Stephen Kade: The Shark Cradle and Data Collection, August 8, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Stephen Kade

Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II

July 23 – August 10, 2018

 

Mission: Long Line Shark/ Red Snapper survey Leg 1

Geographic Area: 31 41 010 N, 80 06 062 W, 30 nautical miles NE of Savannah, North Carolina

Date: August 8, 2018

 

Weather Data from Bridge:

Wind speed 11 knots,
Air Temp: 30c,
Visibility 10 nautical miles,
Wave height 3 ft.

Science and Technology Log

Normally you wouldn’t hear the words shark and cradle in the same sentence, but in our case, the cradle is one of the most important pieces of equipment we use each day. Our mission on the Oregon II is to survey sharks to provide data for further study by NOAA scientists. We use the long line fishing method where 100 hooks are put out on a mile long line for about an hour, and then slowly hauled up by a large mechanical reel. If a shark is generally three feet and weighs 30lbs or less, it is handled by hand to carefully unhook, measure and throw back. If the shark is much larger and cannot be managed safely by hand, it is then held on the line by the ships rail until it can be lifted on deck by the cradle to be quickly measured, tagged, and put back into the ocean.

The shark cradle
The shark cradle

The shark cradle is 10 ft. long, with a bed width of roughly 4 feet. It is made from thick aluminum tubing and strong synthetic netting to provide the bed for the shark to lie on. It is lifted from the ship’s deck by a large crane and lowered over the ships rail into the ocean. The shark is still on the line and is guided by a skilled fisherman into the cradle. The crane operator slowly lifts the cradle out of the water, up to the rail, so work can begin.

A team of 3 highly skilled fishermen quickly begin to safely secure the shark to protect it, and the team of scientists collecting data. They secure the shark at 3 points, the head, body and tail. Then the scientists come in to take 3 measurements of the shark. The precaudal measurement is from the tip of nose to the start of the tail. The fork measurement is from the tip of the nose to the fork of the tail (the place where the top and bottom of the tail meet). Finally there is a total length taken from the tip of the nose to the furthest tip of the tail.

When all measurements are complete, a tag is then placed at the base of the first dorsal (top) fin. First a small incision is made, and then the tagger pushes the tag just below the skin. The tag contains a tracking number and total length to be taken by the person who finds the shark next, and a phone number to call NOAA, so the data can recorded and compared to the previous time data is recorded. The yellow swivel tags, used for smaller sharks, are identical to ones used in sheep ears in the farming industry, and are placed on the front of the dorsal fin. The measurements and tag number are collected on the data sheet for each station. The data is input to a computer and uploaded to the NOAA shark database so populations and numbers can be assessed at any time by NOAA and state Departments of Natural Resources.

removing hook
A skilled fisherman removes the hook so the shark can be released.
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The longline is mile long and carries up to 100 hooks.

The shark is then unhooked safely by a skilled fisherman while the other two are keeping the shark still to protect both the shark and the fishermen from injury. The cradle is then slowly lowered by crane back into the ocean where the shark can easily glide back into its environment unharmed. The cradle is then raised back on deck by the crane operator, and guided by the two fishermen. All crew on deck must wear hardhats during this operation as safety for all is one of NOAA’s top priorities. This process is usually completed within 2 minutes, or the time it took you to read this post. It can happen many times during a station, as there are 100 hooks on the one mile line.

 

 

Personal Log

It is amazing for me to see and participate in the long line fishing process. I find it similar to watching medical television shows like “ER” where you see a highly skilled team of individually talented members working together quickly and efficiently to perform an operation. It can be highly stressful if the shark is not cooperating, or the conditions aren’t ideal, but each member always keeps their cool under this intense work. It’s also amazing to see the wealth of knowledge each person has so when an issue arises, someone always knows the answer to the problem, or the right tool to use to fix the situation, as they’ve done it before.

Animals Seen Today: Sandbar shark, Tiger shark, Sharpnose Shark, Sea Robin, Toadfish, Flying Fish

Susan Brown: And Just Like That, It’s Over, September 19, 2017

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Susan Brown

Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II

September 3 – 15, 2017

 

Mission: Snapper/Longline Shark Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico

Date: September 19, 2017

Latitude: 35.190807
Longitude: -111.65127
Sea wave height: NA
Wind Speed: 7 Mph
Wind Direction: W
Humidity: 21%
Air Temperature: 20 degrees C (68 degrees Fahrenheit)
Barometric Pressure: 29.81″ Steady
Sky:  scattered clouds

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panoramic view from the stern heading home

Personal Log

And just like that, it’s over.  I am back in Flagstaff and have finally stopped feeling the boat rocking while on solid ground.  Students have been working on a shark project in my absence and we are finishing it up this week.  My first day back was a day of show and tell. The students were excited and full of questions about my trip. As I presented to my students, I realized how much I learned and how much more I still want to know! Here are some pictures from Monday.

 

 

 

 

As I reflect back on my adventure, I have many thoughts and wonder how the fourth and final leg is going.  I think back to last year when I first learned I was selected to be on this adventure and how impossible it was to imagine that I was actually going to work with sharks.  Then, as the date loomed closer, trying to best prepare for something that was a big unknown to me.  And then I was at the dock looking at the Oregon II tied up for the weekend. I recall when I first reached the dock in the evening looking at the ship and thinking wow, pinch me, this is really happening.  I remember being awed and out of my element those first few days just learning to navigate the ship. And then the first haul in!  Now that was a rush as we pulled in not only small sharpnose sharks but larger sandbar sharks that needed to be cradled.  It was unbelievable watching as the team worked and I was thrust into being a viable team member.  After a week, it was a game I had to see if I could bait the hooks as fast as the veteran scientists. I automatically logged the fin clips and helped enter the data we had collected.  Working on the ship became the new normal — knowing what to to do at each station’s deployment of the line and the haul back.  I was feeling competent in my role. Even pulling in some sharks became routine…routine!  Wow, had I come a long way.  And then, just like that, I was on my last haul back and heading back into port.

 

Here are some of my favorite videos and photos from the adventure.

Below a time lapse of what a haul back at night looks like

 

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Eye See you (Smooth-Hound shark)

 

Measuring a sandshark

 

 

And a video of my favorite shark- the great hammerhead being released out of the cradle.

 

And a baby hammy

 

So here I am, back in Flagstaff, reflecting back on my adventure. Did it really happen?  I have pictures to prove it and stories I am sharing but it does seem like a lifetime ago that I was touching a shark and looking into the doe eyes of a ten foot hammerhead shark.  The more I talk about what I have done, the more I realize how much I learned and how much more I still don’t know.  The two weeks flew by but I am grateful for it. So for those of you out there reading this blog, make time for adventures, get out there and do it, follow your passion and immerse yourself. You might be surprised at what you can do!

 

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Teacher at Sea Susan Brown

 

 

Susan Brown: Let’s Go Fishing, September 4, 2017

 

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Susan Brown

NOAA Ship Oregon II

September 3 – 15, 2017

Mission: Snapper/Longline Shark Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico

Date: September 4, 2017

Weather Data from the Bridge

Latitude: 29 43.931N
Longitude: 086 09.617W
Sea wave height: .5 meters
Wind Speed: 2
Wind Direction: 250 degrees
Visibility: good
Air Temperature: 28.3 degrees Celsius
Barometric Pressure: 1016 mb
Sky: partly cloudy

Science and Technology Log

Numbered tags used for each hook
Mackerel used for bait

Today was my first shift. We are using mackerel to bait the 100 hooks that will be places into the water at a specific station. Each hook is numbered so that we can collect data on which hook brought in a fish and entered into the database. There are several jobs out here from baiting the hooks, placing the buoys, flinging the baited hooks out, and recording data in the computer. My job today is the computer.

entering data on the deployment of the baited hooks

The longline is set and left to sit in the ocean for approximately one hour before we start bringing up the line to see if we have a fish on. Out of the 100 hooks we got one fish, a baby tiger shark and a larger juvenile tiger shark coming in at six feet or so. This tiger shark had several hooks in its mouth as well as a tag so when she was brought up on board, all the hooks were removed and the tag replaced with a new one.

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Removing hooks from the tiger shark’s mouth

The tag that was on the tiger shark was opened up to reveal a small scroll of paper with a unique number so that this shark can be tracked from where it was first picked up to when it ended up with us for the brief visit. Below is a short video of us bringing up the shark in the cradle! [no dialogue or narration.]

We will be setting another line tonight at our second station as we continue to motor southeast following the coast of Florida.

Beside recording data on the sharks, a CTD is deployed to collect data on conductivity, temperature and depth. We will use this data in the classroom to look for trends between the abiotic factors that may influence where we are finding certain shark species and the number of overall sharks at any given station.

The CTD that measure conductivity, temperature and depth

Personal Log

There are many different scientists on board researching different things. I am sharing a stateroom with Dani who is on the night shift. She is looking into how different sharks handle stress. I see very little of her since we are on opposite shifts so we get a quick visit at noon when there is a changing of the guards so of say. Brett and Carlos, as mentioned in an earlier post, are looking into parasites that inhabit the various animals we are bringing up. I will do a separate blog on those two and their research later this week to share what they are finding.

Donning the survival suit during abandon ship drill

Today we had a few drills to practice in case of an emergency. One was a fire drill and the other was an abandon ship drill where I had to don a large neoprene suit in less than two minutes. Here I am in that suit! It was quite cumbersome to put on.

Learning new words as I get acclimated to the ship. Here are a few for you:

The head = bathroom

Stateroom = room where I sleep

Muster = to assemble

Bow = the front of the ship

Stern = the back of the ship

Did You Know?

Military time is used on board this ship. See the photo of the clock below.

Question of the Day: Why use military time?

NOAA clock

Susan Brown: Getting Acclimated, September 3, 2017

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Susan Brown

Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II

September 2 – 15, 2017

Mission: Shark/Red Snapper Longline Survey
Geographic Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico
Date: September 3, 2017
Weather Data from the Bridge

Latitude: 30degree06.7N
Longitude: 88degree17.6W
Sea wave height: <1
Wind Speed: LT
Wind Direction: VAR
Visibility: 10NM
Air Temperature:
Barometric Pressure:
Sky: BKN

Incomplete weather data as we were docked.

I’m currently sitting on the Oregon II docked in Pascagoula, Mississippi after a long travel day. It’s eerily quiet as the ship disembarks tomorrow at 14:00 and the majority of the crew will arrive tomorrow. I am enjoying the slow introduction to this ship and finding my way around. The OOD (Officer Of the Deck) gave me a tour of the ship that I will be working on for the next two weeks. The majority of crew is on shore for the Labor Day weekend but will return tomorrow as we disembark and head towards Florida. Our plans have changed due to Hurricane Harvey and debris that may be in the waters making the travel in those waters unsafe.

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NOAA Ship Oregon II in dock

Science and Technology Log

Due to Hurricane Harvey, the area being surveyed has changed so that we are heading East instead of West to pick up the third leg of this survey that ended off the coast of Florida last week. I have been assigned the day shift from noon to midnight and will be assisting the science crew. The mission of this survey is to monitor interannual variability of shark populations of the Atlantic coast and the Gulf of Mexico. Additionally aboard are two scientist that are on board are studying parasites that these animals carry. Carlos and Brett, the two parasitologists, were on the second leg right before I joined. Their leg started on the tip of Florida and ended where we will start.

Personal Log

IMG_5855
Wearing “the patch” to keep from getting seasick

Seasick? Felt a little queasy after my first night in dock! Decided the best course of action was to take some medicine, eat a big meal and hydrate to help get my sea legs. Everyone has been friendly and welcoming as we get started. The night crew starts tonight at midnight till noon and the day crew, where I am been placed, will start at noon. Hoping for a good night’s sleep!

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My bed is the bottom one!

Did You Know?

Sharks have been around since the dinosaurs approximately 450 million years ago.

Question of the day

What is NOAA’s mission statement? (Hint: Google NOAA and select “About Our Agency” at the bottom)

Susan Brown: Adventure Awaits, August 24, 2017

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Susan Brown

Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II

September 2 – 15, 2017

 

Mission: Shark/Red Snapper Longline Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico

Date: August 24, 2017

 

Weather Data from the Bridge

I’m currently at home in Flagstaff, Arizona. It’s a typical, monsoon season morning coming in at 11.6 degrees C (53 degrees F) at 7:12 am with humidity at 92%. I’m about 1,700 miles away from Pascagoula, Mississippi, where I will be joining the team on our ship, NOAA Ship Oregon II, in just a few days!

NOAA Ship Oregon II Sunset_NOAA Photo
NOAA Ship Oregon II. Photo credit: NOAA

NOAA Ship Oregon II Photo Credit: NOAA

Weather Data from my desk at school:

Latitude: 35.190807
Longitude: -111.65127
Sea wave height: NA
Wind Speed: 2 Mph
Wind Direction: NW
Visibility:
Air Temperature: 11. 6 degrees C
Barometric Pressure: 29.84” falling Rapdily
Sky:  scattered clouds

 

Science and Technology Log

Once on board, I will be assisting the science crew with the third leg of the Shark/Red Snapper Longline Survey and will be fishing from Brownsville, TX to Galveston, TX. The mission of this survey is to monitor interannual variability of shark populations of the Atlantic coast and the Gulf of Mexico.

longline_sampling_area
Map of the survey area: the Atlantic coast and the Gulf of Mexico.

My understanding is that we will be working a 12-hour shift using longline gear to capture specimens and measure the length, weight and sex of the animal. The longline is baited with Atlantic Mackerel and will sit in the water for one hour. Here is what longline gear looks like:

 

 

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Illustration of longline gear. Credit: NOAA

 

The larger animals will require landing slings! I can’t even imagine. The science crew will also be tagging the animals as well as retaining a few for research. Finclips, like taking a nail clipping, will be gathered for DNA analysis. I am most excited to get up and close with these wonderful creatures tagging them to monitor their movement and health.

 

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Measuring a tiger shark. Photo credit: SEFSC

 

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Measuring a shark. Photo Credit: SEFSC

 

As part of the survey we will be gathering CTD (Conductivity Temperature Depth) data that provides a surface to bottom profile of temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen, chlorophyll, turbidity and depth. As a class, we will be learning about these in depth in the classroom when we reach our unit on water quality in relation to our local watershed.

Personal Log

I am getting excited for this adventure and happy to have you along for the journey. I look forward to your questions and can’t wait to learn about these beautiful creatures while working with scientists. Please makes sure to check out the “Question of the Day” and other activities that will be posted on this blog. Your current research on sharks will come in handy while I am out here and will be crucial to learning about ocean food webs and current threats. Remember to check in daily for new posts while you are working on your projects.

 

Did You Know?

That I have never been to the Gulf of Mexico!

 

Question of the day

What species of shark live in the Gulf of Mexico?

Karen Grady: Observations and Data Collection Today Leads to Knowledge In The Future, April 25, 2017

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Karen Grady

Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II

April 5 – April 20, 2017

Mission: Experimental Longline Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico

Date: April 25, 2017

 

Weather Data:

I am back settled into the crazy weather that is spring in Arkansas. Supposed to be 90 degrees today and then storms tomorrow.

Science and Technology Log

The second leg of the Oregon II’s experimental longline survey is now complete.  The ship and all the crew are safely back in the harbor.  Fourteen days at sea allows for a lot of data to be gathered by the science crew.

Now, an obvious question would be what do they do with all the data and the samples that  were collected? The largest thing from this experimental survey is looking at catch data and the different bait types that were used to see if there were differences in the species caught/numbers caught etc. They are also able to look at species compositions during a different time frame than the annual survey and different depth ranges with the much deeper sets. Fin clips were taken from certain species of sharks. Each fin clip can be tied to a specific shark that was also tagged.  If anyone ever wanted or needed to they could trace that fin clip back to the specific shark, the latitude and longitude of where it was taken, and the conditions found in the water column on that day.  Everything the scientists do is geared towards collecting data and providing as many details as possible for the big picture.

Occasionally sharks are captured and do not survive, but even these instances provide an opportunity to sample things like vertebrae for ageing studies or to look at reproductive stages. Science is always at work.  With the ultrasound machine on board we were able to use it on a couple of the sharpnose sharks and determine if they were pregnant .

 

ultrasound
Ultrasounding female Sharp Nose sharks to see how may pups they were carrying.

 

Parasites… did you know sharks and fish can have parasites on them? Yes, they do and we caught a few on this leg. Sharks or fish caught with parasites were sampled to pass along to other researchers to use for identification purposes. Kristin showed me evidence of a skin parasite on several of the small sharks. It looked like an Etch-A-Sketch drawing.

etchisketch 2
This shark had whole mural on the underside from the parasites
etchisketch 1
Shark underside marred by parasite infection

Red snapper were also sampled at times on the survey to look deeper into their life history  and ecology. Muscle tissue was collected to look at ecotoxicity within the fish (what it has been exposed to throughout out its lifetime); along with otoliths to estimate age. We are using muscle tissue to examine carbon, nitrogen, and sulfur. Each element looks into where that fish lives within the food web. For instance, carbon can help provide information about the basal primary producers, nitrogen can help to estimate the trophic level of the fish within the ecosystem, and sulfur can try to determine if the fish feeds on benthic or pelagic organisms. Otoliths are the ear bones of the fish. There are three different types of ear bones; however, sagittal ear bones (the largest of the three) will be sectioned through the core and read like a tree. Each ring is presumed to represent one year of growth.

 

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Red Snapper caught and used for sample collection
paul red snapper
Paul Felts removing a hook
redsnapper head
Sometimes someone bigger swims by while a fish is on the hook

Personal Log

Now that I am home and settled I still had a few things to share. One it was great to get home to my family, but as I was warned by the science crew it does take a couple of days to adjust to the usual schedule.  It did feel good to go for a jog around town instead of having to face the Jacob’s Ladder again!

 

Everyone asks me if I had a good time, if it was scary, if we caught any sharks. I just don’t think there are words to express what an amazing experience this was for me.  Of course, seeing the sharks up close was just beyond words, but it was also being made a part of a working science team that are working year-round to monitor the health of the ocean and the species that live there. For me this was a two-week section of my life where I got to live on the ocean and catch sharks while learning a little about the data the science crew collects and how they use it.  The science crew will all be back out on the ocean on different legs over the next few months.

I confess I am not super hi tech, so I am not proficient with a Gopro so I probably missed out on making the best films. However, I did get some excellent photos and some good photos of some impressive sharks.  Thanks to technology I will be able to create slide shows to my K-12 students so they can see the experience through my eyes.  I am looking forward to showing these slide shows to my students. My elementary students were so excited to have me back that they made me feel like a celebrity.  I was gone a little over two weeks and to my younger students it seemed forever.  Many of the teachers shared some of my trip with the students so they would know where I was and what I was doing.

I am settled back into my regular schedule at school. One awesome thing about my job is that I deal with students from kindergarten through seniors.   I started back with my elementary students yesterday.  Let me just say that young people can make you feel like a Rockstar when you have been gone for 15 days.  I knocked on a classroom door and could hear the students yelling “ she’s here! Mrs. Grady is here!” and then there were the hugs. Young kids are so genuine and they have an excitement and love of learning.  I have to get busy on my power point to share with them.  They wanted a list of sharks we caught, how big they were, etc.  I am getting exactly what I hoped, the students want to understand what I did on the ship, why we did these things and what did I actually learn.

For my last blog, I have decided to share some of my favorite photos from my time on the Oregon II.

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Karen Grady: Sometimes You Find A Little Something Extra, April 16, 2017

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Karen Grady

Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II

April 5 – April 20, 2017

Mission: Experimental Longline Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico

Date: April 16, 2017

 Weather Data

Latitude 2848.37 N
Longitude 09247.66 W
76 degrees
Sunny
No precipitation
Winds at 11 KTS
Waves at 2-4 FT

Science and Technology Log

Sometimes when a shark or fish is brought on board it has a “hitchhiker’ attached. We caught a blacknose shark that had a common remora, often referred to as a sucker fish, or shark sucker, attached to it. Scientist Kevin Rademacher placed this sharksucker (Echeneis naucrates) on my arm. I couldn’t really feel it but he was stuck there until I peeled him off. It was like peeling a piece of tape off. You can see from the photo how he is designed to attach to host species. Their head is actually a modified dorsal fin that has an oval shaped sucking disk with slat-like structures that open and close to create suction and take a firm hold against the skin of its host animal such as a shark, turtle, whale, or ray. By sliding backward, the remora can increase its suction, or it can release itself by swimming forward. They can be small like the one attached to my arm or they can grow to over two feet in length. The remora can move around on the host, removing parasites while at the same time gaining protection provided by the host. This relationship is often looked at as one of commensalism where both the host and the remora benefit.

Photos of the remora that was attached to a black-nosed shark.

When one hears that this is an experimental long-line survey of sharks and reef fish, all you think of is catching these creatures and collecting data. However, scientists are collecting data about the environment as well. It is very useful to obtain information about the water where they catch large numbers of a species and areas where they may not catch anything. One way they can do this is by using a Conductivity Temperature Depth Profiler (CTD).

The CTD gives scientists a profile of the water column where we just put out our line. The CTD has sensors that collects information on oxygen levels, temperature, water clarity, chlorophyll concentration, and salinity. The CTD is placed in the water and allowed to sit for three minutes to let the oxygen sensors soak and adjust from being on the deck and lowered into the water. The crew lowers it to a depth that is decided based upon the depth to the ocean floor. They like to take it as close to the bottom as possible in order for the information they gather to be as complete as possible. It is allowed to settle, run its scans and then is brought back up to the surface and the sensors are flushed with fresh water. The data is automatically loaded into the database. This information is collected at each station. It takes a joint effort of the deck, science and bridge crews to place the CTD in the water. Walkie talkies are utilized for communicating between all the crew involved in the operation.

Personal Log

Being at sea with Easter approaching had its moments when I thought of family and friends. We have our Easter traditions and I would be missing them this year. The Easter Bunny (Field Party Chief, Kristin Hannan) decided we needed an early visit this year. I think she was right. The surprise and the treats perked all the science staff up.

TAS Karen Grady 4-16-17 Easter basket

FPC Kristin Hannan asks me often if I have any questions about what they are doing or anything in general. I will be honest… I have gotten so caught up in what we are doing, trying to do my best at whatever job I am working on, and being in awe that I am actually out here that I forget to ask questions about the details. I love the anticipation of what might be on the next hook, I am mesmerized by the sleek lines of the sharks when we have them on board.

TAS Karen Grady 4-16-17 shark liver
Shark liver

When we had one come onboard that was dead due to low oxygen levels in the water where we caught it, we did a dissection on the deck while we waited to put out another line. The animal science nerd in me came to life!   I had no idea the liver was the largest organ inside a shark. Think about it …these creatures have no body fat and they store their energy in the liver. Then we looked at the intestines. There is not a lot of room in there so the shark we looked at the intestines are rolled up like you would roll a piece of paper. This gives them maximum absorption area but takes up a limited space.

 

 

 

One thing I think of as we are catching these species is that very few people stop and think about the actual research scientists do to help understand what is needed to maintain healthy populations. It is necessary to do these surveys, catch the species, tag some, draw blood, take fin clips, keep whole specimens, and dissect some. On our cruise we were lucky enough to ultrasound a few pregnant sharks and see the pups inside.

TAS Karen Grady 4-16-17 shark ultrasound
Baby sharks visible on ultrasound

Now stop and think about all those things I just listed that we do at times. When a hook comes up and there is a fish or shark on it is handed off to one of the science crew.  It is noted in the computer that there was a something caught. The science crew member will take measurements and weight of the fish or shark. If it is a shark, the sex will be noted and some species may be tagged, have a fin clip taken and blood drawn. While all of these activities are taking place, the next hooks keep being brought up. The deck can get pretty crazy if there are several hooks in a row with something on them. The data collector has to keep tag numbers, species, measurements, samples and weights all written in the correct spot while having two or three people calling them out for different fish and or sharks. I had experience working cattle which would mean filling syringes, writing down tag numbers, filling taggers, etc. But this is even crazier than that could get at times. And everything stops if someone calls “hardhats” because that means we have one big enough for the cradle. Working back writing down data or taking measurements you can’t see what is on the next line so you sneak up for a peak when they say it’s a big one then you get out of the way.   One of the best experiences so far was almost getting a big tiger shark in the cradle. I was lucky enough to get a video of her, so stay tuned! Unfortunately, when the big shark brushed against the cradle she snapped the line and was gone with a huge spray of water.

This second leg of the experimental long-line survey is winding down. There have been long days but they are filled with laughter, giggles, anticipation, excitement, teachable moments (I can finally get the circle hooks out by myself…sometimes) , and the dreaded words “snapper.” I mean nothing against the Red Snapper, they are a bright colorful and tasty fish, but when you are hoping for a shark to be on the hook…. let’s just say the sets where we get 12 snapper and two sharks are not our favorites.

Photos: “Shark!” or “Fish on!” means a busy deck.

TAS Karen Grady 4-16-17 hammerhead cradle
Scalloped hammerhead shark

When the guys at the rail grab the hard hats it means it is time for the cradle and we get to see things like this gorgeous scalloped hammerhead. Things move very quickly when one is in the cradle. Safety for those on deck comes first and everyone is focused on getting measurements, fin clip and a tag on the shark and getting it safely back in the water as quickly as possible.

TAS Karen Grady 4-16-17 baby tiger shark
Baby tiger shark

Baby tiger shark in the cradle. They warned me that they were cute and they were so right. Yes, a shark can be “cute” when your referring to baby tiger sharks and baby hammerheads!

Did You Know

Sharks store energy in their liver. It is the largest organ in their body. The heart on the other hand is extremely small in comparison to the size of the shark.

TAS Karen Grady 4-16-17 hammerhead dissection
Dissected scalloped hammerhead with liver visible

Look at the liver of this scalloped hammerhead. It is amazing how big it is in relation to the body of the shark. This is just one way these amazing creatures are designed to be efficient and survive in their underwater world.

Sharks have a nictitating membrane that they can close over their eye for protection. When a shark is brought on deck you can touch near the eye and the membrane will automatically move to close.

