Amy Orchard: Day 1, 2 and 3 – Cool Scientists, Multibeam, Setting Traps, Cetaceans, September 16, 2014

NOAA Teacher At Sea
Amy Orchard
Aboard NOAA Ship Nancy Foster
September 14 – 27, 2014

Mission: Fish Tagging
Geographical area of cruise: Riley’s Hump: Tortugas Ecological Reserve South
Date: September 14, 15, 16, 2014

Weather: September 16, 2014 20:00 hours
Latitude 24° 30’ 30’’N Longitude 83° 09’ 9’’W
Few clouds, clear.  Humidity 10%.
Wind speed 7 knots.
Air Temperature: 28° Celsius (83° Fahrenheit)
Sea Water Temperature: 30.4° Celsius (86.7°Fahrenheit)


Getting to Know the Nancy Foster

Scott Donahue, Science Coordinator for Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and Chief Scientist for this cruise, brought me aboard and gave me a tour of the Nancy Foster early in the day.  Also there was Tim Olsen, Chief Engineer, who I had met on the plane from Atlanta to Key West.  I was overwhelmed with the capacity of the ship.  It is huge and fully equipped for a wide variety of scientific endeavors, diving, mapping, surveying, launching large equipment etc.  I feel lucky to be a part of what is going on.

Click on these two photos for more information

Short Jaunt into Key West

After taking some time to see Key West, I headed back to the ship where I met Cammy Clark from the Miami Herald who will be with us for one week reporting on our experience. Cammy and I spent the night on the ship awaiting the science team to arrive early tomorrow morning.  The ship is in dock so I can’t yet be sure if I will suffer from sea sickness.  However, I hear that there is 100% survival rate if it does occur!

Click on these two photos for more information


Meeting the Scientists

During the two weeks aboard, I will be working with 10 scientists from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), 7 NOAA Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary scientists and 2 ROV pilots from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington.  I am excited to be a part this interagency collaboration.  Seems like an efficient way to communicate and share experiences.

Guess which photo shows the scientists I will be working with…

Answer:  PHOTO ON THE RIGHT.  FWC scientists from left to right: Mike McCallister, Jeff Renchen,Danielle Morley, Ariel Tobin (in front), Ben Binder, Paul Barbera.  Not as reserved or stodgy as you might picture a group of scientists, but they are incredibly knowledgeable and dedicated to their work.  They are unbelievably cool people!  They have amazing stories to tell, are easy-going and love to have a good time.  I want to be like them when I grow up!

Preparing to Do Science

One of the many things we will do this week is tagging fish.  To do this, we will travel away from the ship on small boats to set fish traps.  Once the right fish are contained, the dive team will surgically insert an acoustic tag which will allow them to monitor the fish’s movements throughout different reaches of the sanctuary.  This information is important to see the effectiveness of protected areas vs. non-protected areas.

The divers perform this surgery underwater (usually at depths of 95-110 feet) in order to reduce stress on the fish and to avoid air bladder expansion.

Today the divers went out to practice their diving skills before the intense work begins.  I got to travel with them in the small boat.  Even though I am certified to SCUBA dive, only American Academy of Underwater Sciences divers and other divers with official reciprocity are allowed to dive off NOAA ships.  (reciprocity is the word of the day – look it up!)  The diving these scientists do is much more technical than the recreational diving I do in Mexico, but they enjoy it just as much.

Best note of the day:  No sea sickness!  (yet)

dive boat being lowered

The 4 small boats sit on the back deck of the ship and are lowered over the side with a large crane. Once the boat is on the water, we climb down a rope ladder (which is swinging ferociously in the waves!)

me on the small dive boat

The Nancy Foster has four small boats. Three for dive operations and one reserved as a rescue boat. It was exciting to have a different perspective and to see the Nancy Foster out at sea from the small boat. Photo by Linh Nugyen


Multibeam Sonar

Last night was the first night I slept on the ship while it was out to sea.  I had a really hard time sleeping as I would awaken every half hour feeling as if I were going to roll over and fall out of my top bunk!  This movement was due to the fact that science is being done aboard the Nancy Foster 24 hours a day.  During the night time, Nick Mitchell and Samantha Martin, the Survey Technicians, are running the Multibeam Sonar which determines ocean depth and creates a map of the sea floor contours.  Using 512  sonic beams, sound is emitted, bounces off the sea bed, then returns to the ship.

See these videos for more information:

The ship would travel out about 3 miles, then turn 180° to make the next pass.  Cruising at about 1 mile every 10 minutes (walking speed) we were turning about every 30 minutes, explaining my rockn’ night!

More on MSB in upcoming posts.

