Lacee Sherman: Teacher Getting Her Sea Legs! June 8, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Lacee Sherman

Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson

June 6, 2018 – June 28, 2018

 

Mission: Eastern Bering Sea Pollock Acoustic Trawl Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Eastern Bering Sea

Date:  June 8, 2018

 

Weather Data from the Bridge on 6/9/18 at 17:00

Latitude: 55° 34.3 N

Longitude: 162° 39.0 W

Sea Wave Height: 2-3 ft

Wind Speed: 12 knots

Wind Direction: 335° NW

Visibility: 8 knots

Air Temperature:  7.1° C

Water Temperature: 8.6° C

Sky:   Blue with scattered clouds

 

What have you done to protect the oceans lately? Picture of Lacee with finger pointing at camera
World Oceans Day! June 8th, 2018. What have YOU done to protect the oceans today?

Science and Technology Log

On Wednesday, June 6th 2018, NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson left port from Dutch Harbor Alaska at 08:00 to go and fuel up for the upcoming voyage.  Fueling the ship takes hours and during that time, NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson took on over 50,000 gallons of fuel.  After the ship was fueled, it searched for a spot in Captain’s Bay to calibrate the acoustic equipment. In order to calibrate the equipment, a metal ball made of tungsten carbide was suspended beneath the boat under the center board. The ball has known acoustic return values based on density and purity of the metal. It is attached at three points to the boat so that it can be moved under the center board to calibrate each transducer..  The location of the ball is adjusted under each transducer one at a time to the center of each beam.  Adjustments to the equipment will be made if the return from the ball at each transducer is not as it is expected to be.  The scientists had to change the depth of the ball in the water in order to avoid the fish to get an accurate reading.  The calibration can be different depending on the temperature of the water and the salinity (saltiness) of the ocean. A second calibration will be taken at the end of the research cruise and the average will be used in the necessary calculations.  Once calibration was complete and the equipment was retrieved, the ship started heading to the beginning location of the first transect line.

The journey from our calibration point to the start of the first transect line took approximately 23 hours, traveling at 12-13 knots.  The ship reached the northern end of the first transect line at approximately 21:00 (9 pm) on June 7th. The first trawl sample was taken shortly after at sunset, which was approximately 23:30 (11:30 pm).  This is not an ideal time to collect a trawl sample though since the fish move and behave differently at night.  The first trawl sample of the survey that I participated in was on 6/8/18 at approximately 15:30.

Operations on the ship run 24 hours a day, so some members of each team onboard need to be awake and working at all times.  Shifts for the science team are 12 hours long and the day shift runs from 04:00 (4 am) to 16:00 (4 pm) and the night shift is from 16:00 (4 pm) to 04:00 (4 am).  I am assigned to the day shift along with Chief Scientist Denise McKelvey and Fisheries Biologists Sarah Stienessen, Mike Levine, and Scott Furnish. On the night shift for the science team are Nate Lauffenburger, Darin Jones and Matthew Phillips.

 

In order to collect a trawl sample, members of basically every department on the ship are involved.  The NOAA Corps officers are on the Bridge driving the ship, charting the course that the ship will be traveling on as it collects it’s samples, as well as keeping track of the net, and all of the other duties that they regularly hold.  The stewards keep us all fed and happy. The deck crew are in charge of making sure that all of the nets are hooked up properly and are put into the water correctly as well as controlling the winches that release the nets. The engineers make sure that all equipment is functioning properly.  The survey technicians ensure that all of the scientific instruments used for making any type of measurements are attached to the net at different points, mainly on the kite.  The “kite” is a section of the net primarily used for holding scientific instruments. Some of the scientists are preparing the fish lab and getting dressed in waterproof gear, while the Chief Scientist is on the Bridge with the officers giving direction about where and when to start and stop trawling and exactly how deep the nets should be set. Adjustments to the net are regularly made during the sample collection.

The locations for when trawl samples will be collected is not pre-determined before the start of the research cruise.  The sites for samples are determined in real time by looking at the data collected from the acoustic pings being sent out by the transducers.  There are 5 different frequencies( measured in kilohertz) sent out by the ship’s transducers: 18 kHz, 38kHz, 70 kHz, 120 kHz, and 200 kHz.  The acoustic frequency that may best indicate the presence of pollock is 38 kHz. The chief scientist decides when she wants to “go fishing” based off of looking at the results coming back as echoes to the ship.