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Nictitating membrane partially closed on the eye of a scalloped hammerhead

Karen Grady: One Fish Two Fish Red Fish …… Weird Fish, April 10, 2017

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Karen Grady

Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II

April 5 – April 20, 2017

Mission: Experimental Longline Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico

Date: April 10, 2017

Weather Data

Latitude 2827.10
Longitude 09148.6
75 degrees
Sunny
No precipitation
Winds at 10 KTS
Waves at 2-4 FT

Science and Technology Log

We have continued to move between deep stations setting the baited line and hoping to catch deep water fish and sharks. These deep sets require longer soaking time to allow the hooks to reach the bottom.   The downside is that we have been retrieving one set of gear and putting out one set of gear in a 12 hour period of time. Some sets have a few fish and some we get a big goose egg.   There is always anticipation though as the 100 hooks are brought up. Everyone stands in their spots waiting to hear either “fish on,” “shark” or everyone’s favorite, “hard hats!” which means there is a big shark and it’s time for the sling. Below you will see the awesome Great Hammerhead (Sphyrna lewini) we caught.

TAS Karen Grady 4-13-17 great hammerhead
Great Hammerhead Shark

The first few days we have been fishing deep in the Mississippi Canyon. The Mississippi Canyon is a geological formation in the Gulf of Mexico. It is located in an area which is part of the territorial waters of the United States. We put out some deep lines with the deepest at 1900 feet. These lines soaked four hours once fully deployed.  They soak longer because they have so far to sink to get to the depth the scientists want to fish at. When we deploy a line the first thing in the water is the High Flyer, which stands like a beacon and bobs in the water marking the start of our fishing line. The next thing over the side of the ship is a weight that helps carry the line to the desired depth. Halfway through, another weight is deployed, and after the 100th hook, the third weight goes in.   The last thing over is another High Flyer to mark the end of the line. If it is dark outside, the High Flyers have lights attached on top that flash so that they can be seen.

TAS Karen Grady launching high flyer
“High Flyers” mark the beginning and the end of the long line set.

At our last deep station we caught a Mexican Grenadier, Coryphaenoides mexicanus. This fish is very unusual in color and appearance. If you feel the scales on the fish you find that they are very unique. Each scale has tiny sharp, thin spinules. As you run your hand over the fish you can feel these scale modifications. The eyes are bulged due to the pressure change of coming up from such deep depths. The scientists determined the sex of the Grenadier and then it was frozen for future study.

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Mexican Grenadier

We also caught two Cutthroat Eels, from the family Synaphobranchidae, that were both females. Synaphobranch means unified gill… the two gill slits join together making it look like a cut throat. They are bottom-dwelling fish, found in deep waters. The eels were weighed, measured, and the scientists determined the sex and maturity of each eel. It is important that they make accurate identification of specimens and collect data. The scientists work together using personal knowledge and books when necessary. There are times on deck when the scientists will stop to examine a species and will take multiple pictures of certain identifying parts so that they can look at them closely later.

 

Personal Log

One of the great things during a watch is being able to talk with the scientists. I am an avid listener and observer. This is what they do year in and year out and they love what they do. I am a quiet observer a lot of the time. I listen and then ask questions later. It’s not exactly easy to carry around paper and pencil to take notes. But during the transit portions or soak times I ask more questions and gather information to share in my blog posts or for the lesson plan I will be writing when I get home.

The food has been great here on the ship. Our stewards have fresh salads, and menus that include two main course options, a daily soup, dessert and multiple side choices.   There are snacks available 24/7 so you are never hungry. Because the meals are so great you see most people trying to fit in a workout during the day. I have been introduced to the Jacob’s ladder for workouts. I never liked hills and now I can say I don’t like climbing ladder rungs either. That machine is evil!! However, I will continue to do cardio on it as the food is excellent and keeping food in your stomach helps prevent sea sickness. I will happily eat more than I usually do if it means I don’t get seasick. An example of a typical lunch would be today when we had choices of salad, reuben, tuna melt, french fries, sweet potato fries, cookies and several other sides.

Today started with us catching two Cutthroat Eels and a Mexican Grenadier. You can see from the pictures I have posted that they look very different from most fish that you see. They really are that color. It was a shock after the sleek sharks and the bright orange Red Snapper I had seen on previous sets. I was busy watching the scientists using their books and personal knowledge to identify each species accurately.   After we finished the work up on the fish we caught we headed for the next station. Now we are back to shallower fishing and expect to catch sharks, red snapper, and a variety of other fish.

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Two cutthroat eels (top) and Mexican grenadier (bottom)

I can honestly say that the 12 hour shifts start wearing you down, and sleeping is not an issue once you climb under the covers. The waves will wake you up now and then. And some mornings I wake up and can smell them cooking breakfast but sleep overrides the smell of food because I know how long it will be till I get to bed again. Walking out on deck each morning to views like this does lead to a smile on your face, that and the music that is playing loudly on the deck. Yesterday it was Hair Nation…. taking me back to the 80’s.

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View from the deck of NOAA Ship Oregon II

Did You Know?

The Gulf of Mexico is roughly 995 miles along its longer, east-west axis. It has a surface area of about 600,000 square miles.

A wide variety of physical adaptations allow sharks to thrive in the Gulf of Mexico. They have powerful smell receptors. The sensory organs lining their prominent snouts, called ampullae of Lorenzini, can detect movement of potential prey even if the sharks cannot see it. These sensory organs assist in trailing injured marine animals from great distances. They help sharks locate all sort of other things, too– shrimp boats, other sharks, birds, turtles (tiger sharks a big turtle eaters!), even boats that are dumping trash.

The skin on a shark is smooth if you run your hand head to tail and rough like sandpaper if you run your hand from tail to head. At one time, sharks skin was used as a form of sandpaper. The dermal denticles, or skin teeth, can be different from species to species and can sometimes be used as a character to look at when trying to identify one species from another.

Emily Sprowls: Gulpers of the Gulf, March 31, 2017

 

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Emily Sprowls

Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II

March 20 – April 3, 2017

 

Mission: Experimental Longline Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico

Date: March 31, 2017

 

Weather Data from the Bridge

12:00 hours

29°36.7’ N, 87°43.7’ W

Visibility 10 nm,

Wind 6 kts 350°N

Sea wave height 2-3 ft.

Seawater temp 22.9°C

 

Science and Technology Log

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Gulper shark from 800 meters under the sea!

On the deep longlines we sampled many gulper sharks (Centrophorus spp.). Gulper sharks have cool anatomical adaptations, including their huge reflective eyes, buccal folds for gulping their food, and the ability to excrete huge amounts of slime from their skin. Gulpers also have very large eggs, which is of particular interest to my crewmate Lydia Crawford, a scientist from Tulane University that is studying shark reproduction and evolution.

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Lydia dissects a shark specimen to study its eggs.

Lydia is collecting eggs from as many different kinds of sharks as she can in order to understand more about how sharks evolved a variety of reproductive strategies. Oviparous sharks and skates lay egg cases, also knows as “mermaids purses.” Oviviparous sharks let their eggs hatch internally and the babies are born swimming. Some embryos eat other eggs or even their siblings as they develop in their mother! Placental viviparous sharks are also born alive, but the embryos are fed via umbilical cords, similar to us humans.

Lydia will examine the microscopic structures of the shark ovaries she collected when she gets back to her lab. She hypothesizes that certain features of the ovaries have allowed sharks to evolve the ability to give birth to large babies, ready to act like the apex predators they are!

 

Personal Log

Last night we caught a blacktip shark (Carcharhinus limbatus) that my data sheet says measured 1.4 meters, but my memory says it was MUCH BIGGER because he lunged and snapped at us! Most of the sharks we have collected have been rather stunned by their brief trip out of the ocean onto the deck, but this guy acted like a shark still in the water! He and his biting jaws were clear reminders of what incredible predators sharks are. He put a healthy dose of fear back in me, along with a lot of respect for the science team who managed to measure him despite his aggressive activity!

 

Kids’ Questions

  • Why don’t sharks have swim bladders?

Sharks maintain neutral buoyancy by having very large, oily livers. We confirmed this by throwing the dissected lobes of the liver overboard and they floated!

  • Is there a shark that glows in the dark?

The eyes of some of the deep sea sharks that what we caught appear to be glowing because they are so big and have very reflective layers (called tapeta lucida) that shines back the boat lights. However some sharks, including the lantern shark, have special organs called photophores that glow!

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Marine biologist Lydia with tilefish (Lopholatilus chamaeleonticeps)
  • How would you recommend reversing the sense of fear people associate with sharks?

Lydia’s response:

As a scientist, you shouldn’t try to reverse people’s fears because you can’t rationalize away a feeling. Also, we should have a respectful fear of sharks. They are amazing predators! Instead we should convince people why sharks are important in the ocean ecosystem as keystone species.

Emily Sprowls: Shark Bait, March 28, 2017

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Emily Sprowls

Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II

March 20 – April 3, 2017

 

Mission: Experimental Longline Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico

Date: March 28, 2017

 

Weather Data from the Bridge

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Red snapper (Lutjanus campechanus)

13:00 hours

29°09.3’ N 88°35.2’W

Visibility 10 nm, Scattered clouds

Wind 8 kts 170°E

Sea wave height <1 ft.

Seawater temp 22.9°C

 

Science and Technology Log

In addition to experimenting by sampling deeper, we are varying the fishing gear and using different kinds of bait. We have switched to hooks on a steel leader so that even a strong, big shark cannot bite through the line. We are rotating through squid and mackerel as bait in order to see which species are more attracted to different bait. In addition to many species of sharks, we have also caught and measured eels, large fish and rays.

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Nick prepares hooks for longline gangions.

One of the scientists on board specializes in fishing gear, and helps keep maintain all our gear after it gets twisted by eels or looped up on itself. He also works on turtle exclusion devices for trawling gear.

 

Personal Log

Last night the line pulled in a huge tangle of “ghost gear.” This was fishing line and hooks that had been lost and sunk. It would have been much easier to just cut the line and let the mess sink back to where it came from, but everybody worked together to haul it out so it won’t sit at the bottom tangling up other animals.

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Lost or “ghost” gear that tangled in our lines.

This is just one example of the dedication the scientists and crew have to ocean stewardship. I have been so impressed by the care and speed with which everybody handles the sharks in order to get them back in the water safely.

 

Kids’ Questions

  • Is there any bycatch of dolphins?
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A few seastars come up with uneaten bait as bycatch.

Today we saw dolphins for the first time! They were only a few of them pretty far from the boat, so they did not affect our sampling. Had they decided to come play by riding in our wake, we would have postponed our sampling to avoid any interactions between the dolphins and the gear. One of the reasons that we only deploy the fishing gear for one hour is in case an air-breathing turtle or mammal gets tangled (they can hold their breath for over an hour). However, since dolphins hunt live fish, they don’t try to eat the dead bait we are using.

  • Can sharks use echolocation? How do they find their food?

Sharks do not use echolocation like marine mammals, but they do have an “extra” sense to help them find their food. They can detect electrical current using special sense organs called ampullae of Lorenzini.

  • What are the chances of getting hurt? Why don’t they bite?

While there is a chance of the sharks accidentally biting us as we handle them, we are very careful to hold them on the backs of their heads and not to put our fingers near their mouths! “Shark burn” is a more likely injury, which occurs when a shark wiggles and their rough skin scrapes the person handling them. Sharks do not have scales, but are covered in tiny, abrasive denticles that feel like sandpaper.

 

 

 

Emily Sprowls: Tag, you’re it! March 26, 2017

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Emily Sprowls

Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II

March 20 – April 3, 2017

 

Mission: Experimental Longline Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico

Date: March 26, 2017

Weather Data from the Bridge

13:00 hours

28°12.1’ N 89°23.8’W

Visibility 6 nm, Haze

Wind 15 kts 170°E

Sea wave height 4-5 ft.

Seawater temp 23.4°C

Science and Technology Log

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I learn to measure my first (little) shark!

The ship has completed our deep-water sampling and we are now headed to more shallow areas, where there are likely to be more sharks and hopefully even some that have been tagged in the past.  With each shark we catch, we record in a database their measurements and exactly where they were caught.  If things are going well with the shark out of water, we also take a fin clip, a blood sample, and attach a tag.

Tag-and-recapture is one way for wildlife biologists to estimate population size.  You can compare the number of tagged sharks to newly caught sharks, and then extrapolate using that ratio to the total number of sharks in the area.

 

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Volunteers help enter data into the “Toughbook” computer.

Recapturing a tagged shark also helps scientists determine the age of a shark, as well as its rate of growth.  In bony fish, it is possible to examine the otoliths (bony structures in the ear) to determine the age of a fish.  However, since sharks do not have bones, scientists must use other ways to determine their ages and track their growth.  One of the scientists on board (my roommate) is collecting shark vertebrae so that her lab can use growth rings in the vertebrae to assess their age, sort of like counting the rings on a tree stump.

 

Personal Log

The past few days have put all my seasickness remedies to the test with waves over 6 feet and plenty of rolling on the ship.  The good news is that they have been working pretty well for the most part – I’ve only lost my lunch once so far!  One “cure” for seasickness is to stay busy, which has been difficult to do because the high winds and lightning have made it unsafe to do any sampling.

Fortunately, the crew’s lounge is well-stocked with movies, so I have watched quite a few while we wait for the waves to calm down and the thunderstorm to pass.  The lounge has some cushioned benches long enough to stretch out on, which is key because being horizontal is the best way for me to minimize my seasickness.

 

Kids’ Questions

  • How do you put the tag on?

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    Data collection sheet and shark tagging tool.

The tag for smaller sharks is a bit like a plastic earring, but on the shark’s dorsal fin.  First you have to “pierce” the fin with a tool like a paper hole-punch, and then use another tool to snap in the tag  — making sure that the ID numbers are facing out.  If the shark is a species that will outgrow a plastic roto tag, they get a skinny floating tag inserted just under their dorsal fin.

  • How does the tag stay on the shark?

The shark heals the wound made by the tag, and the scar tissue holds the tag in place. Because the tags are made of plastic and stainless steel, they do not rust or deteriorate in the ocean.

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Tagged dorsal fin of Mustelus sinusmexicanus.
  • How do they make the tags? 

The NOAA fisheries lab orders tags from manufacturing companies, and are similar to tags used on domestic animals like cows.  Each tag includes a phone number and the word “REWARD,” so that if fishermen catch a tagged shark they can report it.

  • What are they doing with the shark tagging data?

Tagging the sharks in the Gulf of Mexico allows us to figure out how fast they are growing and how far they are traveling.  Measuring all the sharks also helps scientists understand how the populations of different species might be changing.  Some clues to changing populations include catching smaller or fewer sharks of one species.

Emily Sprowls: It’s a shark eat shark world down there! March 22, 2017

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Emily Sprowls

Aboard Oregon II

March 20 – April 3, 2017

 

Mission: Experimental Longline Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico

Date: March 22, 2017

Science and Technology Log

This first leg of the Oregon II’s research for the season is an experimental longline survey. This is an exciting cruise for everybody, as we are all anxious to see what comes in on each line, and we hope to find some rare and little-studied species.

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               Reeling in a shark caught on one of the longline hooks 

A longline is a type of fishing gear that deploys one very long and very thick fishing line with many hooks attached. A fisheries survey is a systematic sampling of the ocean to assess fish populations. This mission is experimental because we are testing the longline at extreme depths and we are using different kinds of hooks in order to catch as wide a variety of species as possible.

Things have been busy onboard from the very first day, as we have been setting out and hauling longlines around the clock. We are headed deeper and deeper into the Mississippi canyon of the Gulf of Mexico with each station, starting at 100m and have worked our way down to 750 m, where we currently have a line “soaking” before we haul it up to record what we caught.

Personal Log

Life on the ship is divided into night and day watch. I’m “on days,” which means I work noon to midnight. I am so lucky to be a cruise with a lot of seasoned marine scientists and a great, hard-working crew. Shark scientist Kristin Hannan is the Field Party Chief and has taken me under her wing to get me settled and teach me as much as she can (without making me feel like the newbie that I am)!

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Oil rigs on the horizon

The seas have been calm and the water is the most beautiful color of blue! We are pretty far out to sea, and I have been amazed to see so many oil rigs off in the distance. They glow like small cities at night, and I think they look like strange robots walking on the horizon during the day.

 

Kids’ Questions of the Day

These questions are from the 1st-2nd grade and multi-age classes at Harmony School.

  •  How do you catch the sharks?

We catch the sharks by setting out 100 baited hooks at a time on a very long fishing line. A winch reels in the 3 miles of line after a couple of hours, and we record what is on every single hook.

  • How do you find the sharks?

We rely on the sharks finding our baited hooks. We put weights on the line so that it will sink all the way down to the bottom. We are fishing so deep that it takes almost an hour just for the line to sink! The sharks find the bait using their incredible sense of smell.

  •  What do sharks eat? Fish? Squid? Cookies? Other sharks?

We are baiting the hooks with pieces of squid. The process of baiting hundreds of hooks has left my clothes covered with squid ink!

sharkbait.jpg
Hooks baited with pieces of squid

Sometimes they catch sharks with fish (mackerel), but squid bait stays better on the hooks, and deep-sea sharks clearly like squid, which also live in deep water. While this mission is experimental, the scientists onboard do not think we will have much luck baiting a hook with a cookie – it will just dissolve in the sea (besides the cookies in the galley are so delicious that there are no leftovers)! One type of deep-sea shark makes their own cookies… cookie-cutter sharks (Isistius) bite “cookies” out of other fish with their amazing jaws. Maybe we’ll catch one!?!

Last night we hauled in one hook with only a shark head on it…. What do you think happened to the rest of the shark?

 

Denise Harrington: A Shark A Day, September 29, 2016

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Denise Harrington

Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II

September 16-30, 2016

Mission: Longline Survey

Geographic Area: Gulf of Mexico

Date: Thursday, September 29, 2016

Science Log

The cruise is coming to a close. Looking back at my three experiences with NOAA, hydrography (mapping the ocean), fisheries lab work, or shark and snapper surveys,  I couldn’t decide which was my favorite.  Like the facets of a diamond, each experience gave me another perspective on our one world ocean.

Just like different geographic locations and work, each shark species give me a lens through which I can appreciate the mysteries of the ocean.  Every day, I held, measured, kissed, or released a different species of shark. In the Gulf of Mexico, there are 44 shark species frequently caught.  Fortunately, I saw quite a few, and will share some, in the order in which I met them.

Our first night fishing, we caught many Atlantic sharpnose sharks (Rhizoprionodon terraenovae).  They are named for their long flat snout and sharp nose. It seemed whenever we caught one, a bunch more followed. They were abundant and kept us busy.

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Paul Felts, Fisheries Biologist, records measurements while Kevin Rademacher, Fisheries Biologist, wrestles and measures the shark. Matt Ellis, NOAA Science Writer, took amazing pictures throughout the cruise.

Day two, we caught a deep water Cuban dogfish (Squalus cubensis).  

 

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The Cuban dogfish’s huge iridescent eyes were entrancing.

On September 2o, we almost caught a bull shark (Carcharhinus leucas).  We brought the cradle down, but the shark thrashed its way off, refusing to be studied. The bull shark, along with the tiger shark, are “one of the top three sharks implicated in unprovoked fatal attacks around the world.”

Within a couple days of catching the Cuban dogfish, we caught another shark with iridescent eyes. It turns out this similar looking shark was not a Cuban dogfish, but a rare roughskin spiny dogfish (Cirrhigaleus asper).  

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Dr. Trey Driggers, Field Party Chief, and prolific shark researcher, surprised us all when he reported this was the first roughskin spiny dogfish he had ever caught!

The beautifully mottled, sleek, immature tiger shark (Galeocerdo cuvier) caught on September 23 had remarkable skin patterns that apparently fade as the shark ages. Adult sharks can get as large as 18 feet and 2,000 pounds.  Along with the bull shark, it is one of the top three species implicated in unprovoked, fatal attacks worldwide.

September 24 we caught a fascinating scalloped hammerhead (Sphyrna lewini).  The flat extended head of this hammerhead is wavy, giving it the “scalloped” part of its name.  Its populations in the Gulf have drastically decreased since 1981, making it a species of concern.

 

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Here, Kevin measures one of several scalloped hammerhead sharks we caught on Leg IV of the survey.

We also caught a silky shark (Carcharhinus falciformis). Like other Carcharhinus sharks, the silky shark has a sharp “Carchar,” nose “hinus” (Greek derivation), but also has a silky appearance due to its closely spaced dermal denticles.

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I instantly felt the silky was the most beautiful shark I’d seen. Photo: Matt Ellis/NOAA Fisheries

 

We  saw two of the three smoothhound species present in the Gulf.  On September 25, we caught a Gulf smoothhound, (Mustelus sinusmexicanus), a species named less than 20 years ago. Much is left to learn about the ecology and biology of this recently discovered shark.

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Getting ready to weigh the gulf smoothhound, Kevin Rademacher, Fisheries Biologist, stops for a photo.                                                      Photo: Matt Ellis/NOAA Fisheries

Then, I watched the night crew catch, measure and tag a dusky shark (Carcharhinus obscurus).

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Photo: NOAA Fisheries

On September 26, we caught a sandbar shark (Carcharhinus plumbeus).  Despite its size,  the sandbar shark poses little threat to man.

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The sandbar shark’s large fin to body ratio and size make them a prime target for commercial fisheries. Photo: Matt Ellis/NOAA Fisheries

Due to over-fishing, sandbar shark populations are said to have dropped by as much as 2/3 between the 1970’s and the 1990’s. They are now making a comeback, whether it be from fishing regulations, or the decreased populations of larger sharks feeding on juvenile sandbar sharks.

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This sandbar shark attacked a blacknose shark that had taken our bait. Photo: Matt Ellis/NOAA Fisheries

We tagged many sharks during my two weeks on the Oregon II.  If you never catch one of those sharks again, the tag doesn’t mean anything.  But this week, we also caught a previously tagged sandbar shark!  Recapturing a wild marine animal is phenomenal.  You can learn about its migration patterns, statistically estimate population sizes, and learn much more. The many years of NOAA’s work with this species in particular demonstrates that thoughtful, long term management of a species works.

 

On September 27, we almost caught a nurse shark (Ginglymostoma cirratum). The barbels coming from its mouth reminded me of a catfish or exotic man with a mustache.

Today, September 29, was our last day of fishing, a bittersweet day for me.  That nurse shark that got away, or more likely, another one like it, came up in our cradle.

Every day we caught sharks, including a few other species not mentioned here.  Only once our line came back without a fish.  The diverse characteristics and adaptations that allow each of these species to survive in a challenging marine environment inspire biologists as they try to categorize and understand the species they research.   While catching so many different species of sharks gives me hope, many members of the crew reminisce about times gone by when fish were more abundant than they are now.

Personal Log

I am the kind of person who always struggles to return from an adventure.  I have learned so much, I don’t want to leave.  Yet I know my class at South Prairie is waiting patiently for my return. I hope to share these many marine species  with my class so that we all may view every moment with curiosity and amazement.

 

 

 

 

Denise Harrington: First Day Jitters, September 21, 2016

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Denise Harrington

Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II

September 16-30, 2016

Mission: Longline Survey

Geographic Area: Gulf of Mexico

Date: Wednesday, September 21, 2016

My first day on the longline cruise seems so long ago with three days of work under my belt. The night before my first shift, just like when school starts, I couldn’t sleep. Trying to prepare was futile. I was lost, lost in the wet lab, lost in my stateroom, lost in the mess. I needed to get some gloves on and get to work, learning the best way I know how: by doing.

At noon, I stepped out the fantail, life vest, gloves, hard hat, and sunscreen on, nervous, but ready to work. The Gulf of Mexico horizon was dotted with oil rigs, like a prairie full of farmhouses. Heat waves rose from the black deck.

Fifteen minutes before arriving at our first station, our science team, Field Party Chief Dr. Trey Driggers, Field Biologist Paul Felts, Research Biologist Kevin Rademacher, NOAA Science Writer Matt Ellis, and I began to prepare for our first station by baiting the hooks with mackerel (Scomber scombrus). I learned quickly that boots and grubby clothes are ideal for this task.

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Once all the hooks were baited, Chief Boatswain Tim Martin and Paul release a high flyer, a large pole with a buoy at the bottom and a reflective metal flag on top.

The buoy, connected to the boat by the longline, bobbed off toward the horizon.

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Tim attached the first of three weights to anchor the line to the sea floor.

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As the longline stretched across the sea, Kevin attached a numbered tag to the baited hook held by Paul.

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Paul passed the baited, tagged hook to Tim, who attached 100 hooks, evenly spaced, to the one mile longline.

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On another station, Paul attached numbers to the gangion (clip, short line, and baited hook) held by Trey.  Each station we change roles, which I appreciate.

Setting the longline is rather predictable, so with Rush and Van Halen salting the air, we talked about our kids, dogs, riots in the news, and science, of course. The tags will help us track the fish we catch. After a fish is released or processed, the data is entered in the computer and shared with the scientific community. Maybe one of these tagged fish will end up in one of the many scientific papers Trey publishes on sharks each year.

The line soaked for an hour waiting for snapper, tilefish, eels, sharks, and other fish to bite. While the line soaked, Mike Conway, skilled fisherman, and I lowered the CTD, a piece of equipment that measures conductivity (salinity), temperature, and depth, into the water.  Once the biologists know how salty, cold, and deep the water is, they can make better predictions about the species of fish we will find.

We attached a bag holding a few Styrofoam cups to see how the weight of the water above it would affect the cup.  Just imagine the adaptations creatures of the deep must have developed to respond to this pressure!

The ship circled back to hook #1 to give each hook equal time in the water. After an hour, we all walked up to the well deck, toward the bow or front of the ship. We pulled in the first highflyer and weight.  We pulled in the hooks, some with bait, and some without.  After 50 hooks, the middle weight came up. We still didn’t have a fish.  I began to wonder if we’d catch anything at all.  No data is still data, I thought. “Fish on eighty three!” I heard someone yell.   I wake from my reverie, and get my gloves on.

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It was a blacknose shark (Carcharhinus acronotus), “pound for pound, the meanest shark in the water,” says Trey. He would know, he’s the shark expert. It came up fighting, but was no match for Kevin who carefully managed to get length, weight, and sex data before releasing it back into sea.

With one shark to process, the three scientists were able to analyze the sexual maturity of the male blacknose together. I learned that an adult male shark’s claspers are hard and rotate 180˚, allowing them to penetrate a female shark. An immature shark’s claspers are soft and do not rotate. For each male shark, we need to collect this data about its sex stage.