Click on these two photos for more information

Setting Fish Traps

I joined the divers on the small boat to set out the first two traps.  We used cooked and peeled shrimp as bait.  The traps were still empty late afternoon.  Let’s hope they take the shrimp so the tagging can begin!

modified chevron trap

Here sits the modified chevron trap Ben and I will be deploying from our small boat. Divers on a second small boat will follow us, dive down and be sure the trap sits on the ocean floor upright and will set the bait.

trap over board

I am making sure the rope which attaches the float buoys to the trap doesn’t get caught on the boat as the fish trap is deployed into the water. Photo by Nick Mitchell

Here Ben Binder & Survey Technician, Nick Mitchell, record the exact Latitude and Longitude where the trap was set.  Can you figure out the general GPS coordinates for the Tortuga South Ecological Reserve?

Here Ben Binder & Survey Technician, Nick Mitchell, record the exact Latitude and Longitude where the trap was set. Can you figure out the general GPS coordinates for the Tortuga South Ecological Reserve? Need help? Go to

We are focusing on two species during this trip: the Black Grouper and the Cubera Snapper.  These two were selected because they are commercially and recreationally important species.  The FWC’s aim is to monitor the seasonal movement of these species to better understand how the fishes are utilizing the protected areas, as well as those outside of the reserve, so they can make the best management decisions.

I will attach photos of each species that will be taken from the Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) in my next blog since this one is getting long…

Challenge Your Understanding

Identify this animal.

I took this photo and video on day 1.  We have seen them each day since!

cetaceans jumping

Am I a porpoise, dolphin or vaquita?

The species in my photo/video is part of the Order Cetacea and the suborder Odontoceti (or toothed whales) which includes the porpoises , dolphins, vaquitas, narwhals and killer whales (to name only a few – there are 67 species in this suborder.)

Go to this website to help you find the correct answer


Bonus Points – make a COMMENT and share some information you have found about the VAQUITA.

Cool fact – all members of Odontoceti can echolocate.

Junior Docents – add that to your bat interpretations!

The question from my last post about the relationship between Tucson and the Sea of Cortez could be answered with all of the first four answers.  Glad NO ONE chose the last answer!  The sea is an integral part of our lives no matter how far we live from it.

Cathrine Fox: Issue Fifteen: So you want to be a scientist…

JULY 24 – AUGUST 14, 2011

Mission: Walleye Pollock Survey
Location: Kodiak, Alaska
Date: October 20, 2011

Personal Log:
Perhaps you are sitting at your desk right now, contemplating finishing work that you probably should be doing, or putting the last touches on a college application, or wondering if anyone brought any treats to share that are sitting in the lounge waiting your attention. Maybe it is late at night, and you are wishing that your work tomorrow was just a little more exciting.

Winslow Homer, Breezing Up.  National Gallery of Art.

Winslow Homer, Breezing Up. National Gallery of Art.

What if your work tomorrow looked like this? Why not choose a life at sea instead? Think of this: thousands before you have gone off to sea… …and while it isn’t as romantic as it once was with pirate attacks and years away from home, it is now a lot more comfortable. Perhaps you have always dreamed of becoming a commanding officer of a ship, or a boatswain, or an engineer… How does one do it? How do you get to live, work, and learn through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration? Look no further friends, I have just the right reading material to get you started: So you want to be a scientist? (Cartoon citations 1, 2 and 3).

Of particular interest to me (not surprisingly) are the opportunities for science research and exploration. I was captivated by Dr. Edith Widder’s research about bioluminscence, interested in the 2004 Titanic Expedition, and humbled by the wealth of knowledge presented in interviews with people from a variety of ocean careers.

Adventures in a Blue World, Issue 15

Adventures in a Blue World, Issue 15

Until our next adventure,

Kodiak Harbor

Kodiak Harbor

Measuring Walleye Pollock.

Measuring Walleye Pollock.

Dawn on the Dyson

Dawn on the Dyson

Bobble-heads on the Bridge.

Bobble-heads on the Bridge.

Insert your photo here: Life at Sea!

Insert your photo here: Life at Sea!

Caitlin Fine: Chemistry Is All Around Us, August 4, 2011

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Caitlin Fine
Aboard University of Miami Ship R/V Walton Smith
August 2 – 6, 2011

Mission: South Florida Bimonthly Regional Survey
Geographical Area: South Florida Coast and Gulf of Mexico
Date: August 4, 2011

Weather Data from the Bridge
Time: 10:32pm
Air Temperature: 30°C
Water Temperature: 30.8°C
Wind Direction: Southeast
Wind Speed:  7.7knots
Seawave Height: calm
Visibility: good/unlimited
Clouds: clear
Barometer: 1012 nb
Relative Humidity: 65%

Science and Technology Log

As I said yesterday, the oceanographic work on the boat basically falls into three categories: physical, chemical and biological. Today I will talk a bit more about the chemistry component of the work on the R/V Walton Smith. The information that the scientists are gathering from the ocean water is related to everything that we learn in science at Key – water, weather, ecosystems, habitats, the age of the water on Earth, erosion, pollution, etc.

