NOAA Teacher At Sea Sherie Gee Aboard the R/V Hugh R. Sharp June 27 — July 7, 2013
Mission: Sea Scallop Survey Geographical Area of Cruise: Northwest Atlantic Ocean Date: June 29, 2013
Science and Technology Log:
Most of the shifts consisted of sorting out the animals from the dredges and carrying out the process of weighing, measuring and counting. One other component to the process is that on every dredge, five of the scallops are scrubbed, weighed and dissected. Once this is done, gender can be determined since this species of sea scallops have separate sexes. Then each scallop is numbered, labeled, tagged, and bagged. These five sea scallops will be brought back to the lab on land to be analyzed and aged. This is done by counting growth rings on the shell. The part of the scallop that is used as food is not the actual animal but the adductor muscle that is located in the middle of the shell. This is the muscle that can open and close the scallop’s shell. This is the only bivalve to be motile. Often times other organisms find a nice little resting spot inside of the shells of the scallops. This is a form of commensalism where the organism benefits while not harming the host. We saw a small red hake living inside the shell of a dissected sea scallop.
The Atlantic Sea Scallop
After every other dredge, the crew brings out the CTD which is an apparatus that collects conductivity, temperature, and depth. This data enters the database and is used in the labs on shore. We could always tell when they were lowering the CTD because the ship had to come to a complete stop while collecting data. Then they would bring the CTD back in and the ship would resume forward.
The CTD – Conductivity, Temperature and Depth
Did you Know:
The male sea scallop’s gonad is white and the female’s gonad is red. Gonads are reproductive organs.
I learned the secret to gearing up efficiently with the boots and foul weather overalls from Larry. When you are ready to take them off, pull the overall part down toward the boots and leave about an inch of the boots exposed. Then just step out of the boots into regular shoes. I’m glad I brought some slip-on shoes which made things a lot easier. Then when it is time to gear up again, all I had to do was slip back into the boots and pull up the pants and suspenders. We also had to wear rubber work gloves that kept us from cutting ourselves during the dredges.
Boots and Foul Weather Gear
I interviewed our steward, Lee, for one of my requirements by NOAA. I found her to be a very interesting and social person. She is also the cook so she takes on two responsibilities at one time. She has to plan the meals, cook the meals and clean up after the meals. In addition to taking care of all kitchen duties, she also has to clean the heads (bathrooms), vacuum the carpets, clean the staterooms and do the laundry. She had to take some extensive courses on basic safety training for commercial vessels. Her satisfaction to the job is making food that people like and keeping up morale on the ship. She has a designated drawer which serves as a treasure chest of gold only the gold is actually tons of candy. All kinds of candy. She also keeps one big freezer full of ice cream and a refrigerator full of most types of can sodas.
NOAA Teacher AtSea Sherie Gee Aboard R/V Hugh R. Sharp June 26 – July 7
Mission: Sea Scallop Survey Geographical area of Cruise: Northwest Atlantic Ocean Date: June 28, 2013
Science and Technology Log:
Dredging is the other method of collecting the data needed for this research. First, I would like to mention that there are predetermined stations that are collected from. Chief Scientist Nicole explained that a computer selects the stations by random and then she basically connects the dots and sets the course. This way there is no bias in the selection process of the stations and they won’t be used more than once.
Map Showing the Course of Stations
The Dredge and Platform
Spare Dredge on Deck
The crew is in charge of bringing the dredge up after towing for 15 minutes at each station. As soon as the dredge is up on the platform and all of the organisms are lying on the platform, the scientists head out with their rubber work boots, foul weather pants, and life jackets. They grab two orange baskets, some white buckets and a smaller plastic container. Everyone stands at the edge of the platform and starts sorting out the organisms. The pace of sorting is fast and furious as the scientists are quickly placing the organisms in these baskets and buckets. The organisms are sorted out into sea scallops, small skates, fish, and all other organisms. The most abundant organisms on most of the dredges were a species of sea stars called the armored sea star, Astropecten americanus. Some of the other dredges had mostly sand dollars in it. The combination of these animals varied from station to station.
