Cloudy
Wind Speed: 11.6 knots
Water Temperature: 13.4C
Swell Height: 1.0 meters

Science and Technology Log
Question of the Day (See the answer at the end of the post)
How do you count a basket of crabs?

It’s hard to believe that we’re already at the halfway mark of the cruise. Since my last log, we’ve covered a total of 966 nautical miles. Today, we’ve traveled from Hudson Canyon which is 60 nautical miles east of Atlantic City to about 50 nautical miles from the coast of Point Pleasant, NJ.

Bucket of Crabs
Bucket of Crabs

Each day, the boat stops at predetermined points along the route. At each stop, the scallop dredge is lowered to the ocean floor at depths ranging from 15 to 60 fathoms. The dredge is then towed for 15 minutes at a speed of 3.8 knots. When 15 minutes has passed, the dredge is brought up and the catch is dumped onto a platform were we all wait anxiously to see what comes up. Once the empty dredge is secure, we get to work sorting the catch. Scallops and fish get separated, with everything else collected into baskets, cataloged as “trash” and returned to the ocean. The scallops are measured, and the fish are sorted by species, then counted, weighed and in some cases saved for further scientific study back at NOAA labs. Once everything has been counted, weighed and measured, it’s time for my favorite activity – shucking! Scallops are shucked and if there’s time, washed bagged and placed in the deep freezer for Paul to use in the galley for meals. To date, we’ve completed 90 tows and dredged 23,212 scallops.

What comes up at each catch depends on the location of the tow. The southernmost, areas that have been open, or those areas that have recently been closed will usually yield fewer scallops. Scallop yields increase as we head northward and in areas that are closed to fishing. In addition to scallops, our tows have included a variety of deep sea fish, starfish, lots of live sand dollars (with their accompanying green slime), and very often, mud.

At select tows, representative samples of scallops are processed beyond the usual length measurements. The shells are scrubbed clean and weights are recorded for the meat and gonad (reproductive organ). The shells are then labeled and bagged for transport to the lab where they will be aged. The age of scallops are determined by counting the number of growth rings on the shell – similar to counting rings on a tree.

Every three tows is my favorite – Crabs and Stars!! In this tow, in addition to the usual sorting and measuring, all Cancer crabs are collected, counted and weighed and a representative sample of starfish are sorted by species, then counted and weighed. Astropecten, a small starfish is a predator of scallops and the most abundant species of starfish that we’ve counted. Usually, a tow that has large numbers of Astropecten has very few scallops. Being a stickler for detail, having the job of counting starfish has been perfect for me.

Did you know?
Starfish eat a scallop by attaching themselves to the scallop in numbers, forcing the shell open, then extruding their stomachs into the shell and digesting the meat.

Animals Seen
Red Hake
Sea Mouse
Chain Dogfish
Little Skate
Four Spot Flounder
Red Sea Robin
Sea Urchin
Snake Eel
Ocean Pout
Sand Dollar
Sand Lance
Gulf Stream Flounder
Black Sea Bass
Hermit Crab
Sea Raven

Personal Log
Day 3 – Thursday, May 12, 2011
With my sea sickness over after the first day and having adjusted to my new sleep schedule — I actually get to sleep a full 8 hours! — the days are starting to take on a nice flow. It’s been great being part of a team. We’re like a well-oiled machine. Everyone in my crew continues to be generous, sharing the best shucking techniques and giving me a little extra time to take photos and collect samples. We’ve jokingly renamed the “crabs and stars” tow to “crabs, stars and mud”. It’s really hard to count starfish when they’re covered in mud. Dinner was especially delicious today with salmon in pesto sauce with potatoes and broccoli.

Day 4 – Friday, May 13, 2011
The day started out cloudy and overcast, but the sun made an appearance late in the afternoon. The first tow of the day was my favorite — Crabs and Stars!! — with accompanying mud. As part of the Teacher at Sea program, in addition to my logs, I am required to write a lesson plan. I’ve started to draft what I think will be a great unit using the sea scallop as a springboard to explore issues in ecology and the nature of ecological science. Highlights will be an Iron Chef style cooking competition using scallops and a design challenge where students will have to build a working model of a scallop dredge. Vic has been great with providing whatever data, materials and background information that I need for my lessons. Lunch today was chicken burritos with fresh, spicy guacamole.