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Here, you can see Trey rotating the clasper 180 degrees.

Later, Paul talked about moments like these, where the field biologists work side by side with research biologists from all different units in the lab.  Some research biologists, he notes, never get into the field.  But Kevin, Trey, and others like them have a much more well-rounded understanding of the data collected and how it is done because of the time they spend in the field.

Fortunately, the transition from inexperienced to novice was gradual. The second line was just as easy as the first, we only brought in two fish, one shark and one red snapper (Lutjanus campechanus).

For the red snapper, we removed the otoliths, which people often call ear bones, to determine age, and gonads to determine reproductive status.  I say “we” but really the scientists accomplished this difficult feat. I just learned how to process the samples they collected and record the data as they dissected the fish.

We set the longline a third time. The highflyer bobbed toward the orange sun, low on the horizon. The ship turned around, and after an hour of soaking, we went to the well deck toward the front of the ship to pull in the longline.  The sky was dark, the stars spread out above us.

“One!” “Three!” “Seven!” “Nine!”  The numbers of tags with fish on the line were being called out faster than we could manage.  It seemed like every other hook had a shark on it.  Two hours later we had collected twenty-eight Atlantic sharpnose (Rhizoprionodon terraenovae) sharks and had one snapper to process. Too busy working to take pictures, I have nothing to document my transition from inexperienced to novice except this data sheet.  Guess who took all this data? Me!

p1080265

Personal Log

NOAA Ship Oregon II is small, every bunk is filled.  I share a stateroom with the second in command, Executive Officer (XO) Lecia Salerno, and am thankful she is such a flexible roommate, making a place for me where space is hard to come by.

Last night, as I lay in my bunk above XO Salerno and her office, I felt like Garth on Wayne’s World, the thought that “I’m not worthy” entering my head.  All members of the crew are talented, experienced, and hard-working, from the bridge, to the galley, to the engine room, and out on the deck where we work. I’ve made a few mistakes.   I took the nasty thought and threw it overboard, like the slimy king snake eels (Ophichthus rex) we pull from the deep.

o-rex
King Snake Eel (Ophichthus rex)

In the morning I grabbed a cup of coffee, facing the risk of being the least experienced, slowest crew member to learn, with curiosity and perseverance.  First day jitters gone, I’m learning by doing.

Barney Peterson: What Are We Catching? August 28, 2016

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Barney Peterson

Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II

August 13 – 28, 2016

Mission: Long Line Survey

Geographic Area: Gulf of Mexico

Date: Sunday, August 28, 2016

Weather Data is not available for this post because I am writing from the Biloxi/Gulfport Airport.

WHAT ARE WE CATCHING?

This is a long-line survey.  That means we go to an assigned GPS point, deploy hi-flyer buoys, add weights to hold the line down, add 100 baited hooks, leave it in place for an hour, and retrieve everything.

mackerel-bait-fish
Mackerel is used to bait the hooks.

As the equipment is pulled in we identify, measure and record everything we catch.  Sometimes, like in the case of a really large, feisty shark that struggles enough to straighten or break a hook or the lines, we try to identify and record the one that got away.  We tag each shark so that it can be identified if it is ever caught again.  We tally each hook as it is deployed and retrieved, and the computer records a GPS position for each retrieval so scientists can form a picture of how the catch was distributed along the section we were fishing.  The target catch for this particular survey was listed as sharks and red snapper.  The reality is that we caught a much wider variety of marine life.

We list our catch in two categories: Bony fish, and Sharks.  The major difference is in the skeletons.  Bony fish have just that: a skeleton made of hard bone like a salmon or halibut.  Sharks, on the other hand, have a cartilaginous skeleton, rigid fins, and 5 to 7 gill openings on each side.  Sharks have multiple rows of sharp teeth arranged around both upper and lower jaws.  Since they have no bones, those teeth are embedded in the gums and are easily dislodged.  This is not a problem because they are easily replaced as well.  There are other wonderful differences that separate sharks from bony fish.

Bony Fish we caught:

The most common of the bony fish that we caught were Red Groupers (Epinephelus morio), distinguished by of their brownish to red-orange color, large eyes and very large mouths.  Their dorsal fins, especially, have pointed spikes.

chrissy-with-enormous-grouper
Chrissy holding an enormous grouper

We also caught Black Sea Bass (Centropristus striata) which resemble the groupers in that they also have large mouths and prominent eyes.

sea-bass
Black Sea Bass

A third fish that resembles these two is the Speckled Hind (Epinephelus drummondhayi).  It has a broad body, large mouth and undershot jaw giving the face a different look.  Yes, we did catch several Red Snapper (Lutjanus campechanus), although not as many as I expected.  Snappers are a brighter color than the Red Groupers, and have a more triangular shaped head, large mouth and prominent canine teeth.

red-snapper
Red Snapper

The most exciting bony fish we caught was barracuda (Sphyraena barracuda).  We caught several of these and each time I was impressed with their sleek shape and very sharp teeth!

barracuda
TAS Barney Peterson with a barracuda

Most of the bony fish we caught were in fairly deep water.

 

Sharks:

We were fortunate to catch a variety of sharks ranging from fairly small to impressively big!

The most commonly caught were Sandbar Sharks (Carcharhinus plumbeus): large, dark-gray to brown on top and white on the bottom.

sandbar-shark
Sandbar Shark

Unless you really know your sharks, it is difficult for the amateur to distinguish between some of the various types.  Experts look at color, nose shape, fin shape and placement, and distinguishing characteristics like the hammer-shaped head of the Great Hammerhead (Sphyrna mokarran) and Scalloped Hammerhead (Sphyrna lewini) sharks that were caught on this trip.

great-hammerhead
Great Hammerhead Shark

The beautifully patterned coloring of the Tiger Shark (Galeocerdo cuvier) is fairly easy to recognize and so is the yellowish cast to the sides of the Lemon Shark (Negaprion brevirostris).

Other sharks we caught were Black-nose (Carcharhinus acrontus), Atlantic Sharp-nosed (Rhizoprionodon terraenovae), Nurse Shark (Ginglymostoma cirratum), Blacktip (Carcharhinus limbatus) and Bull Sharks (Carcharhinus leucus).

Several of the sharks we caught were large, very close to 3 meters long, very heavy and very strong!  Small sharks and bony fish were brought aboard on the hooks to be measured against a scaled board on the deck then weighed by holding them up on a spring scale before tagging and releasing them.  Any shark larger than about 1.5 meters was usually heavy and strong enough that it was guided into a net cradle that was lifted by crane to deck level where it could be measured, weighed and tagged with the least possibility of harm to either the shark or the crew members.  Large powerful sharks do not feel the force of gravity when in the water, but once out of it, the power of their weight works against them so getting them back into the water quickly is important.  Large powerful sharks are also pretty upset about being caught and use their strength to thrash around trying to escape.  The power in a swat from a shark tail or the abrasion from their rough skin can be painful and unpleasant for those handling them.

PERSONAL LOG

The Night Sky

I am standing alone on the well deck; my head is buzzing with the melodies of the Eagles and England Dan.  A warm breeze brushes over me as I tune out the hum of the ship’s engines and focus on the rhythm of the bow waves rushing past below me.  It is dark! Dark enough and clear enough that I can see stars above me from horizon to horizon: the soft cloudy glow of the Milky Way, the distinctive patterns of familiar favorites like the Big Dipper and the Little Dipper with its signature bright point, the North Star.  Cassiopeia appears as a huge “W” and even the tiny cluster of the “Seven Sisters” is distinct in the black bowl of the night sky over the Gulf of Mexico.  The longer I look the more stars I see.

This is one of the first really cloudless nights of this cruise so far.  Mike Conway, a member of the deck crew came looking for me to be sure I didn’t miss out on an opportunity to witness this amazingly beautiful show.  As I first exited the dry lab and stumbled toward the bow all I could pick out were three faint stars in the bowl of the Big Dipper.  The longer I looked, the more my eyes grew accustomed to the dark, and the more spectacular the show became.  Soon there were too many stars for me to pick out any but the most familiar constellations.

As a child I spent many summer nighttime hours on a blanket in our yard as my father patiently guided my eyes toward constellation after constellation, telling me the myths that explained each one. Many years have passed since then.  I have gotten busy seeing other sights and hearing other stories.  I had not thought about those long ago summer nights for many years.  Tonight, looking up in wonder, I felt very close to Pop again and to those great times we shared.

 

Kathleen Gibson, Sailing Away, July 27, 2015

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kathleen Gibson
Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II
July 25 – August 8, 2015

Mission: Shark/Red Snapper Longline Survey
Geographic Area of the Cruise: Atlantic Ocean off the Florida and Carolina Coasts
Date: July 27, 2015
Coordinates:  25o   30.755 N
                       O79o   55.736W

Weather Data from the Bridge:
Wind speed (knots): 9
Sea Temp (deg C): 31.3
Air Temp (deg C):  31.2

View from the Bow - Gulf of Mexico
View from the bow – Gulf of Mexico

Just before we left Pascagoula last Saturday, we learned that the V-Sat system was not operational and that in all likelihood we wouldn’t have internet access during the trip.  So far this prediction has been accurate.  I’ll continue to write these blogs as we go and post them all after we get to port if it doesn’t get fixed.

In my first post I wrote a bit about the area we would be surveying. I’ve since learned that during this cruise we will only be working in the Atlantic Ocean. Another change is that our final destination will be Cape Canaveral, FL rather than Jacksonville, FL.

Motoring through the Florida Keys
Motoring through the Florida Keys

Since we aren’t doing any fishing in the Gulf, we are currently following a straight track from Pascagoula to the Florida Keys. We’ve been sailing for two days and are currently off the coast of Key Biscayne, FL.  There has been one rain event that went by quickly, and otherwise it has been fair weather. While land isn’t visible, there are a good number of recreational motorboats, so land must not be too far off.

 

Science and Technology

This cruise is the first of four legs of a long-term (longitudinal) study of the distribution and abundance of shark and red snapper populations. The study began in 1995 and the research area includes U.S. waters of the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico. The Atlantic Ocean sampling stations on this first leg are positioned at various distances offshore from Miami, FL to Cape Hatteras, NC and at different depths. Later legs will complete the survey in the Gulf of Mexico.  While this type of study can be resource and labor intensive and also time consuming, a well-designed longitudinal study can provide valuable data that tracks trends and patterns over an extended period of time. As with any investigation, numerous potential variables must be controlled, including time of year sampling occurs, sampling equipment (line and hooks) and sampling locations.

We’ve prepared three barrels of gangions (50 hooks in each). When we start fishing we will bait the hooks with mackerel and hook them on the long line.

Kristin Hannan ( left) and science volunteers preparing gangions. These will be baited and attached to the main line.
Kristin Hannan ( left) and science volunteers preparing gangions.
These will be baited and attached to the main line.
The circular hooks are designed to minimize harm.
The circular hooks are designed to minimize harm.

NOAA Careers

A successful cruise requires a significant amount of preparation as well as committed participants. Those aboard include NOAA scientists, NOAA Corps Officers, an experienced deck crew, engineers, stewards, and science team volunteers. From the moment I arrived on board it has been apparent that everyone is fully invested in this project.  They’ve been willing to share their stories of how they made their way on to this cruise of the Oregon II;  I’ll share some of their stories with you in this and future blog entries.

Career Spotlight: Kristin Hannan – Field Party Chief, NOAA Shark Unit

As Field Party Chief, Kristin is responsible for all of the scientific work done during the cruise.  She is also the watch leader for the day shift.  While Kristin was fascinated with marine science at an early age, she followed some sage academic advice for her undergraduate program: “focus on being a scientist first, include rigorous coursework, and then do marine work.”  She graduated from Virginia Tech with a degree in Biology and a minor in Chemistry and she remains a loyal Hokie fan.

Kristin Hannan taking measurements
Kristin Hannan taking measurements

She has been involved in a number of challenging marine-related projects all around the United States and has been open to unusual opportunities when they arose. One such opportunity, over 10 years ago,  was to be a volunteer with NOAA Fisheries in Pascagoula, MS.  She joined the Shark Longline cruise as a volunteer one summer, and returned in subsequent summers to participate. Kristin eventually joined NOAA permanently as a Field Biologist with the Shark Unit, and is now the Chief Scientist/Field Party Chief for this cruise–the very same one she volunteered for some years ago.

In addition to her work with NOAA, Kristin is pursuing a Master’s Degree from the University of South Alabama, where she is studying chimeras and methods used to determine their age.

Kristin’s advice to students looking to work in Marine Sciences –or any field- is to:

  1. Be open to unusual opportunities
  2. Try to make a good impression every day
  3. Work hard

Personal Log

Flying Fish Photo Credit: NOAA
Flying Fish
Photo Credit: NOAA

We’re still sailing to the sampling area, so there is plenty of free time to meet others on board, read and walk around the deck.  This will definitely change when sampling begins. Today I went out to the bow and saw flying fish for the first time and dolphins were swimming off the bow.

The science team is made up of 4 NOAA scientists and 7 volunteers with a variety of experience. Our volunteers include 2 university professors, one graduate student, three undergraduate students, and one Teacher at Sea!  The group is split into two 12-hour shifts.  I’m on the day shift which begins at noon each day and ends at midnight.  It’s likely that we will begin fishing tomorrow morning, and the night crew has begun adjusting their sleep pattern to be prepared.  I’m going to have to work at sleeping in.

Survival Suit - Perfect Fit  Photo Credit: Lecia Salerno
Survival Suit – Perfect Fit  Photo Credit: Lecia Salerno

 

The Executive Officer (XO) LT Lecia Salerno, has graciously allowed me to share her quarters, which includes her office. The cabin is on an upper level so I definitely get rocked to sleep.

A fire drill and abandon-ship drill were called on the first full day at sea.  Lecia helped me get into my survival suit and, more importantly, out of it as well.

Questions of the day for my students:

What additional variables do you think should be considered and kept constant in this study?

What is a nautical mile and how many nautical miles is it from Pascagoula, MS, to Miami, FL?

How do chimeras differ from sharks?

Tomorrow we fish!
Tomorrow we fish!

Up next… Time to Fish.

 

Liz Harrington: The Temporary Lull in the Action, August 21, 2013

NOAA Teacher At Sea
Liz Harrington
 Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II
August 10 – 25, 2013

Mission : Shark/Red Snapper Bottom Longline
Geographical area of cruise: Western Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico
Date: August 21, 2013

Weather: current conditions from the bridge:
Partly cloudy
Lat. 29.18 °N  Lon. 84.06 °W
Temp. 75 °F (24 ° C)
Wind speed  10-15  mph
Barometer  30.04 in ( 1017.3 mb)
Visibility  10 mi

Science and Technology Log:

It has been just over a week now since I’ve been aboard the Oregon II.  The catch has not been as abundant as it was the first couple of days of fishing, but that tells the scientist something as well. So far I’ve experienced three water hauls – not one fish on any of the 100 hooks!  Even though we are not catching many fish (for now), the fishing will continue until it is time to return to port.  Don’t get me wrong, we are still catching fish, just not as many as we had been.  Occasionally we pull up something other than fish, like eels, skates, crabs or sea stars. This is called the bycatch. In the previous blog I explained how the line was set. In this one I’ll explain about the catch.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
“Fish On”. A Sandbar Shark is brought alongside the ship to be cradled.
crab as bycatch
This crab, part of the bycatch, wouldn’t let go of the bait.
preparing for haul back
Lead Fisherman Chris Nichols (right) and Fisherman Buddy Gould prepare to retrieve the high flyer.

Hauling in the line is similar to setting it out.  The fisherman handle the line and the science team process the fish. Our team includes a person manning the computer to keep track of the hook numbers and the condition of any remaining bait;  a person “racking” (carefully but quickly returning the gangions into the storage barrels); and a “data” person to write down information about each fish, and the rest of the team will be “wranglers” (those who handle the catch).  We all rotate through the jobs.  I like to be a wrangler, but the racker and computer folks get a nice view of the fish being brought on board.  Everything we catch is brought on board, weighed and measured.

tagging Tiger Shark
The Day Team tagging a Tiger Shark

Many species of sharks are tagged and a fin clip is taken to obtain its DNA.  They are given an injection of a chemical which will help to age the shark if it is caught again.  The entire process only takes a few minutes because they are trying to get the sharks back into the water as soon as possible. The scientists and crew are all very conscientious about doing what is best for the marine life.  What’s really nice is that we all take turns tagging the sharks.  It is just so exciting to be up close to them, especially the big ones. You can feel the strength and power beneath that sandy skin.

weighing a shark
Sometimes sharks are too heavy for the handheld scale, so they are hoisted up to be weighed. Notice the scientist to the right to get sense of its weight.
processing fish
Kristin and Cliff find otoliths at the end of the rainbow.

The boney fish that are caught are also weighed and measured. After the haul back (when the line is in, gangions are stored, high flyers returned and deck hosed down), they are brought to the back of the ship to have otoliths removed and tissue samples taken. The otoliths are boney structures in the fish’s inner ear which are sensitive to gravity and acceleration. As the fish grows, each year a new layer is added to the otoliths – similar to tree rings. By examining the otoliths under a microscope its age can be determined. I was taught how to remove the otoliths, so now (given enough time – I need plenty) I can help process the fish. Learn more about the procedure here.

Personal Log

stateroom
I have the bottom bunk in stateroom #5

It has been easy for me to acclimate to life aboard the ship because all of the people are so friendly and interesting.  The ship is always rocking but I don’t even notice it any more. It actually lulls me to sleep at night, along with the constant sound of the engine and particularly the gurgling sound of the water moving along the hull (frame of ship). I was a little worried that I might get seasick in the beginning of the cruise, but I didn’t. The only problem I had was that reading or working on the computer made me queasy, but that only lasted for a couple of days.  Quarters are tight, but they make good use of all of the space. Most of the bedrooms (called staterooms) sleep two people. We all eat in a room called the galley. It only holds twelve people at a time, so when we are done eating we leave to make room for someone else. The food on board is delicious and abundant. The chief steward, Walter Coghlan, does a great job providing a variety of choices. There is literally something for everyone.  If we have free time, there is a lounge area with a huge selection of movies.

I like to spend my free time out on the decks, if I can find a place in the shade and the breeze. I love to look out over the water. And the sky stretches from horizon to horizon in all directions, something I don’t see in the mountains of Vermont.  The cumulus clouds develop during the day and I can usually see a thunderstorm somewhere by late afternoon. It’s a beautiful view.  Yesterday we were visited briefly by a small group of dolphins. Their acrobatics were very entertaining. They were here and then gone. That seems to be the continuing theme here; you never know what you are going to see.

Dolphin visit
A small group of dolphins swim along side the ship.
thunderstorm
A distant passing thunderstorm.

Did you know?  The ship makes it own fresh water from the sea water.  There is a reverse osmosis desalination system located down in the engine room. The fresh water is stored in large tanks, so it is always available.

volunteers await a haul
Volunteers Micayla, Daniel, David and Cliff waiting to do some wrangling.

New Term

Foul Hook – when a fish is hooked in a place other than its mouth (ie -fin or body)

More examples of bycatch.

clearnose skate
Clearnose Skate
little tunny
Micayla holds a Little Tunny (yes, that’s it’s real name)
yellowedge grouper
Yellowedge Grouper ready for processing
sea star
Sea Star

Peggy Deichstetter, September 10, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Peggy Deichstetter
Aboard Oregon II
August 29 – September 10, 2012

Mission: Longline Shark and Red Snapper Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Gulf of Mexico
Date:  September 10, 2010

Well, the reason Aaron didn’t pick us up last night is that he took the Engineer to the hospital with an ear infection, apparently, it is serious. The ship will stay in port until a decision is made on whether or not we can run with only 2 engineers (12 hour shifts instead of 8). It is decided that the last day of this part of the cruise (Leg 2) is canceled. I spend the rest of the morning changing my travel plans and packing. Claudia is the first off the ship, she has friends and family here. I say good bye to everyone then start my journey home.

Beth Spear, August 28, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea: Beth Spear
Aboard NOAA Ship Delaware II

Mission: Shark and Red Snapper Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Gulf of Mexico

Date of Post: August 28, 2010

Attached are photos showing three different shark species including: sandbar, hammerhead, bull. Hammerheads are easily recognized by their distinctive heads and bull sharks have a solid grey skin, but very wide thick bodies. I am pictured below with an Atlantic sharpnose shark which grow to much smaller sizes as adults compared to the sharks species listed above.

Some sharks we caught were too large to be brought on board, so they were tagged from the ship’s deck. Tags need to be inserted almost anywhere on the dorsal surface of the shark except the fin or the gills. For each shark see if you can determine the shark type and gender. Click on the link below to access the video clips. Scroll down for the correct answer when you finish.

 

Video #2

 

Video #3


Answer: Shark / GenderShark #1
Hammerhead, maleShark #2
Bull, ?Shark #3

Sandbar, female

Kimberly Lewis, July 19, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea Kimberly Lewis
NOAA Ship: Oregon II
July 1 -July  16 2010

Mission: SEAMAP Summer Groundfish Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico
Date: Sunday, July 19, 2010

Home Sweet Home

One of the sharks we caught in our trawls.
One of the sharks we caught in our trawls.

I am still working on ‘decompressing’ from such an awesome experience aboard the NOAA ship, the Oregon II. When I hit the bed Saturday night I think I was out within 5 minutes. And to think, the crew and scientists aboard NOAA ships do this job over 200 days a year.Thursday night before we arrived in Mississippi I woke up at 2100 hrs (9:00 pm) and thought I would take a look outside. The waters were still and looked like black glass. A crescent moon was shining over the gulf, and the stars were so abundant and bright. It was the most beautiful night I had seen since my July 1 voyage began.

Oil rig
Oil rig

Friday night was my last night on ship and I tried to stay awake to see the glow from the fires of the Deep Water Horizon….. but my body gave out to sleep. However, each night and day I could see oil rigs all along the voyage, especially Friday when we were traveling through “oil rig alley”. I could not get over how many rigs were out there, which you can find many maps online that show where oil rigs are located.

Ship Colors
Ship Colors
Part of the science team.
Part of the science team.

Saturday at 0400 hrs (4:00 am) I woke up, I could feel the ship not moving. We were sitting outside of Pascagoula waiting until daybreak when we could start moving into shore. When a ship is going to dock all of her colors will fly. When out to sea the only flags on the masts are the MS flag, the NOAA flag, and the US flag.

Once we docked everyone was busy, I didn’t get a chance to get a photo with the entire scientific party. We had 17 days together but we working so much a photo op didn’t cross our minds. In this photo is Geoff and Sean from the NE labs, me, Bruce the other TAS, and Abbey – my roommate and a senior at the University of MN.

I hope to keep in touch with the entire bunch, you never know when another collaboration will surface.

Kimberly Lewis, July 15, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea Kimberly Lewis
NOAA Ship: Oregon II
July 1 -July 16, 2010

Mission: SEAMAP Summer Groundfish Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico
Date: Sunday, July 15, 2010

One more day for me, many more days for the scientist who monitor our seas

Birds, Sharks, Fish, Water Chemistry……. Everything needs to be monitored for the ‘big picture’
Date: Wednesday July 14, 2010Weather Data from the Bridge 
Time: 1115 (11:15 AM)
Position: Latitude 28.59.313 N, Longitude 94.28.958 W
Present Weather: partly cloudy
Visibility: 8 nautical miles
Wind Speed: 11.21 kts
Wave Height: 3 feet
Sea Water Temp: 29.7 C
Air Temperature: Dry bulb = 30.1 degrees Celsius; Wet bulb = 26.3
Barometric Pressure: 1017.50 mbScience and Technology Log 
(this log is a little lengthy, but very important concepts)Southeast Fishery Bulletin released a statement on July 12, 2010 regarding the Shrimp Fishery to re-open on July 15, 2010 off the coast of Texas. Data that we have been collecting on board the Oregon II is sent daily to the regional office for review. From our data over the past week and data collected by the Texas parks and Wildlife Dept, the NOAA Fisheries Service has announced the size of the brown shrimp have reached a mark that allows the trawling to re-open from 9 to 200 nautical miles off Texas.

The shrimp fishery is closed annually off Texas to allow brown shrimp to reach a larger and more valuable size prior to harvest, and to prevent waste of brown shrimp that might otherwise be discarded due to their small size. http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/bulletins/fishery_bulletins.htm

During our sampling I have personally seen many sizes of shrimp. The past few days the brown shrimp have been very large. Personally, I have not seen shrimp this large before…… but living in Ohio most of our shrimp comes frozen and already beheaded.
When sexing shrimp the larger shrimp are usually female. This is the case with many species of organisms. As we are counting through the first 200 shrimp for data collecting, you can almost guess before looking what the sex of some shrimp will be just based on their size.

Tuesday the idea of whole ecosystem-based management was addressed.

An article by Hughes (2009) shows a relationship between species of seagrass and the species that they provide with habitat and/or food source. The data shows the importance of an ecosystem-based mgmt approach that incorporates interdependencies and facilitation among species (Hughes et al. 2009). This is the concept that is taking place by the US National Marine Fisheries Service (which is a department within NOAA) in relation to the “essential fish habitat” which approaches the protection of sea-grasses (Hughes et al. 2009).

What about the IUNC (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List? As of now, threats to biodiversity are often listen on a species-by species basis (Hughes et al. 2009). The research in the Hughes (2009) article suggests looking at connections between threatened species and their habitats…… ecosystem-based conservation. Again, the NOAA fisheries have already started this trend.

Some things that are done on the NOAA fisheries ships to maintain low variables throughout the years of sampling are keeping the same gear and using the same sampling methods. As far as site selection, the stations are random stratified. An example of this would be not going to the same station year after year, but sampling 20 stations in Area A. So the following year it may be another random 20 stations in Area A.

Habitat quality also plays a role in sampling. Commercial fishermen may question why NOAA chooses to sample in a place that has low or no fish, but it is important to monitor all areas. As the high quality habitat looses fish due to the fishing industry, fish from another area will move in. At first glance it may seem like the populations are fine, but if the other areas are being depleted because fish are moving into the prime area you start to see a shift in an ecosystem.