 

Acoustic data points collected at 5 wavelengths
This is what the acoustic data points look like as the ship is moving on the water. All 5 different frequencies are depicted in this image. The top left is 18kHz, bottom left is 38kHz (best for pollock), top right is 70kHz, middle right is 120kHz and the bottom right is 200kHz. Each dot represents an echo received by the ship’s transducers after the sound hits something in the water. The solid red band near the top of each window is the depth of the sonar transducer sending the acoustic pings, while the heavier red band at the bottom of each window is the sea floor.

On this leg of the research cruise thus far, 3 trawl samples have been collected from the transect lines.  I will include more detailed information and photos of the fish processing protocol in my next blog. In the next three pictures, there are temperature and depth profiles of our sample collection.  The depth (in meters) is shown by the shape of the line as it rises and falls, and the color shows the temperature (in degrees Celsius) that goes with the scale on the right of each figure. More specific details are underneath each image.haul 1 profile

 

haul 2 profile

 

haul 3 profile

Personal Log

Now that the ship is in the middle of the Bering Sea and is moving, I have learned an important lesson:  You can’t trust the floor. I know that sounds weird, but usually you know exactly where the floor is going to be when you are walking, but when the ship is moving in the water, the floor may be higher or lower than expected, causing a lot of wobbling.  This is especially challenging for someone who is as naturally clumsy as I am. There are times when I feel like a toddler learning to walk again, but I am getting more and more used to it already. At night it feels like being gently rocked to sleep.

I’m learning my way around the ship and I am starting to not walk right past the doors that I need to go into a few times before I remember that it’s the right place.  I am also getting more familiar with the people onboard as well as the schedule. Since my shift that I am working on is from 04:00 (4 am) to 16:00 (4 pm), it took a few days for me to adjust and everyone was very patient with me.  Coffee definitely helps! The meal times are as follows: Breakfast 07:00, Lunch 11:00, Dinner 17:00 and there are always some snacks available in the Galley.

Ocean Selfie! 6/7/18
Photo of TAS Lacee Sherman aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson in the Eastern Bering Sea.

In my downtime on the ship, I have found a new favorite location; the flying bridge!  The flying bridge is located above the Bridge (where the Ship is controlled).  There is a chair up there that makes the perfect spot on a nice day to sit and read for a little while.  It is windy and cold, but worth it!  The view from up there is pretty amazing!

Did You Know?

The NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps is one of the 7 uniformed services in the United States.  The other 6 include:  Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Airforce, Coast Guard, and the Public Health Service Commissioned Corps.

Math Challenges!!!!

If the Dyson regularly travels at 12.5 knots, how many miles per hour is it going?  (Hint: you may want to look at my previous blog before you try this.)

Currently 9 of the people aboard the NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson are women.  If there are 31 total people on the ship, what percentage of them are women?

Jessie Soder: Drag It Along, Dump It Out, Count ‘Em Up, August 14, 2011

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jessie Soder
Aboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
August 8 – 19, 2011 

Mission: Atlantic Surfclam and Ocean Quahog Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise:  Northern Atlantic
Date: Wednesday, August 14, 2011 

Weather Data
Time:  16:00
Location:  41°47N, 67°47W
Air Temp:  18°C  (64°F)
Water Temp:  16.5°C  (62°F)
Wind Direction:  SE
Wind Speed:  6 knots
Sea Wave height:  0
Sea Swell:  0

Science and Technology Log

A fellow volunteer, Rebecca, and myself measuring clams

When I found out that the Teacher at Sea trip that I would be on was a clam survey, I thought, “Oh, clams.  I see those on the beach all the time.  No problem.”  I learned that the clams are collected using a hydraulic dredge.  I knew  that a dredge was something that you dragged along the bottom of the ocean.  That seemed simple enough.  Drag it along, dump it out, count ‘em up, and you’re done.

Quickly, I learned that this project is not that simple!  A few questions came to mind after we had done a couple of tows:  How many people are needed to conduct one tow for clams and quahogs? (operate the machinery, the ship, sort through a tow, collect the data, etc.)  How many different jobs are there during one tow?