Day 6 – Sunday, May 15, 2011
Since its Sunday, I decided to take it easy and instead of trying to get a lot done before my shift and during the breaks, I took it easy and watched a little TV. With satellite TV and a large selection of DVDs, there are always lots of options. Although the guys tend to prefer sports or reality TV. The first few tows were back to back which meant little time for breaks, or snacks, or naps. Just enough time to clean up, shuck and be ready for the next tow.

Day 7 – Monday, May 16, 2011
The trip is half over. It’s hard to believe. The tows were once again, back to back with a fair amount of scallops, but I think after today, we won’t need to shuck anymore. Yay! Today was the day that the animals fought back. I was chomped by a scallop and a crab! The scallop was more of a surprise than a pain, but the crab clawed right through my glove. After days with no restrictions, we received the warning from the engineers today that we have to be careful with the faucets. Dripping faucets waste water and it takes time for the water to be converted through condensation in the condenser to usable water. If we’re not more careful, we’ll be faced with restrictions on how much water we can use……… I hope that doesn’t happen since I think we all officially smell like fish. Lunch today was cream of asparagus soup, yummy and reminiscent of my recent trip to Peru. The only thing missing was Quiona. And finally, today was the day that I’ve been waiting for. I found my favorite ice cream. I’ve been rationing myself to one per day, but after I found my favorite – butter pecan ice cream sandwiches – I could not resist a second.

Answer to Question of the Day: Very carefully!

Anne Byford: June 11, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea: Anne Byford
Aboard: R/V Hugh R. Sharp

Mission: Sea Scallop Surveys
Location: Off the Coast of New England
Date: June 11, 2010

Weather Data at 1:35pm EDT:
Clear, 14.4˚C
Location at 1:35pm EDT: Lat: 40 30.07 N Long: 69 08.66 W
Water Depth: 77.5 m

4th Day at Sea

Why Count Sea Scallops?

That had to be the most common question I got asked before coming on this trip. Much of the information below is from the NOAA FishWatch website (www.nmfs.noaa.gov/fishwatch/species/atl_sea_scallop.htm).

Economically, sea scallops are an important species; in 2008 the scallop harvest was about 53.5 million pounds and was worth about $370 million. The population is not currently considered to be overfished and has been above minimum sustainable levels since 2001. Formal management began in 1982 with the Atlantic Sea Scallop Fisheries Management Plan. The management plan includes limiting new permits, restrictions on gear and on the number of crew on a boat. Since about 2000, the biomass of scallops has been increasing. Biomass is estimated by using the weight of scallops per tow on cruises like this one. Combinations of biomass estimates and estimates of the commercial catch are used to update and adjust the management plan.

Sea Scallops (Placopecten magellanicus) are filter feeders. They can live up to 20 years and begin reproducing at about 2 years, with maximum fertility reached at 4 years. A single female scallop can produce up to 270 million eggs in her life. This high reproductive capacity has helped the scallop population recover relatively quickly. Gender can be determined by the color of the gonad; females are orange while the male gonad is white. Adult scallops average between 6 and 7 inches from hinge to tip (called height) but can be as big as 9 inches. Age can be estimated by counting the rings on the shell. Scallops can “swim” by opening and closing the two shells. This is a useful adaptation for escaping from predators, including flounder, cod, lobsters, crabs, and sea stars. Scallops are harvested for the adductor muscle (the one that opens and closes the shell). There is no commercial aquaculture of scallops in the US as of August 2009.

Personal Log

A storm moved through beginning on Wed. evening (day 2) and stayed with us most of Thursday. By the end of shift on Wednesday, we were working on deck in full foul weather gear and life jackets. Thursday we had an 8 hour steam between dredge sites and by the end of shift on Thursday, the seas had begun to smooth out. Friday was quite nice, weather-wise.

I am learning to shuck scallops, though I am about half the speed of many on the boat. I am also learning to tell the various types of flounder and other fish apart as well. It’s not always obvious which type of flounder or hake is which.

New Species

Goose fish (aka monk fish), several more varieties of flounder, sea urchins, sea cucumbers, eel pout, some very large skates, 3 types of sea stars and 1 type of brittle star.