First of all, we are using a CTD (a special oceanographic instrument) to measure salinity, temperature, light, chlorophyll, and depth of the water. The instrument on this boat is very large (it weights about 1,000 lbs!) so we use a hydraulic system to raise it, place it in the water, and lower it down into the water.


Lindsey takes a CO2 sample from the CTD

The CTD is surrounded by special niskin bottles that we can close at different depths in the water in order to get a pure sample of water from different specific depths. Nelson usually closes several bottles at the bottom of the ocean and at the surface and sometimes he closes others in the middle of the ocean if he is interested in getting specific information. For each layer, he closes at least 2 bottles in case one of them does not work properly. The Capitan lowers the CTD from a control booth on 01deck (the top deck of the boat), and two people wearing a hard hat and a life vest have to help guide the CTD into and out of the water. Safety first!

Once the CTD is back on the boat, the chemistry team (on the day shift, Lindsey and I are the chemistry team!) fills plastic bottles with water from each depth and takes them to the wet lab for processing. Throughout the entire process, it is very important to keep good records of the longitude and latitude, station #, depth of each sample, time, etc, and most importantly, which sample corresponds to which depth and station.

We are taking samples for 6 different types of analyses on this cruise: nutrient analysis, chlorophyll analysis, carbon analysis, microbiology analysis, water mass tracers analysis and CDOM analysis.

The nutrient analysis is to understand how much of each nutrient is in the water. This tells us about the availability of nutrients for phytoplankton. Phytoplankton need water, CO2, light and nutrients in order to live. The more nutrients there are in the water, the more phytoplankton can live in the water. This is important, because as I wrote yesterday – phytoplankton are the base of the food chain – they turn the sun’s energy into food.


Sampling dissolved inorganic carbon

That said, too many nutrients can cause a sudden rise in phytoplankton. If this occurs, two things can happen: one is called a harmful algal bloom.  Too much phytoplankton (algae) can release toxins into the water, harming fish and shellfish, and sometimes humans who are swimming when this occurs.  Another consequence is that this large amount of plankton die and fall to the seafloor where bacteria decompose the dead phytoplankton.  Bacteria need oxygen to survive so they use up all of the available oxygen in the water. Lack of oxygen causes the fish and other animals to either die or move to a different area. The zone then becomes a “dead zone” that cannot support life. There is a very large dead zone at the mouth of the Mississippi River. So we want to find a good balance of nutrients – not too many and not too few.

The chlorophyll analysis serves a similar purpose. In the wet lab, we filter the phytoplankton onto a filter.


I am running a chlorophyll analysis of one of the water samples

Each phytoplankton has chloroplasts that contain chlorophyll. Do you remember from 4th grade science that plants use chlorophyll in order to undergo photosynthesis to make their own food? If scientists know the amount of chlorophyll in the ocean, they can estimate the amount of phytoplankton in the ocean.

Carbon can be found in the form of carbon dioxide (CO2) or in the cells of organisms. Do you remember from 2nd and 4th grade science that plants use CO2 in order to grow? Phytoplankton also need CO2 in order to grow. The carbon dioxide analysis is useful because it tells us the amount of CO2 in the ocean so we can understand if there is enough CO2 to support phytoplankton, algae and other plant life. The carbon analysis can tell us about the carbon cycle – the circulation of CO2 between the ocean and the air and this has an impact on climate change.

The microbiology analysis looks for DNA (the building-blocks of all living organisms – kind of like a recipe or a blueprint). All living things are created with different patterns or codes of DNA. This analysis tells us whose DNA is present in the ocean water – which specific types of fish, bacteria, zooplankton, etc.

The water mass tracers analysis (on this boat we are testing N15 – an isotope of Nitrogen, and also Tritium – a radioactive isotope of Hydrogen) helps scientists understand where the water here came from. These analyses will help us verify if the Mississippi River water is running through the Florida Coast right now. From a global viewpoint, this type of test is important because it helps us understand about the circulation of ocean water around the world. If the ocean water drastically changes its current “conveyor belt” circulation patterns, there could be real impact on the global climate. (Remember from 2nd and 3rd grade that the water cycle and oceans control the climate of Earth.) For example, Europe could become a lot colder and parts of the United States could become much hotter.