Sorting through contents of a dredge

Those questions are hard to answer, and I don’t have a precise answer.  What I have learned is that it takes a lot of people and everyone that is involved has a job that is important.  I asked the Chief Scientist, Victor Nordahl, how many people he preferred to have on a science team per watch.   He told me that it is ideal to have six people dedicated to working on sorting the contents of the dredge, processing the catch, and collecting data per watch.  Additionally, he likes to have one “floater,” who can be available to help during each watch.  This seems like a lot of people, but, when there is a big catch this number of people makes the work much more manageable.  There are six people, including myself, on my watch.  Four of us are volunteers.

Each time the dredge is lowered, pulled along the ocean floor, and then brought back onto the ship it is called an “event.”  In my last post I included a video of the dredge being hauled up onto the deck of the ship after it had been pulled along the bottom.  An entire tow, or “event,” is no small feat!  During my watch Rick operates the machinery that raises and lowers the dredge.  (Don’t forget the dredge weighs 2500 pounds!)

There are also two people working on deck that assist him.  (You can see them in the video from my last post.  They are wearing hard hats and life vests.)  Additionally, an officer on the bridge needs to be operating and navigating the ship during the entire event.  There are specific times where they must speed up, slow down, and stop the ship during a tow.  They also have to make sure that the ship is in the correct location because there are planned locations for each tow.  Throughout the entire event the science team, deck crew, and the bridge crew communicate by radio.

Rick, in front of the controls he uses to lower and raise the dredge

As I said, this project is not simple!  To make it more complicated, equipment often breaks, or is damaged, which means that the deck crew and the science team have to stop and fix it. On this trip we have stopped to fix equipment several times.  Various parts of the dredge get bent and broken from rocks on the ocean floor.  Before the dredge is lowered, the bottom is scouted with a depth sounder to try to avoid really rough terrain.  On the screen of the depth sounder different substrates are shown in different colors.  For example sand is shown in green and rocks are shown in red.  We try to avoid a lot of rocks.  However, all the rocks cannot be avoided and sometimes we hit them!

Personal Log

Vic getting a hair cut

Before coming on this trip I was told that the work can be strenuous and, sure enough, it is.  Sometimes a tow brings up hundreds of pounds of rocks (with some clams mixed in!) that we need to sort through and, as you know, rocks are heavy!  The work is also a bit, well, gross.  We have to measure all the clams, whole and broken and we also have to collect weights of “clam meat.”  That means that we have to open the shells and scrape the meat out.  I have a pretty high tolerance for gross things, but I am starting to grow weary of clam guts!

In between tows there is a little bit of down time to catch your breath, drink coffee and eat cookies, watch the ocean, and read a book.  During one of these breaks, the Chief Scientist Victor Nordahl, took the moment and had his hair cut!

Becky Moylan: Careers on the Ship, July 11, 2011

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Becky Moylan
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
July 1 — 14, 2011


Mission: IEA (Integrated Ecosystem Assessment)
Geographical Area: Kona Region of Hawaii
Captain: Kurt Dreflak
Science Director: Samuel G. Pooley, Ph.D.
Chief Scientist: Evan A. Howell
Date: July 11, 2011

Ship Data

Latitude 1940.29N
Longitude 15602.84W
Speed 5 knots
Course 228.2
Wind Speed 9.5 knots
Wind Dir. 180.30
Surf. Water Temp. 25.5C
Surf. Water Sal. 34.85
Air Temperature 24.8 C
Relative Humidity 76.00 %
Barometric Pres. 1013.73 mb
Water Depth 791.50 Meters
Deputy Director of the Pacific Islands Science Center (NOAA): Mike
Deputy Director of the Pacific Islands Science Center (NOAA): Mike

Deputy Director of the Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center (NOAA): Mike Seki

Duty: I oversee all operations at the Pacific Islands Science Center. That includes all operation: four research divisions, administration and information technology, science operations. Under science operations the Science Center has about 30 small boats (12 to 30 feet) and the Oscar Elton Sette ship (224 feet) to support the mission…

What do you like about the job?  It allows me to see how it all comes together; all facets of the science and how we accomplish our mission.

Experience/ Education: I have BS in biology and have worked with NOAA for 31 years. While working, I went back to school to get my masters and PHD.  In today’s world, to be credible, you really need to have an education. Most of our research scientists have a PHD.

Can you explain the hardest part of your job? Trying to do what we can with limited resources. We have to prioritize and that involves making tough decisions.

Captain (CO) Commanding Officer: LCDR Kurt Dreflak, NOAA
Captain (CO) Commanding Officer: LCDR Kurt Dreflak, NOAA

Captain (CO) Commanding Officer: LCDR Kurt Dreflak, NOAA

Duty: I have responsibility for the whole ship; safety, operations, moral, everything.