Julianne Mueller-Northcott, May 12, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Julianne Mueller-Northcott
Onboard R/V Hugh R. Sharp
May 11 – 22, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea: Julianne Mueller-Northcott
University of Delaware R/V Hugh R. Sharp
Mission:  Sea Scallop Survey: Leg III
Port of Departure: Lewes, Delaware
Location: Off the coast of Virginia
Date: May 12, 2010

Weather Data from the Bridge

Air temp: 13.72⁰C, 85% humidity, overcast

Science and Technology Log
When the dredge gets pulled up the ramp of the ship, I always strain to try to see past the chain and netting to see what amazing creatures might have gotten caught in the dredge.  I can see the pale-as–a-ghost face on the underside of skates and flounders.  The sea stars fall to the table in a big mound and you can see the crabs trying to climb the net.  And of course the scallops!  They get dumped out onto the table in a wave.  The pile of creatures undulates as organisms try to right themselves and seek cover.  Each dredge so far has been different.  Some are chock full of sea stars such as Asterias forbesii and Asterias vulgaris which we have at home, but by far the most abundant sea star species is Astropectin sp.   There was one dredge that was all sand dollars and they tumbled out onto to the deck, like hundreds of poker chips, hockey pucks and small frisbees.  I noticed that all of the fish in the dredge were green and then everything else started turning green. Apparently, sand dollars turn everything green! No one was quite sure why—this will be something to investigate once I get home.

So you can imagine how exciting it is to see hundreds (in some cases maybe thousands) of your sea friends, dumped out in front of you to examine!  I think about all the hours toiling at Odiorne Point with my students searching under rocks and peeling back algae in the intertidal zone looking for a hidden gem.  Here on the sorting table at the back of the boat there are so many species, so many things waiting to be discovered.  I think about my marine biologists at home and how excited they would be to have some of these critters for our tank!  (And while the thought has crossed my mind to try to kidnap some, that might be a difficult situation to explain going through security at the airport—a cooler full of crabs, sand dollars, sea stars and scallops!) The object here is not to study all the cool creatures for hours under a microscope which is what I would love to do (there isn’t even a microscope on the ship!) but instead, to sort.  My job, with 5 other people, is put out all the scallops and fish.  Those get measured and counted and everything else goes back into the water.  It all happens very quickly.  Because the goal is to do so many dredges in a relatively short amount of time, the faster you process everything the faster we can move on to our next sampling location, which means the more data that can be collected.  Also time is money on this high tech ship we are on.  For the scientists to use the R/V Hugh R. Sharp it costs $12,000 a day.  So it is imperative to work quickly to get the job done. But I am learning some tricks so that I can spend a little more time with the creatures I really want to check out.  I usually sneak a couple of neat things to photograph off to the side and after we are finished with the work at hand take a few minutes to study them.  And the scientists have figured out that when they have an organism that we haven’t seen yet, they have to show it to me before it gets tossed back overboard!

We were just pulling up a dredge last night when Ben pointed to the starboard side of the ship.  There in the starlight were about eight dolphins riding in the wake of the boat.  They were porpoising in and out of the water.  They were gray, with speckled black dots—we don’t have a mammal field guide on board—so I am not sure which species it was.  It was the first night that we could see stars, other than the sea star variety. I thought of Kat S. who was the first person who got me excited about the prospect of seeing stars at night from the boat.  Between the starlight and the spotlights on the ship, the sea below sparkled.  Even in the dark water you could see the water shimmer and change to a light green color, letting you know where the dolphins were just before they surfaced.  I have a list of top wildlife encounters in my life (swimming with whale sharks and eagle rays, saving stranded pilot whales in the keys, viewing humpbacks breech in a storm in the Bay of Fundy, nesting sea turtles Mexico, watching baby orcas play in the San Juan Islands, etc) but even with this list, watching the dolphins at night beneath the stars was pretty magical!

Captain Bill nonchalantly mentioned that he had seen an ocean sunfish (Mola mola) yesterday morning.  “What?!” I guess I hadn’t made it clear that I wanted to witness any such animal encounters.  I had told my students that the ocean sunfish was the one species I was really looking forward to seeing on this trip.  I had seen them in various aquariums but never in the wild. The ocean sunfish has always seemed to me a freak of natural selection.  How could something so big, clumsy and awkward looking have survived evolution?  Something about the way it lazes around without a care in the world has always appealed to me.  This morning, I took my usual watch on the bow of the boat (as I do every morning before my watch begins at 12:00). There, about 50 ft from the boat, I saw two large fins, flopping this way and that without an apparent purpose.  It was Mola mola! We didn’t get very close and our boat was traveling fast but through my binos I at least got a glimpse of its round, disc body.  And a couple of hours later, I saw another—this one a little further away.  So I know there are lots out there—now the goal is to get an up-close view and hopefully a photo!