This is an image of the conveyor belt movement of ocean currents

The last type of analysis we prepared for was the CDOM (colored dissolved organic matter) analysis. This is important because like the water mass tracers, it tells us where this water came from. For example, did the water come from the Caribbean Sea, or did it come from freshwater rivers?

I am coming to understand that the main mission of this NOAA bimonthly survey cruise on the R/V Walton Smith is to monitor the waters of the Florida Coast and Florida Bay for changes in water chemistry. The Florida Bay has been receiving less fresh water runoff from the Everglades because many new housing developments have been built and fresh water is being sent along pipes to peoples’ houses. Because of this, the salinity of the Bay is getting higher and sea grass, fish, and other organisms are dying or leaving because they cannot live in such salty water. The Bay is very important for the marine ecosystem here because it provides a safe place for small fish and sea turtles to have babies and grow-up before heading out to the open ocean.

Personal Log

This cruise has provided me great opportunities to see real science in action. It really reinforces everything I tell my students about being a scientist: teamwork, flexibility, patience, listening and critical thinking skills are all very important. It is also important to always keep your lab space clean and organized. It is important to keep accurate records of everything that you do on the correct data sheet. It can be easy to get excited about a fish or algae discovery and forget to keep a record of it, but that is not practicing good science.

It is important to keep organized records

It is also important to stay safe – every time we are outside on the deck with the safety lines down, we must wear a life vest and if we are working with something that is overhead, we must wear a helmet.

I have been interviewing the scientists and crew aboard the ship and I cannot wait to return to Arlington and begin to edit the video clips. I really want to help my students understand the variety of science/engineering and technology jobs and skills that are related to marine science, oceanography, and ships. I have also been capturing videos of the ship and scientists in action so students can take a virtual fieldtrip on the R/V Walton Smith. I have been taking so many photos and videos, that the scientists and crew almost run away from me when they see me pick up my cameras!

Captain Shawn Lake mans the winch

The food continues to be wonderful, the sunsets spectacular, and my fellow shipmates entertaining. Tomorrow I hope to see dolphins swimming alongside the ship at sunrise! I will keep you posted!!

Did you know?

The scientists and crew are working 12-hour shifts. I am lucky to have the “day shift” which is from 8am to 8pm. But some unlucky people are working the “night shift” from 8pm to 8am. They wake-up just as the sun is setting and go to sleep right when it rises again.

Animals seen today…

zooplankton under the dissecting microscope

–       Many jellyfish

–       Two small crabs

–       Lots of plankton

A sampling of zooplankton

–       Flying fish flying across the ocean at sunset

–       A very small larval sportfish (some sort of bluerunner or jack fish)

Some moon jellyfish that we collected in the tow net

Jacob Tanenbaum, October 16, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jacob Tanenbaum
Onboard NOAA Ship Henry Bigelow
October 5 – 16, 2008

Mission: Survey
Geographic Region: Northeast U.S.
Date: October 16, 2008



Science Log

This bird came by for a visit. I think is a type of hawk or a falcon. Can anyone identify it for me? We have been trying but can’t seem to figure out what kid of hawk this is. In any case, it stopped by and perched on the bow just out of the blue when we were about 80 miles from shore. I wonder how it got here? Was it blown out to sea by a storm? Did it follow a ship looking for food? Is it lost? I hope it finds its way back.

It was foggy during the early morning and the ship had to blow its fog horn. I found out that ships use a code when they sail. One long blast means we are steaming ahead. One long and two short blasts means we have equipment such as nets in the water and cannot manuver as quickly. Listen by clicking here.

We found more spoon armed octopi. Can you see that one of the arms has a little spoon like object at the end? The male has an arm shaped like a spoon. Can you see it in this picture?



This baby skate has a yolk sack still attached to it. The baby uses the yolk as food while it grows. Usually this happens in the skate case. I wonder what happened with this little guy.

This baby skate has a yolk sack still attached to it. The baby uses the yolk as food while it grows. Usually this happens in the skate case. I wonder what happened with this little guy.

This is a red gold-bordered sea star. Isn't it amazing how many different kinds of sea stars there are in the ocean!

This is a red gold-bordered sea star. Isn’t it amazing how many different kinds of sea stars there are in the ocean!

This is a red gold-bordered sea star. Isn't it amazing how many different kinds of sea stars there are in the ocean!

This is a red gold-bordered sea star. Isn’t it amazing how many different kinds of sea stars there are in the ocean!

This is a shrimp close up. Can you guess what the blue mass is under her back end? Post your answers to the blog.

This is a shrimp close up. Can you guess what the blue mass is under her back end? Post your answers to the blog.