Once all of the organisms are placed into the baskets and buckets, they are then lined up by the wet lab. Here is where everything is counted, weighed, and measured. Larry, our watch chief, is in charge of that process making sure everything is done correctly. The groups of organisms are weighed on scales and entered into the computer with a very remarkable program called FSCS (Fisheries Scientific Computing System). It is an application used by four science centers (NEFSC, NWFSC, AFSC, AND SEFSC) to collect at-sea information on the research vessels that go out. Each sea scallop is measured by placing one side next to a backboard and using a magnetic tool to touch the end of the scallop to the fish board which records the length automatically and entered into the computer. You can tell when the length has been recorded because a ringing sound will go off. Then the next scallop is processed. It usually takes two people during this process; one to measure and one to feed the person measuring more scallops from the baskets.
Fish Board In the Wet Lab
While this is being done with the sea scallops, the fish are measured in the same way. It is a very quick way to get this quantitative data. A sub sample is also taken on each dredge by taking a portion of each basket and compiling it into a smaller container and counted. In these sub-samples I counted Astropecten americanus, crabs, and whelks. The reason for counting these species is to look at the populations of the sea scallop’s predators. This is a very important factor in analyzing the population of a species.
Basket of Skates
Basket of Sea Scallops
Once the entire process has been completed, all specimens are returned to the ocean to resume their niche in their habitat.
Atlantic Sea Scallop, rock crabs, sand dollars, armored sea star, Asterias sea star, four spot flounder, monkfish (goosefish), ocean pout, gulf stream flounder, red hake, yellow-tailed flounder, little skate, waved wake, mermaid purses (skate egg cases), sea mouse, whelks, clams, hermit crabs, American lobster
Did you know:
The sea mouse is actually a polychaete which is a type of marine segmented worm.
Ventral View of a Sea Mouse
Being a part of this science team has had a tremendous impact on me. The scientists prove to be very dedicated to their work, all working for a common goal. I am amazed at the plethora of animals being dredged up in the Atlantic Ocean. Of course I am very partial to the fish brought up on board. I wish I had more time with them to observe them closer and in more detail. The goosefish also called the monkfish is a type of angler fish with an adaptation that looks like a fishing pole and bait. It reminds me of my little frogfish that is also a type of angler fish. I was also excited to find so many skate egg cases also called mermaid purses. They were empty which meant that the skates had already hatched.
NOAA Teacher At Sea Sherie Gee Aboard R/V Hugh R. Sharp June 26 — July 7
Mission: Sea Scallop Survey Geographical Area of Cruise: Northwest Atlantic Ocean Date: June 27, 2013
Weather Data from the Bridge: Latitude: 40 23:09 N
Longitude: 072:34.42 W
Relative Wind Speed: 11.4 Knots
Air Temperature: 23:50 degrees C
Surface Seawater Temperature: 21.8354 degrees C
Surface-Sea water salinity: 31.1071 PSU
Science and Technology Log:
Two methods were used by these scientists to determine population numbers and trends. They can use the HabCam which stands for Habitat Mapping Camera System which takes pictures of the organisms on the bottom of the seafloor and they can use the dredge to collect specimens off the bottom of the seafloor to physically count. We started out using the Habcam which is a towed vehicle that has to be carefully lowered into the ocean by the skilled crew members. Since it is a towed vehicle, it must use a fiberoptic, winch-controlled wire to tow HabCam, and it is this wire that we pay in and out via the remote control winch box at the pilot station. It is very similar to the video games that I have seen the students play. The HabCam takes six pictures per second of the organisms on the ocean floor. The scientists can see these organisms being photographed on the computers. One computer is used to monitor the organisms and tabulate the number of several species. In the beginning, we counted scallops, fish, and convict worms. Then later we counted fish, skates and convict worms. On another computer, a scientist controls the HabCam with a remote control joy stick. The screen shows the bottom contours which is actually a side-scan sonar which pings out 50 meters to the left and right of the vehicle. The joy stick controlled the wire cable that the HabCam was hooked to. That is what raised and lowered the HabCam. Both shifts monitored and controlled the HabCam for about twenty hours and a total of 126 miles. I will describe and discuss the dredging process on the next blog.
The HabCam on Deck
Chad Flying the HabCam
Sara identifying and tabulating sea scallops, skates and convict worms
Brittle stars and a blenny on the seafloor
Organisms Seen: sea scallops
skates various fish
Did You Know:
One nautical mile (nm) is equal to 1.2 miles.
The amount of data that the HabCam collected was about one terra bite.
I really enjoyed maneuvering the HabCam; I can’t believe they actually trusted me to drive it. I am so impressed at all the technology that is involved in this type of research. I also enjoyed tabulating and identifying the various organisms on the floor. It goes by very quickly so you have to keep your eyes on the screen at all times or you will miss collecting the data.