Here in the gulf we are not seeing any invasive species in our sampling areas, which is great news. A few years back some Australian jellyfish were making their way in, but you mainly see those closer to the coast. We have had good catches while we have been out, in other words a good proportion of organisms based on the depth of the water.

“Sorting the Catch”

So finally what can I say about ecosystem management? Hooray for the US Nat’l Marine Fisheries!

Works Cited: 

Hughes, R. Williams, S. Duarte, C. Heck, K. Waycott, M. 2009. Associations of concern: declining seagrasses and threatened dependent species. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment: Vol. 7, No. 5, pp. 242-246.

“Shrimp, eels, various fish, etc.”

Personal Blog:

We have finished up our Texas stations and we are headed to the Louisiana west delta. I have been scrambling around to get some good photos of the lab, the sea, etc. because it has hit me that I only have two more days on the boat.

Usually journaling and photo taking come easy for me on my summer expeditions, but this one has really been a lot of work. With 12 hour shifts and trawling happening all throughout the night, there is not much down time. Which is probably fine b/c you are in the middle of the sea on a boat. What else would you do? This isn’t a Carnival cruise line. Hahaha.

I have really adjusted to sea life and night shift. Each day when I get off of my shift I hit the bed hard…… and don’t wake up until 10pm!

Chefs Walter and Paul have continued to feed us all well, too good at times. Everyone on the ship has kept their day 1 attitude and hospitality toward me and the other volunteers. It can be tough living in a small place, but it seems to work well on the Oregon II.

Kimberly Lewis, July 14, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea Kimberly Lewis
NOAA Ship: Oregon II
July 1 -July  16 2010

Mission: SEAMAP Summer Groundfish Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico
Date: Sunday, July 14, 2010

Wed July 14, 2010 : the nightshift is running smooth

Sunrise
Sunrise

The sunrise is here and we are caught up on processing our catches. I may go try to grab a bite to eat before we get to the next station. I will be setting the CTD for a DO (dissolved oxygen) sample to do a titration. Hopefully when the boat is still and the CTD is down I will get a cool photo.

Kimberly Lewis, July 13, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea Kimberly Lewis
NOAA Ship: Oregon II
July 1 -July  16 2010

Mission: SEAMAP Summer Groundfish Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico
Date: Sunday, July 13, 2010

Ecosystem Conservation and some of the people who monitor it

Me holding a skate.
Me holding a skate.

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Time: 1130 (11:30 AM)
Position: Latitude = 28.57.59 N;
Longitude = 94.49.73 W
Present Weather: Clear
Visibility: 8-10 nautical miles
Wind Speed: 14.97 knots
Wave Height: 4 feet
Sea Water Temp: 29.1 C
Air Temperature: Dry bulb = 31.4 C; Wet bulb = 27.0 C
Barometric Pressure: 1013.77 mb

Science and Technology Log

“IT’S ALL CONNECTED.” Everything in an ecosystem is connected to everything else. This is a guiding principle of studying and managing ecosystems. This past spring in one of my online communities we were discussing whole ecosystem monitoring for conservation rather than the traditional ‘save one species at a time”.

I’m seeing it now in the Gulf of Mexico. Obviously, the ocean environment is connected to human activities – the BP-Deepwater Horizon oil spill makes that abundantly clear. But there are also countless natural connections, and much less obvious human impacts, that must be understood and assessed if the Gulf ecosystem is to be protected. Commercial fish and shrimp stocks can only be sustained through a careful understanding of the human impact and natural connections in the Gulf.

That’s why we identify and count every organism we bring up in a trawl. Sometimes we get 50 or more different species in one catch, and we don’t just count the commercially important ones like red snapper and shrimp. We count the catfish, eel, sea stars, sea squirts and even jellyfish we haul in. Why? Because even though these organisms might seem “unimportant” to us, they might be important to the red snapper and shrimp. They also might be important to the organisms the red snapper and shrimp depend on. And even if they’re not directly important, studying them might tell us important things about the health of the Gulf.

Brittany
Brittany on the deck

Bruce and I are learning a lot about this from the incredibly knowledgeable marine biologists in the science party. Brittany Palm is a Research Fishery Biologist from NOAA’s Southeast Fishery Science Center (SEFSC) in Pascagoula, MS, and leader of the day watch on this leg of the Oregon II’s Summer Groundfish Survey. Brittany is working on her M.S. on a fish called croaker, Micropogonias undulatus, studying its stomach contents to better understand its position in the food web. Croaker is not an economically important species, but it lives in the same shallow sea floor habitat as shrimp so shrimpers end up hauling in a huge amount of croaker as bycatch. So, when the shrimping industry declined in 2003-2004, the croaker population exploded. Since croaker are closely associated with shrimp habitat and the shrimp fishery, we might gain important insights by studying croaker population and understanding what they eat, and what eats them.

Alonzo
Alonzo helping to dissect a fish

Alonzo Hamilton is another NOAA Fishery Biologist from the SEFSC. Alonzo explained that there’s a lot to be learned by looking at the whole ecosystem, not just the 23 commercial species that are managed in the Gulf. For example, many of the crabs we commonly catch in our trawls are in the genus Portunas, known as “swimming crabs.”

Portunas spinicarpus
Portunas spinicarpus

Portunas species normally live on the sea floor, but when severe hypoxia sets in, Portunas crabs can be found at the surface, trying to escape the more severe oxygen depletion that typically takes place at the bottom of the water column.

Sean
Sean on the deck
Geoff on the deck
Geoff on the deck

Sean Lucey and Geoff Schook are Research Fishery Biologists from NOAA’s Northeast Fishery Science Center in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. They are working on the Oregon II right now to support the SEFSC because of huge manpower effort demanded by the oil spill. The NEFSC has been conducting their groundfish survey annually since 1963, making it the longest-running study of its kind. Originally the survey only looked at groundfish population, but as our understanding of ecosystem dynamics increased over time, more and more factors were analyzed. Now NEFSC looks at sex, age, stomach contents and many other species besides groundfish to obtain a more complete picture of the food web and the abiotic factors that affect groundfish. NEFSC even measures primary production in the marine ecosystem as one tool to estimate the potential biomass of groundfish and other species at higher trophic levels.

Fisheries biologist Andre DeBose
Andre DeBose is a NOAA Fishery Biologist from the SEFSC and the Field Party Chief for the Summer Groundfish Survey. In addition to leading the science team on the Oregon II, Andre is conducting research on Rough Scad, Trachurus lathami, an important food species for red snapper and important bait fish for red snapper fisherman. By gaining a better understanding of the relationship between Red Snapper and its prey we can better understand, and better manage, the ecosystem as a whole.

There’s a lot of information to be learned beyond just counting fish. By taking a wide look at the marine environment we can better understand how the whole ecosystem functions. This enables us not only to be more informed in setting sustainable catch levels, but also enables us to identify and respond to things that contribute to hypoxia and other problems that degrade habitat and reduce populations. It’s all connected.

Personal Log

Everyone in the scientific party has been working very hard to gather data. A 12 hour shift can be long at times, and other times fly by. Today Andre told us we will start cleaning up Thursday morning. It doesn’t seem possible that my 17 days with the Oregon II will soon be over. Part of me is excited to get back home to see my family and sleep in a bed that isn’t affected by the Gulf waves. The other part of me is sad due to the fact I will not longer be working with some remarkable people and worked with ongoing scientific research. It is very hard work, but very exciting to see what goes on at sea. I am sure I will call on some of them in the future for collaboration.

Chef Walter made some great meals over the past few days. Crab cakes, roasted buffalo, chicken curry, and quail, not to mention those great breakfasts. Based on my first two days of sea not able to keep anything down and not wanting to eat, I thought for sure I would go back to Ohio 15 pounds lighter. But the sea sickness wore off and I am enjoying food and adjusting to boat life.

Kimberly Lewis, July 12, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea Kimberly Lewis
NOAA Ship: Oregon II
July 1 -July  16 2010

Mission: SEAMAP Summer Groundfish Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico
Date: Sunday, July 19, 2010

National Seafood Inspection Lab

doors up
doors up

Weather Data from the Bridge
Time: 0730 (7:30 am)
Position: Latitude 28.18.6 N; Longitude 95.19.4 W
Present Weather: party cloudy
Visibility: 10 nautical miles
Wind Speed: 12.35 knots
Wave Height: 2 feet
Sea Water Temp: 28.9 C
Air Temperature: Dry bulb = 29.1 degrees Celsius; Wet bulb = 25.4 C
Barometric Pressure: 1014.30 mb

Science and Technology Log

What is science technology? One simple definition can be ‘tools to help humans do science’. We have talked about some of the tools used aboard the Oregon II, like FSCS and CTD, but what are some other tools used that are not high tech?
Believe it or not, a shovel is an important tool on the ground fish survey. When a catch comes in, the net hovers over empty baskets and the catch is slowly released to fill the baskets. Once all of the catch has been emptied from the net, shovels are used to pick up the rest of the catch from the deck that fell out during emptying. In the wet lab we use scrappers to move the catch along the tray where we sort the organisms. When it comes to identification paperback field guides and laminated posters can help with ID.

So what do we do with the organisms we collect data on and identify?
It was mentioned that the SEAMAP survey collects data for many different agencies, but during the data collection we also save specimens for scientist from universities and other research groups. If a scientist is doing research on a particular species of batfish for example, once we collect data on the batfish we print a label for that scientist, bag the fish in zip loc baggies, and then put the specimens in the freezer below deck.

Station Board
Station Board

Station board – stations with a star beside them are NSIL stations. Stations with a “B” are stations where we drop the bongo nets (mentioned in an earlier log).

For commercial seafood we bag specimens to go to NSIL (National Seafood Inspection Lab). Not every station we drop the nets for is a NSIL station, but when we do have a NSIL station we follow a similar sample saving protocol to the one used for research scientists. These samples get labeled, placed in zip-loc baggies, and then they’re sent on to the freezer. However, because of the Deep Water Horizon oil spill in the gulf, the way we saved some of the samples for NSIL was different, because these samples are going to be sensory tested. In other words ‘sniff’ tested. For this test, the specimens had to be wrapped in foil to help contain any scents so that the ‘sniff testers’ (people trained to pick up petroleum scent at an amazing 100 ppm) can identify if petroleum products are present. For leg II the focus is on chemical sampling for petroleum. However, protocols can change daily when you are sampling during a disaster.

Foiling
Wrapping brown ship in foil to go to NSIL

Packed for NSIL
Packed for NSIL

Wrapped in foil, tagged, and ready for the freezer.

A few days ago our new protocol called for storing NSIL samples first to ensure we have enough freezer space, then other requesters samples may be saved if time permits.

Here is a CNN video clip about seafood safety.

We have a long list of the scientific names of seafood that need to be collected for NSIL but here is a list of more popular common names of seafood that you may recognize.

Some Common Commercial seafood for the Gulf Region for our groundfish survey 5-60 fathoms: Brown, White, and Pink Shrimp, Red Snapper, Gray triggerfish, crevalle jack, sand seatrout, silver seatrout, yellowedge grouper, snowy grouper, lane snapper, butterfish, wenchman, cobia, vermillion snapper, amberjack, shoal flounder, dusky flounder, and swimming crab.

Snapper on deck
Snapper on deck

Red Snapper freshly caught

Red Snapper in a fish taco, mmmm.

Personal Log:

Well the seas have been calm which is allowing me to get in a good 8-9 hrs of sleep each day. That is much better than the rockin’ and rollin’ I had been experiencing in bed. It is hard to sleep when you are sliding a few inches from head to foot of the bed, and side to side. It also creates an uneasy stomach as all of your stomach contents get mixed around.

Yesterday was a beautiful day as we could see for 10 miles (as mentioned above). One thing about night shift is that we only have 5 hours of daylight. This can be good or bad. Good part is that we have a cooler working environment and I don’t need as much sunscreen. (But believe me we still get stinky from all of the shrimp and fish juice!). The bad part about night shift is we can’t see into the sea as well. So 12 hours of collecting organisms we probably miss a lot of the other interesting things that are swimming near our boat when we haul up a catch.

4 days of fishing to go, then we will be cleaning the lab and heading to Mississippi.

Kimberly Lewis, July 9, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea Kimberly Lewis
NOAA Ship: Oregon II
July 1 -July  16 2010

Mission: SEAMAP Summer Groundfish Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico
Date: Sunday, July 9, 2010

Scientist first, Teacher at Sea second

Kim with members of the science team
Here I am with two other volunteers working the FSCS station. I am measuring shrimp. You can see the other two identifying one of the many species we caught.

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Time: 1630 (4:30 pm)
Position: Latitude = 28.20.93 N; Longitude = 095.58.98 W
Present Weather: Could cover 100%
Visibility: 4-6 nautical miles
Wind Speed: 18 knots
Wave Height: 6-8 feet
Sea Water Temp: 28.9 C
Air Temperature: Dry bulb = 27.2 C; Wet bulb = 25.3 C
Barometric Pressure: 1011.56 mb

Science and Technology Log

As you can tell from our previous blogs, we spend a lot of our time on the Oregon II counting, measuring and weighing our catch and loading the data into FSCS. These data are critical to NOAA and the states in managing fish stocks and the Gulf ecosystem. In addition to knowing population size, weights, and lengths of individuals it’s also important to know the sex of the organisms. Information on the male:female ratio helps NOAA and the states assess the ability of the population to reproduce, and to establish sustainable catch levels.

But how do you determine the sex of marine organisms? For most fish and invertebrates you can only tell the sex by internal anatomy, which of course requires cutting the animal open. This is time consuming and not always practical when we have a large catch to process and other tasks take priority, such as preparing samples to be analyzed for contamination from the oil spill which is our top priority right now.

For some organisms, however, sex can be determined externally. One of the things we’ve learned in the past week is how to determine the sex of shrimp, flatfish, crabs, sharks, skates and rays. Here’s how:

Shrimp: the males have a pair of claspers (called petasma) on their first set of legs. The petasma are absent in females. The males use the petasma during mating to grasp the female and transfer the sperm sac.

Male – arrows show the petasma
Female – petasma are absent

Crabs: On most crab species females have wide plates curving around the rear of the abdomen, while males have a long narrow plate or plates. On females, the eggs develop under the curved plate.

Male
Female
Female with eggs
Flatfish: When you hold a flatfish up to the light you can see through it, which enables you to do an internal examination without cutting it open. On female flatfish, the gonad extends in a dark red, curved wedge which is absent in the male.

Male
Female
Personal log:Thursday was slow for the scientists on board as the waves continued to rock the boat too much to drop our nets. The rest of the crew followed their normal duty schedule. It is hard going from night shift to day shift for meetings and then back to nights. I feel like I have spent too many hours in my bunk trying to get back on schedule. Trying to do Yoga on a ship doesn’t work so well, I will be glad to get back to that when I get home.Chef Walter did another fine job with dinner. Prime Rib and scalloped potatoes. I am usually not a prime rib person, but this was excellent. I also found where the ice cream drumsticks are stored…mmmmm.

One of the scientists I work with on night shift said, “we think of you guys as scientific volunteers first, then teachers at sea second”. I will say that is the job I feel like I have been doing. The first few days I barely got my camera out b/c we were so busy. We collected a sea horse one night and I missed taking the photo before the catch was dumped. I was in the next room doing a titration and forgot to tell the rest of the shift to save it for me. 😦 Since then I have kept my camera close by in a drawer in the wetlab. I am learning and seeing many new things…….. if anyone is a zoology teacher this is the trip for you!

Kimberly Lewis, July 8, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea Kimberly Lewis
NOAA Ship: Oregon II
July 1 -July  16 2010

Mission: SEAMAP Summer Groundfish Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico
Date: Sunday, July 8, 2010

July 8, shallow trawls to deep trawls to no trawling today

My view from lab at sunrise
My view from lab at sunrise

Weather Data from the Bridge 

Time: 2015 (8:15pm)
Position: Latitude = 27.20.39 N; Longitude = 096.35.21 W
Present Weather: Could cover 90%
Visibility: 4-6 nautical miles
Wind Speed: 15 knots
Wave Height: 2-4 feet
Sea Water Temp: 28.6 C
Air Temperature: Dry bulb = 28.5 C; Wet bulb = 26.7 C
Barometric Pressure: 1008.27 mb

Science and Technology Log

Since setting out on Friday we’ve headed south along the Gulf coast of Texas almost to the Mexican border, and now we’re heading back north but farther offshore, in deeper water. As a result our trawls are pulling up a deep-water assemblage of species different from those we saw in shallower waters a few days ago. There is still no sign of oil in this part of the Gulf, but we’re still taking samples of fish and shrimp for analysis to make sure there’s no contamination here from the BP- Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Ten-foot seas are predicted for tonight so we’re heading north along the Texas coast, away from the storm, and we’ve put away the fishing gear until it gets calmer.

Last log we talked about FSCS (Fisheries Scientific Computer System). So what is it, how is it used, and what is so great about it?

FSCS, commonly pronounced ‘fiscus’, is an automated system for recording the massive amount of biological and oceanographic data generated 24 hours a day by NOAA scientists during fisheries surveys. During a trawl survey, fish and invertebrates from each haul are sorted, counted and weighed by species. Scientists record data from individual fish, such as sex, weight, length and even stomach contents, resulting in tens of thousands of new data points every day. Before NOAA rolled out FSCS in 2001 aboard the NOAA ship Albatross IV, scientists recorded all data by hand, an incredibly tedious process. With FSCS, however, data are recorded digitally which is much faster, allows integration of biological and oceanographic data, and enables NOAA to obtain critical real-time information to assess and manage the health of the marine ecosystem and individual fish stocks.

Here I am entering data at one of the two FSCS stations aboard the Oregon II.

FSCS uses a Limnoterra FMB4 (fish measuring board) which has a magnetic pen to upload the length of an organism within a millimeter (mm) range, and computer software that annotates all of the data with information such as length, mass, sex, etc. The software also lists species scientific names which can be selected into a short list so scientists can more quickly select organisms from a list. Special labels can be printed for specimen samples that are to be shipped to other scientists and to the National Seafood Inspection Laboratory which was started in Pascagoula, MS.

Personal Blog:
My last shift Wednesday 0000-1200 hrs. was very good. I was over my sea sickness, I had 8 hours straight of good sleep, and we did a good job on night shift with keeping up with our stations.
This photo shows a brown shrimp being measured for length. The magnetic pen to the right of the shrimp marks the spot, the measurement is then sent to the computer.
This photo shows a brown shrimp being measured for length. The magnetic pen to the right of the shrimp marks the spot, the measurement is then sent to the computer.
Our chef, Walter has been feeding us very well. The portions are so big that I can’t clean my plate. As you can guess, we have had shrimp several times, and after measuring and identifying shrimp every night for 12 hours I don’t know if I will be that anxious to eat shrimp for a while!My Thursday 0000-1200 shift was canceled due to weather as mentioned in the earlier part of today’s blog. So now I am catching up on emails, blogs, and laundry. We should be trawling again within the next 24 hours.

Kimberly Lewis, July 7, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea Kimberly Lewis
NOAA Ship: Oregon II
July 1 -July  16 2010

Mission: SEAMAP Summer Groundfish Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico
Date: Sunday, July 7, 2010

July 7, Science is dirty 🙂

Here I am getting ready to enter data about one of the MANY shrimp that I have seen over the past few days.
Here I am getting ready to enter data about one of the MANY shrimp that I have seen over the past few days.
Personal Log:
This was the first night (day) that I actually slept straight thru. 8 hours of sleep has never felt so good!The scientist aboard the Oregon II have a very important job to do and they work very hard. Sometimes when people think of scientist they think of a nice clean lab with everyone wearing white coats. Not the case here! It not uncommon to be shoveling fish into buckets.

Here is a photo of a bucket of organisms that are being measured.
Here is a photo of a bucket of organisms that are being measured.

Our ship’s tracker has not been updated since we left Galveston so if you see we are still there, we are not. Hopefully it will be updated soon.

Well, I do have to go because my shift started 35 minutes ago and there are things to do. I will try to remember to take photos tonight. We collected a sea horse yesterday, but I didn’t get to take my photo before it was discarded, I was out doing a titration.

Bye for now.

Kimberly Lewis, July 5, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea Kimberly Lewis
NOAA Ship: Oregon II
July 1 -July  16 2010

Mission: SEAMAP Summer Groundfish Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico
Date: Sunday, July 5, 2010

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Time: 1000 hours (10:00am)
Position: Latitude = 27.58.38 N; Longitude = 096.17.53 W
Present Weather: partly cloudy, haze on the horizon
Visibility: 8-10 nautical miles
Wind Speed: 17 knots
Wave Height: 2-4 feet
Sea Water Temp: 28.6 C
Air Temperature: Dry bulb = 29.2 degrees Celsius; Wet bulb = 26.1 C
Barometric Pressure: 1011.1 mb

Science and Technology Log

The purpose of the SEAMAP Summer Groundfish Survey is to collect data for managing commercial fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico. SEAMAP stands for Southeast Area Monitoring and Assessment Program.

Right now we’re working along the Gulf Coast of Texas, far from the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, so we’re not seeing any effects of oil here. However, part of our mission is to collect fish for testing to make sure that oil spill has not impacted the marine life in this area and that the fish and shrimp from Texas are safe to eat. We’re also collecting water samples from this area to use as baseline data for the long-term monitoring of the impact of the oil spill in Gulf.

There are four main ways the Oregon II is gathering SEAMAP data on this cruise, and we’ve already learned how to use all of them. The main way we collect data is by trawling, and this is where we do most of our work on the Oregon II. In trawling, we drag a 42’ net along the bottom for 30 minutes, haul it up, and weigh the catch. We then sort the haul which involves pulling out all of the shrimp and red snapper, which are the most commercially important species, and taking random samples of the rest. Then we count each species in the sample and record weights and measurements in a computer database called FSCS (Fisheries Scientific Computer System).

Here on the Texas coast, where we’re working now, the SEAMAP data is used to protect the shrimp population and make sure that it’s sustained into the future. Since 1959, Texas has been closing the shrimp fishery seasonally to allow the population to reproduce and grow. The SEAMAP data allows Texas to determine the length of the season and size limits for each species. Judging by our trawls, the Texas shrimp population is healthy.

Here I am flushing out the CTD to prepare for the next use.

Another method of data collection is the CTD, which stands for Conductivity, Temperature, and Depth. The CTD takes measurements from the surface to the bottom, creating a CTD profile of the water column at our trawling locations. These data are important to assess the extent of the hypoxic “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico, and to relate the characteristics of our trawling hauls to DO levels. SEAMAP data collected since the early 1980s show that the zone of hypoxia in the Gulf has been spreading, causing populations to decline in hypoxic areas.

We also use Bongos and Neustons to gather data on larval fish, especially Bluefin Tuna, Mackerel, Gray Triggerfish, and Red Snapper. The Neuston is a rectangular net that we drag along the surface for ten minutes to collect surface-dwelling larval fish that inhabit Sargassum, a type of seaweed that floats at the surface and provides critical habitat for small fish and other organisms. We drag the Bongos below the surface to collect ichthyoplankton, which are the tiny larvae of fish just after they hatch. The Neuston and Bongo data on fish larvae are used for long-term planning to maintain these important food species and keep fish stocks healthy.

In this photo I am untying the knots at the bottom of the Neuston to gather the ‘catch’. You can see a lot of Sargassum in this haul.
In this photo I am untying the knots at the bottom of the Neuston to gather the ‘catch’. You can see a lot of Sargassum in this haul.

Personal Log

Day 1: docked
Day 2: we left the port in Galveston (July 2). My shift started immediately but by the time we actually left port and reached the first station my shift was over 1200 noon. So far so good!

Day 3: 2400 hrs or Day 4: 00:00 hrs.
– the sea sickness is getting me a little now. The rough seas are most likely the main culprit, however, I have not been out to sea for this period of time before. Once the seas calm down I should have a better idea. I do know this, my shift leader Alonzo and the chief scientist Andre have both been very understanding of my adjustment to sea life. The entire staff on board for that matter are very understanding and concerned for everyone’s well being.
– This was my first full shift. We are BUSY aboard the Oregon II ! A catch will come in for processing, which I will explain processing on my next blog, and we sometimes are still processing the last batch or we are up front taking CTD samples and bringing in our bongos/neustrons. I have learned a lot of things in a short period of time.

July 4, 2010 – Lots of stations (places where we deploy our nets) tonight. We actually got a little backed up. There are five people on my shift and it takes all 5 of us working non-stop to get the job done.

July 5, 2010 – I am feeling better today, so much that I uploaded my blog! I keep waking up at 5pm and unable to go back to sleep, but I am going to try now to catch a couple more hours as my shifts starts again in 3 hours.

Kimberly Lewis, July 2, 2010

ETD July 2, 2010….in about 5 minutes!

Hi everyone,
Well we should be underway in the next 5-10 minutes and within the hour we should be taking our first samples! I say that with excitement and hopefully over the next 16 days my enthusiasm will be just as high!I will be working the nightshift (midnight to noon or for you 24 hour clock people and ship people 0000 to 1200 hrs). Bruce will be working the dayshift, 1200-2400 hrs.If I am not too tired and the IT checks out my laptop (for security reasons) I will post more later about my first day at sea!!

Anchor stations all go!

Kimberly Lewis, July 1, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea Kimberly Lewis
NOAA Ship: Oregon II
July 1 -July  16 2010

Mission: SEAMAP Summer Groundfish Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico
Date: Sunday, July 1, 2010

July 1, 2010 in port

Me in front of the Oregon II
Me in front of the Oregon II

Hey fans (LOL),

My official day 1 aboard the Oregon II is nice and relaxing, but that will soon change. Due to Hurricane Alex creating large waves out in the sea (21 feet yesterday and about 11 feet today) our captain has delayed our departure for July 2, 2010. That is fine with me as I have never been aboard this size of vessel for extended period of time, so large waves while sleeping can wait. We should have waves slowly declining once we depart.

Everyone on board is extremely nice, from the scientist, to crew, to officers. Bruce (TAS from NJ) and I have been exploring the ship to get our ‘bearings’. We have seen the wetlab, from where we understand will be our main location for the next 17 days, to the dry lab, chem lab, the lounge, the various heads, galley, and misc. workrooms. The captain showed us the Oregon II’s newest toy, which I agree is very cool. He can watch the weather, click on buoys in the gulf with weather and sea data, and many other options.