A sea anemone. This opens up and tenticles appear. They wave their tenticles in the water to collect food. When fish like Nemo, the clown fish, go into a sea anomone, it will sting the fish, so the clown fish backs in which helps it tolerate the sting.

Sea anemone

Sea anemone

Here is an interesting story: We were approaching a station where we were expecting to take a sample from the water with our nets. Do you see the note in the chart that says “Unexploded Ordinance?” (you can click on the chart to make it bigger). that means there are bombs from an old ship that may still be active! We decided to move our trawl to a nearby area. When we did, look what came up in the nets! Part of an old ship! The coordinates are Latitude: 42°27’23.65″N and Longitude: 68°51’59.12″E. Here is that location on Google Earth. What could have happened way out here? CLE students, tell me the story of that wreck. Be creative. Please print them out and leave them for me on Monday. Make them fun to read. I am bringing back what came up in the net for you to see. When I get back, we will see if we can do some research and find out what really happened!

Now lets meet Phil Politis, our Chief Scientist on board the Bigelow. I asked him to tell us about his job. Here is what he said:

chart2-740911The main job of a chief scientists is to meet the goals and objectives of the the scientific mission. In our case, that is, to pair up with the ship Albatross in as many stations as possible, following their route. My day to day job is to coordinate with the officers, and crew, setting the nets properly, make sure that the samples are processed properly and solving problems as they arise. Say we have an issue with the nets. It is the chief scientists job to decide what to do next. I can accept the tow, code it as a problem, or re-do the tow. I have to look at each issue individually. If we tear on the bottom, will it happen again? Is there time to re-tow? I also coordinate with the other vessel.

My title is fisheries biologist, but I am a specialist in the nets. My background is in trawl standardization. We have to ensure that our nets are constructed, maintained and that we fish same way each time. Small changes in nets can effect how the nets fish and that effects the study. That way we can compare this years catch to next years catch. Remember, this study is called a time series. Over time, you can see changes to fish population. The only way you can trust those numbers is if the nets are the same each time we put them in the water year after year, tow after tow. We have to document what we are doing now so that in the future, people know how and what we were doing. This way the time series remains standard. We have to standardize materials the nets are made of, way they are repaired. We inspect the nets each time we come on here. We train the deck crews in the maintenance and repair of our nets.


IMG_6818-772778In answer to many of your questions, I will be back to SOCSD on Monday. I’ll be in WOS on Monday and CLE on Tuesday. See you then.

Mrs. Christie-Blick’s Class:

You asked some AMAZING questions. I’m so proud of you guys. Drl Kunkel was impressed as well. Here is what He told me:

You asked: What is your proof that these lobster shells are softer than other lobster shells? How do you measure hardness:

We have an engineering department at U Mass and one of the projects they have to do to become materials engineers is to test for hardness and they do an indentation test. Another way is to shoot x rays at shell and we can tell how hard it is by how the x rays scatter.

You asked: What is causing the harmful bacteria in the water?

We don’t know if they are harmful bacteria. My theory is that it could be the same normal bacteria that are on the backs of healthy lobsters. We think it is the weakness in the new lobster shells because of environmental influences south of Cape Cod that causes the trouble.

You asked: Can you get rid of the harmful bacteria?

It is possible to reverse the environmental conditions that have been created by us or by mother nature.

You are right about these sources of pollution. Good thinking. And yes, Dr. Kunkel believes that one or more of these factors may be hurting the lobsters. The problem area is south of Cape Cod. Look on a map today and count the number of cities between New York and Boston. Is this an area with a lot of people and pollution or is this an area that is sparsely populated?How would you expect this area to compare to areas where the lobster population is healthier off of Maine and Nova Scotia? Do the problem areas for the lobster and the pollution occur in the same area? If they match, scientists say there is a correlation between the two and they wonder if one is causing the other. What do you think?

Hag fish did gross me out a little. Interestingly, there is no way to determine the age of this fish as there are with others, so I’m not sure we can even tell you how long they live.

Several of you asked about the red dots on the lobster. They are a disease. It is called shell disease.

The lobster on the right is healthy. I just love this picture so I thought I would share it.

SR, the water temperature is about 16 degrees C last time I checked.

MF, nice to meet you. It is really cool to be a Teacher At Sea.

DTR, my favorite thing about this trip is working with you guys from the middle of the ocean.

MR, Snuggy and Zee are having loads of fun touring the ship.

CF: I will try to count the teeth of a fish and tell you what I find. Sometimes they are hard to see. I do not know if I am going back next year, but I hope so. I like being at sea. The truth is, I like being on land too. Both are nice. Thanks for writing.