Well, twelve hours has a new meaning for me. The time working actually went by fairly quickly but the sleeping twelve hours went by double time. There really is no down time because a person is either working the twelve hours or sleeping the twelve hours. The only time for some interaction amongst us is when we are in the dry lab waiting to rotate on the computers. I have enjoyed working with these other scientists and our chief scientist Nicole. They are all so knowledgeable, helpful and wonderful. They answered all the questions that I had for them.
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
Friday, June 22, 2012
Weather Data from the Bridge:
Longitude: 068 24.69 West
Latitude: 41.40.50 North
Wind speed: 7.9 kt
Air temp: 18.5 C
Depth: 194.7 feet (32.2 fathoms)
Science and Technology Log:
Our route in George’s Bank
Yesterday was a 12 hour shift of towing the HabCam. The strangely unique thing about that was the terrain. We are on the western edge of Georges Bank and the sand waves on the ocean floor are incredible! There are waves as high as 10 meters that come upon you in a blink of an eye. By observing the side scan sonar it looks very similar to being in a desert, or on the surface of Mars. We refer to driving the HabCam through these areas as piloting the “White knuckle express”.
side scan sonar/sand waves
To get through these areas Scott was able to use geographic images collected by the United States Geological Survey and created an overlay of the pictures onto our tow path, alerting us to any possible hazards in navigation. This data allowed us to anticipate any potential dangers before they arose.
Irritated sea scallop
We continue to see skates, various fishes, lobsters and sand dollars, and in places, huge amounts of scallops. The images will be reviewed back at the lab in Woods Hole, MA. I have been able to see some of them and the clarity is amazing.
Today, we are continuing to tow the HabCam. When finished, we will have taken images from hundreds of nautical miles with over 4 million images taken on Leg II! We will put in the scallop dredge toward the end of my shift. We will then conduct back to back dredge tows on the way back to Woods Hole totaling over 100 nautical miles for this portion of the trip.
Me, heading in to get my foul weather gear on
Yesterday was a beautiful day at sea. It was, however, strange. The sea was really calm and the sun was shining in a big beautiful sky. The strange thing was that about 300 yards out was fog. There were many commercial fishing vessels all around us. It felt like being in an episode of “The Twilight Zone” or some creepy Steven King novel. I am thankful, however, for smooth sailing.
Commercial fishing vessel
A day at sea
The crew continues to be awesome. We had flank steak and baked potatoes for supper last night. Lee, our chef, is amazing. Everything she makes is from scratch and there is always plenty. The only reason someone would go hungry on this ship is if it was by choice. Lee takes very good care of us! I have had ample opportunity to get to know others who share my shift. Mike, Jessica and I are science volunteers. Jon and Nicole are the NOAA staff along with Scott an associate scientist at WHOI( Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute) on the science team. We get along “swimmingly” and have fun banter to break up any monotony.
I am sleeping very well at night. I think it’s the rocking of the ship that lulls me to sleep. I think I will miss that when I get home. Funny, how at the beginning of this journey I was cursing the very waves that now rock me to sleep. The way the body adjusts is amazing.
I will be home in four days. This week has swiftly gone by. Although I miss home, I feel I will miss people from this ship and the experience of being at sea (minus the sickness!) My mind is already putting together science lessons for my biology classes this fall. I do, however, have three full days left on this ship and I plan to make the most of it. Keep checking the blog to find out what happens next on the great adventure in the North Atlantic Ocean!
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 Wednesday, June 20, 2012
Weather Data from the Bridge: Latitude: 41.03.21 North
Longitude: 071 32.79 West
Air temp: 21 C
Wind Speed: 15.6 kt
Depth: 135.2 feet
Science and Technology Log:
I came on shift yesterday at noon with three back to back dredge tows (we have done 30 dredges thus far on Leg II). We are off the coast of Long Island. Most of the dredges around here have been filled with sand dollars and sea stars. In total, we have processed and counted on this leg of the survey 5, 366 scallops, 453 skates, and 58 Goosefish, a very interesting fish that buries itself in the sand and uses a filamentous lure to attract prey and engulf them. In addition, we have counted 132, 056 sea stars (wow!) and 590 crabs. The HabCam had some glitches yesterday but we began running the vehicle on our shift at approximately 1245 hrs. It made a run for approximately three hours and 57 minutes, with approximately 22.387 nautical miles of pictures before we dredged again.