Personal Log
It is pretty awesome now that the weather is brightening and we are seeing some beautiful species!  I love being on the top decks watching the sunlight dance on the water.  I love that everywhere I look all I see is ocean.  Yesterday we saw many other ships on the water—but today it is really just us steaming along. At first it was a little hard to get used to seeing lots of dead fish in the dredge and lots of animals that don’t survive the sampling.  There is a lot more by catch than I would have expected. It is going to take a little more time for me to process my thoughts about it all, but I am starting to understand that for now this is the best way for the data to be collected.  While it might not be the best thing for individual organisms, these sampling techniques are important for protecting the fisheries and ultimately the ecosystem.

Julianne Mueller-Northcott, May 10-11, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Julianne Mueller-Northcott
Onboard R/V Hugh R. Sharp
May 11 – 22, 2010

University of Delaware R/V Hugh R. Sharp
Mission: Sea Scallop Survey: Leg III
Port of Departure: Lewes, Delaware
Date: May 10-11, 2010

Weather Data from the Bridge
Overcast, rainy, in the 50s

Science and Technology Log
I am about to spend my first night aboard a boat! I arrived to Lewes, Delaware this afternoon and the driver took me to the University of Delaware’s Marine Program campus. From the distance I could see the top deck of the Hugh R Sharp. It was much bigger than I had expected (147 ft) and I was surprised by all of the heavy equipment using for lifting and hauling the dredges, different storage vans for extra space, freezers, and lots of computers, monitors, wires, etc. I met the chief scientist of our survey cruise, Victor Nordahl of the NOAA fisheries, who spent some time explaining to me a little about the purpose of our mission for the next two weeks.

Why scallops? This was a question that I had when I learned that I would be a part of this expedition. After some internet searching I found a tremendous amount of data on scallops and learned that many survey cruises like this one take place. I love my marine invertebrates just as much as the next person (alright, probably a whole lot more!) but it seemed like a lot of  energy invested in monitoring their population size. It turns out that it boils down to money; scallops are a $450 million annual resource! Scallops are one of the most important fisheries in the Northeast United States. It is essential that this economic resource is harvested responsibly so that their populations are sustainable. NOAA’s annual sea scallop dredge survey occur in three legs to carefully monitor the scallop populations, sampling areas as far south as Virginia and as far north as Georges Bank into Canadian waters NOAA’s responsibility is to take an accurate inventory of the scallops, their size and age. Based on their sizes and ages NOAA scientists can use computer models to make predictions for the future of the population in an area. This information can get passed on to a regional council that then makes recommendations/regulations for the scallop fishing industry. These regulations are around the minimum size of the catch, the number of boats, the number of crew members on the boat and the number of days that fishing is permitted.

Before I left school, I asked my students what questions they had about my expedition. They had tons about scallop life history, data collection methods, life aboard a ship, human impact on the ocean and about some of the other sea life we might see while at sea. I will be trying to answer many of those questions in this log. Maddie K. asked the question, “Who eats scallops aside from people?” One species that I learned today that likes to eat scallop larvae are sea stars. During some of our dredges we will also inventory sea stars and crabs so that we can also monitor the population sizes of the scallop predators. This information provides the scientists with important clues on the future of the scallop population in an area. If there are a lot of predators then there might not be a lot of scallops in the future. I am looking forward to pulling up lots of sea stars in the nets. I bet we will pick up some big ones and I wonder which species we’ll find. The chief scientist says that the stars and crabs are pretty hardy and usually survive the dredge without a problem. Liz B. asked if the animals are released after they have been inventoried and it sounds like most everything is tossed back overboard after it has been weighed and inventoried. I am very much looking forward to seeing what comes up in our first dredge!

Personal Log
One thing that has been cool is the people that I have met. It is funny since we are in Delaware I wasn’t expecting to have many connections with the people on board. But it is a small world! There is someone on board who was a judge at this year’s Ocean Bowl competition—of course I had to describe to him our team’s amazing second place finish. There is a cadet from the Coast Guard who played lacrosse against Souhegan and was friends with some former students. And then many people are from Woods Hole and Falmouth on the Cape, which is where  I always spend lots of time in the summer. We are heading out this afternoon with the tide around 5:30. I can’t wait to get out on the open ocean. Far in the distance, I can see  any boats passing by—and some are huge tankers. I look forward to going up to the bow and taking it all in. Fun adventure ahead for tonight, once we get underway we will do some practice sampling and then it is about a 4.5 hour cruise to our first station.

