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

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Kimberly Godfrey

Aboard NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker

May 31 – June 11, 2018

Mission: Rockfish Recruitment and Ecosystem Assessment Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Pacific Ocean along the California Coast

Date: June 5, 2018

Data from the Bridge

Latitude: 33º 42.135 N

Longitude: 119º 15.440 W

Sea Wave Height: 1-2 feet

Wind Direction: 125.98º (Southeasterly Winds)

Air Temperature: 17.35º C

Sky: Cloudy

Science and Technology Log

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

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

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

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

What are the responsibilities of the Survey Technician?

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

Continuous Files
This is the continuous system that records conditions in the water, such as conductivity, temperature, and more. This is done every 30 seconds.
Snap Shot
This component tracks each individual step of any activity we do on the ship during a survey.

Why did you apply to work for NOAA?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are your hobbies?

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

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

Personal Log

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

Sea lions
The Pier 39 Sea Lions
Coit Tower
Coit Tower

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

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

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



Barney Peterson, August 16, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Barney Peterson
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier
August 12 – September 1, 2006

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: Shumagin Islands, Alaska
Date: August 16, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: 12 nautical miles (nm)
Wind direction: 234˚
Wind speed: 0 – 3 knots
Sea wave height: 1’
Seawater temperature: 11.7˚C
Sea level pressure: 1011.8 mb
Cloud cover: 8/8 Height: 2000 -3000’ Type: Stratus

My first view of the NOAA ship RAINIER at the dock in Seward, AK.
My first view of the NOAA ship RAINIER at the dock in Seward, AK.

Science and Technology Log 

Yesterday I spent time in the Plot Room learning about the technology used to survey the surface of the earth underneath the ocean (bathymetry).  For each survey the computers must  have accurate, real-time information about the behavior of the ship on the sea surface (pitch, roll, speed) because all of this can affect the accuracy of sonar readings.  The sonar (sound waves) is beamed from the bottom of the survey vessel and spreads out in a cone shape to the undersea surface. Bottom features that stick up closer to the sea surface reflect sonar waves and return echoes sooner so they show up as more shallow spots.  Echoes from deeper places take longer to return, showing that the bottom is farther away at those places.

The data from each day’s survey is downloaded into computers in the Plot Room.  Survey technicians review the data line by line to be sure it all fits together and to “clean up” any information that is questionable.  They use information about the temperature and conductivity of the water where the survey was taken to understand how fast the sonar waves should be expected to travel. (This information is critical for accuracy and is collected every 4 to 6 hours by a device called the CTD.  The CTD is lowered from the ship and takes readings at specified depths on its way down through the water.)

Ensign Megan McGovern and crew partner in full firefighting bunker gear for our first Fire/Emergency Drill.
Ensign Megan McGovern and crew partner in full firefighting bunker gear for our first Fire/Emergency Drill.

When survey work is in deep water, it is done from the ship using equipment that can cover a wider area in less detail.  The launches are used for shallow water work where it is more important to navigation to have finer detail information on water depths and underwater features of the earth surface. Bonnie Johnston, a survey technician, spent about an hour explaining how the system works and showing me how they clean up data before it is sent off for the next stage of review, on its way to becoming part of a navigational chart.  Computers used have two screens so survey technicians can see a whole survey line of data and look closely at information on tiny spots at the same time without losing their place on the big screen.  This helps to judge whether changes of depth are accurate according to trends on the sea bottom, or spikes that show an error in the echoes received by the sonar. The software also allows them to see data as 2-D, 3-D, color models, and to layer information to give more complete pictures.

Tomorrow we are scheduled to begin our actual survey work in the Shumagin Islands.  In between making new surveys the technicians are kept very busy working with the data they have on hand. There are many steps to go through to insure accuracy before data is ready to use for charts.

This is the 4.5 foot dogfish shark caught by a crewmember.  This shark has no teeth even though it looked ferocious.  released it after taking pictures.
This is the 4.5 foot dogfish shark caught by a crewmember. This shark has no teeth even though it looked ferocious. released it after taking pictures.

Personal Log 

My first two days aboard the RAINIER have been a swirl of new faces and places.  The only name I knew for sure before I arrived was Lt. Ben Evans who had exchanged email with me about the gear I would need. I was met at the Seward RR station by and welcomed onto the ship by Ensign Megan McGovern.  She gave me a quick tour of the ship, including where to put my gear. I felt like a mouse in a maze: up and down steps, around blind corners, and through doorways. It has been much easier so far to find my way than I thought it would be.  Reading books that use nautical terms has helped give me a background to understand port, starboard, fore, aft, head, galley, bridge, fantail, and flying bridge. Now I just need to remember where they all are.

Monday was taken up with a safety briefing, checking out equipment such as my flotation coat, personal flotation device (life jacket) for use in survey boats, hard hat, and immersion suit.  I spent several hours reading Standing Orders that all persons aboard must read before being allowed to stay. I talked with the medical officer, and discovered where to eat and the times meals are served. Tuesday we had a Fire/Emergency Drill at about 1030 (10:30 am) for which I reported as fast as I could to my assigned station on the fantail.  We were checked off on a list and some crew members practiced with fire fighting equipment.

Just as we finished that drill, the Executive Officer called an Abandon Ship Drill.  Everyone rushed to quarters to get immersion suits, hats and any assigned emergency gear before reporting to muster stations.  Again we were checked off and all accounted for before anyone could return to what they were doing before. These drills are an important part of shipboard life. They are required once a week and always within 24 hours of the ship sailing from port.