While looking at the images of the HabCam, it astounds me at seeing prior dredge track marks from commercial scallopers and clamers. By looking at the side scan sonar, some of the dredges are very deep and very invasive. It reminds me of strip mining and clear cutting in terrestrial ecosystems. It is also evident, by observing the images, that little is left in those areas but shell hash. With that said, there are still some interesting species that get photographed, such as jelly fish and sea stars in patterns you would think they orchestrated.
We are working our way toward Georges Bank and will be there, from what I’m told, sometime late this afternoon or evening. All equipment is running well and what time we lost with the late departure has mostly been made up. It’s amazing what technology can do!
As of yesterday, I have been away from home with little to no contact for six days, so when I was told yesterday morning prior to coming on shift that we had cell phone signal, I immediately went up on deck and called my husband! Although I only got an answering machine, it was good, and familiar, to hear his voice.
We then had a fire drill at noon and after that, set to work. It was nice to be outside working for the next 4 hours. I think I finally have my sea legs. However, the seas have also been cooperating with only 1-3 foot swells, at best. When they are higher, I sometimes feel like the Scarecrow in “The Wizard of Oz”. It’s a good thing I can laugh at myself when I look completely ridiculous while tripping through a door or, with no warning whatsoever, bump into a wall! From what I understand, this ship has a flatter bottom than most so every wave and swell catches it and tosses it in whatever direction that wave is going, despite having just gone in the opposite direction! I am hoping the sea remains calm when we get to Georges Bank.
I am learning a great deal about the critters that live in the ocean around here. It is so strange to have at times hundreds upon hundreds of sand dollars being pulled up in the dredge at one location and then to have mostly sea stars pulled up at another location. My favorite, however, are the hermit crabs! They are so cool! They will begin to crawl out of their shells, see you coming to pick them up and immediately crawl way back inside and stare at you. I actually think I saw one blink at me. Not really, but my imagination does run away at times.
Those are also the times someone, usually me or the watch chief (chief scientist is guilty of this too!), bursts into song or starts quoting a movie line, and then half the crew is joining in. I have gotten more proficient at using the technology equipment on board that does the recording of the measurements of the specimens, and also at cutting/shucking the scallops. Never thought I would know how to do that! I have a feeling there are a few things I never thought I would do before this cruise is over. I have five more days at sea. Anything is possible!
Side note: Today is beautiful for being at sea! Clear sky, moderate winds, and sea legs that are working!!
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.
scallop dorsal and ventral
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 founder or hake is which.
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.
NOAA Teacher at Sea Alicia Gillean Soon to be aboard R/VHugh R. Sharp June 27 — July 8, 2012
Mission: Sea Scallop Survey Geographical area of cruise: Northwest Atlantic Ocean Date: Sunday, April 29, 2012
Alicia Gillean, 2012 NOAA Teacher at Sea
Hello from Oklahoma! My name is Alicia Gillean and I am ecstatic that I was selected as a 2012 NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association) Teacher at Sea! I am passionate about adventure, lifelong learning, and the ocean. I can’t wait to merge these three passions together for twelve days at sea this summer and to share my learning with all of my students and coworkers back in Oklahoma. I will be blogging about my adventure and learning while aboard the ship and you are invited to follow my journey and get involved by asking questions and posting comments. I’ll start by telling you a little bit about myself, then I’ll fill you in on the details of my Teacher at Sea adventure.
A Bit About Me
When I’m not pursuing adventure on the high seas, I am the school librarian (also known as a library media specialist) at Jenks West Intermediate School, a school of about 600 5th and 6th graders in the Jenks Public Schools District, near Tulsa, Oklahoma. I might be a bit biased, but I believe that I have the best job in the school and that I work with some of the finest teachers and students in the world.
You are probably wondering, “How did a librarian from Oklahoma become part of an ocean research cruise?” I’m glad you asked. It just so happens that this blog entry answers that very question.
I’ll admit it; I was born and raised a landlubber. There just aren’t many opportunities to visit the ocean when you grow up in the Midwest. Rumor has it that I touched the ocean once when I was about 3, but I didn’t touch it again until I was 21. More on that later.
My passion for the ocean began in high school when I took a Marine Biology class where my mind was blown by the diversity and beauty of life in the sea and the complex network of factors that impact the health of an ocean environment. I took Marine Biology 2 and 3 the following years where I set up and maintained aquariums in elementary schools and taught ocean-related lessons for elementary students.
