Vince Rosato and Kim Pratt, March 19, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Vince Rosato & Kim Pratt
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown
March 9 – 28, 2006

Mission: Collect oceanographic and climate modeling data
Geographical Area: Barbados, West Indies
Date: March 19, 2006

A view of the RON BROWN from the Zodiac (a small boat).

A view of the RON BROWN from the Zodiac (a small boat).

Science and Technology Log: The “Way Cool” Factor 

Today I spoke to Lisa Beal who introduced me to the “Way Cool” factor of the science we’re doing. I kept asking the question… why?… why?…why?… and now I realize how what we’re doing makes sense. This is a physical oceanography trip and it’s easy to get confused by the testing, measuring and chemistry that we’re doing.

So, the Way Cool Factor: The ocean has many currents, or rivers, running through it.  Some vary with the seasons and are called inter-annual (more than one time per year).  What is measured is the circulation and overturning of the ocean. We need to measure this overturning of water because it affects our climate and considering that two-thirds of our planet is covered with water, that’s important to know. Also, water masses have separate identities.  They all have a unique signature that is determined by the salinity (salt content) and temperature.  It’s sort of like a fingerprint.  These water masses travel all over the ocean in both a horizontal flow and a vertical flow.  Scientists track these water masses as they flow around the ocean.

What’s really cool is some of these water masses are over 100 years old.  For instance, North Atlantic Deep Water starts at the North Pole and travels all around the Pacific and even in the Indian Ocean and back again.  It’s sort of like a migration of water.  The colder (measured by temperature) and more dense (measured by salinity) water sinks to the bottom and scientists can then follow it around the globe.

Pretty interesting huh?  It helps make what we’re doing make sense.

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Dr. Molly Baringer, NOAA scientist

Interview with Dr. Molly Baringer, Chief Scientist  

Today I had the good fortune to sit and talk to Dr. Molly Baringer, Chief Scientist on the RON BROWN. Molly is an Oceanographer with the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), based out of Miami, Florida.  She’s been with NOAA for 12 years and is currently working on the Deep Western Boundary Currents (DWBC) project.  The Deep Western Boundary Time Series, take her all over the Caribbean and into the Florida Straits taking measurements to measure the conductivity, salinity, temperature and depth of the ocean.  She is studying the currents, or the rivers, in the deep water of the ocean. This study has been on-going and it will really help the scientists understand the ocean better.

As a child, she always liked science.  She originally had a desire to be a neuroscientist and graduated from Tulane University where she was a premed/math major.  Her minor was in science.  She became a Research Assistant working with numerical models for a professor who was an oceanographer and, behold, her love for science coupled with the environment, became a perfect fit.

What she likes best about being a scientist is that she gets to be creative, learns new things every day, and she is valued for her thinking. She spends most of the day and sometimes nights on board the RON BROWN checking data, supervising casts, problem solving, and overseeing all the science that is happening.

The CTD seen here is just under the water’s surface.

The CTD seen here is just under the water’s surface.

While at sea she really looks forward to talking to her two children, Anna and John, and her husband (a computer scientist) who are awaiting her return.  While at home, she really likes to spend time with her family helping at their school, checking their homework, and going places and doing things.  Her hobbies are quilting, needlepoint, Bridge, and before she had her children, she and her husband used to golf approximately 3-4 times a week.

She hopes that eventually we’ll have an ocean observing program that will be institutionalized so we can continually monitor the state, or health, of our oceans.  She states that being a scientist is a great profession.  You get to be creative every day, you learn new things, and most of all you are valued for how you think.

Assignment:  Compare the movement of water masses of the Atlantic with the migration of gray whales. In your science logs, draw a picture of both.  Remember Gray Whales migrate (move) from Alaska (their feeding grounds in the summer) to Baja California warmer waters (for mating and calving) in the winter and back again.  North Atlantic Deep Water masses move from the North Pole south, into the Pacific and back again.

Personal Log – Kimberly Pratt 

Hi all. Until now Vince has been writing the scientific logs, but starting today I’ll be submitting them as well.  I’ve really missed discussing the science I’m learning with you.  I was really happy to talk to Dr. Beal who quite simply explained what we were doing.  It can get quite confusing and intimidating learning new things, but I’m adapting slowly.  The weather has been beautiful. Yesterday we deployed the Argo Buoy with New Haven’s name on it so we’ll be able to track it.  And we also deployed the drifter buoy that has been adopted by Cabello, Searles and Dr. Molly’s daughter’s school, Key Biscayne Community School. Today has been beautiful!  Awesome weather, beautiful blue water and we even got cell service!  I miss you all.  Hello students!  Keep e-mailing me and doing all your great work.  Remember you are the brightest, best and most confident fifth graders (soon to be sixth graders)!

Personal Log – Vince Rosato 

Thank you second grade reading buddies from Mrs. Mares class, for Juliet, the flat person, who has gotten in pictures with the drifter, visited the dining room, the bridge, the science lab and even went with the Zodiac party (speed boat) to get our passports cleared today. I’m sorry to report the laundry bag used to sink our Styrofoam cup mementos was lost at sea after ten years of loyal and faithful service.  We’re here off Abaco Island today. I looked out from the bridge deck into the starry night last night.  In pitch dark the vastness of the heavens is AWESOME!  It reminded me of camping in the mountains away from the city.  Clear views, crystal smooth water and imagine no television and only random music for three weeks.  I like it—very recollective.  Thanks, also to NHTA for the blue shirts showing our dedication to students as our special interest.  Finally, I was glad to call home today and find out in voice conversation all are well.