What do you like about the job?  I like it best when everyone works together and all the pieces fall into place. We get a chance to see things most people don’t. It‘s a unique opportunity that we shouldn’t take for granted.

Experience/ Education: I obtained a BS in geosystems in environmental management, worked as a geologist at an environmental consulting firm, and have forked for NOAA for 12 years.

Can you explain the hardest part of your job?

There are things you don’t have any control over.

Executive Officer (XO): Chief Mate Richard (Pat) Patana
Executive Officer (XO): Chief Mate Richard (Pat) Patana

Executive Officer (XO): Chief Mate Richard (Pat) Patana

Duty: Second in command after Commanding Officer. I do the administrative work for the ship.

What do you like about the job? I like the NOAA mission, and the job pays well.

Experience/ Education: I am a licensed Captain. I am from Alaska and used to be a commercial long line fisherman in Alaska, Canada, and the West Coast catching shrimp, halibut, and salmon. Then I worked with charter fishing boats.

Can you explain the hardest part of your job?

The administrative duties.

LCDR (Lieutenant Commander) Hung Tran, USPHS
LCDR (Lieutenant Commander) Hung Tran, USPHS

LCDR (Lieutenant Commander): Hung Tran, USPHS

LCDR (Lieutenant Commander): Hung Tran, USPHS

Duty: Medical officer- Emergency medical care on the ship.

I actually work for the United States Public Health Service.

What do you like about the job?  Meeting new people

Experience/ Education: Eight years of schooling in Chicago, IL. I use to work for the Bureau of Prisons in Honolulu.

Can you explain the hardest part of your job? The ship is kind of like a “mini-jail”. We are out to sea for long periods and you can’t go anywhere. The confinement can be hard.

What is the most common reason for seeing the doctor at sea?  Sea sickness and headaches.

 

Field Operations officer (OPS): LT Colin Little, NOAA
Field Operations officer (OPS): LT Colin Little, NOAA

Field Operations officer (OPS): LT  Colin Little, NOAA

Duty: A liaison between scientists and command officer (CO)

What do you like about the job? I was trained as a scientist, so I like to use that background to better understand where the scientists are coming from and what they want to do, then use the information to relay it to the Captain (CO).

Experience/ Education: I have a BA in biology and a Masters in evolutionary biology.  I have worked my way up to this position by doing various jobs. I work onshore and on the ship at sea. We get transferred every few years, so I will be going to Oregon next.

Can you explain the hardest part of your job?Being away from home.

Navigation Officer: LTJG Mike Marino, NOAA
Navigation Officer: LTJG Mike Marino, NOAA

Scientists:

Chief Scientist: Evan
Chief Scientist: Evan

Chief Scientist: Evan Howell

Duty: Directs the operations of the scientists, coordinates activities working with the OPS to make sure the bridge understands what the scientists are trying to accomplish, and writes report on progress.

What do you like about the job?  Although it is tough while we’re going through the process of gathering data, to me it is very satisfying in the end to have something that people can use to further studies of the ecosystem.

Experience /Education:  I have a PHD; however, I didn’t have it when I began the job with NOAA. What’s important for this position is to be able to organize all the different studies, communicate with the scientists and know when to push or back off. You need to be able to see the “big picture” of the project and keep it going forward.

Can you explain the hardest part of your job? It is kind of like a juggling act keeping everything going smoothly. There are so many activities happening at the same time, it is sometimes very challenging.

 

Research Fishery Biologist: Donald
Research Fishery Biologist: Donald

Research Fishery Biologist: Donald

Duty: Research projects dealing with oceanography. (For example; protected species, turtles and larval transports). On this cruise, I am helping lead the midwater trawling operations.

What do you like about the job?  The variety. You don’t get bored with one thing. I tend to get bored working on just one thing at a time.

Experience/ Education:  I got my masters in biological oceanography, went to work at NOAA, and then went back to school for my PHD.

Can you explain the hardest part your job?  Short deadlines and not enough time.

PhD Students

PHD Students: Both up nights supervising the trawls, organizing, recording data, and writing reports.

Johanna: She is working on her PHD through UH in oceanography. Johanna has been working closely with Donald researching larval transport.

John: He is also working on his PHD in preparative biology through the Museum of Natural History in New York. His specialty is studying mictophids.