Alicia showing a shark jaw to a three year old at the Oklahoma Aquarium
I started to become a little obsessed with marine life, went to college to become a teacher, and did a happy dance when I learned that an aquarium was going to open in Jenks, Oklahoma. I landed a job as a summer intern in the education department of the Oklahoma Aquarium and was overjoyed to be a part of the team that opened it in 2003. When I graduated from college, the aquarium hired me as an education specialist, where I worked with learners of all ages to promote our mission of “conservation through education” through classes, camps, fishing clinics, sleepovers, animal interactions, crafts… the list goes on and on.
In 2006, I became a 6th grade teacher in Jenks Public Schools, then I earned my Masters degree and became the school librarian in 2010. I love to work with all the kiddos in my school as they learn to develop as thinkers, scientists, and citizens who have the power to impact the world. They are just the kind of advocates that the environment needs and I want to help prepare them for this important role any way possible. My experiences as a Teacher at Sea will certainly help!
Let’s go back to my actual experiences with the ocean for a moment. After graduating from college and marrying my high school sweetheart David, I hightailed it to an ocean as fast as possible. We honeymooned in Hawaii where we snorkeled, explored tidepools, went on a whale watch, and temporarily filled the ocean-shaped void in my heart.
Alicia on a Maui Beach
I’ve been back to the ocean several times and each time I am reminded of the delicate balance that must be maintained for the fascinating world under the waves to survive and thrive. It is critical we protect the oceans and that people realize that their actions impact the oceans. Even in the landlocked state of Oklahoma, our actions matter.
So, that’s why a school librarian from Oklahoma will spend the summer of 2012 on a ship in the Atlantic Ocean, counting sea scallops. I can hardly wait for the adventure to begin! Enough about me, let’s talk about the research cruise now.
Science and Technology Log
I’ll be participating in a sea scallop survey in the Atlantic Ocean, along the northeast coast of the United States, from Delaware to Massachusetts. My adventure at sea will begin June 27, 2012 and end July 8, 2012.
What is a sea scallop?
A sea scallop is an animal that is in the same category as clams, oysters, and mussels. One way that sea scallops are different from other animals with two shells (bivalves) is that a sea scallop can move itself through the water by opening and closing its shells quickly. How do you think this adaptation might help the sea scallop? Watch these videos to see a sea scallop in action:
Importance of Sea Scallops/Sea Scallop Survey
People like to eat scallops, so fishermen drag heavy-duty nets along the ocean floor (called dredging) to collect and sell them. Most of them are harvested in the Atlantic Ocean along the northeastern coast of the United States. The United States sea scallop fishery is very important for the economy.
Map of sea scallop habitats from NOAA’s fishwatch.gov
The problem is that sometimes people can harvest too many scallops and the sea scallops can’t reproduce quickly enough before they are harvested again. Eventually, this could lead to the depletion of the sea scallop population, which would be bad news for the ocean and for people.
This is where the NOAA Sea Scallop Survey comes in. Every year, NOAA sends scientists out in a ship to count the number of Atlantic sea scallops (Placopecten magellanicus) in various parts of their habitat. The sea scallops live in groups called beds on the ocean floor 100-300 feet deep, so scientists can’t just peer into the ocean and count them. Instead, they have to dredge, just like the fisherman, to collect samples of scallops in numerous places. The scientists record data about the number, size, and weight of sea scallops and other animals. Based on the data collected, decisions are made about what areas are okay for people to harvest scallops in and what areas need a break from harvesting for a while. I’m considered a scientist on this cruise, so I’ll get to participate in this for 12 hours a day. I hear it is messy, smelly, tiring, and fascinating. Sounds like my type of adventure! I think most good science is messy, don’t you?
I’ll be sailing on the research vessel Hugh R Sharp. You can take a virtual tour of the ship here. It was built in 2006, is 146 feet long (a little bit shorter than the width of a football field), and is used for lots of different scientific research expeditions. When I’m out at sea, you can see where I am on the journey and track the ship here.
R/V Hugh R. Sharp; photo from NOAA Eastern Surveys Branch
What I hope to Learn
I’m very interested to experience what daily life is like on an ocean research vessel, how scientists use inquiry, data-collection, math, and other skills that we teach our students in a real-world setting. Of course, I’m also hoping to see some fascinating ocean critters and get my hands dirty doing the work of a real scientist.
I’d love for you to join me on this adventure by following this blog and leaving your thoughts and questions in the comment section at the bottom of each blog entry. Let’s make this a learning experience that we will all remember!