Although Bruce and I are relaxing today, the crew is busy preparing for our voyage.

You can see our current location by clicking here – Oregon II location.

Melinda Storey, June 19, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Melinda Storey
Onboard NOAA Ship Pisces
June 14 – July 2, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea: Melinda Storey
NOAA Ship Pisces
Mission: SEAMAP Reef Fish Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico
Date: June 19, 2010

Weather Data from the Bridge
Time: 1000 hours (10:00am)
Position: latitude = 27°34 N, longitude = 096°28 W
Present Weather: mostly clear
Visibility: > 10 nautical miles
Wind Direction: SSE Wind Speed: 13 knots
Wave Height: 2 feet
Sea Water Temp: 29.5°C
Air Temperature: dry bulb = 29.4°C, wet bulb = 27.8°C

Science and Technology Log

One of the goals of the SEAMAP Reef Fish survey is to monitor the health and abundance of reef fish to establish limits on how much fish the fishing industry can take out of Gulf waters. SEAMAP stands for Southeast Area Monitoring and Assessment Program and is a State/Federal/University program for collection, management and dissemination of fishery-independent data and information in the southeastern United States.

Due to the oil spill in the Gulf, the fish we capture will be weighed, measured, frozen, and delivered to the Seafood Inspection Laboratory (NSIL) in Mississippi to be tested for hydrocarbons (oil) or other contamination to ensure that the seafood is safe to eat. Since the oil spill is far to the east of where we are doing the survey, our data will serve as a baseline and be compared to future studies to see what the extent and future impact of the oil will be in these waters.

Dropping the bait
Dropping the bait
Bucket of fish
Bucket of fish

The fish are taken out of the Chevron Trap or off the Bandit Reel and brought into the wet lab.

The first measurement we take is the weight (or mass) of the fish in kilograms (kg) using a motion compensating scale. One scientist will take the measurements while another records the data in a data table.

Weighing fish
Weighing fish
Measuring fish, recording data
Measuring fish, recording data
Measuring fish, recording data
Measuring fish, recording data

Next, we take three different measurements of length by placing the fish on a board that has a metric measuring tape attached. All length measurements are measured in millimeters (mm). First, we take the Total Length (TL) measurement which is from the mouth of the fish to the longest point on the tail. Then we measure the Fork Length (FL) from the mouth of the fish to the indention of the tail. The last measurement is the Standard Length (SL) which is from the mouth of the fish to the base of the tail.

Fish Diagram
Fish Diagram

Personal Log

I’m loving the gross and slimy science that we are doing here. The other teacher on board likes logging the data onto the charts and all the numbers. That suits me fine because I like hands-on science! The messier the better.

Holding the squid
Holding the squid
Holding the squid
Holding the squid
Holding the squid
Holding the squid
Baiting a fish trap
Baiting a fish trap

You can see me holding the squid that we use to bait the Chevron fish trap. I even like picking up the fish and weighing them and measuring them too. Our Chief Scientist, Paul Felts, let me calibrate the scale. This scale compensates for the rolling of the ship so we get a very accurate weight. I think the scientists get a kick out this old woman doing some of the gooey, messy work like baiting the fish trap with the slimy squid and the Bandit Reel with pieces of mackerel, but what they don’t know is that I don’t mind at all!

I have been amazed at the number of oil rigs in the Gulf. Wherever we’ve been – 100 miles out or 40 miles out – we’ve seen oil and gas platforms (rigs). Rigs that are out 100 miles start drilling at 5,000 feet deep. At night the rigs are all lit up and are beautiful but the number just overwhelms me.

Oil Rigs
Oil Rigs
Nautical Chart
Nautical Chart

The CO showed me a chart they were using on the bridge and it looked like someone shook pepper on a white sheet of paper, only each pepper flake was an oil rig. He said that most of those rigs have been built since 1997. At first, ships from oil companies were sent out to map the ocean floor and that would help them decide WHERE to drill. On the nautical chart there were two levels of ocean depths – shallow water and deep water. I was looking at the deep water chart. When I commented on the number of oil rigs, the CO said there were even more rigs in the shallow part. He said that when he “steams” through the shallow water rigs it’s “like driving through traffic.”

There is a bird that has been catching a ride with us for the last 24 hours. We Googled ocean birds and found out it was a Brown Booby. They look like the blue footed Boobies that live in the Galapagos Islands. He is black with a white belly and white face with bright yellow beak. He also has yellow webbed feet. He just sits on top of a weather post in the bow and grooms himself. He poops too. Sometimes he flies off to catch a flying fish but always returns.

Brown Booby

New Term/Vocabulary

Bridge – the top level of the ship where the Commanding Officer steers the ship

Steam ahead – to move forward

“Something to Think About”

Nicolle found a moth in her room last night. Now, how did a moth get way out here? I caught him and released him but who knows what will happen to him. It doesn’t look good for the little guy!

“Did You Know?”

Did you know that if you get “pooped on” by an ocean bird, it means you’ll have good luck? Fortunately I’m not lucky!!!
There is a bird that has been catching a ride with us for the last 24 hours. We Googled ocean birds and found out it was a Brown Booby. They look like the blue footed Boobies that live in the Galapagos Islands. He is black with a white belly and white face with bright yellow beak. He also has yellow webbed feet. He just sits on top of a weather post in the bow and grooms himself. He poops too. Sometimes he flies off to catch a flying fish but always returns.

Elizabeth Eubanks, August 3, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Elizabeth Eubanks
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
July 22 – August 3, 2007

Mission: Relative Shark Abundance Survey and J vs. Circle Hook Comparison
Geographical Area: Pacific Ocean, West of San Diego
Date: August 3, 2007

Weather Data from the Bridge taken at 1300 (5am)  
Visibility: 10+ miles
Air temperature: 18.7 degrees C
Sea Temperature at surface: 21.9 degrees C
Wind Direction: 010N
Wind Speed: 5 kts
Cloud cover: partially cloudy– stratus
Sea Level Pressure: 1014.2 MB
Sea Wave Height: 1-2 ft
Swell Wave Height: <1 ft

Science and Technology Log 

Cleaning – Cleaning – Cleaning. We fuel for 4+ hours – Amazing! We will be in port by 2pm today.

Screen shot 2013-04-18 at 7.23.31 AM

Personal Log 

Thank you, thank you, thank you. I have been honored to be selected to participate in NOAA’s Teacher at Sea program. This has been a life-changing adventure. I am wiser and have so much to share with my students and community.

A huge thanks to all of the scientist for being so nice and so helpful. I feel honored to have worked with Dr. Suzi Kohin, Dr. Russ Vetter and Dr. Jeff Graham as well as grad students Lyndsay Field, Heather Marshall, Dovi Kavec (thanks for being my on board conscience!), Noah Ben Aderet, Alfonsia “Keena” Romo-Curiel, South West Fisheries staff (including Suzi and Russ), Anne Allen (thanks for taking me to the bow chamber), Eric Lynn, Monterey Bay Aquarium staff, Ann Coleman (thanks for teaching me how to set and haul and collect data), and my roommate Leanne Laughlin from California Department of Fish and Game.  The crew has been awesome. I give you many, many thanks and wish you the best at sea. Chico – I am happy and I know it – so my face surely shows it! Jose – “any minute now” and you will catch a fish.

Peter good luck at the Maritime Academy and with the guitar.

LCDR Keith Roberts, thanks for your command. XO Kelley Stroud, thanks for your help with kids’ supplies. I am going to stop here, in case I forget someone, but please know I appreciate all of the folks on the deck, bridge, engine room (Great tour John!) and the galley (the food was amazing) so much. Thanks for your interviews – you will be famous. This trip has been amazing!

Screen shot 2013-04-18 at 7.23.46 AM

Questions of the Day 

What sounds most interesting about the adventure at sea? Would you like to go to see to study sharks? 

Question of the trip: Which hook, the J or Circle, will catch more sharks? 

Please make a hypothesis. Utilize resources to justify your hypothesis. ———Yes, you get extra credit for this. 

Elizabeth Eubanks, August 2, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Elizabeth Eubanks
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
July 22 – August 3, 2007

Mission: Relative Shark Abundance Survey and J vs. Circle Hook Comparison
Geographical Area: Pacific Ocean, West of San Diego
Date: August 2, 2007

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Visibility: 10+ miles
Air temperature: 20.3 degrees C
Sea Temperature at 500 m:
Sea Temperature at surface: 19.8 degrees C
Wind Direction: 280 W
Wind Speed:  17 kts
Cloud cover: partially cloudy–alto cumulus
Sea Level Pressure: 1015.7 MB
Sea Wave Height: 1-2 ft
Swell Wave Height: 2 ft

Bow Chamber
Bow Chamber

Science and Technology Log 

The Bow Chamber! Wow! The Bow Chamber is in the bulbous bow. It is located in the very front of boat where the V hull is. Basically this area breaks up the water pressure to create less drag. The chamber is actually a little room about 20 feet down below the main deck. It has port holes/windows so you can see aquatic life. Currently the windows have a lot of algae on them so it is hard to see out of them during the day. A group of us went down after dark and we could see bioluminescent creatures zipping by. We were seeing things such as dinoflagelletes/ plankton and jelly fish. It was so beautiful to watch.

Personal Log 

Doctoral student Dovi Kacev and NOAA Teacher at Sea Elizabeth Eubanks look down into the bow chamber.
Doctoral student Dovi Kacev and NOAA Teacher at Sea Elizabeth Eubanks look down into the bow chamber.

Great day. I got up at 5:30am to watch and learn a little more about the CTD, which I wrote about yesterday. We completed our 2 final sets and I gathered goodies to bring back to school. We had the perfect ending to our last set. One of the very last hooks we pulled in possessed a huge, enormous Blue Shark. He was the biggest that we had caught so far, in length (229 cm) and girth. He gave a huge fight while in the water and even threw up a little (but thankfully not his stomach) before they got him onto the cradle. The best part of this was that the rest of the scientists could watch the people on the platform work with the shark, because the long line hauling was finished. It was truly the perfect ending to the perfect adventure.

Question of the Day 

How do bioluminescent creatures shine? 

Question of the trip: Which hook, the J or Circle, will catch more sharks? 

Please make a hypothesis. Utilize resources to justify your hypothesis. ———Yes, you get extra credit for this. 

A big Blue Shark.  Graduate student Heather Marshall holds the tail while Dr. Jeff Graham helps Dr. Suzi Kohin with the bolt cutters as Dr. Russ Vetter retains the head.
A big Blue Shark. Graduate student Heather Marshall holds the tail while Dr. Jeff Graham helps Dr. Suzi Kohin with the bolt cutters as Dr. Russ Vetter retains the head.

Elizabeth Eubanks, August 1, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Elizabeth Eubanks
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
July 22 – August 3, 2007

Mission: Relative Shark Abundance Survey and J vs. Circle Hook Comparison
Geographical Area: Pacific Ocean, West of San Diego
Date: August 1, 2007

Weather Data from the Bridge  
Visibility: 10 miles
Air temperature: 17.4.0 degrees C
Sea Temperature at 500 m: 4 degrees C
Sea Temperature at surface: 15.2 degrees C
Wind Direction: 300 W
Wind Speed:  13 kts
Cloud cover: cloudy–stratus
Sea Level Pressure: 1014.7 MB
Sea Wave Height: 1-2 ft
Swell Wave Height: 3-4 ft

Science and Technology Log 

Make use of all or your resources! Yes, this ship is charted to study sharks, but as mentioned previously there are many other research projects going on. Dr. Russ Vetter and Eric Lynn are administering a CTD apparatus twice daily in the proximity of where the long lines are set: every night at 2000 (8pm) and every morning at 0500 (5am). CTD stands for Conductivity, Temperature and Depth. This machine costs approximately $15,000 and helps give scientist data to evaluate. The apparatus is dropped from a J Frame, a crane-like structure, from the ship into the ocean, while being guided by E. Lynn and R. Vetter who are strapped to the ship. See photos above and below. The apparatus contains two bottles, similar to a large thermos. Both bottles are open all the way down, depending at what depth the CTD drops to. On this trip it has ranged between 250m and 1,000m down. Once it gets to its destination the scientist pushes a button on their computer that is connected to the bottles and tells them to fire. This action shuts the bottles trapping water samples inside. One bottle is used for maximum depth water collection and the other is used for water sample collections at 10m. They have boxes filled with water samples that will be taken back to San Diego for testing by other scientists.

NOAA scientists, Eric Lynn and Dr. Russ Vetter prepare to lower the CTD. Notice the green cylinders on the left side of the CTD – they are bottles for water samples.
NOAA scientists, Eric Lynn and Dr. Russ Vetter prepare to lower the CTD. Notice the green cylinders on the left side of the CTD – they are bottles for water samples.

There are many other structures on the CTD that measure, salinity, temperature, depth, oxygen levels and fluorescence. Fluorescence measures how much chlorophyll is in the ocean and can be compared to the oxygen levels. Chemical Scientists who work for NOAA have put CO2 detection equipment on board many of the NOAA ships including the NOAA ship DAVID STARR JORDAN. The scientists do not travel with the ship, but come and check the data quite often. Global warming and CO2 levels in the atmosphere have been a hot topic. Many, many years ago when scientists were determining what to do with all the extra CO2, they had thought about pumping into the ocean. Thinking has changed a lot since then. Now scientists realize that the extra CO2 in the ocean is just as detrimental to the ocean as it is to the atmosphere. We’re all connected, we’re all affected. 

A very simple way to think about this is to think of the age-old science experiment of when you put a tooth in a bottle of soda and after a short time the tooth dissolves.  When CO2 is added to ocean water it creates a carbonic acid. Our bones are made of the mineral calcium (Ca) which keeps them hard and allows them to support our bodies.  Sea creatures that have bones or a shell count on Ca as well. Can you imagine what would happen to a clam that didn’t have enough Ca to make a shell? Or could you imagine a clam that had a shell and the acidic ocean water ate it up? These are things we need to imagine. Because of the increase in CO2, our average ocean Ph has dropped from ~ 8.1 down to 7.8, thus making the ocean more acidic. What I write here is only a first stepping stone to so many various things that are occurring with an increase of CO 2 levels on our planet.

The CTD being lowered from the J Frame on the NOAA ship DAVID STARR JORDAN
The CTD being lowered from the J Frame on the NOAA ship DAVID STARR JORDAN

Personal Log 

I can recall sitting in my classroom sometime in March or April. Maggie, a student, was in the room and it was well over an hour after school. I checked my email as I do routinely and there it was, the long awaited message from NOAA. I was a little nervous opening it, but did rather quickly. I was so excited to find out that I had been chosen to participate and immediately shared the news with Maggie, Rob and Dr. Finely the principal of my school. Anticipation filled my life until I got my assignment which was to board the NOAA Ship ALBATROSS IV in July, out of Woodshole, Mass to do a sea scallop survey. Of course I started reading all of the logs teachers had written. I prepared myself for working 12-hour shifts and measuring scallops. In May, when the staff at NOAA realized I would be in San Diego and that there was an opening on the NOAA Ship DAVID STARR JORDAN, they called and asked if I wanted to work with sharks.

It only took me 24 hours to accept that position and then I had new logs to read and new things to anticipate. I was extremely excited and equally as nervous. Would I get sick? Would people be nice? Would I feel safe and comfortable? Would I like the jobs I needed to do? Was I capable of doing the jobs? Oh no – I am not so great with the metric system, will people think I am stupid if I have to think and research before making a conversion? How much will I miss Rob? Will I like boat life? Then my questions even got more specific. Will have enough food? Which snacks should I bring? What does closed-toed shoes mean– can I wear Keens? Do I bring a towel? How many hobby supplies or books should I bring? How many girls will be there? Do we have to share a room with a guy (really I didn’t know)? You can imagine all of the questions I had and they didn’t stop until I had spent 24 hours on the ship and then I understood.

Here I am 11 days into this amazing adventure that has far surpassed anything I imagined. I have 2 more nights to get a giant “rock” (from the ocean waves) to sleep and 3 days to live on the Pacific Ocean. We only have 2.5 sets left to do.  Amazing. – I am going to enjoy every bit – starting right now – I am going to enjoy some of the great folks on board.  

Question of the Day 

What are some things YOU can do to further prevent the ocean from becoming more acidic?

What is a terapod?

What are some things that you anticipate about the upcoming school year?

Question of the trip: Which hook, the J or Circle, will catch more sharks? 

Please make a hypothesis. Utilize resources to justify your hypothesis. ———Yes, you get extra credit for this.  

Elizabeth Eubanks, July 31, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Elizabeth Eubanks
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
July 22 – August 3, 2007

Mission: Relative Shark Abundance Survey and J vs. Circle Hook Comparison
Geographical Area: Pacific Ocean, West of San Diego
Date: July 31, 2007

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Visibility: 10 miles
Air temperature: 16.0 degrees C
Sea Temperature at 700m: 5 degrees C
Sea Temperature at surface: 19.2 degrees C
Wind Direction: 300 W
Wind Speed:  15 kts
Cloud cover: Clear –stratus
Sea Level Pressure: 1013.9 MB
Sea Wave Height: 4-5 ft
Swell Wave Height: 2 ft

Science and Technology Log 

Salt, Sodium, NaCl, Salinity. How much salt is in the ocean? How much salt is in me and you? Is there a difference between the amount of salt in from the Pacific to the Atlantic ocean? How much salt is in a fish or shark? Lots of questions about salt. I spent some time again with Dr. Jeff Graham and he showed me some nice diagrams to help me understand.

Percent of average salt content – salinity. ***The top of the box marks only 10%   scale subject to revision (due to lack of resources on board ship)
Percent of average salt content – salinity. The top of the box marks only 10% scale subject to revision (due to lack of resources on board ship)

Personal Log 

Yeah I added a new species to my list and yesterday I was able to get a photo of the Black Footed Albatross. While we were hauling our line he kept circling. He seemed to be very interested in the line. Some of the scientists were tossing bait to him from the hooks they were debating, but he didn’t seem that interested our old Mackerel.  Albatross are beautiful birds. They are the largest of seabirds and spend most of their time on the water. They have long, narrow wings as you can see from the photo below. One of the scientists on board was telling me that she read studies, indicating that they can travel 3,000 miles across the ocean, before they need to touch land.  Rarely does a person have the opportunity to view them from shore unless you are on some remote island when they are breading and nesting.

Black-footed albatross, tagged.
Black-footed albatross, tagged.

Look at the photo I took. You will notice a yellow band on left leg and a white one oh his right. I am told that to band these birds, you go to a remote island and just band them. They aren’t really afraid of people. – I would love to do that…. When is that cruise?  Nobody likes it when this happens, especially the sea lions. This is the only we caught this trip. They put up a huge fight and this one actually got off of the line. Hopefully, he will be fine. It is such a treat to see them out here. During this set we had a lot of half eaten bait, so we believe he was having a feast!

Steller sea lion hooked in the mouth
Steller sea lion hooked in the mouth

Question of the Day 

Salt is essential for all life. However too much salt can be toxic. Animals have special ways of regulating the salt in their bodies. How does the shark regulate its salt? Define these terms associated with salinity and adaptations an animal makes to an environment: Isosmotic,  Hypoosmotic, and  Hyperosmotic.

Question of the trip: Which hook, the J or Circle, will catch more sharks?

Please make a hypothesis. Utilize resources to justify your hypothesis. ———Yes, you get extra credit for this.  

Elizabeth Eubanks, July 30, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Elizabeth Eubanks
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
July 22 – August 3, 2007

Mission: Relative Shark Abundance Survey and J vs. Circle Hook Comparison
Geographical Area: Pacific Ocean, West of San Diego
Date: July 30, 2007

Weather Data from the Bridge  
Visibility: 10 miles
Air temperature: 20.0 degrees C
Sea Temperature at 1,000m: -No CTD test tonight
Sea Temperature at surface: 19.8 degrees C
Wind Direction: 270 W
Wind Speed:  11 kts
Cloud cover: Clear –very cloudy, stratus, cumulus
Sea Level Pressure: 1011.9 MB
Sea Wave Height: 2 ft
Swell Wave Height: <1 ft

Science and Technology Log 

Today as my early shift which means I was up and on deck by 5:45 am. The morning was beautiful. I got to clip the gangion with line, hook and bait onto the long line. This has the potential to be a very stressful job, if it is really windy or there are large waves. I have avoided this job, for fear I would get tangled and go over board or miss the long line and drop the baited line, miss the space to clip my gangion or get the alternating Circles and J’s messed up.  Lots to remember. But when Dr. Kohin asked me to do it, of course I said “sure”. And guess what nothing bad really happened. I didn’t wreck the whole survey or anything! The long line has little bolt like things on it with a space between where you are supposed to clip the gangion. It can be tricky to clip them on, because the long line is moving out past you to the sea. I did miss two, but it wasn’t a huge disaster. The circles got a little knotted in the basket so there was nothing that could be done about keeping those in order, it was more important to get bait on the hooks, but later we added a few extra circles to keep the data on target and even.

Gangion clip attached to 20 foot line with hook (Circle or J) and Pacific Mackerel bait.
Gangion clip attached to 20 foot line with hook (Circle or J) and Pacific Mackerel bait.

Funny, I actually found it to be my favorite job. It was exciting and challenging and keeps your attention. Of course it was a calm day so it wasn’t as stressful as it could’ve been. The hardest thing about clipping this morning was to resist running to get my camera. The sun magnificently peaked through the clouds as a bright pinkish red ball at 6:30 am . The ocean was alive with visible life as sea gulls circled, and dolphins and seals splashed in the water. I worked on de-meating shark jaws for a while, which is tedious but fun. Their teeth are so plentiful and sharp. Fours hours later we hauled the line and had four Mako Sharks. Not the best set, but not the worst either!

Heather Marshall, grad student from U Mass. of Dartmouth on the phone with her mother. Too bad she couldn’t talk to her boyfriend, but he had just boarded a research vessel studying northern shrimp out of Maine for Massachusetts.
Heather Marshall, grad student from U Mass. of Dartmouth on the phone with her mother. Too bad she couldn’t talk to her boyfriend, but he had just boarded a research vessel studying northern shrimp out of Maine

Personal Log 

We arrived near Avalon, which is on Santa Catalina Island, California at 3:30pm. As soon as we got close to it people started to pull out their cell phones. I have to admit that as wonderful and adorable that Avalon was the best part was talking to Rob, my mom, Jim, Bob and Sue.  Telephones are not a luxury that we have on this ship. I am sure I wasn’t the only one that felt this way, because every time I turned around either on the ship or on Avalon, people were on their phones. In fact even down to the last minute while the ship was pulling away from civilization, people were still making one last call to their loved ones.

“26 miles across the sea, Santa Catalina is a waiting for me” – old tune from the 50’s – Who is the artist? 

Santa Catalina Island is about 25 miles long and 26 miles off of the west coast of California. To get there from the mainland you take a Ferry from Long Beach, which is south west of Los Angeles. You need special permission to bring a car.  We were in a town called Avalon, it is located in the south eastern part of the island. The Wrigley’s, as in Wrigley’s gum family use to own a lot of the Island, but some years ago donated most of it to the state, the Nature Conservancy and to the University of Southern California. Many organizations such as the Boy Scouts use some of the areas and are allowed to continue providing they take care of it. Avalon was very popular back in the day. During the big band swing era in the 50’s musicians like Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman and Tommy Dorsey would come place at the Casino which is really a Ballroom. It is a quaint little town with electric cars, buses and golf carts driving all about. Rarely do you see a typical car. There are lots of shops and cute places to eat.

Harbor at Avalon, Santa Catalina Island, California. The former Wrigley house is the one that sits highest on the mountain in the photo.
Harbor at Avalon, Santa Catalina Island, California. The former Wrigley house is the one that sits highest on the mountain in the photo.

We were brought over to the island on Zodiacs, a small rubber watercraft and stayed for 2 or so hours. A group of us wandered around, while some swam and others ate. It was such an unexpected bonus and so nice to be in a town. About an hour or so after we arrived I was interviewing Charlie with my camcorder and as I looked at the screen I noticed I was rocking – okay so I felt like I was rocking! I didn’t expect this. When I told Ann Coleman who was an experienced scientist at sea, she said it was common and said the strangest would be when I get home and take a shower, especially when I close my eyes and when I go to bed.  I will see how that goes.

Question of the Day 

Why do you think it is important to throw the fish and the line overboard before you clip the gangion onto the long line?

Question of the trip: Which hook, the J or Circle, will catch more sharks? 

Please make a hypothesis. Utilize resources to justify your hypothesis.  ———Yes, you get extra credit for this. 

Elizabeth Eubanks, July 28, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Elizabeth Eubanks
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
July 22 – August 3, 2007

Mission: Relative Shark Abundance Survey and J vs. Circle Hook Comparison
Geographical Area: Pacific Ocean, West of San Diego
Date: July 28, 2007

Weather Data from the Bridge   
Visibility: 10 miles
Air temperature: 19.0 degrees C
Sea Temperature at 5000m: 6 degrees C; Sea Temperature at surface: 20.3 degrees C
Wind Direction: 270 W
Wind Speed:  16 kts
Cloud cover: clear –some cumulus, cirrus
Sea Level Pressure: 1013.7 mb
Sea Wave Height: 1-2 ft
Swell Wave Height: 2 ft

Blue Shark with an evertted stomach.
Blue Shark with an evertted stomach.

Science and Technology Log 

The mortality (death) rate has spiked a little – very sad. We brought in a Blue shark last night that had evertted (thrown up) its stomach. Sometimes sharks do this when they eat something bad, like a hook. Most times they just suck it back up. It isn’t a common thing to happen and obviously it is a last extreme measure to feel better. It is probably dangerous to throw up your stomach when you have all of those teeth it needs to get passed to leave your mouth. When the scientists first saw the shark, they said it would be okay. We were all hopeful, but by the time it got on the ship it had died. Of course as always when there is a mortality, paper work is filled out and researchers use so much of the shark, so that is the good part.