Scientist (on ship)/Science Operation Lead (on land): Noriko
Scientist (on ship)/Science Operation Lead (on land): Noriko

 

Scientist (on ship)/Science Operation Lead (on land): Noriko

Duty: My primary duty is to serve as the PIFSC Vessel Coordinator, and to oversee the science portion of the NOAA Marine Natural Monuments Program. My group also handles permits, and makes sure our internal programs are properly in compliance with NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act- 1969. On the ship I am working acoustics.

What do you like about the job?  Overseeing a great team of people that help PIFSC scientists go out into the field to conduct important research.

Experience/Education:  I got my BS degree, became a survey technician, and then went back to school for my masters in environmental management.

Can you explain the hardest part of your job?  Coordinating with people outside of our structure can be challenging. We work with the US Fish and Wildlife, the State of Hawaii, Guam and Samoa, the Marianas, and other sections of NOAA.

Stewards
Stewards (Clementine, Jay, and Jeff)

Stewards

Stewards (Clementine, Jay, and Jeff)

What do you like about the job?

Chief Steward: Clementine: My passion is cooking. So I enjoy my job. I can put any kind of food I want out here. The sky’s the limit!

2nd Cook: Jay: I love being on the ocean and living in Hawaii. And I enjoy working with Clementine who is a native of Samoa. She teaches me about Polynesian and Asian cuisine.

Experience/Education:

Clementine:  I used to run my own business in America Samoa. It was a catering business called Mai Sei Aute which means “my hibiscus flower” in Samoan. I catered to a private school named Pacific Horizon, with 130 students and did all the work myself; cooking, delivering, and cleaning. The way I got this job is a long story.  I started out on the ship called Ka’imimoana. My husband heard one of the cooks left, so I flew over to Hawaii and was working two weeks later. Then I moved over to the OES seven years later.

Jay: I’m from Rhode Island and graduated from Johnson and Wales University where I earned a BS in culinary arts.

Can you explain the hardest part of your job?

Long hours! We work 12-14 hours a day while at sea with no days off.  If we are at sea 30 days, we work 30 days. Another thing is you don’t always have your own room. Sometimes you share with another person.

Deck and Engineering Departments

Harry
Harry

Chief Engineer: Harry

Duty: I am responsible for the engineering department on board the ship. That includes the engine room, hydraulic, electric, all the equipment, and the propulsion plant that keeps the ship underway.

What do you like about the job?

It is a “hands on” type of job, and I enjoy repairing equipment.

Experience/ Education:

I spent 22 years in the Navy and obtained my Chief Engineer License through the Coast Guard.

Can you explain the hardest part of your job?

Finding good qualified people is difficult. You can delegate the work, but not the responsibility. So if the employee I hire doesn’t do the job, I am responsible for getting it done.

Chief Boatswain: Kenji
Chief Boatswain: Kenji
Skilled Fisherman: Bruce
Skilled Fisherman: Bruce
Lead Fisherman: Doug
Lead Fisherman: Doug

Chief Boatswain: Kenji

Duty: Supervise the deck department

What do you like about the job? When everything runs smoothly

Education/Experience: I’ve worked for NOAA 24 years. Before that I was a commercial fisherman on an AKU Sampan.

Explain the hardest part of your job:  Rough seas make the work more difficult and dangerous.

What do you like about the job?

Bruce: Everything! I like working with the machines, the science, helping the environment, and the people. I like NOAA’s mission. And my boss; he’s the best boss I ever had. He has patience with us.

Ray: I love everything about my job. I like the fact that I am at sea and learn things every day and meet new people all the time. The science part of it opens up a whole new world to me. It is something that I wish everyone could experience.

Phil: I agree with NOAA’s mission of ocean management and conservation. This ship, in particular, is a nice place to work because of the people.

 Mills: Fishing

Fisherman: Ray
Fisherman: Ray
General Vessel Assistant: Phil
General Vessel Assistant: Phil

Experience/ Education:

Bruce: I have worked for NOAA for 10 years. Before that, I was a long line fisherman; mostly AHI. I also worked construction with heavy equipment.

Ray: I was in the Navy when I was young. Then I attended Prince George Community College in Maryland and Rets Electronic School in New Jersey. I had my own electronics business.  NOAA sends us to different places for training; for example Mitags (Maritime Institute of technology and graduate studies).