BS: No, we find mostly adults, but some babies. Many creatures are small as adults.

BV: We have seen lots of jellyfish. We had so many we had to hose down the lab at the end of our session the other day. They were everywhere.

GS: We will continue to take samples here.

TL and Many Others asked how long we put the cups down for: We put the cups down for about 15 minutes. That includes the time it takes to lower the CTD to the bottom. When it gets to the bottom, it comes right back up. Thanks all for writing.

AS: Right you are!

Good job calculating all those who got 984 feet!

MM, I love the adventures I’m having here and the people I am meeting. It has been fun. I like being on land too.

JS, Dr. Kunkel took samples from some lobsters so he could help cure the disease.

KF: Could the hag fish bit us? Yes, Mel Underwood, our Watch Chief was very careful as she held the bag and backed her hands up when the fish got close to her hands. Mel is very experienced working with sea life and I have never seen her back off the way she did with this thing.

HRF: Go for it! It is a cool job!

CF: Good question. No, your bones are a lot stronger than styrofoam, so you would have to go down many miles to hurt yourself, and you could not swim that far without gear. When divers get hurt from pressure changes, it is usually something different called the bends. This happens when you are swim up to fast and certain gases in your blood stream expand as the pressure increases and form bubbles that can hurt you. Divers have to swim up slowly (the usual rule is don’t go up faster than the air bubbles next to you) in order to avoid getting the bends.

DC: Good questions: The dots are not bacteria on the lobster, they are the result of the bacteria eating away parts of the shell. The actual bacteria are too small to see. Good question about he temperature relating to growth. It is a bit more complex than that. There are many factors at work. The factor that may be causing more bacteria are chemicals like fertilizers from land getting into the water.

Dr. Kunkel came on board to study lobsters. He is a biologist, not a medical doctor. There are many scientists on board working with us, and me with them.

The quadrent is an old invention. People have been able to find their way with the stars for thousands of years. It is an ancient art. It was fun to practice it here.

SF, VF and others: The fish stayed in the bag. We made sure of that. From the bag, we put it back in the sea.

SD, sorry, I can’t help you there. I don’t think a pet skate would survive the trip back to NY.

Several of you have asked if I have gotten sick. No, I have not.

How many lobsters have we caught so far? Lots!

SS, sleeping on a boat if fun. If the waves are small, they rock you to sleep. If they are huge, however, they throw you out of bed!’

CP: bacteria infect the shells of the lobsters. This destroys the protection that the lobster should have. They grow weak and die of other causes. Good question!

Why do we work at night? Because ships work 24 hours a day so that no time is wasted. I ended up on the night shift. Why do we wear suits? To stay warm and dry on deck.

The hagfish eat shrimp and small fish, though they are scavengers and can eat large creatures as well.

Mrs. Christie Blick’s Class, you guys are doing some great work. I check on the skates for you. Some skates have protection, like thorns or spikes. They also have some interesting fins that look almost like feet. They use these to “walk” along the bottom searching for food. I know you asked about skates, but I have to mention the ray I worked with yesterday. It is related to the skate and could shock with an electrical charge for both protection and for hunting prey. Cool!

Jillian Worssam, July 13, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jillian Worssam
Onboard U.S. Coast Guard Vessel Healy
July 1 – 30, 2008

Mission: Bering Sea Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Bering Sea, Alaska
Date: July 12, 2008

Science Log

First there is the disclaimer, then the alarm rings indicating a general emergency.  The Crew jumps to action and the science personnel report to their designated standby stations.

I was very lucky when DCC (Damage Control Chief) George Marsden said that I could observe today’s training.   Three teams were involved in this specific drill: Medical, Damage Control and Engineering with approximately 10 people per team observing the actions of the crew as they responded to the reported emergency scenario.

It is very important to prepare for any drill scenario, and make sure it doesn't turn into an actual casualty.

It is very important to prepare for any drill scenario, and make sure it doesn’t turn into an actual casualty.

Our situation is a fire in the number two boiler room with a collateral injury, a crew member with a broken arm.  Prior to the drill all training personnel met to discuss the risk assessment and make sure all safeties were in place so that an actual casualty would not occur.    The crew knows that a drill is impending, they just don’t know the specific details of this drill.  The DCC and I first traveled to the CO2 room to discuss the situation with Chief Kidd who was responsible for simulating the release of the CO2 into the Boiler room compartment.

Making sure that the release of the CO2 system is only a simulation.

Making sure that the release of the CO2 system is only a simulation.