Bedrooms on board the DAVID STARR JORDAN -mine is the bottom bunk
Bedrooms on board the DAVID STARR JORDAN -mine is the bottom bunk

Personal Log 

Simplify, Simplify. -Henry David Thoreau 

One “simplify” would have sufficed. Ralph Waldo Emerson, in response 

Life on this ship is simple. I have not looked in full length mirror since I boarded. Actually I haven’t seen myself too much below my chest even. Well, a couple of times in a photograph I saw my full body. Makeup, jewelry, matching clothing, high fashion, hats, they just aren’t important out here. In fact I did boycott the hats for a few days, because ever since I shaved my head I felt like I looked funny in a hat – like a boy. Oh well, too bad. It is so sunny out here so I need to wear my floppy hat to protect my skin. I need to wear Rob’s knit hat, because it gets equally as cold. My shirt sleeves smell fishy some of the time. But instead of washing the whole shirt, I was the sleeves. Quite often I sleep in the clothes – hat and all I wore all day if they aren’t dirty, because for some reason it is so chilly in my room. I live in the same clothes day after day if they don’t smell fishy. We eat what we are fed and get called to eat by an extremely loud bell. We sleep in small, simple bed. I washed a batch of clothes yesterday – sheets included. It all went in one load and took me about 5 minutes to put away.

We work at certain hours and relax or help out, read or wander about the ship, watching the ocean for creatures. We aren’t at the grocery store choosing what food to buy or shopping at a mall. We aren’t talking on the phone or watching a whole lot of TV, we do have to pick movies sometimes though (500 choices – now that is complicated).  Dovi, one of the Doctoral students did not take a shower or change his clothes until yesterday (mid trip). I didn’t get too close to him, but didn’t notice him smelling from a distance. Simple life. I imagine the most extravagant thing about living on this ship is the fancy food we get to eat and the huge choice of movies—and the no-brainer—being in contact with sharks. Of course I am definitely putting some time into my hobby – photography and boy have I got thousands of interesting shots. I like it. I can easily see how people make this life style a permanent one. The hardest thing about it is missing your family and I do miss Rob and Hooch! Now my goal is to bring parts of this life style with me when I return to land, that will be the challenge and goal!  How is your life simple and how is complicated?

Question of the Day 

Make a list of things that complicate your life. Make a list of things that simplify your life.

Question of the trip: Which hook, the J or Circle, will catch more sharks? 

Please make a hypothesis. Utilize resources to justify your hypothesis.  ———Yes, you get extra credit for this. 

Elizabeth Eubanks, July 27, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Elizabeth Eubanks
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
July 22 – August 3, 2007

Mission: Relative Shark Abundance Survey and J vs. Circle Hook Comparison
Geographical Area: Pacific Ocean, West of San Diego
Date: July 27, 2007

Weather Data from the Bridge  
Visibility: 8-10 miles
Air temperature: 17.0 degrees C
Sea Temperature at 350m: 7 degrees C
Sea Temperature at surface: 19.0 degrees C
Wind Direction: 290 W Wind Speed:  18 kts
Cloud cover: clear –some cumulus, cirrus
Sea Level Pressure: 1013.2 mb
Sea Wave Height: 2-3 ft
Swell Wave Height: 2-3 ft

Science and Technology Log 

“First, do no harm.” –Michael J. Zoghby RPT 

Today was so exciting. We caught a Mola mola, Ocean Sunfish, and 22 sharks.  Many of them were baby Blue sharks and although this team tries very hard to keep all of the sharks alive, some of them are so badly thrashed by the hook and/or line that they don’t make it. Yesterday was the first day that we had our first mortality (dead shark).  It was a baby Blue and the gills were just ripped out by the hook.  Sad, no one likes to see a dead shark. Everyone is out here to preserve them and keep them safe.

We caught many average size sharks and a few really large ones.  Watching the scientist work on the large animals has got to be one of the most thrilling things to see, especially when they have the extra challenge of wave swells coming across the platform, soaking them and giving the shark a chance to do what it does best… swim. As one of the grad students put it, the pictures and videos we have taken during these events are not ones you would want your mom to see, the mix of slippery platform, scalpel in hand, swell water pouring in and of course a HUGE SHARK, could be a deadly mixture. But safety comes first. They probably had the shark on the platform for a good 3-5 minutes. The Blue was using every bit of what it had to get off of the platform. It was so exciting that I had to video and take still shots. This shark would’ve been a great choice for the satellite tag because of its size, but they didn’t get a chance to that. They removed what they could of the hook, identified him as a male and struggled to hold him down. The Blue shark was estimated at 220cm. We never did get an actual measurement, because for one thing it appeared to be longer than the platform measuring tape and for another Dr. Kohin made a decision to “just let it go” and that is a direct quote. Safety comes first for shark and for people.

Dr. Suzy Kohin surrounded by a big Blue Shark – notice the eye, the nictitating membrane covers the eye.
Dr. Suzy Kohin surrounded by a big Blue Shark – notice the eye, the nictitating membrane covers the eye.

More safety notes: Late night we found out that there was a problem with one of the engine fans. So tomorrow morning our set is canceled. We will have to wait to see if they can fix it and if they can’t we go back to San Diego and the trip is over. Why? Because they follow the rule, the only rule you really ever need– First Do No Harm. Extra note: The Ocean Sunfish is an amazing fish. You will see them in the Pacific and at first think that they are sharks, because of their dorsal fin that sticks out of the water. They have been described as one of the most evolved fish and look like a super sized Frisbee.- A great fish to do a little personal research on, if you are into fish. (Sean Maloney – check it out!)

Personal Log 

Bet ya goin’ fishn’ all the time, I’mma goin’ fishin’ too. I bet your life, your lovin’ wife is gonna catch more fish than you, so many fish bite if ya got good bait, here’s a little tip that I would like to relate, I’mma goin’ fish, yes I’m goin’ fishn’ and my babies goin’ fishin too!” 

– Not sure who sang or wrote this little diddy first, so I can’t give credit right now – but I didn’t write this “catchy” tune. 

I am working/ living on a fishing boat. Dah! It’s a goofy realization that just hit me today. Since I got accepted for this project, I have been in a narrow mindset that I am on a shark research vessel, which I am. I broaden my mindset and hit me that I am also on a fishing vessel. Fishing is what we do when we set and haul the long line. Fishing is what we can do in our spare time. We have bait, we have hooks and we have line. We catch fish. Oh and we cook and eat fish too. We are fishing.  Funny, but now it makes my experience even cooler. I have always wanted to work on a fishing vessel.

Right out of high school my girl friend and I had done a heap of research and were planning on moving to Ocean City, MD for the summer. We had spent hours investigating different job possibilities. We had heard that sometimes you spend all your summer working to pay your bills and don’t really get to enjoy the beach, but we didn’t care. She was interested in a job as a waitress and I had sent in a ••• dozen applications to fishing vessels. That is what I really wanted to do. That was my glamour job! I dreamed that I could be the one who baits the hooks and cleans the deck. I figured if I had to spend most of my time working, it should be on the water with fish and people who liked to fish. Anyway, that dream ended with a car crash – no one was killed, just minor injuries but it sure shook up my folks enough to keep me in PA for the summer.  So after all these years – I am working and living on a fishing ship. Super cool, huh!

Scientists Suzy Kohin and Russ Vetter tag the Mola mola, Ocean Sunfish
Scientists Suzy Kohin and Russ Vetter tag the Mola mola, Ocean Sunfish

Question of the Day 

If you had to pick a research science career, what would you study? What would your problem be?

Question of the trip: Which hook, the J or Circle, will catch more sharks? 

Please make a hypothesis. Utilize resources to justify your hypothesis.  ———Yes, you get extra credit for this. 

Elizabeth Eubanks, July 26, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Elizabeth Eubanks
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
July 22 – August 3, 2007

Mission: Relative Shark Abundance Survey and J vs. Circle Hook Comparison
Geographical Area: Pacific Ocean, West of San Diego
Date: July 26, 2007

Weather Data from the Bridge
Visibility: 8-10 miles
Air temperature: 18.2 degrees C
Sea Temperature at 404m: 6.8 degrees C
Sea Temperature at surface: 21.3 degrees C
Wind Direction: 300 W
Wind Speed:  18 kts
Cloud cover: clear –cumulus
Sea Level Pressure: 1013.2 mb
Sea Wave Height: 2 ft
Swell Wave Height: 3-4 ft

Science and Technology Log 

Being careful, paying attention. Do you know what an assembly line is? It is when a group of people comes together with many individual specific tasks to achieve an overall goal. If you have ever seen the Laverne and Shirley TV show, they work on an assembly line at Shotz Brewery. Here there is an assembly line system too. There is one style when we set the lines with bait and another when we haul. Everyone has a very specific job and if you don’t do your job or pay attention, it can wreck the whole affair. The thing I couldn’t imagine would be to do something like this or have the exact same job everyday and all day. But the way it is done on the ship is easy and pleasant and only lasts for about an hour at a time, which is the perfect time limit. If it were too much longer I would get bored and my mind would wander.

Even though the job is relatively easy, it is so important to be careful and to stay focused.  For instance one of the jobs I had today required that I put the bait on the hook. No big deal really- right? – Except that the bait needed to be put on a specific hook type, which someone handed to me, in my case I was baiting the J hooks. The hook was attached to a 50-foot multi-strand steal cable, which is attached to a gangion clip. Still no biggie right? Well, when you are baiting over 100 hooks and there is someone in front of you waiting to grab the hook, because there is 2 nautical mile line that is being pulled or hauled and they have to put the baited line in a specific place it becomes a big deal. We have to move at a steady pace because the line is being hauled out into the ocean at a certain rate. The person who is attaching the ganglions to line really needs to stay focused and be careful as well. Also for this study since we are testing hook effectiveness we need to alternate the J and Circle hook to eliminate variables. In other words we don’t want to be able to say – well all the sharks were caught on the J hooks because we set all of the J hooks first and they got to a longer soak (time in the water) time. Does that make sense? We have to pay attention to the “hooker” and help make certain that they are alternating hooks.

Setting a long line: Ann Coleman from the Monterey Bay Aquarium at the front of the set line waits to put the ganglion on the line, while someone else attaches a buoy. Beyond Ann, the crew is baiting the lines; beyond them, the crew prepares the hook and beyond them the deck crew extends the long line.
Setting a long line: Ann Coleman from the Monterey Bay Aquarium at the front of the set line waits to put the ganglion on the line, while someone else attaches a buoy. Beyond Ann, the crew is baiting the lines; beyond them, the crew prepares the hook and beyond them the deck crew extends the long line.

Things that could go wrong with baiting the hook: -not putting the bait on well enough -getting your lines tangled with one another -getting your line tangled on yourself or someone else or a part of the ship -not giving the person the correct J or circle hook -not having your hooks baited in a timely manner. Preventatives: Say the word out loud J hook or Circle – helps everyone stay focused -to avoid tangles, don’t bait too many hooks ahead time -have one or two hooks baited ahead of time, incase you get a little behind for some reason -keep an eye on your 50 ft line and straighten it out Is there any job that you are particularly interested in? If so please let me know.

Personal Log 

Today I had the early shift, which meant that I woke up at 0530 and started working at 0600. Last night the ship was rockier than it has been and hasn’t let up much all day. When I went outside it was gray, chilly and slightly windy. After the set I went upstairs to read and fell asleep, it was the perfect morning for a good book and a nap. I hibernated a little more after lunch and watched a movie by myself in the crew lounge. Music and Lyrics with Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore. – Cute movie!

I still feel a little rocky in my tummy on and off, but soda crackers, ginger gum and doing things help take the edge off. Sometimes I wish the boat would just stop rocking for a few minutes! Several folks were fishing for a few hours and pulled in some beautiful Rockfish – several different varieties (species). They caught a species that is on the protected list, which is called a Cowcod Rockfish. They took DNA samples from it. Check it out above. They also caught a large Pacific Mackerel and two flat fish, which they call Sand Daps.  I had fun because I got to fillet a few of the Rockfish – something I haven’t done for several years and yeah I can still do it – thanks Dad!

Dr. Russ Vetter holding a Cowcod Rockfish which he took DNA samples from.  This fish could be at least 40 years old.
Dr. Russ Vetter holding a Cowcod Rockfish that could be at least 40 years old.

Question of the Day 

While we are setting and hauling lines we like to talk and to sing songs. Using a song you already know change the words so that the song has to do with fishing for sharks. Here are some words you might want to use; shark, ray, seal, sea lion, ship, deck, line, haul, set or some others you may think of. Please include the name of the song you are writing the new lyrics to. If you don’t know any songs, write a poem.

Question of the trip: Which hook, the J or Circle, will catch more sharks?

Please make a hypothesis. Utilize resources to justify your hypothesis.  ———Yes, you get extra credit for this. 

 

Elizabeth Eubanks, July 25, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Elizabeth Eubanks
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
July 22 – August 3, 2007

Mission: Relative Shark Abundance Survey and J vs. Circle Hook Comparison
Geographical Area: Pacific Ocean, West of San Diego
Date: July 25, 2007

Weather Data from the Bridge   
Visibility: 10 miles
Air temperature: 20.4 degrees C
Sea Temperature at 500m: 6.3 degrees C
Sea Temperature at surface: 21.3 degrees C
Wind Direction: 280 W
Wind Speed:  18 kts
Cloud cover: clear – high cumulus
Sea Level Pressure: 1012.5 mb
Sea Wave Height : 2 ft
Swell Wave Height : 2 ft

NOAA Teacher at Sea Elizabeth Eubanks (right) on the platform taking a DNA sample from a Mako shark.
NOAA Teacher at Sea Elizabeth Eubanks (right) on the platform taking a DNA sample from a Mako shark.

Science and Technology Log 

Today was so exciting. Dr. Suzi Kohin asked me to the join crew down on the platform of the stern of the boat. At the end of the platform is a specially designed cradle in which the shark is placed to record data and issue tags. It was so very, very cool to be that close to sharks. I also got to put two of the tags in the shark.  I first used a scalpel blade to make a small incision just below the dorsal fin. Then I place the tag in with a quick jab. The tag is called a spaghetti tag because it is a thin piece of wire with numbers and contact information on it. You can get a reward for calling it in. The other tag is called a Roto tag and it goes on the dorsal fin. This tag states that we have injected oxytetracycline into the shark. When someone turns this tag in with a couple of vertebrate they get $100.00. Next I am handed a pair of forceps and a scalpel blade, I cut a little junk of the dorsal fin and then hand it over to go into a solution for DNA testing. Then the Suzy calls out the estimated weight and we get the Oxytetracycline and I got to inject it into the shark on the belly or ventral side. Oxytetracycline is pretty cool, it is what teens use for acne. But the really great thing about it is that it also stains your bones when you use it. It shows up similar to how you would see the rings on a stump of a tree. So it is a great way for scientist to do bone growth investigation.

Risso's dolphin
Risso’s dolphin

Personal Log 

Wildlife- Forever I have been tracking all of the birds that I have seen. I don’t particularly keep a count, but I do check them off and write little notes about them in my National Geographic bird book. When I was in wild life biology classes at Penn State Dubois I use to keep track of everything I saw in various books and lists. One huge surprise of this entire summer has been how many new species of birds I have logged. It is amazing. My guess it that I have logged at least 20 new species, which is a lot for me, for one summer. But I really wish I had kept up with my wildlife list as a whole. If I had, I could add a couple species more today. The Common Dolphin (which I actually saw days ago as well), two Blue Whales and a pod of Risso Dolphins – they are beautiful as I am sure you can see from the photo above. Of course now I have an extra challenge with my species list. I like to make sure I get a photo as well – just so that there is no mistake to what I am seeing! If you are into wildlife like I am, I highly recommend you start a list now, it is fun to list where, when and what it was doing when you saw it.

Common dolphin off Catalina Island
Common dolphin off Catalina Island

Question of the Day

If I tell you to lie on your ventral side, which side of your body would you lay on? Suppose I told to lie on your dorsal side, what side would you lay on? 

Question of the trip: Which hook, the J or Circle, will catch more sharks?

Please make a hypothesis. Utilize resources to justify your hypothesis.  ———Yes, you get extra credit for this. 

Elizabeth Eubanks, July 24, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Elizabeth Eubanks
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
July 22 – August 3, 2007

Mission: Relative Shark Abundance Survey and J vs. Circle Hook Comparison
Geographical Area: Pacific Ocean, West of San Diego
Date: July 24, 2007

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Visibility: 10nm
Air temperature: 19.8 degrees C
Sea Temperature at surface: 20.6 degrees C
Wind Direction: 250 W
Wind Speed:  09 kts
Cloud cover: partial Alto cumulus
Sea Level Pressure: 1011.4 mb
Sea Wave Height : 1 ft
Swell Wave Height : 2-3 ft

NOAA scientist Dr. Suzy Kohin (center places) two different satellite tags on a 197cm Mako shark.
NOAA scientist Dr. Suzy Kohin (center places) two different satellite tags on a 197cm Mako shark.

Science and Technology Log 

Today was absolutely beautiful, the sun was shining all day. We caught 3 sharks 2 Mako and 1 Blue in the first set and 1 Mako in the second set.  This isn’t a whole lot of sharks but for me, even one shark is great! The really cool thing about the day was that we got a Mako large enough to put satellite tags on. The tags are very expensive ~ $5,000, so they want make sure it is a big enough shark to wear the gear. One of the tags is called a P.A.T. and this stands for Pop Off Archival Tag. This tag collects data such as depth, temperature, light measurement, how far it is from the equator and rates of change. It can be set to record information during certain time periods. They only last up to 8 months and then they pop off. Dr. Kohin set this one to pop off in 6 months. The data is stored in the device so data cannot be retrieved until it comes off of the shark. It pops off of the shark floats to the top of the ocean surface and then transmits basic data to a central location. Hopefully someone will find the tag and mail it back to NOAA – Dr. Kohin and she will receive a more complete data report.  The other tag S.P.O.T. – Satellite Position Only Tag goes on the dorsal fin and as it implies, it only tracks satellites just like a GPS does allowing scientists to know the exact location of the shark.

P.A.T. (black tag) and S.P.O.T. (satellite tags)
P.A.T. (black tag) and S.P.O.T. (satellite tags)

Lauren Miko wanted to know what the Circular hook looked like, so here is a photo comparing the two. The circle is believed to cause less damage on the shark. The way that it is curved makes it harder for the shark to swallow, thus reducing the potential amount of internal damage. Also because of the curve sharks are most likely to get this type of hook stuck in its lip/jaw. These shark studies tag and release the shark and are conducted for the overall betterment of the shark, so they need to be kept healthy. Sharks are more likely swallow a J hook and could be damaged in ways that the scientist can’t view even if they remove the hook. Regardless if the shark appears to be in great condition it is possible that it has suffered internally and isn’t showing effects at the time. Does this make sense? Let me know if it doesn’t. FYI- the circular hook is harder to bait, so it is curved up just slightly to make it easier and not flat if you lay it on a table.

Circular Hook and J Hook size 16/0
Circular Hook and J Hook size 16/0

Personal Log 

This ship is so huge. We basically have about 5 hours a day we have to be on deck working. Besides that time I am free and just so you know I spend a lot of time on this log for my students and all who read. I also read, send out emails, take dog naps in the sun and wander around from deck to deck , it is amazing how you could go for hours on this large vessel and not cross paths with anyone and then all of sudden you will go to the top deck and run into two people relaxing. It is like walking through a maze. There are more likely places where you will find folks such as the Mess decks where you eat, snack, relax, watch the tube and of course make scientifically created milkshakes. You also may find people in the crew deck. This is where they have a huge TV, tons of books and lets see, about 500 movies to choose from. The more I think of it, the more I realize that most middle school kids would love this ship. Sean Maloney, it has your name written all over it! Of course although we have amazing food we don’t have your mom’s great banana bread – at least not yet! Lauren was my first student to send an email, then followed Karissa and Sean.

Thank you so much for reading and sending a note and questions. Lauren I believe I answered your question – do you now know what a circle hook looks like?

Question of the Day 

You will notice that at the top of my weather data I list visibility in nm that stands for nautical mile. I also use the term when I say that we put out 2 nautical miles of long line to fish from. What is the difference between a mile and a nautical mile? 

Question of the trip: Which hook, the J or Circle, will catch more sharks?

Please make a hypothesis. Utilize resources to justify your hypothesis.  ———Yes, you get extra credit for this.   

Grad students, Dovi Kacev, Heather Marshall and Lyndsay testing their ability to make the best milkshake – should you add brownies or Oreo cookies?
Grad students, Dovi Kacev, Heather Marshall and Lyndsay testing their ability to make the best milkshake – should you add brownies or Oreo cookies?

Elizabeth Eubanks, July 23, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Elizabeth Eubanks
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
July 22 – August 3, 2007

Mission: Relative Shark Abundance Survey and J vs. Circle Hook Comparison
Geographical Area: Pacific Ocean, West of San Diego
Date: July 23, 2007

Weather Data from the Bridge
Air temperature: 19.7 degrees C
Sea Temperature at 300m 7.9 degrees C
Sea Temperature at surface: 19.1 degrees C
Wind Direction: 350 (NW)
Wind Speed:  5.2 kts
Cloud cover: Partial – Alto cirrus
Sea Level Pressure: 1011.5 mb
Sea Wave Height 2
Swell Wave Height <1

NOAA Teacher at Sea Elizabeth Eubanks models the abandon ship suit, also known as a “Gumby” suit.
NOAA Teacher at Sea Elizabeth Eubanks models the abandon ship suit, also known as a “Gumby” suit.

Science and Technology Log 

Today has been beautiful. The lines were set at 0600 and then hauled at 1000. We only caught 3 sharks this morning, 2 Blue and 1 Mako.  We set lines again 1330 ( Do you know what time that is? – 1:30pm) While we were having a break we noticed a huge pod of Common Dolphins. They appeared to be having so much fun flying up into the air. There were at least 30+ it was so cool to see so many. Our haul this evening was a skunk – no sharks, but that is okay tomorrow is a new day. We had drills today, fire and abandon ship. The fire drill required us to move to the dry science lab, where I already happened to be. The abandon ship drill required that we put on long pants, long sleeve shirt, a hat and our “gumby” suit, as it is called. It is a dry suit, much like some divers would wear. It is big and bulky and funny looking.

I had mentioned yesterday that although the main focus of this trip is to test the J and Circle hooks, many other studies are being supported. Last night after dark some of us fished for Rockfish. Russ Vetter a NOAA scientist who is Head of Fish Ecology within the South West Fisheries Center and heads 4 teams of scientists. Those teams study small pelagics such as anchovies, egg and larvae- ichthyo-plankton, pelagic sharks which we are studying now and his personal group is molecular ecology which has been studying Rockfish for years. I got an earful last night. The Rockfish that we were fishing for were about 200 feet below the surface. So they live in very deep water, which means that they are benthic fish. There are some that are pelagic, but I will get to them later.

Various species of Benthic Rockfish
Various species of Benthic Rockfish

Dr. Vetter was telling me that there are about 130 different species of Rockfish in the Pacific, 70 of which are in the region he studies. They are one of the most sought after for commercial fishing. These fish bare live young, which is very unusual for a fish. These fish also live very long, well past 60 years and some in the tub shown above could be over 40. Scientists have a theory that the older the mother is, then the better mother she is to her live-born babies. Scientist are still learning a lot about them, but like many other fish they are becoming over fished in certain areas and greatly depleting (making vanish) populations of these fish. There are two ways to fish for Rockfish, one is to create a long line that is geared to benthic fish and the other is to simply fish the way we did last night, with deep sea rigs. We were catching them pretty quickly and probably caught 14 or so within 45 minutes.  We used rigs that had 2 hooks on them and it was common to pull up two at a time.

NOAA Teacher at Sea Elizabeth Eubanks holds a Rosie Rockfish.
NOAA Teacher at Sea Elizabeth Eubanks holds a Rosie Rockfish.

When you pull up most of these fish, their bodies and eyes are all bulged out and sometime their swim bladder is coming out of their mouth and if you notice in the photo above they are all floating although many are not dead yet. Why is this? What happens to them?  — If you can answer this question you are half way to figuring out the answer to my question of the day.  The fisheries management has now set a limit to how many fish the commercial fisherman are allowed to bring per outing and they have set a limit of only 2 hooks per rod, whereas prior to this some commercial fishermen would use up to 10 hooks. There is no size limit because once you catch these fish you can’t or have no reason to toss them back (referring to question of the day). 

The commercial fishermen are pretty easy to monitor when they fish these benthic, fish. Management can go to their boat or meet them at the docks to check on them.  Managing pelagic Rockfish is more difficult, because these fish hang out in the kelp and are easier to catch from a smaller craft, which allows for potential deception of total catch.

We catch the fish, fillet the fish, eat the fish and then Dr. Vetter will take the carcasses (bones) to his lab to study the DNA. The more you learn about a fish, the more you can protect it from being depleted (vanishing) from an area. This is good, because so many fishermen count on this fish for their lively hood. If scientist learn more about the fish and protect the fish, then we will always have that fish around. Also we know that golden rule “we are all connected – we are all affected.” So if we deplete the Rockfish, in some way we too are affected. Right? –Right!

Personal Log 

I was so excited to have the opportunity to fish last night. But I did hate that my catch was so small and I couldn’t just toss it back into the ocean, because it wouldn’t survive. So that made me feel bad, it was still alive when I caught it and it looked at me with it’s big beautiful eyes. I am getting into the groove of things here.  I was so happy to have slept well last night. I got up early even though I could’ve slept in.  It is just so nice to be here. Of course I miss Rob and Hooch. I really miss Rob, because I know he would be so interested in all that we are doing on this ship.

Now, I am in terrible trouble. I just went into the galley to get a Fig Newton and I was told to open the cooler, that there was something better in there… I really thought they could be wrong, because I am not a huge ice cream fan. I am selective about what types really suck me in….. and OH NO! Ben and Jerry’s Cherry Garcia has that capability! The have a huge carton of it. I am still amazed at all the food and well prepared meals on board.  Today, for lunch, I had black eyed pees, rice, mixed veggies and a great salad with hearts of palm and that was only the veggie stuff they offered!

Oh happy day, Elizabeth Eubanks

Question of the Day 

Why would the Rosie Rockfish not survive if I put it back into the ocean, right after I caught it and realized that it was still alive, but very small?

Why is this (the inability of the rockfish to survive after being caught) a major problem for commercial fishing industries and the population of the Rockfish?

One more for fun- What is the difference between an ice cream float and ice cream soda?

Question of the trip: Which hook, the J or Circle, will catch more sharks?