Atlantic Deep Sea Scallop

Phylum: Mollusca

Class: Bivalvia

Species: Placopectin magellanicus

Physical description: large (2-8”), circular. Since it is a bivalve it has two shells (or valves). When reading about scallops in the Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Seashells, something interesting that I learned is that the two shells differ in color. The exterior of the right valve is usually dirty white while the left valve is reddish or pinkish. I am wondering how  they determine which is right and which is left? Inside the scallop is a large adductor muscle. This muscle allows the scallop to open and close and it is the part you eat (if you like  scallops!)

Feeding: Scallops are filter feeders who enjoy their phytoplankton.

Predator/Prey relationships: One of the coolest things about scallops is that they can swim! They force water out of their shell and move right along in the water column. The purpose of  this is to be able to scoot away from their biggest predators—sea stars!
Habitat: on sand or rubble, water 60-400’ deep

Range: Canada to North Carolina

Lisha Lander Hylton, July 5, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Lisha Lander Hylton
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
June 30 – July 11, 2008

Mission: Surfclam and Quahog Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Northeastern U.S.
Date: July 5, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge 

Today’s weather e-mail: 








V/r, Command Duty Officer Naval Maritime Forecast Center Norfolk

http://www.weather.navy.mil http://www.nlmoc.navy.smil.mil


Ship tracker
Ship tracker
Lisha holding sea specimens retrieved from clam dredge
Lisha holding sea specimens retrieved from clam dredge

Science and Technology Log 

Ship Tracker 

NOAA has a Web site that can show you the path of each of its ships in near real time.  Below is the track of the DELAWARE II from June 30 – July 5, 2008. The red line shows exactly where the DELAWARE has gone. If you’d like to track the DELAWARE or any other NOAA ships yourself, then go to this Website.

Clam Surveys 

On the DELAWARE II our team is in the process of conducting a clam survey. This particular fishery survey is on clams. After dredging, collecting, sorting, counting, measuring and weighing (clam with shell and shucked clam meat only) – the data obtained is recorded and entered into computers filed under the specific station number that was dredged. All data is then sent to a central data base. The compiled data can then be compared to past surveys.  If the actual meat weight, size, quantity or quality of clams collected has reduced in comparison to past surveys, this could be an indication that some factor is influencing the reduction. Possible influencing factor: Clams are being over-fished.

However, clam fisheries are a very important part of the economy, especially in the northeastern part of the United States. Many people depend on clam fishing for a living. As long as clams are not over-fished, the balance between economy and ecology can remain stable.  Not only could this affect the clam population, but other marine life in this particular ecosystem could be affected as well because in an ecosystem ~ all living and nonliving things in the environment must interact and work together for the ecosystem to be productive. This is why it is vital that NOAA scientists continue to survey and keep track of the productivity in our ocean environments for future generations.

Lisha in the clam dredge towing out the dark, clay sediment.
Lisha in the clam dredge towing out the dark, clay sediment.

We document and record the data on all marine life that is pulled out from the dredge. These species are important documentation in clam surveys because in an ecosystem, all living organisms (and non-living things) depend on each other, interacting to produce food chains and food webs. Early this morning, we entered 2 separate stations, just a few miles apart. These 2 stations were loaded with a huge quantity of very healthy, large sized, heavy meat clams.  Vic noticed that not only did these 2 stations contain lots of large, healthy clams but that there was a lot of clean, sand sediment with very little other types of sediment. Sediment is defined as organic matter or mineral deposited by ice, air, or water. Sediment can be mud, clay, rock, gravel, shell fragments, silt, sand, pebbles or dead organic material (called detrius). The various sediments are sometimes mixed and are found in various textures, consistency and colors. Unlike these 2 sandy stations, the 69 stations we had already dredged all contained various other types of sediment.  Above and to the right are some pictures of a prior station that contained sediment of dark, hard clay.  

Lisha, Mark Harris and Richard Raynes in the clam dredge towing out the remains of the mud sediment.
Lisha, Mark Harris and Richard Raynes in the clam dredge towing out the remains of the mud sediment.