The set up prior to the drill was that a hot work chit (notice) was placed in the engineering control center that hot work was being done in Boiler Room two.  This notice set the stage for DCC Marsden who then began to set up his props for the drill, a smoke machine, identifying flags and a strobe light.  All vital components in alerting the crew as to exactly what casualty they were responding to.

Finally the black smoke flag was placed in front of a shipboard closed circuit camera system and we were off.  Bells and whistles, crew doing exactly as they were trained and I an active observer with a  camera!

Just one of the props used in training scenarios. This flag indicates black smoke.

Just one of the props used in training scenarios. This flag indicates black smoke.

Here are the steps to extinguishing a fire in number two boiler room.   Shut off ventilation TOW first responder CO2 released Investigators set up for fire suppression team.

Similar to an initial response team, specialists work to ensure safety

Similar to an initial response team, specialists work to ensure safety

Simultaneously on the vessel, boundary compartments are checked, water tight doors closed and ALL personnel are accounted for. Once the CO2 has been activated the fire suppression team waited fifteen minutes before entering the space, and checked the door for heat.  AFFF (Aqueous Film Forming Foam) was also discharged .

Once the all clear was issued for entering the space in went the fire suppression team, with DCC Marsden and me right on their heals.  I was amazed at how effective the smoke machine was, there was literally no visibility.  DC2 Petty Officer Redd had a thermal imaging camera which was used as soon as they entered the space.

Using the thermal imaging camera helps the crew members know more about the intensity of the fire.

Using the thermal imaging camera helps the crew members know more about the intensity of the fire.

Had this been an actual fire it would have taken the crew up to a day and a half to clear the space as safe.  And I was fascinated to learn that in an enclosed space at around 1800° degrees a fire can actually do structural damage, which  to me is terrifying.  And so I say again, thank goodness the crew is trained and maintains these types of training drills so that if a casualty similar to this did occur, we would no doubt be in good hands!

I would say that the smoke machine was pretty effective.

I would say that the smoke machine was pretty effective.

**Photo of the Day:*

Thermal imaging!

Quote of the Day: Man is whole when he is in tune with the winds, the stars, and the hills…Being in tune with the universe is the entire secret. -Justice William O. Douglas

FOR MY STUDENTS: Have you ever thought of a career in the U.S. Coast Guard?

Jillian Worssam, July 12, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jillian Worssam
Onboard U.S. Coast Guard Vessel Healy
July 1 – 30, 2008

Mission: Bering Sea Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Bering Sea, Alaska
Date: July 12, 2008

Science Log

Yesterday I watched the deployment of the “Spider C40” a bottom mounted instrument mooring.  Today I will spend some time with Jimmy Johnson as he builds a new mooring, from scratch, right here on the HEALY.

The parts

Jimmy is building a subsurface mooring, but this one is barely subsurface, designed to float about 10 meters below the surface.  But wait a minute, I think I need to back up a bit.  Check out this drawing, the potion of the mooring Jimmy is building is at the tippy top.
BEST N55-08

This is the BEST (Bering Ecosystem STudy) mooring to be deployed on the northwest side of Nunivak Island.

The entire length of this mooring is over 55 meters.  But for our build a mooring experience we are only focusing on the top component of the mooring, which lies at the 10 meter mark.

Jimmy’s mooring has an ISCat, Inductive Sacrificial microCat, phew… This piece of equipment is designed for shallower depths, and works like a CTD, collecting information on the Conductivity of the water, Temperature, and Depth.  This microCat is an inductive device, it uses sea water to complete a circuit (similar to a potato clock) to send the data it collects to the ISCAT logger found 11 meters lower.  So what does all this mean?  If seas get rough, the mooring caught in fishermen’s nets, or the ice gets too thick, Jimmy’s sacrificial mooring has a 600 lb weak link that will snap and sacrifice his creation.  But there is no need to worry, all the data the device already collected has been sent to the logger at the end of the cable, safe from the unpredictable conditions close to surface.  Thanks to this great design scientists are able to sample areas previously un-sampleable do to the conditions I already mentioned.


The final product, you can’t see the microcat, it is on the other side.

If you look carefully at the design for this mooring you will see that it includes a:    -Flurometer:  which measures chlorophyll (primary productivity organism) concentrations. -MicroCats (3):  This measures conductivity, temperature and depth. -HOBO sensors:  Temperature sensor to look at the water column and temperature changes. -ADCP:  An Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler sends out a frequency, gets a return signal that has bounced off small animals and or particles that FLOAT/MOVE with the current (not swim) which can give them the speed and direction of the current.

Can you find the microCat?

A scientific work station is a sacred place, there is even a HOBO in here.