Please make a hypothesis. Utilize resources to justify your hypothesis.  ———Yes, you get extra credit for this. 

Vocabulary 

Taken from the Sea, State, Wind and Clouds- US Department of Commerce Sea Waves are generated by the wind blowing at the time of observation, or in the recent past, in your local area. Sea waves change after they move under the wind that has created them.

Sea Swell Waves – have traveled into your area of observation, after having been generated by winds in other areas (sometimes thousands of miles away). Swell waves remain symmetrical and uniform.

Elizabeth Eubanks, July 22, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Elizabeth Eubanks
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
July 22 – August 3, 2007

Mission: Relative Shark Abundance Survey and J vs. Circle Hook Comparison
Geographical Area: Pacific Ocean, West of San Diego
Date: July 22, 2007

Weather Data from the Bridge  
Air temperature: 18 degrees C
Sea Temperature at 250 m below: 8.6 degrees C
Sea Temperature at surface: 20 degrees C
Wind Direction: 240 (W)
Wind Speed:  7 kts
Cloud cover: Full cloud cover – Stratus
Sea Level Pressure: 1013.8 mb
Sea Wave Height 1’
Swell Wave Height 2’

Scientists Suzanne Kohin and Russ Vetter stabilize this 160cm Mako shark, while Grad student Heather Marshall brings tools to collect data.
Scientists Suzanne Kohin and Russ Vetter stabilize this 160cm Mako shark, while Grad student Heather Marshall brings tools to collect data.

Science and Technology Log 

I boarded the NOAA ship David Starr Jordan at 0800 (everything is in Military time here). Rob, my husband, was with me and he was permitted to board the ship to look around and help carry my bags into my room, so that was a nice start. We departed at 0900 and I watched the dock where Rob was, until he became a little dot. As we were leaving we passed the Naval base where they train the seals and then an area where there tons of submarines. I got a kick out of the seal lions as they relaxed on buoys. After ~ an hour at sea, I couldn’t see land anymore – very strange! We had a meeting at 10:30am, we got instructions for safety, rules and regulations and a tour of the ship. One rule is that you cannot wear open toed shoes.  We ate lunch and then set lines at 1:30pm to try to catch sharks.

Background info: NOAA Ship DAVID STARR JORDAN is on its 3rd leg of travel this summer. The first 2 legs involved study of Shark Abundance (how many sharks there are). The study that we are doing now is designed to enhance the Abundance study. The scientists are trying to determine which type of hook will catch the most sharks, the J hook or the Circle hook. – Hint a great PROBLEM for this “lab” would be: Which hook, the J hook or the Circle hook will catch more sharks? What is your hypothesis?  Although this is the main point of the experiment, they are recording other data as well, which I will list later. I mentioned earlier that we were setting lines. Setting the lines, involves as very long line – 2 nautical miles long and every 50 ft a hook is attached. And after 5 hooks are attached a buoy is attached. Can you picture this? So once all the lines are set, there are approximately 200 + hooks attached. To make this test a good one reducing variables, every other hook is J hook and then the next hook is a Circle hook. I will talk more about line setting and hook attachment later.

Tonight was so exciting. When we pulled in our lines at 5:30pm, we got 4 sharks: 2 Blue and 2 Mako and 1 pelagic Stingray. It was so thrilling to hear the crew screaming “Shark!” And instead of the traditional running or swimming to get away from the shark, the shark is pulled in and touched. Scientist Russ Vetter had his head so close to the shark’s head, it made me shiver. When I asked him how many times he had been bit, he stated that you only get bit once. The Blue sharks were absolutely beautiful and for those of you know me well, it isn’t just because they are blue! But the blue color of these sharks is absolutely spectacular—it takes your breath away. The other thing that took my breath away this evening was the 160cm Mako shark.  It got hooked in the fin, so it was harder to pull the shark in for data and boy did it give an impressive fight. Although, this part of the work is finished there is still a lot going on. We have to prep tags and lines and scientist are all around me now recording data about the ocean. Right now it is 8.6 degrees C at 250 m down. But on the water surface the temp is 20 degrees C. The surface (at the top) of the water is actually a little warmer than the air temperature right now. I also hear talk of late night fishing for rock fish and squid. 

NOAA Teacher at Sea, Elizabeth Eubanks, standing in front of the majestic NOAA ship DAVID STARR JORDAN in the San Diego Harbor.
NOAA Teacher at Sea, Elizabeth Eubanks, standing in front of the majestic NOAA ship DAVID STARR JORDAN in the San Diego Harbor.

Personal Log 

I have been at sea for a grand total of 12 hours now and so far so great! Everyone has been extremely kind and helpful. I am sure many of you are wondering if I have gotten sea sick and the answer is NO and I don’t plan on it. I took Dramamine and chewed some ginger gum before the ship left. After about an hour on the ocean I started to feel tired and little like I was floating on my legs. I am not sure if this was due to the ocean waves or the drugs! After lunch I went up to the very top of the ship and took a long snooze. One of the emails I had received prior to the cruise said to bring snacks, so I wasn’t sure what the food situation would be, but I can tell you this- I won’t go hungry! They serve buffet style with many choices and snacks in between. You will also be happy to know that they have lots of veggies on board!

Please direct your emails (questions for me and answers to my questions) to my yahoo account (so I can keep track of your questions) AND to the email address listed below. I will NOT be checking my yahoo email account until I return to land! I love being around all of these scientists and research, it reminds me of college and why I have always loved science so much. I hope everyone is having a great summer and I appreciate you spending time with me on this adventure.

Question of the Day 

What does the word pelagic mean?

Question of the trip: Which hook, the J or Circle, will catch more sharks?

Please make a hypothesis. Utilize resources to justify your hypothesis.  ———Yes, you get extra credit for this. 

Heather Diaz, July 15, 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 15, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

They did a swordfish set last night around midnight.  We hauled in the set around 5:30am. We caught 4 blues and 2 makos.  We also caught one pelagic ray.  They set a shark line out around 7:45. We were hoping to be able to finish one last set before going into port. We were scheduled to be in port around 3.

Teacher at Sea, Heather Diaz, holds up a Blue shark.
Teacher at Sea, Heather Diaz, holds up a Blue shark.

Dr. Russ Vetter explained what the different computers are used for in the aft lab.  There is one called at EK500/EQ50 which uses a split beam transponder to create a “map” of the ocean floor, so the scientists can use the data to find high spots, which sometimes are better for fishing. It also works as a sort of “fish finder” and the different things in the water show up in scale and color, so that you can see the approximate size of the animal/plant in the water.  He also explained the Navigation computer, which digitally shows the charts (with soundings), topographical features (like islands and coastline), and our course. It also provides information on other vessels that are nearby, and when available, that vessel’s name and number…the same navigation computer they also use on the Bridge. The Nav. Comp. also provides information like our latitude and longitude and our speed.

There is another computer which monitors wind speed and direction, temperature of the water (under the boat), barometric pressure, and salinity of the water.  All of these are real-time, and provide important information to the scientists.  There is also an ADCP (Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler) computer which displays a constantly changing graph of current velocity relative to the ref layer.

The very last set of this leg was a bit slower than most, which may have been a good thing, since most people were starting to get a bit tired.  We had 2 blues and 2 makos. We were very pleased to find out that we had, during the entire leg, managed to capture 80 blue sharks (78 were measured, sexed, and released), 63 mako sharks (61 were tagged and released), 23 pelagic rays (23 were released, none were tagged), 3 molas (3 were tagged and released), and 1 lancetfish (which was released but not tagged).  Everyone seemed very pleased with the results, and now Dr. Suzy Kohin (Chief Scientist) and Dr. Heidi Dewar will head back to their lab at Southwest Fisheries to analyze the data.

Personal Log 

Last night the sky was very clear, so we were able to see a lot of stars, including the Milky Way, which was very easy to see last night.  The view from the Flying Bridge (the very top of the ship) is amazing, and we felt like we could see every star in the universe, even though we know we couldn’t. We could also see the far away glow of Los Angeles, a reminder that we will soon be back in port and that our trip is nearly over.  Nearby, there was a large tanker and a container ship, which also looked neat in the dark.  The container ship was still nearby this morning when we woke up.

The sunset this morning was amazing.  There were a few wispy Cirrus clouds in the sky, which reflected the glow of the sun long before the sun made its first appearance in the sky. It was truly a beautiful sunrise, and a great way to start off our last day!  This morning after the set, everyone was a bit disappointed that we have not caught a swordfish this trip.  But, Dr. Heidi Dewar said she would consider doing another swordfish study in the future.

Everyone is busy packing and getting their gear ready to go home.  Everyone, including me, is excited to be going home to see family and friends, but I think most people will be a little sad, too. For me, this has been an absolutely amazing experience!  I have learned so much, and I have seen more in the past week than I ever could have from reading books or watching documentaries.  There is just something so special about being able to feed a sea lion, touch a shark, or come within inches of a mola to feel the power of nature and the beauty of the ocean. I am awe struck in so many ways.  The people aboard the DAVID STARR JORDAN could not have been kinder, and everyone has gone far out of their way to make me feel like part of the DSJ family.  Everyone from the captain and the officers, the boatswains, the stewards, and everyone in engineering has been friendly and helpful. I will surely miss everyone on board.  As for the scientists, they did an outstanding job of helping me to learn things and to make me feel like I was a real part of their crew. I will miss the lapping of the waves, the rolling of the ship, the camaraderie, the food, the animals, the scenery, the sunsets, and the sunsets.  And, although I cannot take any of them with me, I will have the memories of them all forever.

I want to sincerely thank Lieutenant Commander Von Saunder, the amazing crew of the DAVID STARR JORDAN, Dr. Suzy Kohin, and her wonderful team of scientists for a fantastic experience!  I never imagined it would be this incredible!  I will be grateful to you all for a long, long, long time!  Thank you for allowing me to share these past 10 days with you, and I wish you all safe travels and many more beautiful sunsets at sea to come!

Heather Diaz, July 14, 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 14, 2006

The Seabird Temperature/Depth Profiler is hooked up to a computer so that the information can be converted into a graph.  The information is used to identify the thermoclines, and to determine where most of the animals will be found in the water near the ship.
The Seabird Temperature/Depth Profiler is hooked up to a computer so that the information can be converted into a graph and then used to identify the thermoclines, and to determine where most of the animals will be found in the water near the ship.

Science and Technology Log 

I had the opportunity to interview Jason Larese who is aboard for this cruise.  He works for the Southwest Fisheries Science Center in La Jolla, which is part of NOAA Fisheries Program.  For the past 5 years he has been working with marine mammal studies, especially with dolphins.  Recently, he has been working on an albacore tuna tagging project. He analyses data from special tags that record light, depth, and temperature variations which help them to track where the tuna migrate and where/what they eat.  Since they know at what depths the tuna feed, they can narrow down the possibilities of what they are eating (since things tend to stay in predictable positions relative to the thermocline in the ocean).  He has enjoyed working with the Shark Abundance Survey, but he hopes to return to marine mammal research soon.

They did a swordfish set last night around midnight.  We hauled in the set around 6am. We caught 4 makos, 14 blues, and 6 pelagic rays.  We did our first shark set around 8am.  We hauled in the set around noon. We caught 3 makos and 2 blues.  During our first shark set today, a small blue shark died on the line. When they did the dissection of his stomach, they found the vertebrae and jaws of a Lizardfish, and several squid beaks. It was very interesting to see what this shark had for breakfast before we caught him. I was able to keep them to share with my class.

We did our second shark set around 2pm.  Dr. Heidi Dewar showed me how to take a temperature reading using the Seabird Temperature/Depth Profiler. It is a small processor in the water-tight tube, which lowered over the side of the boat very slowly, to a depth of about 150 meters.  Then, it is raised very slowly. The water-tight tube is then opened in the lab and connected to a computer.  The information is then downloaded and imported into Excel, where it is translated into a graph.  They use this information to locate the thermocline, since many sea animals are restricted to the thermocline and above where there is a mix of warm and cold water (usually as a result of wind and waves). And, there are fewer animals in the colder temperatures below.

We hauled in the set around 6pm.  During this haul, we caught 3 blues and 9 makos.  One mako was badly tangled in the line, and he was not going to survive.  So, the shark (now that he has died) will be taken back to a lab at SCRIPPS Institute of Oceanography where an MRI study will be conducted to examine the shark’s anatomy and physiology.  (This is not Russ’ study but one of some scientists at SCRIPPS and UCSD Medical school.)

Personal Log 

One interesting thing that happened during the first shark set, as we were setting the line, we saw loads of dolphins in the area. They appeared to be circling up fish and then eating them.  Several of them were quite close to the ship.  We estimated that there were at least 30 dolphins in the area surrounding our ship.  We were concerned that they would try to eat our bait and end up getting hooked, but none of them did.  It is extremely rare for dolphins to get hooked since they can detect the hook in the bait and avoid it.

We discovered a large mola floating near the ship, and several people tried to catch him with a fishing rod in order to try to tag it with a satellite tag.  They weren’t able to catch him.  Everyone is very interested in the molas, and the scientists here are collaborating on a research study to monitor their behavior and movements.  I found out that the mola (an ocean sunfish) actually eat jellyfish.  They don’t actually eat our bait, so when we catch one, it’s always been because the hook got caught in their fin by accident.  They are fascinating creatures, and it’s amazing to see a fish that is that huge!

I helped wrangle a few sharks this afternoon, but the last one that I did was very strong and I had a hard time holding on to him.  At one point, he whipped his head to the side and he yanked on my arm so hard I thought he would break free.  It was truly awesome to see just how strong these sharks are, without really even trying.  I also spent some time with Natalie Spear who was doing data recording during the second set.  I’m amazed at how many pieces of data have to be recorded, and how many things the data recorder has to do at once. It is definitely a more difficult job to do, and with all the commotion of the scientists who are processing the animal and are requesting different things all the time, it takes a very level-head to keep everything straight, especially since accuracy in recording all the different tag numbers is essential.  I have been very impressed with all my fellow scientists and their ability to keep up with all the demands of that position.  And, they manage to still have fun while doing it!

Heather Diaz, July 13, 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 13, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

They did a swordfish set last night around midnight.  We hauled in the set around 6am.  We caught 4 makos, 9 blues, and 3 pelagic rays.  One of the mako sharks that we caught during this set actually was brought up to the side of the ship and tied off with a leader rope. But, while we had him waiting at the back of the boat to be processed, he chewed through the monofilament line and disappeared.  Another interesting thing about this set was that at some point during the night, our line was severed.  We hauled in most of the line, but our flag was about ••• mile away from where the first part of the line ended.  We steamed ahead and caught up with it, then hauled the flag over.  João Alves, Lead Fisherman, was able to reattach the line so that we could use it again.  We aren’t sure why the line was severed, but there were several boats in the area, so one of them may have run it over in the dark.

We did our first shark set around 8am.  We hauled in the set around noon. We caught 1 mako shark and 1 blue shark. We did our second shark set around 2pm.  We hauled in the set around 6pm.  We caught 3 mako sharks and 8 blue sharks.

I asked permission to go to the Bridge, and there I met up with Commanding Officer (CO) Alexandra Von Saunder as she was beginning her watch. She has been an officer in the NOAA Corps for 14 years, and she has been a captain for the past year.  The DAVID STARR JORDAN is the only ship for which she has been Captain. She actually resides in Seattle, but most of the year (sometimes up to 300 days out of 360 days) she spends most of her time at sea and away from the ship’s homeport.  She said that the things that she loves best about being at sea are being able to see the sights (animals, sunsets, scenery) and the uniqueness of every day, since it is much more interesting than being at a desk all day.  She said that the ship’s crew is like a family and that they are all very close, especially since they all eat together and spend most of the year together.  I have observed while aboard the DSJ that everyone is very friendly and on a first name basis with each other.  I have yet to see anyone who was unhappy with their job. Like Lieutenant Commander Von Saunder, everyone I have spoken with says they love being aboard the DAVID STARR JORDAN and that they would rather be here than on land.

David Starr Jordan from the skiff.  Lieutenant Commander Alexandra Von up with Commanding Officer Saunder explained that the black shapes hanging from the forward mast are called dayshapes, which signal that the ship is “restricted in her ability to maneuver”.  This means that DSJ has gear in the water, such as when we are setting or hauling the longline, and that we have the right of way over vessels that are not restricted.  At night, a series of different colored lights on the mast alerts other boats in much the same way
David Starr Jordan from the skiff. Lieutenant Commander Alexandra Von up with CO Saunder explained that the black shapes on the forward mast are called dayshapes, which signal that the ship is “restricted in her ability to maneuver”. This means that DSJ has gear in the water and that we have the right of way over vessels that are not restricted. At night, a series of different colored lights on the mast alerts other boats in much the same way

While on the bridge, CO Von Saunder also showed me all of the instruments and the charts that they use on the Bridge to run the ship.  It was very interesting to see how they can monitor everything from that one room, even how much oil is in the engines!  They have a neat computer system that plots where they are and radars that keep track of every other vessel in the area.  Lead Electronics Technician Kim Belveal explained to me that even small sailboats show up on their computer, and if they have been registered, their boat registration number and even the boat’s name will come up on their computer.  That way, if they need to hail the vessel, they can actually call them by name over the radio.

There are also many cameras around the ship, so that safety and security can be monitored at all times.  CO Von Saunder also showed me how they steer the ship, and control the speed.  She said that the ship will go about 10 knots at its fastest, but that when we are setting or hauling lines, the ship is only going a few knots.  She also said that the DAVID STARR JORDAN was launched in 1965, so it is due to be replaced in 2009. She wasn’t sure what the name of the new ship would be yet, but I can only hope it will be DAVID STARR JORDAN II. She said that a ship like this would probably be sold once it is retired, and that “She has a lot of life left in her.”  It is clear that when Lieutenant Commander Von Saunder speaks about her ship and her crew, she is talking about her very own family.

I also had the opportunity to speak with Junior Officer David Gothan.  He is fairly new to the NOAA Corps, but he hopes to retire from the NOAA Corps in 20 years.  He echoed Lieutenant Commander Von Saunder’s reasons for loving his work on the DSJ, as he said that what he enjoys the most about being at sea are seeing all the animals/scenery, meeting different people, and being able to go to different places all the time.  I get the impression that all of the NOAA officers on board truly love their job, and they are dedicated to being stewards of our oceans.

Personal Log 

I saw many different animals today, including dolphins and a few whales off in the distance. We also saw a few a sea lions who were basking in the sun.  When they do this, they kind of lie on their back and stick their flippers up out of the water.  They are so cute. One of them came quite close to our ship while we were de-baiting the second set, and people tried to throw him fish.  We nicknamed him “Eddie”.  He hung around for a while, but got bored and left the area after about 10 minutes.

It was truly a pleasure to speak with Lieutenant Von Saunder, Ensign David Gothan, and Lead Electronics Technician Kim Belveal.  And, I am excited to be able to share more of their insights about being a part of the NOAA Corps with my class!

Heather Diaz, July 12, 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 12, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

There was no swordfish, set done last night because of our excursion to Catalina Island.  Instead, we set our first line (shark line) at 6am.  We hauled in the line around 10am.  We caught 10 makos, 4 blues, 1 lancetfish, 3 pelagic rays, and 2 molas.  I had the opportunity to videotape the entire haul, which turned out to be one of our most productive.  1 mako died today during the haul because it had swallowed the hook and most likely suffered an internal injury. He was measured, weighed, and dissected for further research.  One of the makos we caught during this set was among the largest three we caught during this entire leg, and it was really interesting to see such a large shark, so close! We set our second line at around 12 noon.  We hauled it in around 4pm. We caught 7 makos and 2 blues.  Two of the makos we caught during this set were among the largest three we caught during this entire leg.

This Mako shark didn’t survive being on the longline. The coloring of the shark is truly beautiful, and their skin is very smooth in one direction, and like sandpaper in the other.  If you look closely, you can see little spots on his nose, which are actually part of his hunting and defense mechanism, and he is able to “detect” things in the water from a long way. Makos don't have a protective “eyelid”, unlike Blue sharks. Karina and João have helped to preserve the jaw, and I cannot wait to show it to my students!
This Mako shark didn’t survive being on the longline. The coloring of the shark is truly beautiful, and their skin is very smooth in one direction, and like sandpaper in the other. If you look closely, you can see little spots on his nose, which are actually part of his hunting and defense mechanism, and he is able to “detect” things in the water from a long way. Makos don’t have a protective “eyelid”, unlike Blue sharks. Karina and João have helped to preserve the jaw, and I cannot wait to show it to my students!

Personal Log 

With our first set, things started off right off the bat with several makos.  Then, we got 2 humongous Sunfish (mola-mola)…and I mean they were huge! Then, we got a huge mako.  He was almost 2 meters long.  It was as long as the cradle itself! I couldn’t believe it.  Everyone was super excited and at that point. During the whole commotion, one mako was pulled over the side nearly dead.

We also had a lancet-fish which they hauled over the side while we were dealing with the monster mako in the cradle….and that was very much alive.  It was flipping all over the place.  Sean picked him up, took the hook out, and tossed it overboard. After we were all done and all the animals had been processed, we went over to look at the mako that they had brought on deck.  Although the mako was near death, it appeared to be still breathing a little, though it might have been a lingering reflex reaction.  After examining him on the deck, they weighed him and then started to dissect him. I have most of the dissection on tape.  It was very interesting to see where all the internal organs are located and to see how their muscle tissue is designed. Dr. Heidi Dewar explained how they use their muscle tissue design to actually preserve body heat. It was really fascinating.  I am excited to show my students her “lecture” on the muscles, and to share with them the dissection video, so that they can see what a shark looks like on the inside.  I think they will enjoy it.

During the second set, I was allowed to get down on the platform with the first two sharks…the first one, Dr. Suzy Kohin, Chief Scientist just explained everything.  The second one, I was able to get in there and actually do the stuff!  I collected the DNA sample of his dorsal fin…I put the tag in his dorsal fin…and, I gave him a shot of OTC in the ventral area. I also got to take its length measurement, which was freaky because I had to grab its tail and pull it straight. I don’t think the shark appreciated that much, and he squirmed a bit.  He was also bleeding. Dr. Suzy Kohin, the Chief Scientist, said that he was bleeding a bit because he had swallowed the hook.  I opted not to do the spaghetti tag (which involves shoving this metal tip into their skin) and I opted not to cut the hook out of its mouth,.…it just seemed really, really, really REAL…and I didn’t want to mess up and come out of it missing a hand or something…or worse, having unintentionally hurt the animal.

Anyhow, I gave my kneepads over to Daniele who jumped in and finished the haul for me on the platform while I did the gangions.  Which, turned out to be too bad, since we got some really huge makos on this haul…everyone was very excited about them.  I think the largest was about 197cm.  They put special tags in the really large makos, which they called a PAT (Pop-Up Archival Tag).  They explained that these tags, which look more like turkey basters, are used to report data on temperature, depth, and even longitude so that they can better track the makos and learn more about their behaviors. They are especially looking for information about diving behaviors and their temperature and depth preferences.  I would love to see what they find out from these fish!

They also use a SPOT (Smart POsition and Temperature) tag.  This is almost translucent and is bolted the dorsal fin (only on larger sharks).  It looks a little like a computer mouse and is oval shaped. This tag sends radio signals to a satellite whenever the animal is near the surface, and they can use this information to track precisely where the animal is in the ocean.

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!

Heather Diaz, July 10, 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 one of the Mako sharks that we tagged.  You can see the “spaghetti” tag and the OTC tag on his dorsal fin.  After we released him, he came back to see what we were doing on the platform.  Mako sharks will usually dive down deep once we release them from the cradle, but this little guy wanted to come back for one more look.
This is one of the Mako sharks that we tagged. You can see the “spaghetti” tag and the OTC tag on his dorsal fin. After we released him, he came back to see what we were doing on the platform. Mako sharks will usually dive down deep once we release them from the cradle, but this little guy wanted to come back for one more look.

Science and Technology Log 

One team of scientists set a swordfish line at 3am.  We hauled in the swordfish longline at 6am.  We caught one pelagic ray. We set the first shark line at around 8am, and hauled it in around 12pm. We caught one blue shark.  We set the second shark line at around 2pm.  We let it soak an extra hour, and hauled it in around 6pm.  We caught one Blue shark, four mako sharks, and one pelagic ray.

I had an opportunity to take a tour of the engine room with 1st Engineer Chris Danals. We first visited the aft work room. Chris is crafting a wooden boat by hand! It is very neat looking. He said that he builds boats for fun. He showed me the rudder room, and it’s amazing to see how huge these two rudders are. They control the rudder from the Bridge.  In front of the aft work room is the engine room, which you have to climb down a ladder to get into. The noise is so loud that it is deafening, even with earplugs in.  He explained that there are two main engines, which are White Superior engines.  The port side engine is used to power the winch, which we use when we set/haul in the lines.

The starboard engine is the one we use to power the ship.  He said that the engines are diesel engines, and they get about 1 mile to the gallon.  Chris also explained that even though the computers monitor everything in the engine room, they still have to monitor all of the engines in person during each watch.  The engines are huge, each one being at least 6 feet tall and at least 15 feet long.  But, as Chris explained, it takes a lot of power to move a ship this large through the water! The ship’s top cruising speed is 10 knots, but he said we often travel only a few knots, especially when we are setting a line or hauling a line. And, there are times when we are not moving but a few feet per hour, while the longlines are soaking.

Another thing that Chris explained was how the ship makes water.  Since they can only bring a finite amount of water with them to sea, they have to rely on other methods to get fresh water once they are at sea. He said that they pump sea water in, then they use heat to separate the fresh water from the salt.  The only problem is that sometimes we aren’t moving, and the engines need to be hot in order to make water.

Personal Log 

This morning we were kind of between 4 islands: Santa Cruz/Anacapa, Santa Barbara, and Catalina. I think we are headed west today.  You can’t see land anymore, and the waves have become much more intense…several stomach dropping waves this morning and last night. It is very foggy today, and it is quite cool outside.  It actually looks like it might rain.

Everyone was a bit disappointed when our first two hauls yielded only 1 animal each.  But, the last set was better, and everyone is looking forward to seeing if the blocks farther out might have better luck.