Vince Rosato and Kim Pratt, March 13, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Vince Rosato & Kim Pratt
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown
March 9 – 28, 2006

Mission: Collect oceanographic and climate modeling data
Geographical Area: Barbados, West Indies
Date: March 13, 2006

Science and Technology Log: CTD (Conductivity, Temperature, Depth) Test Cast  

The “Package”

The “Package”

We learned what to do to help the scientists today. In other words, all science personnel were trained in CTD Data Acquisition Procedures. “The package,” is what we send down to the bottom, about 5600 meters, more than three miles deep.  The package, or CTD, is mostly a rosette of 23 cylinders, (specially machined thick PVC tubes). It is deployed, or lowered, overboard. A winch, a machine run by trained sailors, does this lowering. It has a strong wire and pulley to lift and put the package into the ocean.  Once on the surface of the ocean, the CTD was lowered to 10 meters, to get the air out of the system.  The distance of 10 meters is where the atmospheric pressure doubles.  The CTD is then returned to the surface.  We bring it back to the surface after getting all the bubbles out, in order to mark the winch line to zero so they know how far away the bottom is.  Not only is the winch line zero, but the software begins at a good water only profile level as well. All the tubes are open in the rosette on the way down so they do not burst with the pressure and they can collect water at various depths on the way back up from the bottom.  On the way down water passes right through the open tubes.  The procedure for lowering the package with the commands is given by the survey crew to the winch operator. They are simple and brief, explained Jonathan Shannahoff, the Chief Survey Technician, who along with the Chris Churylo, the Chief Electronics Technician, are in charge of the use of all the electronic equipment onboard.

So we followed a very detailed procedure of lowering the package to the depth of 2,000 meters and popped the tubes, closed the tubes on the rosette, thus collecting water samples at the depth of 2,000 meters.  This was a test cast.  It was brought to the surface and we practiced taking various samples from the water.  Kim got to do the salinity and nutrient samples and Vince got to work with Dr. Shari Yvon-Lewis, CFC Project Lead, and Julia O’Hern, post-graduate CFC analyst, with the trace element samples.  Each type of sample has a procedure to follow to make sure it is done in the same manner so no mistakes are made with the data.  The first actual data collection casts will be coming up on Monday. We expect to do 55 or so casts and make more than 20 samples from each cast. Yes, today was all practice. We labeled vials and sample bottles to make them more orderly. The scientific process requires that you replicate experiments, which means that someone else can do the same thing as we do under similar conditions and get the same results.  Without that procedural similarity, reliability of data is compromised.  In other words, if you don’t do the same thing you did the last time you did it, you may not get the same conclusions.

Captain Gary Petrae on the bridge of the RON BROWN

Captain Gary Petrae on the bridge of the RON BROWN

Interview with Captain Gary Petrae 

When you enter the bridge of the RON BROWN, you probably will meet Captain Gary Petrae. Captain Petrae has spent over 27 years with the NOAA Corps. He joined NOAA after graduating from Florida Institute of Technology where he majored in physical oceanography.  Captain Petrae chose NOAA because he likes adventures and loves a challenge. His favorite ports are Barbados W.I., Kodiak AK, and San Diego, CA.  When he’s not on duty, he catches up on paperwork, reads, and watches movies.  He encourages all his staff and crew to stop and relax and he tries to practice this daily himself.

CAPT Petrae really enjoys his commission, but does admit that the family separation is difficult. He encourages anyone to join NOAA and you can apply with a college degree to the commissioned corps, or in an entry-level position with a high school diploma.  A great benefit for NOAA employees is that you can live on-board a ship, (don’t have to pay rent), eat three meals a day and you can see the world. This is CAPT Petrae’s first command upon the RON BROWN which is a class one research vessel that travels all over the world.  The RON BROWN measures 274 feet stem to stern, is 52.5 feet wide, and needs 20 feet of water in which to operate.  The RON BROWN uses diesel fuel and has six generator motors.  The ship makes its own water using an evaporation system. The RON BROWN is scheduled to go to Brazil later in the year, and CAPT Petrae with his love of adventure is ready to go!

Personal Log – Vince Rosato 

You have asked, what is it like on the ship? The cabin I’m in has two bunks and two wall cabinets with closet space and drawers and one tall metal Chester drawer all of which I share with my cabin mate Ho, a doctoral student from the UK.  I have the bottom bunk and I work the noon-midnight watch.  He has the midnight to noon watch, which means each of us gets the room to ourselves for the time we’re not on watch.  We share the bathroom that has a fixture and shower stall with our adjacent cabin.  When we use it we lock both entry doors and remember to unlock them when we leave.  There is a sink with a mirror in each cabin as well.  The room has two sofa-like chairs and a stool that can be used like a desk chair next to the Chester drawers that has a pullout section that acts like a desktop. In each double size bunk there are drapes around three sides since one side faces the metal wall.  They shield the light in either direction because there is a bunk light with an outlet inside.  All in all the cabins are practical and spacious and we are in charge of keeping them neat and tidy.  Speaking of tidy, I did my laundry today two decks below.

Personal Log – Kimberly Pratt 

Hi all. The weather is beautiful.  I’ve spent the last two days doing interviews, taking pictures and forming friendships on board the RON BROWN.  Yesterday I was trained in CTD collection procedures and really felt like a scientist as I got to take samples.  I’ll be processing salinity samples as well as non-organic nutrients.  The ship has stopped rocking and rolling so seasickness is at bay.  Today I really go to work, collecting samples as my shift is from noon to midnight.  The crew and officers have been very helpful and friendly. It’s been going really well, and it’s nice to have a fellow teacher on board!