Wow, I think my brain is tired, it took a while to understand the concept of the mooring, and then to transcribe was a challenge.  Needless to say these amazing oceanic devices collect valuable data. These records are then used in scientific research papers to better explain and understand the Bering Sea Ecosystem Study, thus BEST!

The nuts and bolts of any operation!

If you need it, Jimmy has it, all the hardware to make a mooring.

**Photo of the Day:*

Waiting to retrieve!

It was a little chilly yesterday as Chief Rieg and MST3 Kruger patiently waited in the cold for the signal to retrieve.

Saying of the Day:  “Rummage Sale” From the original French, Arrimage, a rummage sale historically was when damaged cargo that could not be delivered was sold at cost, or discounted.  As a source of great discounts, the present day rummage sale was originally nautical.  I wonder if Jimmy ever needed a rummage sale while making a mooring aboard a sea going vessel?

FOR MY STUDENTS:  Can you make up a list of the equipment we will need to make our mooring?   I need to add a post script…The deployment of a mooring is not the most thrilling science I have seen on board.  A lot of work, and then, well it is gone.  There is though one part that is a hoot, which I really love.  When the quick release is activated and the 800 lb train wheel plummets to the sea floor, the floats shoot across the surface before they are pulled under.  It is great and reminds me of the movie Jaws!

Jillian Worssam, July 11, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jillian Worssam
Onboard U.S. Coast Guard Vessel Healy
July 1 – 30, 2008

Mission: Bering Sea Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Bering Sea, Alaska
Date: July 11, 2008

Meet Kevin, Jimmy, John and Dave, all ready for mooring action on the Bering Sea!

Meet Kevin, Jimmy, John and Dave, all ready for mooring action on the Bering Sea!

Science Log

They are the men of the back deck, working diligently to prepare and then release their moorings in depth determined locations, where they will settle (literally) for a year.  These unsung heroes are the mooring men!

For the past week I have been observing a lot of scientific research and much has been based on living critters, but there is so much more occurring on the HEALY this summer.  Under the guidance of Tom Weingartner, the mooring men have been working diligently to not only construct, but then release their moorings which will stay here in the Bering, collect data and then be retrieved, next year!

With various forms of sampling equipment the Spider C40

With various forms of sampling equipment the Spider C40

So what then is a mooring, well this specific example is a bottom mounted instrument, or “Spider C40.” You will notice that the “Spider” is chock full of sampling equipment, there is an: acoustic Doppler current profiler, flurometer, Sea Cat, and transmissometer.  Each one of these instruments is designed to collect specific data, which will be saved then interpreted next year.

The “spider” commonly referred to as Helen, is the second of three instruments being placed on what is known as the central ray to the south of Nunivak Island.  There are three ” mooring rays,” central, southern and northern,  and placed on each will be a series of three mooring. At this time Tom is working on a three year NSF grant. What exactly is Tom learning from this data, well check in tomorrow for a more in-depth look at what scientists learn from moorings? I would though like to go into a bit of detail on the deployment of a “spider” to the bottom of the Bering.

This Spider was deployed in 25 meters of water.  Its objective to sit firmly on the bottom.

AS the winch raises the instrument array, the scientists and MST team work in tandem to make sure everyone is safe and the deployment successful.

AS the winch raises the instrument array, the scientists and MST team work in tandem to make sure everyone is safe and the deployment successful.

Not only is this mooring going to the bottom, but it has two acoustic release mechanisms, one to be used in a year to bring the entire mooring back to the surface, and the other to be used, right now.  For a controlled fall, the spider is securely placed on the sea floor by the MST team using a 3/8inch winch wire. Kevin will then send a 12 kilohertz signal telling the second release mechanism to let go.

Kevin is setting up the electronics equipment necessary to release the mooring after placement on the sea floor.

Kevin is setting up the electronics equipment necessary to release the mooring after placement on the sea floor.

Once the signal is sent to the acoustic release, the line to the ship is let loose, and then a GPS bearing taken so that in a year the scientists will be able to retrieve the mooring and all the wonderful data it has collected.

Check in tomorrow for a continuation with the mooring men and the science behind why they are setting these moorings, and what they will do with the data.  We will also look at the actual construction of a mooring onboard.

Using the GPS to get an accurate location so that the team can come back for a pinpoint retrieval.

Using the GPS to get an accurate location so that the team can come back for a pinpoint retrieval.

Quote of the Day:  What is life?  It is the flash of a firefly in the night.  It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime.  It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and looses itself in the sunset. -Crowfoot

FOR MY STUDENTS:  Do you think we could construct a simple mooring to record data from the pond?

Those mooring men are working him to exhaustion! Thank goodness for the excellent food on board!

Those mooring men are working him to exhaustion! Thank goodness for the excellent food on board!