James
James
Skilled Fisherman: Mills
Skilled Fisherman: Mills

Phil: I have worked real estate appraisal for 20 plus years.  I used to have my own real estate appraisal business in Honolulu, worked for a bank doing appraisals, and also for the city and state. Right before this job, I worked on an import ship. Then I was trained by NOAA at the Hawaii Maritime Institute. They trained me on firefighting, lifesaving, and construction of ships, lookouts, and also personal responsibility.

Mills: I went to high school and college in South Carolina to get a degree in marine technology. Then I worked in Alaska for salmon hatcheries. I moved back to South Carolina and worked for the SCDNR (Dept. of Natural Resources). Five years ago, NOAA called me and asked if I could go to Dutch Harbor in two weeks, and I’ve been with them ever since. I started out working in the hydrographic side of things.

Mills
2nd Engineer Neil

Can you explain the hardest part of your job?

Bruce: Nothing really. I like my job.

Ray: Dealing with negativity issues and people conflicts.

Phil: I would say it has to be adjusting to the schedules. We don’t have a regular 8 hour on, 8 hour off schedule. It varies.

Mills: The hardest part is being away from the world; people, the social life. But then that is the best part of it also.

Coxswain: small boat operator
Coxswain: small boat operator

Coxswain: small boat operator: Jamie

Duty: I’m in charge of the Boating Safety Program and Instructor of Boating Courses for the scientific staff and I help the Pacific Science Center with research boats. There are 24 small boats.

What do you like about the job?: Being on the water and driving the boats

Experience/ Education: I received a degree in marine biology at UC Santa Cruz. Then I began doing field projects and became known to NOAA.

Can you explain the hardest part of your job?  Doing the certificates for boating courses along with paperwork and record keeping is my least favorite part of the job.

ET: Electronic Technician: Ricardo
ET: Electronic Technician: Ricardo

ET: Electronic Technician: Ricardo

Duty: I’m in charge of all the electronics, information technology, navigational system, communication system, sensors, and computer network.

What do you like about the job? I enjoy it when I get a chance to help others, like the time I was called ashore to help some people on a small island. I also like that I have a partner to share the job with. We switch every two months (onshore/offshore).  I am glad to be able to travel, the pay is good, and I like accomplishing things that make the ship look good.

Experience/ Education: I did not go to college, and barely finished high school. Then I joined the Air Force.  There is only one tech person, and that is me.

Can you explain the hardest part of your job? Climbing the mast where the antennas are and writing weekly reports are things I could glad give to someone else.

Research Oceanographer:  Reka Domokos
Research Oceanographer: Reka Domokos

Research Oceanographer:  Reka Domokos

Duty: Works as an active acoustician for NOAA at the Pacific Fisheries Science Center in Honolulu.

What do you like about the job?

I like that in my job there is always something new, so I am always learning.  I like to look at the big picture to see how the different components of an ecosystem fit together and influence each other.  I like formulating hypotheses, and then test them to see if they hold.  I am also detail oriented so I enjoy writing computer scripts for my data analyses.  In addition, I like contributing to the “collective knowledge” by writing articles that summarized and describe my research and results.

Experience /Education:

I have a Ph.D. in physical oceanography. I attended Berkley for a BS in zoology, then UH Manoa for a masters in zoology and a masters in physical oceanography.  I also earned my Ph.D. at UH Manoa where I taught graduate courses in Zoology and Oceanography before working with NOAA.  I believe that sometimes more experience can be substituted for education when applying for a job.

Can you explain the hardest part of your job?

Sitting in an office everyday can sometimes be hard, but spending a month, or sometimes more, a year at sea and going to conferences help to break the monotony.  I also have to take care of administrative duties as part of my job which is necessary but not enjoyable for me.


Aimee
Aimee

Aimee: This is a special case. Aimee was a previous Hollings Scholar who now works at the University of Michigan and is on the ship working co-op with NOAA in the acoustics department. She lives in Michigan and got her degree in Marine Science Biology, but would like to stay in Hawaii. Before boarding the ship she was researching wind farms and fish. She collects data so that they can see if the underwater wind turbines will affect the fish .

Survey Technician: Stephanie
Survey Technician: Stephanie

Survey Technician: Stephanie

Duty: Responsible for data collection from shipboard oceanographic sensors; CTD deployment and retrieval, water filtering for chlorophyll-a samples

What do you like about the job? I like the simple life on the ship. There are no roads with traffic and you don’t have to carry around your wallet or keys.