I am sleeping and eating well.  The food is like camp and so are the bunk beds.  So far I have seen lots of salmon: the stream in Seward was full of migrating Coho (silvers); the sea at Twin Bays was alive with jumping Pinks. Monday night one crew member, fishing from the fantail while we were anchored, caught and released a 4.5’ dogfish (shark).  The next day someone caught an 8 lb. silver.  There are sea lions, otters, gulls, eagles, puffins and dolphins to watch. I hate to close my eyes to sleep because I know I will miss seeing something wonderful.

Question of the Day 

What is the speed of sound through air?  Does sound travel faster or slower through water?

Heather Diaz, July 11, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Heather Diaz
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
July 6 – 15, 2006

Mission: Juvenile Shark Abundance Survey
Geographical Area: U.S. West Coast
Date: July 10, 2006

This is a view of Avalon on Santa Catalina Island, CA.
This is a view of Avalon on Santa Catalina Island, CA.

Science and Technology Log 

They set a swordfish line at around midnight, and we hauled it in around 6am. We caught one blue shark and one pelagic ray. We then set the first shark set at around 8am.  We hauled in the line around noon.  We caught one blue shark and 6 mako sharks, though one of the makos escaped with the gangion, leader, and hook still attached.

After that set, we headed for Santa Catalina Island where we would have liberty ashore.  We were taken over to the port at Avalon by João Alves on the skiff, I went over with Natalie Spear, Karina De La Rosa-Mesa, and Chico Gomez.  Everyone, except those on watch, was allowed to go ashore. Even the CO, Alexandra Von Saunder was able to make a quick visit to Avalon.  Most people shopped and/or had dinner in a restaurant.  A few people even went swimming at the beach!  Everyone had to be back aboard the ship by 11pm.  Karina De La Rosa-Mesa and I went back to the ship with Sean Suk and João Alves on the skiff at 9:45pm.

Personal Log 

Again, sea lions and dolphins were playing nearby today.  I tried to get pictures/video of them, but it doesn’t come out well on tape.  I love watching them…they are so graceful, and they really look like they are having a great time playing!  One sad thing happened today during our sets…one shark got away.  Someone dropped the leader line in the water and he took off. We can only hope that he is able to work the hook out on his own, soon.

Everyone was very excited to be given liberty ashore tonight in Avalon.  There are several people who have had the chance to come to Catalina before, so they are especially looking forward to this excursion. Catalina has changed so much since I was there 25 years ago!  There are many more houses and condos now near the harbor. Though, the town and the touristy areas are pretty much the same.  We enjoyed shopping and walking through the tiny streets.  And, seeing the golf carts everywhere was very amusing.  The Wrigley Mansion, which sits above the harbor is very beautiful, and many of the homes on the hill over the harbor are just fantastic. The moonrise was amazing, as it came over the hill…I think it was a full moon. Everyone in town seemed to be having a great time, and it was nice to be walking on land for a change (though, it did feel like the whole island was still moving with the rolling of the waves, even though I know it wasn’t!). I am looking forward to finding the pictures we took of the island when I was a child to compare them to today…I bet a lot has changed!

Kimberly Pratt, July 16, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kimberly Pratt
Onboard NOAA Ship McArthur II
July 2 – 24, 2005

Mission: Ecosystem Wildlife Survey
Geographical Area: Pacific Northwest
Date: July 16, 2005

Humpback Fluke – white and black
Humpback Fluke – white and black

Weather Data from Bridge

Latitude: 3650.918 N
Longitude: 12159.753 W
Visibility: < 1
Wind Direction: 280
Wind Speed: 3 knots
Sea Wave Height :< 1
Swell Wave Height: 3-4 feet
Sea Level Pressure: 1011.6
Cloud Cover: Foggy/light drizzle
Temperature: 16.7 c

Scientific Log 

Our days lately have been mostly foggy and drizzly, making marine mammal observations very difficult. During the times that observations were made, we’ve seen Humpback Whales, Fin Whales, Harbor Porpoise, a Blue Whale, Pacific White-sided Dolphins, Grampus Dolphins, and Sea Lions.  I’ve attached pictures that show Humpback Whale flukes.  The scientists are using the pictures to ID them.  Yesterday, Fin Whales surfaced approx. 200 meters off our bow and swam with the ship for a little while.

Humpback Fluke – all black
Humpback Fluke – all black

We observed Harbor Porpoise as we entered Monterey Bay. They are a small porpoise and are identified by their small pointy dorsal fin.  Observation of Harbor Porpoise is difficult and you can only get a fleeting glance at their dorsal fins before they are gone.

At first you might mistake Grampus dolphins for Killer Whales by looking at their dorsal, but upon closer inspection you’ll find they have a light body marked by scratches or lines. Two nights ago, we did a Bongo Net drop and were able to collect 7 jars full of krill, plankton and myctophids (small Lantern fish).  This showed that the area was very healthy and full of abundance. As far as birds go, we observed part of the Monterey Bay flock of Sooty Shearwaters numbered at approximately 250,000. Today we picked up Scientist Rich Pagen in Santa Cruz, joining us after being ill and we hope to continue observations as we head back out to sea from Monterey Bay.

Humpback Fluke – barnacle marking
Humpback Fluke – barnacle marking

Personal log

We’ve had quite a bit of down time enabling me to answer e-mail, do logs, and interviews. When we are “on effort” I am on the Flying Bridge helping with data entry, observations and trying to video our sightings. At night I help the Oceanographers, Mindy Kelley and Liz Zele doing the Bongo Net Tows and we are often out until 10:30 or 11:00 pm.  Today, we were close to shore, so we had cell service to call friends and loved ones.   I’m still having a really good time, the whales and dolphins are breathtaking. I envy your hot weather!

Sea Lions
Sea Lions