The real treat today was a California sea lion (which has been named Eddie).  He was following us after the last haul, eating the mackerel that we were discarding.  Eddie followed us for about 15 minutes, he was quite happy and kept coming up to the surface to look at us and blow water out of his nose. He was so cute! Of course, since we had been having bad luck with the sets, I did not bring my cameras downstairs, so I missed getting a picture of the whole thing!  I am hoping that “Eddie” will come back tomorrow!

During the night, they had to sound the fog horn several times to alert other boats that we were in the area. I thought it was the general alarm at first, but then I realized that it was just fog.

Heather Diaz, July 9, 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 9, 2006

A Scorpion fish waits to have a DNA sample taken in the onboard tank.  Dr. Russ Vetter caught the bottom-dwelling fish today and is doing research on Rockfish.
A Scorpion fish waits to have a DNA sample taken in the onboard tank. Dr. Russ Vetter caught the bottom-dwelling fish today and is doing research on Rockfish.

Science and Technology Log 

There was no swordfish set done last night, so everyone got up at 6am to do the first of the shark sets for the day. We hauled in the first set at around 10am.  We caught one mako.  We set the second line at around 12pm.  We hauled it in around 4pm. We caught 2 pelagic rays.

Personal Log 

We were just off the coast of Santa Cruz and Anacapa.  It was such a beautiful sight to see! Anacapa is very rugged, with lots of canyons and steep drop offs. I don’t think my pictures will do it justice!

A brown pelican decided to hang around today, so I got some good pictures of him. We tried to find him mackerel, but they were too big for him, and he just spit them back out.  Everyone was a bit disappointed into today’s turnout. But, Dr. Suzy Kohin, the Chief Scientist said that this block was not a very good spot for them during the last leg either (they repeat the survey in 2 different legs so that they get a better sampling).  We all hope that tomorrow we are able to catch more fish!  Dr. Russ Vetter fished between sets. He caught several Rockfish, most of which were orange colored. He said that these were bottom fish, and he is doing an independent research study on them.  He also caught a Halibut and a Scorpion fish.   He took DNA samples from them, then they were prepared as part of the barbecue!

Sean Suk caught a Sanddab this afternoon, but he threw it back in.  There were lots of boats….sailboats and motor boats around us while we were near the port…they kept coming by to check us out.  I’ve seen lots of big container ships while we’ve been in this area, as well. We went past an offshore oil rig this afternoon, and it was interesting to see just how close it is to the coastline of California!  I have seen oil rigs in Wyoming, but the offshore ones are very different. It was neat to be able to see one in person.

The exciting thing about today was that we had a barbecue on the aft deck.  We had kabobs and burgers. It was great!  The weather was gorgeous, and everyone laughed and a nice time.  The crew said that they have a barbecue almost every Sunday and that it is kind of like a tradition. We went to Channel Islands Harbor near Port Hueneme, CA.  They had to pick up some gear for the engineers at the port there.  The weather became a bit cool after the sun went down…and I think I will have to close the door to my stateroom because it will probably be too chilly!  We enjoyed watching the sunset, and we are all looking forward to another week together.

After it got dark, we went down to the bow observation chamber, which is way down in the belly of the bow, below sea level. You have to climb down through 2 locks and down about 30 stairs, straight down. It’s kind of scary down there.  There are 4 portholes which look out from the bow of the ship, and we could see the phosphorescent critters in the water. They glow green. It was very surreal.  Jason Larese, Stephanie Snyder, Daniele Adrizzone, and I went down, then Ryan Harris joined us about half way through.  Climbing up was not as scary as going down was!  I made it out safely, but unfortunately, I couldn’t get anything to show up in pictures.

Heather Diaz, July 8, 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 8, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

This morning we set a special line for the Swordfish Feasibility Study.  This study is actually being conducted by Dr. Heidi Dewar, who has been researching sharks and other aquatic species for more than 14 years.  The purpose of this study is to see if swordfish can be caught using the shark sampling gear and handled safely for biological studies, such as tagging and sample collection.  To do this set, we used the same basic setup as we did with the sharks, with a few differences. First, the lines are made of monofilament A Mako shark is being processed in the “cradle”.  Stephanie instead of steel. Second, Snyder injects a Mako shark with OTC (oxytetracycline) which will act as a staining agent to help in identifying the age of the shark once it is caught.  Third, the bait used is squid, and each is baited with two.  Fourth, the leader lines also have a “Chemilure” on them, which is basically a light stick.  We have used yellow and green light-sticks. These light-sticks are clipped on the line near the bait, since swordfish will be attracted to the light.

A group of volunteer scientists set the lines at 3 am.  Then, the whole crew got up to haul in the lines at 6am. We didn’t catch any swordfish, but we did catch 1 blue shark and 1 pelagic ray. Around 8am, we set the shark line. We hauled in that line around noon.  We caught 2 blues and 2 makos. We had our abandon ship and fire drills today. For the abandon ship drill, I had to get my survival suit from my room, along with my hat.  I was already wearing a long-sleeve shirt and pants, so I didn’t have to bring those. I also had to put on a life-vest. My meeting location was the second boat. During the fire drill, all the scientists had to meet in the aft lab. Afterwards, (he’s not an officer, but a civilian employee) 2nd Mate, Richard (Pat) Patana, gave us a speech about safety and he went over all the rules and procedures for both types of emergencies.  It was very interesting to hear.  All of the crew members are actually trained in fire procedures, and they wear the same gear that a fireman on land would wear. They are also trained in water emergency procedures, and they have been trained to “plug” and repair breeches in pipes and the hull of the boat, if there is ever a need.

Around 2pm, we set the shark line again. We hauled in that line around 6pm.  We caught 5 blues, 1 mako, and 2 pelagic rays.

A Mako shark is being processed in the “cradle”. Stephanie Snyder injects a Mako shark with OTC (oxytetracycline) which will act as a staining agent to help in identifying the age of the shark once it is caught. The OTC will also act as an antibiotic, though that is not the intended purpose of it. Rand Rasmussen covers the shark’s nose, mouth, and eyes to keep the animal calm, and to prevent injury. Dr. Russ Vetter (top left) holds down the tail of the shark to prevent the animal from thrashing.
A Mako shark is being processed in the “cradle”. Stephanie Snyder injects a Mako shark with OTC which will act as a staining agent to help in identifying the  shark’s age. The OTC will also act as an antibiotic. Rand
Rasmussen covers the shark’s nose, mouth, and eyes to keep the animal calm, and to prevent injury. Dr. Russ Vetter (top left) holds down the tail of the shark to prevent the animal from thrashing.

Personal Log 

During our last set, we accidentally lost a buoy.  I think it came unclipped from the line.  So, Chief Boatswain, Chico Gomez and Ordinary Fisherman Ryan Harris got the skiff down to go and rescue it, of course they couldn’t do it until the entire line had been set!  So, around 3pm, they asked me if I would go with them.  YEAH! Actually, two other scientists were able to go with us (Karina DeLaRosa-Mesa and Daniele Ardizzone).  It was a little scary climbing down off the boat because the ladder was a bit crooked.  However, it was safe, and everyone was able to get down without much difficulty.  We were able to go about 2 miles out away from the ship…which looked like a tiny little boat from so far away.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t bring my camera because we all got really wet. On the excursion, we saw a mola up close, it was right off the bow of the skiff…I could have touched it, but when we got close enough to reach out for it, it dove under the water and out of sight. They are really strange looking.  After about 30 minutes, Chico Gomez spotted the buoy and I got to reach down and capture it and pull it aboard.  That was cool. We made it back to the ship just in time for dinner.

Unfortunately, our foam floated away before anyone could catch it.  They will need to go back and look for it later.  Dr. Rachel Graham was helping Dr. Suzy Kohin “process” the fish and accidentally smacked herself in the cheekbone with the bolt cutters.  It swelled up into a goose-egg. It looks like it really hurts.  The OOD, Sean Finney, came down to take a report. But, no medical report was filed after all since it was not a serious injury.  Dr. Rachel Graham is ok, but her cheek is bruised and she has a black eye.  She was able to laugh about it later, but everyone feels very badly that she got hurt.  We will all have to be extra vigilant to try to avoid further injuries.

After we finished our haul, the crew decided to go and look for the foam, which took us way, way, way off course. But, we looked until the sun went down and couldn’t find it.  I personally think that the trawler that was near us when we lost it picked it up.  At least, I hope so!

Two Baleen whales were playing not too far away from the ship today!  They hung around for about an hour, of course every time I got my camera out, they would go under the water. And, I don’t think I was fast enough to get a good shot of them.  It was very neat to see the plume of water blast out from the surface of the water, and then we could see them roll gently in and out of the water.  They are such graceful animals.  I would love to get to see them a bit closer!

The air is very crisp and it smells fantastic.  The gentle rolling of the ship over the waves is very relaxing, and everyone has said that they have never slept better than they have the last few days! I am looking forward to a nice sleep, and another exciting day with the sharks!

Heather Diaz, July 7, 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 7, 2006

Boy Scout Troop 271, from San Diego, CA, arrives aboard the ship. Chief Boatswain Chico Gomez and Dr. Russ Vetter are also aboard the skiff. The Boy Scouts were participating in an oceanography course on Santa Catalina Island, and the troop was able to take a tour of the ship

Science and Technology Log 

This morning everyone woke up ready to catch some more sharks.  We set the first line at 6am. It soaked for about 4 hours. Then, we hauled in the line around 10am.  During the first set, we caught 7 blue sharks. Unfortunately, we also had one blue shark which died on the line. They think it must have become tangled up on the line, and it died.  It was not a very large animal.  They dissected it and researchers will use the samples to discover more about these incredible creatures. The afternoon set started around 12pm.  We hauled the line in around 4pm.  This time, we caught 1 blue, 1 mako, and 1 pelagic ray.

In the afternoon, we picked up another scientist, Dr. Russ Vetter, at Twin Harbors on the coast of Catalina Island. He will be helping us process the animals and tag them, along with Suzy and Rand. We also had 18 Boy Scouts from Troop 271 from San Diego, CA join us. They were brought aboard by Chico, who shuttled them over on the skiff from their campsite on Catalina Island. They had just finished taking a week long course on oceanography and they came aboard to see what our ship was doing.  I heard one of them say, “This is awesome, I can’t wait to be able to do this when I grow up!” I think there may be some future NOAA Corps officers in the making! They all seemed genuinely excited to learn about the sharks we are studying, and many of them said they wanted to come back and see more.  They all left with big smiles on their faces, and the camp “mom” was very excited to see what an impact the visit had on the boys.

Personal Log 

The sunrise this morning was gorgeous!  California sea lions and dolphins played alongside the ship all day, and we had a wonderful time watching them and enjoying the sunshine. The scenery is also gorgeous, with a great view of Santa Barbara Island not too far off in the distance.

Oh, one thing that happened during this set which was kind of sad is that we caught 1 blue shark that had gotten tangled up in the line and died, so when we hauled it in, it was dead. So, the pulled it on deck and dissected it.  I was able to get some video of it.  They are so cute when they are so small like that!  They took some DNA samples and some other body parts from it.  I didn’t stick around to see what they did with the rest of it.  Someone had asked for the jaw (a scientist from Long Beach Aquarium), but if they get another one, I will try to get a jaw.  It’s truly amazing to see how their jaw protrudes.  Also, I noticed that their teeth are almost translucent.  Very interesting!

The bait smelled particularly bad this afternoon.  But, we were off the coast of Catalina Island, so the scenery was gorgeous! I saw several dolphin playing, and even a few sea lions playing in the water nearby.

The sunset was equally as gorgeous tonight as it was yesterday, and we finished the evening off near Catalina Island. It was great to see the Boy Scouts come aboard as everything about the ship was exciting to them.  I wanted to spend more time talking with them, but they had to go back to shore so that we could move to our next block.  I hope that some of them continue to pursue their interest in science!  Perhaps someday they will be the Chief Scientist or CO of this cruise!

I am looking forward to seeing more of the Channel Islands!  I have only ever seen one of them, and I can’t wait to see Anacapa, as I have seen many photographs of this beautiful little island.

Heather Diaz, July 6, 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 6, 2006

California sea lions catch a nap on a buoy marker in San Diego Harbor as the DAVID STARR JORDAN leaves port for the second leg of the Juvenile Shark Abundance Survey.
California sea lions catch a nap on a buoy marker in San Diego Harbor as the DAVID STARR JORDAN leaves port

Science and Technology Log 

After everyone boarded the ship and we were underway, the OOD, Junior Officer Sean Finney held a short welcome aboard meeting.  He explained the expectations of the scientific crew and regulations while aboard the ship.  Afterwards, the Chief Scientist, Dr. Suzy Kohin, held a meeting to explain our mission and to show us how the longlines would be set.

The mission of our cruise is to complete the second leg of the Juvenile Shark Abundance Survey, which is done annually. The first leg was completed last week. During this leg, we will resample the same blocks, so that the data can be compared.  Data will then be analyzed from the last 10 years to see if there have been in changes in the mako and blue shark populations. The primary targets for this survey are the juvenile pelagic sharks, the mako and blue sharks. Any other animal that is caught will be measured and that data will also be recorded.  Sharks will be tagged and released.  If there happens to be a shark that is no longer alive or who is too unhealthy to be released, they will be dissected and specific parts will be preserved for further research.  We are hoping that this will not happen.  We will also be taking a DNA sample from each shark that is caught.  At the end of each set, temperature and latitude and longitude will be recorded.  Primary and Secondary Blocks have been predetermined (as these have been the same for the survey over the past 10 years); however, there are a few days in which we may do sets in areas where the temperature of the water or slope of the ocean floor appear to be optimal for catching sharks to tag.

In addition to the primary survey, we will also be doing a Swordfish Feasibility Study, which is a project being conducted by Dr. Heidi Dewar.  She is looking to see if it is possible to catch swordfish in this area using a longline set, similar to the one we are using for the Shark Survey. They are also looking at whether or not it would be possible to control the fish well enough to be able to tag its dorsal fin.

Following our meetings, we practiced putting on our “gumby gear” (survival suit), which is made of neoprene and is intended to be worn only during abandon ship situations.  It is called “gumby gear” because it covers a person from head to toe in bright red neoprene.  Crew members aboard the ship are expected to keep their abandon ship gear close by in case of an emergency, and we have abandon ship drills and fire drills once a week.  Every stateroom is equipped with two survival suits and two life jackets.  Man overboard drills are conducted once every month or so.

The first longline, which we set at 4pm, was considered a practice set.  Setting the longline is comprised of several jobs.  The first job is done by Rand Rasmussen.  He begins the process by preparing the bait. For the shark sets, we use frozen mackerel.  Rand Rasmussen counts out the frozen mackerel and thaws them in 2 coolers using sea water. The mackerel are not baited completely thawed and are actually easier to bait if they are still a little frozen.

The next step is that the deck crew members prepare the lines by taking part of the line and unrolling it from the main roll.  They then string it through a pulley that runs along the side of the ship. After the line is ready, the bridge positions the ship so that we are in line with where we should be setting the line.  Then, when everyone is in place, they toss the flag. The flag is a flag that is connected to a long pole.  The bottom of the pole has a float on it, so that it stands upright.  There is also a bright yellow bag that looks like a windsock (called a sea anchor), which is also thrown into the water.  This catches the current, and helps to keep that end of the line straight.

Then, one person will unclip the leaders. These are made up of a gangion clip at one end, about 3 fathoms (18 feet) of steel wire, and a stainless steel hook at the other end.  The gangions are kept in cans, with 2 rows on 4 sides to which the gangions are clipped.  The hooks are looped inside one end of the gangion to keep our hands safe and out of the way from hands that might reach into the can.  There are 2 cans of gangions/hooks, and we set around 200 hooks during each set.  Once the gangion is unclipped from the can, the hook is removed from the loop, and both ends are handed off to the baiter.  The baiter puts the hook into the mackerel’s mouth, then loops it out the underside of the mouth and is then pushed into the back, making a sort of loop around the spine with the hook.  The line is then pulled tight.

The baited line is then passed off to the “clipper”.  This person waits for a small crimp to pass by on the line as it comes through the pulley and goes down into the water (towards the flag). There are actually 2 small crimps on the line which serve two purposes.  First, they keep the gangions from sliding off the line or moving positions.  Second, it makes sure that the spacing is uniform on the line.  The spacing for this survey is about 25 feet between each gangion. The clipper grabs the line with one hand, and then clips the gangion into the “slot” with the other.  The line moves very quickly because the ship is actually moving forward the whole time at a few knots, so the clipper must be fast and accurate.

After 5 baited lines have been clipped, a buoy is clipped on in what would then be the 6th slot on the line. The buoy goes through 2 stages of preparation.  First, the buoy is taken from the port side of the ship, where they are stored while not in use.  Then, they are clipped on a line near the setting line.  One person takes a leader line of nylon rope (again, about 3 fathoms long) and they attach it to the buoy.  Then they pass it off to a buoy person, who counts the gangions as they go by and then passes the buoy off to the clipper at the appropriate time.

While the scientists are working with the line, the deck crew is also working with the line at the winch.  There are always at least 2 deck crew members on hand to supervise the set. One person runs the winch, and they can adjust the winch to run the line faster or slower as needed. The other person carefully watches the line, to make sure that everyone is being safe and that the line is moving along safely.  They signal the winch operator if the line needs to be stopped or sped up.  They also keep in constant contact with the bridge to tell them how the set is going.

The bridge can watch the set process through a camera, which they can maneuver so that they can see the line as it comes off the winch, as it is being baited, and as it is deployed in the water. In addition, they can see the line on a computer screen which shows them the “box” where they are trying to set the line.  The box is an area on the navigational chart that the scientists have determined as the area in which they would like to set the line. We aren’t concerned about keeping the entire set within the box once we start, but the start point is selected so that most of the line will be in the box.  The bridge is responsible for watching for any other boats/ships that might be in the area which could interfere with our line.

Once all the buoys and lines have been deployed, the deck crew disconnects the lines from the winch and attaches the line at the back of the ship.  The bridge then watches the line while it “soaks” to make sure it stays as straight as possible.  The standard length of soak time for this survey is 4 hours.  While we are soaking, the scientists usually take a nap, play a game, catch up on email or research, relax on deck or in the crew’s lounge, get a temperature profile, prepare tags for the haul, catch up on data entry from previous sets, etc.

When it is time to haul, all of the scientists and 3 deck hands are needed.  The set up is a little different when we haul in the line, because there are 2 main areas of activity instead of just one. At the very rear of the ship, there is the tagging/measuring area.  This is done on two levels. The top level, which is on the same level as the aft deck, is where the data recorders and the deck hand that is operating the platform/cradle lift are located.  They are on opposite sides of the ramp.  The bottom level is at the bottom of the ramp and is where the platform and the “cradle” are located.  Usually Suzy Kohin, the Chief Scientist, and 2 or 3 other scientists are down on the platform during the haul-in.  I will explain more about all these jobs below.

The area of activity nearest to the front (bow) of the ship begins with the deck crew members and the line.  Once the line is disconnected from the back of the ship, it is brought forwards so that it is in line with the winch.  It is threaded across a sort of pulley, and is reconnected to the winch. Two deck hands make sure the line is wound back on the main roll of line evenly.  To do this, one person operates the winch’s speed, and they can stop it if necessary, while the other person keeps pressure on the line by holding it with a special tool.  This makes sure the line winds correctly and does not get snagged.

Once the line is connected, the process is ready to begin.  The bridge gives permission for us to begin hauling in the line, and the first person, who stands near the pulley, unclips the gangion from the line.  That person then passes it off to one of two de-baiters.  These people pull the bait off the hook and drop it into the ocean.  They then put the hook into the gangion loop and pass the whole thing back to the clipper.  The clipper then clips the gangions back into their can (the exact reverse of the process when we set).  When buoys come up, the buoy line is handed over to a buoy person, who pulls up the leader line and disconnects the buoy from it. They then coil the leader back into its basket while another person takes the buoy to the other side of the deck and attaches it to a line where it is kept while not in use. If there is an animal on the line, everyone yells, “Shark!”, or whatever the animal is.  This alerts those at the rear of the ship that there is an animal coming to them.  The line that has the animal on it is unclipped, and then a “rope leader” is attached to it, which makes it possible to tie off the line to the ship if there are too many to be processed right away. Then someone “wrangles” the shark to the rear of the ship by literally walking the animal along the side of the boat until they reach the cradle.  It’s a very important job because they have to keep enough tension on the animal that the hook doesn’t slip out of their mouth, but they have to also be careful not to pull the animal up and out of the water, which could cause injury to the animal.

The cradle is a sort of half-tube that can be raised and lowered so that it is either closer or farther away from the water.  When an animal is brought around, the cradle is lowered so that it is in the water. One of the scientists takes the leader line and takes off the rope.  They then pull the animal into the cradle so that its head is facing the port side of the ship. The other scientist is waiting for the animal and he catches its mouth and eyes with one hand and covers the animal’s face with a wet cloth so that it can’t see and to help calm the animal.  He uses his arm and other hand to hold the animal down.  The scientist that lead the animal into the cradle also gets down on the platform and uses his arms to keep the animal still.

The first thing that is done is a DNA sample.  This is done by the Chief Scientist who uses hemostats to hold a small section of the animal’s fin (in the case of a shark, this is the dorsal fin). Then a small scalpel is used to remove a tiny section of fin.  This is held in the grip of the hemostat, which is then passed up to the data recorder on deck.  They put the sample into a small glass jar which is then labeled with the animal’s number and species. Most DNA samples collected were from makos because the researchers are trying to determine the population genetics structure of the shortfin mako shark in the North Pacific, though 3 other types of animals were also caught.

Once the DNA sample is done, the Chief Scientist inserts an ID tag, called a spaghetti tag, which is from NMFS (National Marine Fisheries Services) into the animal, just in front of the dorsal fin. This is done by making a very small cut with the scalpel, and then the tag is inserted with a long metal probe, which lodges the tag underneath the skin.  The tag information is recorded by the data recorder, who later completes a registration card which will identify the animal by the date caught, length, sex, and species.  The registration card is kept on file, so that if the animal is ever caught in the future, they can track where the animal has been.

After the spaghetti tag is done, they do another tag, which is placed directly on the dorsal fin. This is called a Roto tag. To do this, the Chief Scientist punches a hole in the dorsal fin with a punch tool. Then, the tag is lined up with the hole and is riveted together.  This tag number is also recorded by the data recorder.  On some animals, they also place satellite tags and pop-off archival tags, but I have to learn more about how those work.  We didn’t do any of those today. The Roto tag has a special tag on it with instructions for fishermen.  If the animal is ever recaught, they can send the tag and some of the animal’s vertebrae in for a one hundred dollar reward.  This is only done on animals which receive the OTC injection.

Once the animal has been tagged, they turn it on one side to get the sex.  This is also recorded by the data recorder.  Then, they inject the animal with OTC (oxytetracycline) which is supposed to stain the animal’s vertebrae, which can later help to determine the age of the animal (like the rings on a tree).  It also works as an antibiotic, though that is not its primary purpose.  This injection is given just about in the middle of what most people would consider the belly of the animal into the visceral cavity.  The dosage is based on the approximate length of the animal and is measured out of a small needle.  The Chief Scientist gives the injection and holds the tiny hole where the injection was given for a few seconds to prevent any of the OTC from leaking out.

Then, they flip the animal back onto its stomach so that they can remove the hook.  They record where the hook was located (either the jaw or if they swallowed it).  They usually have to cut the barbed end of the hook off with bolt cutters.  The line and the broken hook are then thrown up to the deck to be recycled and refitted with new hooks for use again.

Once the hook is out, the animal is pushed to the end of the cradle and the tip of its nose is lined up with the very edge of the cradle.  The side of the cradle has a measuring stick on it. They hold the tail out straight and measure to the very end of it along the tape.  Once they have a measurement, they lower the cradle down into the water, and gently push the animal out the end so that it can swim away.  Usually makos dive straight down, but blues tend to swim around a while on the surface before diving out of sight.

Everything happens very quickly, so those who are processing the animal must be quick and efficient. The entire process takes no more than a few minutes, which is intended to limit the amount of stress on the animal, and so that we don’t keep them out of the water any longer than absolutely necessary.

Personal Log 

When we pulled out of the harbor, I was standing on the fly bridge (the very top).  I could see all the other ships and the other boat yards.  One cool thing I saw was the Naval Dolphin Training Station. It just looks like a bunch of square cement rings.  I could see the dolphins in them, though I don’t know if the pix came out or not.  I also saw a pier that was loaded with sea lions. In front of that, we passed a buoy marker which had become the napping place for 2 sea lions…they were very cute.  Once we were at sea, I was able to get in my room (room 01-1) and put my things away.  Then, I hit the bed and fell sound asleep. While I was asleep Chico Gomez, Chief Boatswain, and Sean Suk caught some Bonita….very pretty fish!  I didn’t get to see them whole.  But, the meat was a gorgeous salmony-pink color.  They said they will smoke it tomorrow afternoon.  They said I can try fishing sometime this week.  I will give it a try in a few days.

Because this afternoon was our first set, everyone was very excited to do all of the jobs.  I chose to do baiting first, and then I switched to doing the unclipping.  Both were fun, and everyone talks and laughs, so it was fun.  I was really excited to finally be on board and to get to meet everyone.  Hauling in the first set was amazing, and I got to see so many sharks! After the set, I spent the time unpacking and getting things ready for the rest of the cruise.

We caught 11 blues, 3 makos, and 1 pelagic ray.  We also caught 1 mola mola, but I didn’t see it. I am looking forward to seeing a mola at some point.  I couldn’t believe how different it was to see sharks so close, and not in an aquarium!

Today I learned how to tell the difference between a mako and a blue shark…the makos have more streamlined noses, a more silvery color, and they have a more symmetrical tail. The blues have a definite blue color to them, and their tails are distinctively larger on top than on the bottom. Also, makos have a more “thick” area in front of their tail, kind of like the keel of a boat, whereas the blues are more streamlined.  You can also tell the difference by their teeth. Mako sharks have little, almost needle-like teeth, whereas the blue sharks have triangular teeth which are serrated on the sides (that is, if you happen to get close enough to see one with its jaws open!).  But, they are all very cute!

The ray was also very amazing to see…they are a kind of steely-grey color, and kind of “spaceship” shaped.  Very different than the rays I’ve seen around the waters near Florida. I can’t wait to see more sharks and other sea animals tomorrow!