Suzanne Acord: Cetaceans Are Among Us! March 26, 2014

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Suzanne Acord
Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
March 17 – 28, 2014

Mission: Kona Area Integrated Ecosystems Assessment Project
Geographical area of cruise: Hawaiian Islands
Date: March 26, 2014

Weather Data from the Bridge at 13:00
Wind: 6 knots
Visibility: 10+ nautical miles
Weather: Hazy
Depth in fathoms: 2,473
Depth in feet: 14,838
Temperature: 26.0˚ Celsius

Science and Technology Log

Cetaceans Are Among Us!

Our Marine Mammal Observation (MMO) crew was in for a treat today. Just after lunch, we spot a pod of sperm whales. We spotted them off the port side, off the starboard side, and eventually off the bow of the Sette. We frequently see Humpback whales in Hawaii, but sperm whales often evade us. Sperm whales can dive down to extreme depths and they feed on squid. These same squid feed on the micronekton that we are observing during the cruise. Sperm whales are the largest of the toothed whales. Their enormous size is obvious when they slap the ocean with their giant tails. Another unique characteristic of the sperm whale is their blow hole, which sits to the left rather than on top of the head. This feature allows our MMO team to easily identify them.

Our MMO lead, Ali Bayless, determines that we should take the small boat out for a closer examination of the pod. Within minutes, the small boat and three scientists are in the water following the pod. We think that a calf (baby) is accompanying two of the adult whales. Throughout the next few hours, our small boat is in constant contact with our flying bridge, bridge, and acoustics team to determine the location of the whales. We keep a safe distance from all of the whales, but especially the calf. While on the small boat, MMO scientists also identify spotted and spinner dolphins. We are essentially surrounded by cetaceans. The small boat is just one of the many tools we use to determine what inhabits the ocean. We also use an EK60 sonar, our Remotely Operated Vehicle, our hydrophone, and sonar buoys.

Our acoustics lead, Adrienne Copeland, is especially excited about our sperm whale sightings. Adrienne is a graduate student in zoology at the University of Hawaii. She earned her Bachelor’s of Science in biology with a minor in math and a certificate in mathematical biology from Washington State University. She has served on the Sette four times and is currently serving her third stint as acoustics lead. This is a testament to her expertise and the respect she has earned within the field.

Adrienne Copeland monitors our acoustics station during our 2014 IEA cruise.

Adrienne Copeland monitors our acoustics station during our 2014 IEA cruise.

Adrienne Copeland studies the foraging behavior of deep diving odontocetes (toothed whales). She shares that some deep diving odontocetes have been known to dive more than 1000 meters. Short finned pilot whales have been observed diving 600-800 meters during the day. During night dives we know they forage at shallower depths on squid and fish. How do we know how deep these mammals dive? Tags placed on these mammals send depth data to scientists. How do we know what marine mammals eat? Scientists are able to examine the stomach contents of mammals who are stranded. Interestingly, scientists know that sperm whales feed on histioteuthis (a type of squid) in the Gulf of Mexico. A 2014 IEA trawl operation brought in one of these squid, which the sperm whales may be targeting for food.

Notice the distinct blue and gray lines toward the top of the screen. These are the think layers of micronekton that migrated up at sunset. The number at the top of the screen expresses the depth to the sea floor.

Notice the distinct blue and gray lines toward the top of the screen. These are the thick layers of micronekton that migrated up at sunset. The number at the top of the screen expresses the depth to the sea floor.

Examine the acoustics screen to the left. Can you identify the gray and blue lines toward the top of the screen? These scattering layers of micronekton ascend and descend depending on the sun. Adrienne is interested in learning how these scattering layers change during whale foraging. Our EK60, Remotely Operated Vehicle, and highly prescribed trawling all allow us to gain a better understanding of the contents of the scattering layers. A greater understanding of whale and micronekton behavior has the potential to lead to more effective conservation practices. All marine mammals are currently protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Sperm Whales are protected under the Endangered Species Act.

Interesting fact from Adrienne: Historical scientists could indeed see the scattering layers on their sonar, but they thought the layers were the ocean floor. Now we know they represent the layers of micronekton, but old habits die hard, so the science community sometimes refers to them as false bottoms.

Live Feed at 543 Meters! 

The ROV prior to deployment.

The ROV prior to deployment.