Vic instructed the crew at this point that we needed to get a sediment sample from the two nearby stations that we were fixing to dredge. I was asked to retrieve it with the aid of Jimbo Pontz and Lino Luis who operated the bottom grab (a device used to lower down into the ocean operated by an electric cable, for the purpose of retrieving sediment.)  First, Vic instructed me to “GEAR UP”; safety gear is a major priority on all NOAA ships.  I was given a safety harness to put on, along with a life jacket, and a hard helmet.

Then, the bottom grabber was lowered into the water and it collected the samples, towed back up by Lino Luis and emptied by Jimbo Pontz. I collected 2 cups of the sand sediment at both locations, prior to the dredge being hauled back up to the deck.  Note how clean and “new” the sand sediment looks. It is not mixed with a lot of other sediments. Sure enough, we again collected a huge load of healthy, large size, weighty meat clams covered in the same sediment seen in the picture above.  

Big Question of the Day 

Lisha “gearing up” in safety equipment
Lisha “gearing up” in safety equipment

Science Researchers have concluded that over the past century, sea level is rising at increasing rates, (possibly linked to Global Warming). Global warming is defined as the observed increase in the earth’s air and oceans in recent decades due to greenhouse gases and the theory that this temperature rising will continue to increase.

The rising of sea level causes an “environmental change”.  Some environmental changes on Earth occur almost instantly, due to Natural Disasters (like a hurricane or other massive storm events). Scientists that study environmental changes due to past storm events are called Paleotempostologists.  Other environmental changes can take decades, centuries, or thousands of years (like the rising of sea level). These environmental changes often cause new sediment to be deposited on top of older sediment. The adult, large, healthy, meaty-weight surf clams found today in the location where we sampled medium to coarse-grained sand were retrieved at stations offshore in cold and deep water; (the depth recorded by Jakub Kircun – Seagoing Technician as 70 feet). Could it be that environmental changes on the ocean floor are taking place due to the rise of sea level?  Could the medium to coarse-grained sand sediment sampled today possibly be a new layer of sediment due to rising sea levels causing a relocation of some marine species (like surf clams)? 

Lisha collecting the sediment sample that was hauled in by the bottom grab.
Lisha collecting the sediment sample that was hauled in by the bottom grab.

Abundance of surf clams in New York Harbor in June 1995, from this Web site.

Surf clams utilize an unusual behavior in response to stress: they leap from the sediment surface in order to relocate. Surf clams have been observed using this avoidance behavior in response to crowding and the presence of predators. Surf clams are mostly oceanic in distribution, preferring turbulent waters at the edge of the breaker zone. They can be found in some estuarine areas, but their distribution is limited by salinity (Fay et al. 1983). In New York/New Jersey Harbor, surf clams are found predominantly in the area where the harbor opens into the Atlantic Ocean. Juvenile clams prefer medium to fine, low organic sands averaging 9 to 25 meters in depth. Adults prefer medium- to coarse-grained sand and gravel, burying themselves just below the sediment surface. They are often found at evenly distributed positions relative to one another, with spacing interval negatively correlated to density. Additionally, adults often remain in their juvenile burrows unless they are displaced by storm events (Fay et al. 1983).  Predation by crabs, gastropods, and bottom-feeding fish have been observed to limit development of beds in nearshore areas colonized by larval surf clams, relocating to colder, deeper water.”

The Bottom Grab
The Bottom Grab

New Term/Word/Phrase: Ecosystem: an environment where living and non-living things interact and work together. Bottom Grab: A device used to lower onto the ocean floor for the purpose of gathering sediment.

Something to Think About: Are surf clams relocating?

Animals Seen Today 

Asterial boreal, Lady crab, Eel, Moonsnail, Shark eye northern snail, Stargazer fish, Whelk, and Sea cucumber.


Lisha Lander Hylton, July 2, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Lisha Lander Hylton
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
June 30 – July 11, 2008

Mission: Surfclam and Quahog Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Northeastern U.S.
Date: July 2, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Coastal Waters From Sandy Hook To Manasquan Inlet Nj Out 20 Nm
* 930 Pm Edt Wed Jul 2 2008*
* Overnight*
Sw Winds 10 To 15 Kt With Gusts Up To 20 Kt.
Seas 2 To  4 Ft.