Our Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) deployment is a success! We deploy the ROV thanks to an effective team of crew members, scientists, and NOAA Corps officers working together. ROV deployment takes place on the port side of the ship. We take our ROV down to approximately 543 meters. We are able to survey with the ROV for a solid five hours. A plethora of team members stop by the eLab to “ooh” and “ahh” over the live feed from the ROV. Excitingly, the ROV is deployed prior to the vertical migration of the micronekton and during the early stages of the ascent. The timing is impeccable because our acoustics team is very curious to know which animals contribute to the thick blue and gray lines on our acoustics screens during the migration. In the ROV live feed, the micronekton are certainly visible. However, because the animals are so small, they almost look like snow falling in front of the ROV camera. Periodically, we can identify squid, larger fish, and jellies.

Did you Know? 

Kevin Lewand of the Monterey Bay Aquarium constructs a hyperbaric chamber for marine life on board the Sette.

Kevin Lewand of the Monterey Bay Aquarium constructs a hyperbaric chamber for marine life.

Mini hyperbaric chambers can be used to save fish who are brought to the surface from deep depths. These chambers are often used to assist humans who scuba dive at depths too deep for humans or who do not effectively depressurize when returning to the surface after SCUBA diving. The pressure of the deep water can be life threatening for humans. Too much pressure or too little pressure in the water can be life threatening for marine life, too. Marine life collector, Kevin Lewand, constructed a marine life hyperbaric chamber aboard the Sette. He learned this skill from his mentor. Be sure to say Aloha to him when you visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium in Monterey, California.

 

 

 

 

Personal Log

Daily Life Aboard the Sette

There is never a dull moment on the ship. Tonight we have ROV operations, squid jigging, acoustics monitoring, and a CTD deployment. We of course can’t forget the fact that our bridge officers are constantly ensuring we are en route to our next location. Tonight’s science operations will most likely end around 05:00 (tomorrow). Crew members work 24/7 and are usually willing to share their expertise or a good story. If they are busy completing a task, they always offer to chat at another time. I find that the more I learn about the Sette, the more I yearn to know. The end of the cruise is just two days away. I am surprised by how quickly my time aboard the ship has passed. I look forward to sharing my new knowledge and amazing experiences with my students and colleagues. I have a strong feeling that my students will want to ask as many questions as I have asked the Sette crew. Aloha and mahalo to the Sette.

 

Suzanne Acord: Learning the Ropes off the Kona Coast, March 24, 2014

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Suzanne Acord
Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
March 17 – 28, 2014

Mission: Kona Area Integrated Ecosystems Assessment Project
Geographical area of cruise: Hawaiian Islands
Date: March 24, 2014

Weather Data from the Bridge at 14:00
Wind: 7 knots
Visibility: 10 nautical miles
Weather: Hazy
Temperature: 24.3˚ Celsius

Science and Technology Log

Trawl Operations on the Sette

Monitoring the acoustics station during our trawl operations.

Monitoring the acoustics station during our trawl operations.

Trawling allows scientists to collect marine life at prescribed depths. Our highly anticipated first trawl begins at 21:06 on March 23rd. Hard hats, safety vests, and extremely concerned crew members flock to the stern to prepare and deploy the trawl net. Melanie is our fearless trawl lead. Once we bring in our catch, she will coordinate the following tasks: Place our catch in a bucket; strain the catch; weigh the total catch; separate the catch into five groups (deep water fish, cephalopods, crustaceans, gelatinous life, and miscellaneous small life); count the items in each group; weigh each group; measure the volume of each group; take photos of our catch; send the entire catch to the freezer.

Our trawling depth for this evening is 600 meters. This is unusually deep for one of our trawls and may very well be a hallmark of our cruise. We are able to deploy the net with ease over our target location, which is located within the layers of micronekton discussed in an earlier blog. The depth of the net is recorded in the eLab every 15 minutes during the descent and ascent. Once the trawl is brought back up to the stern, we essentially have a sea life sorting party in the wet lab that ends around 05:00. Our specimens will be examined more thoroughly once we are back in Honolulu at the NOAA labs. Throughout this cruise, it is becoming clearer every day that a better understanding of the ocean and its inhabitants can allow us to improve ocean management and protection. Our oceans impact our food sources, economies, health, weather, and ultimately human survival.

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Science Party Interview with Gadea Perez-Andujar

Ali and Gadea anticipate the raising of the HARP.

Ali and Gadea anticipate the raising of the HARP.

The University of Hawaii and NOAA are lucky to have Gadea, a native of Spain, on board the Sette during the 2014 IEA cruise. She initially came to Hawaii to complete a bachelor’s degree in Marine Biology with Hawaii Pacific University. While a HPU student, she studied abroad in Australia where she received hands-on experience in her field. Coursework in Australia included fish ecology and evolution and coral reef ecology, among other high interest courses. Between her BA and MA, Gadea returned to Spain to work on her family’s goat farm. She couldn’t resist the urge to return to Hawaii, so she left her native land yet again to continue her studies in Hawaii. Gadea is now earning her master’s degree in marine biology with the University of Hawaii. In addition to her rigorous course schedule, she is carrying out a teaching assistantship. To top off her spring schedule, she volunteered to assist with Marine Mammal Operations (MMO) for the 2014 IEA cruise. She assists Ali Bayless, our MMO lead, during small boat deployments, HARP operations, and flying bridge operations.

Gadea’s master’s studies have increased her interest in deep water sharks. More specifically, Gadea is exploring sharks with six gills that migrate vertically to oxygen minimum zones, or OMZs. This rare act is what interests Gadea. During our IEA cruise, she is expanding her knowledge of the crocodile shark, which has been known to migrate down to 600-700 meters.

Once her studies are complete in 2015, Gadea yearns to educate teachers on the importance of our oceans. She envisions the creation of hands-on activities that will provide teachers with skills and knowledge they can utilize in their classrooms. She believes teacher and student outreach is key. When asked what she appreciates most about her field of study, Gadea states that she enjoys the moment when people “realize what they’re studying can make the world a better place.”

Personal Log

Morale in the Mess 

Jay displays a cake just baked by Miss Parker. I can't wait to try this tonight at dinner.

Jay displays a cake just baked by Miss Parker. I can’t wait to try this tonight at dinner. We will also be eating Vietnamese soup, salad, and macaroni and cheese with scallops.

The mess brings all hands together three times a day and is without a doubt a morale booster. Hungry crew members can be found nibbling in the mess 24/7 thanks to the tasty treats provided by Jay and Miss Parker. Jay and Miss Parker never hesitate to ensure we are fed, happy, and humored. It is impossible to leave the galley without a warm feeling. A few of my favorite meal items include steak, twice baked potatoes, a daily fresh salad bar, red velvet cookies, and Eggs Benedict. Fresh coffee, juice, and tea can be found 24/7 along with snacks and leftovers. At the moment, my shift spans from 15:00 to 00:00, which is my dream shift. If we need to miss a meal, Jay ensures that a plate is set aside for us or we can set aside a plate for ourselves ahead of time.

Did you know?

Merlin Clark-Mahoney gives me a tour of the engineering floor.

Merlin Clark-Mahoney gives me a tour of the engineering floor.

Did you know that NOAA engineers are able to create potable water using sea water? The temperature of the water influences the amount of potable water that we create. If the sea water temperature does not agree with our water filtration system, the laundry room is sometimes closed. This has happened only once for a very short period of time on our cruise. NOAA engineers maintain a variety of ship operations. Their efforts allow us to drink water, shower, do laundry, enjoy air conditioning, and use the restroom on board–all with ease.

Rita Salisbury: More on the Mission, April 23, 2013

CDTs record conductivity, depth,  and temperature

CDTs record conductivity, depth, and temperature

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Rita Salisbury
Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
April 14–29, 2013

Mission: Hawaii Bottomfish Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise: Hawaiian Islands
Date:
Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Science and Technology Log

CDT being lowered over the starboard side

CDT being lowered over the starboard side

A few days ago we dropped the CDT, an apparatus that collects data on the conductivity, the depth, and the temperature of the sea water in which the acoustic survey is taking place. All of these three things impact how quickly sound travels underwater. The scientists collect the information and then use it to figure out an accurate rate of speed for the sound waves. Once they have that information, they can determine how far a target is from the ship.I was able to ride along in a small boat to Maui to pick up parts for the AUV. While in the Maui harbor, I had the opportunity to visit the Huki Pono, a small boat working on this survey that is using BotCams to survey the fish population. The palu, or bait, that I help make every day is frozen and then transferred to the fishing boats. It is frozen in a shape that fits into a cage on the BotCam located near the camera. As the bait breaks up, fish are attracted to it and come close enough to the BotCam to be visually recorded. There is a lot of video to go through so Dr. Kobayashi says they won’t have the data from the BotCams for a while.  But the other three fishing boats assigned to this project turn their survey information in every evening and I get to add it to a spreadsheet to help keep track of what section the boats were in and what they found while they were there.

BotCam on the deck of the Huki Pono

BotCam on the deck of the Huki Pono

Chris Demarke, Jamie Barlow, and Bo Alexander retrieving a BotCam aboard the Huki Pono with Maui in the background
Work continues with the ROV and AUV. The scientists are always working on them, trying to make them run as smoothly as possible. We worked on calibrating the acoustics again this morning for the same reason. The better the information you have when you start a project, the better chance you have of having a successful outcome.