The Clam Dredge
The Clam Dredge

Science and Technology Log 

This information is general on working stations. My objective is to follow up on following daily logs into more specifics on how each station is operated and maintained. The crew is now learning more technicalities on entering data into the computer system as we continue to pull out quahogs and surfclams. The two species look a lot alike; a surfclam is more elongated in width where a quahog is rounder with a definite hooked shape at the top that connects the two shells. A quahog is also heavier in weight than a surfclam. After hauling in loads at frequent stops, heading north at pre-determined stations, the crew sorts through miscellaneous sediments to separate the clams. Surfclams are put in one basket, quahogs in another. If they are broken but the 2 valves are still intact, these go into 2 more baskets. Any living marine life goes into a bucket. We have documented the various sediments at each haul since this may prove to be a factor in the quantity and size of the clams. So far, the various sediments include rocks, pebbles, sand and shells, a dark oozy mud and grey clay. 

Kira Lopez in the lab
Kira Lopez in the lab

Once separated, we break up into teams and work at different stations entering the data into station computers that input the information into one database. Stations we have worked include: measuring the length, weighing the clams in the shell, shucking the clams and then weighing the meat only, determining the age, identifying other live marine organisms. Entering data for weight involves turning on the weight machine with a prod. Once this is done, Vic records the station # we are working at into all computerized machines. Input into the weight machine involves the following steps:

  • Key in the names of crew members working the station
  • Identify the clam
  • Specify living or broken
  • Measure the clam
  • Weigh the clam in the shell
  • Shuck the clam and enter the meat weight
  • Add any specific notes
  • Go to next clam until all clams are recorded
  • All data goes into a central data-base.

Questions of the Day 

  • How long does a surfclam usually live? A surfclam can live up to 15 years.
  • How long does a quahog live? A  qhahog can live up to 100 years.
A shot of the lab with the ocean in the background
A shot of the lab with the ocean in the background

New Term/Word/Phrase: Bivalve (A Mollusk) 

Something to Think About 

  • Why are there more surfclams and quahogs at different stations or locations?
  • Why do some stations or locations have older surfclams and quahogs?

Challenge Yourself: I would like to learn to operate a station and be able to teach someone else to do it.

Did You Know? 
A surfclam has 2 abductor muscles.

Animals Seen Today 
Starfish Sea Squirts Rock Crab Sea Biscuit Sea Worm

Lisha on Delaware II
Lisha on Delaware II

Lisha Lander Hylton, June 30, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Lisha Lander Hylton
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
June 30 – July 11, 2008

Mission: Surfclam and Quahog Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Northeastern U.S.
Date: June 30, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge 

Each day, the ship receives an e-mail about the weather.  Following is the e-mail the ship received for today’s weather: 

Subject: WEAX/NOAAS DELAWARE II// From:  “CDO.NMFC_N.002.fct” <cdo.nmfc_n.002.fct@navy.mil> Date: Tue, 01 Jul 2008 12:57:31 -0400 To: CO.Delaware@noaa.gov, OPS.Delaware@noaa.gov

CC: “Maritime.CDO” <Maritime.CDO@navy.mil>









V/R, Command Duty OfficerNaval Maritime Forecast Center Norfolk

Web Page: http://www.weather.navy.milhttp://www.nlmoc.navy.smil.mil


NOAA Ship DELAWARE II at its port in Woods Hole, MA
NOAA Ship Delaware II in Woods Hole, MA

Science and Technology Log 


The mission of my trip with NOAA is to provide me (a teacher of third grade students) an extraordinary opportunity to take part in genuine-world experiences being conducted by NOAA in order for me to achieve a clearer insight into pour ocean planet and a superior understanding of NOAA-related careers. With the comprehension that I obtain, I will be able to make lesson plans created on my field study for my students, giving them insight as to how much power they have on their lives and this world we live in. I will be able to generate lesson plans allowing my students to play a part in maritime activities as we study together, to value the work and expertise that is required to sustain oceanic and atmospheric research. The students’ enthusiasm, inquisitiveness and yearning to learn will only heighten with the hands-on, motivational activities that I gain from my research with this NOAA team. The educational experience that I gain from NOAA will certainly provide for an exceptional setting for knowledge and instruction.

Why Does NOAA Conduct Clam Surveys? 

DELAWARE II’s Cooperative Ship Weather Observing Program Certificate
DELAWARE II’s Cooperative Ship Weather Observing Program Certificate

Clams are a very important part of economy and ecology along the eastern United States Coast. NOAA is keeping track (surveying) of clams for the purpose of conserving clams to stabilize fishery industries without wiping out the clam population completely. Clams play a very important part in marine ecosystems; therefore these surveys are helping to maintain stability in the economy and ecology of United States. Today was our second day at sea. Our ship departed from Woods Hole, Massachusetts yesterday at 3:30 p.m. So that new crewmembers could learn their jobs and responsibilities from our Chief Scientist (Vic Nordahl), we participated in a “practice” dredge.

On Monday, June 30th – the crew onboard The Delaware II undertook our first clam survey (Station 1). I was on the 12:01 a.m. night crew. I was put in charge of operating the power switch for the clam dredge. The dredge operator (Lino Luis; THE LEAD FISHERMAN) would radio me when the dredge was set into the water, radio me again when he was preparing to dredge “hauling” and then radio me “GIVE ME POWER”. At this point, I would check the DEII device, which read the meters of the surface voltage, which detects the power for the speed of the ship. This machine needs to read between 2.5 and 3.0 knots. Wearing a rubber glove and standing on a rubber mat, I immediately turned the switch on the SURF CLAM CONTROL to “ON”. This supplied the dredge with approximately 900 amps (A-C AMPERES) and a voltage of approximately 450 volts. As soon as I turned on the switch, I would radio back to Lino “THE POWER IS ON!” He would radio me back when it was time to turn off the power switch (after the dredger was off the bottom). He would signal to me “Turn the power off”. I would turn the switch to off and radio him back “POWER OFF”.

NOAA Teacher at Sea, Lisha Hylton (center), stands in front of the DELAWARE II with some fellow ship mates.
NOAA Teacher at Sea, Lisha Hylton (center), stands in front of the DELAWARE II with some fellow ship mates.

Personal Log 

Once the clam dredger was hauled onboard the back deck of the ship and the dredger was secured and inspected by Vic Nordahl (Chief Science Researcher), the clam load was released. Wearing protective clothing and hardhats, the crew began to sort the variety of marine animals. Richard Raynes (Gear Specialist) and I were involved in this task. Large buckets were used for this purpose. Broken quahogs were separated from undamaged quahogs. Surfclams went into another bucket. Other living sea creatures like sand dollars, stingrays and sea scallops along with shell fragments and sediment were put into a separate bucket and immediately released back into the ocean. I worked closely with Vic Nordahl and Francine Stroman (Biological Technician) watching, learning and participating in sorting the load and recording data for Station 1 Clam Survey. The clams were weighed and counted (this data imported into a computer system). The second step was measuring the length of the clams on a LIMNOTERRA (a measuring board) and importing this data into the computer system as well. I assisted in the sorting, weighing, counting and measuring. Once the data was stored, the clams were released back into the ocean.

The dredge on the DELAWARE II is big enough for people to stand under and lie on!
The dredge on the DELAWARE II is big enough for people to stand under and lie on!

There are 3 legs to this research survey. I am on the 1st leg. Some general conclusions will be obtained at the end of the 1st leg from the data we collect. Vic Nordahl (our chief scientist) is going to explain these general conclusions to our team; however, more conclusive evidence of the clam survey will be evident after the 2nd and 3rd leg has been completed. On my last log, I plan to show evidence of some of the general conclusions our team has made.

Question of the Day 

How much does the clam dredge weigh?

Answer: 9,500 pounds

New Terms/Words/Phrases: 

  1. Clam Dredge
  2. DEII Device
  3. Ocean Quahog
  4. Surfclam
  5. Limnoterra Measure Board
TAS Hylton holds up some interesting specimens that the dredge brought up!
TAS Hylton holds up some interesting specimens that the dredge brought up!

Something to Think About: How can we conserve and preserve fisheries along the eastern United States coast?

Challenge Yourself: I would like to pursue a career with NOAA in researching and surveying fisheries along the eastern coast of the United States.

Did You Know That?  

The abundance of clams is declining because of 2 factors:

  1. Climate change
  2. Fishermen are taking more clams than the clam population can reproduce.

Animals Seen Today

Ocean Quahogs (Mollusca), Surfclams (Mollusca), Sand Dollars (Echinoderm), Annelida Polychaeta, Atlantic Sting Ray (Skate), Sea Scallops (Mollusca), and Sea Mouse (AnnelidaPolychaeta).