As I mentioned before though, not everything we are doing is high tech. We fish off the side of the ship in the evenings, dropping our lines all the way to the bottom so they are on the sea floor. The scientists running the acoustics tell us if they see fish and then we do our best to catch a representative sample.  Here are two of the fish I caught off the bottom: an opakapaka and a taape. The observers that ride in the small boats every day spend the night on the Sette. That way, they can turn their logs in and I can record the data. As a bonus, a few of them are expert fishermen and are a huge help to us as we fish from the ship.

Opakapaka and ta'ape

Opakapaka and ta’ape

Personal Log
I’m really enjoying my time on the Sette. In addition to learning new things that I can apply in my classroom, I’m making new friends. Everyone is exceptionally friendly and they go out of their way to explain things to me. Most of them call me “Teach” or “Taz” and almost all of them have sailed with a Teacher at Sea before.

Did You Know?
You can tell the age of a fish by their otoliths? The picture has the otoliths from an opakapaka, an ehu, and a hogo. Otoliths are a fish’s “ear bones” and they have growth lines in them much like a tree has growth rings.

Otoliths

Otoliths

Additional Section

Why are these bottom-dwelling fish red?

Red fish?

Red fish?

Rita Salisbury: First Day at Sea, April 15, 2013

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Rita Salisbury
Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
April 14–29, 2013
 

Mission: Hawaii Bottomfish Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise: Hawaiian Islands
Date: April 15 2012

Weather Data from the Bridge
77°F/25°C
Humidity 74%
Wind Speed Calm
Barometer 30.00 in (1015.7 mb)
Dewpoint 68°F (20°C)
Visibility 10.00 mi
Heat Index 79°F (26°C)

Science and Technology Log

NOAA ship Oscar Elton Sette, known as Sette,  is a large ship, by my standards. It’s 224 feet long, which is more than ⅔ of the length of a football field. It is one of the ships in NOAA’s fleet of oceanographic vessels and like their other vessels, it supports NOAA’s mission to protect and manage the use of ocean resources through ecosystem-based management.

On this cruise, we will be surveying fish populations by deploying a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) and an Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) to gather information. The ROV is a small, unmanned submersible that is controlled from the Sette and attached by a cable. The AUV is also an unmanned submersible but its path is pre-programmed before it is deployed. Additionally, we will be using acoustics, or sound, to locate, identify, and estimate populations of fish. I met some of the scientists last night who are working with the submersibles and the acoustics. I think this might be one of those times that being good at video games could pay off!

The goal of the Hawaii Bottomfish Survey is to gain more information about the fish populations in the ocean around Hawaii. The survey will help scientists determine the effects of fishing and other factors on the overall health of different fish populations. By gathering information by non-lethal methods NOAA scientists are adding to their knowledge base without further reducing the fish population.

Personal Log

Yesterday, I met the Chief Scientist, Donald Kobayashi, PhD,  for the first time. Dr. Kobayashi is the man in charge of the scientific portion of our Hawaii Bottomfish Survey aboard the  Sette. Dr. Kobayashi took me to Ford Island so I could board the Sette prior to today’s workday getting ready for the survey.

I boarded the Sette and met the boatswain (pronounced bosun) and some of the science party. I also moved into my berth, or stateroom. It’s called the bunkhouse and has six bunks in it. I’ll be sharing it with four other scientists while we are out to sea. It’s important to be able to get along with other people and to be flexible when you are on a ship, just like it is in other situations. But on a ship, where you are in a confined space, it’s even more important to understand the hierarchy of the ship–the officers, the crew, and the science party–and the protocol (the proper way of doing things) so you don’t get in  someone’s way or make someone’s job more difficult. Knowing who is in charge, what the roles are, and the expectations for everyone will help make my adventure a success.

 

Did You Know?

The scientists can tell what type of fish they are tracking and how many of them there are by using sound waves? The scientist sends out a sound signal, or ping, from a transducer, an underwater device that emits sound waves. The Sette has several transducers to accomplish this. The density of the fish’s swim bladder is different than the rest of the fish so the sound, or echo, that bounces back from the fish to the ship can be recorded and interpreted by the scientists. They can tell what type of fish they are tracking, and how many of them there are. Dr. Kobayashi says the scientists can back up their interpretation by photography.

 

Teacher at Sea Rita Salisbury in front of the Oscar Elton Sette

Teacher at Sea Rita Salisbury in front of the Oscar Elton Sette