Experience/Education: I have my bachelor’s degree, and plan on going back to school this fall. I have worked for NOAA for two and a half years.

 

Mammal Research Observers: Allan and Jessica
Mammal Research Observers: Allan and Jessica

Mammal Research Observers: Allan and Jessica

Mammal Observation-So far we have taken over 2700 photos and several tissue samples for researching dolphins and whales.

Allan: What do you like about the job?  I like being on the water and getting paid for it at the same time.

Allan and Jessica
Allan and Jessica

Experience/ Education: I earned my engineering degree, but didn’t use it.  I began volunteering for whale watching and doing volunteer work for the University of Hawaii coral reef research. I have lived in Hawaii for 14 years, but recently started spending half of my year in Montana, so that I can experience the four seasons.                                                                                                     

Dolphin
Dolphin

Can you explain the hardest part of your job? The toughest thing is not finding any dolphin or whale species. It makes a long day. If the water is rough, it is harder to see them. The best condition to spot them in is when it is smooth and calm.

Jessica: What do you like about the job?  I love small boats, being on the water, and finding less frequently seen species.

Experience/ Education: I attended Hawaii Pacific University and have a master’s in marine science. Right now I’m working a one year position for NOAA called the NIMB Fellowship.

Can you explain the hardest part of your job?  The same thing Allan said, coming home without seeing anything is disappointing.

Students:

 Laura
Laura

Laura: She is attending Stanford University as a senior, majoring in Earth Systems with an emphasis on Oceanography. It includes a wide range of classes, and she has had very interesting traveling experiences while learning. Right now on the OES, she is doing an internship working with the CTD process. This is a paid job with NOAA. Laura’s past experiences include sailing around Cape Cod, a trip to Australia for a Study Abroad Program, and a five-week trip to the Line Islands South of Hawaii. Her plan is to go to school a fifth year to earn a master’s degree while also working in the field.

Nikki
Nikki

Nikki: After this cruise, Nikki will have 82 days at sea under her belt. She started going out during high school in New Jersey. Her charter school had a vessel. Right now she is in the Hollings Scholar Program through NOAA. She applied and received a two year scholarship for her junior and senior year of college. She is attending the University of Miami. And when she finishes that, she has a conditional acceptance to attend RASMAS (University of Miami Science Grad School) where she wants to get her masters in Aquaculture.

Jonathan
Jonathan

Jonathan: Miami is Jonathan’s home and he is also in the Hollings Scholar Program. He is a senior majoring in Marine Science Chemistry. He would like to attend grad school, but needs to make up his mind what area to study because it becomes very specialized. His two choices are ocean acidification or biofuels. After the cruise he will be going to Washington DC to present what he has learned.

Meagan
Meagan

Meagan: She lives in Honolulu and attends University of Hawaii.  In December she will obtain her degree in Marine Biology. She has been employed with NOAA since Nov. 2010 working at the Pacific Island Fisheries Science Center with data collected around the N.Pacific Transition Zone. On this cruise she is helping with the acoustics.  Meagan also works at the Waikiki Aquarium educating others about marine life. She hopes to continue with NOAA and educating the public about conserving and protecting the ocean.

 

UH Marine Research Technician: Jennie Mowatt—

-Preparation and deployment of the Ocean Glider SG513

John Schneider, July 10, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
John Schneider
Onboard NOAA Ship Fairweather 
July 7 – August 8, 2009 

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: Kodiak, AK to Dutch Harbor, AK
Date: July 10, 2009

Position 
Shumagin Islands

This sheet on my door lists my duty station in case of an emergency.
This sheet on my door lists my duty station in case of an emergency.

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Weather System: Partly Cloudy/Fog/overcast
Barometer: 1022.0
Wind: variable <8 kts
Temperature: 13.0º C
Sea State: 1 foot

Science and Technology Log 

Today I was not assigned to the launch details.  (The launch crews change frequently and the officers try to have the duty load between the ship and the launches balanced.  Launch duty is a minimum of an 8••• hour day on the water and it taxes the crew to have the same personnel repetitively deployed. I’m also not yet up to speed enough to have any use to data processing or ship-board data acquisition.  Sooooo, I took a self-directed tour of the interior of the ship!

Personal Log 

The computer area outside my stateroom
The computer area outside my stateroom

The ship is divided into Decks and Sections. The sections run from 1– 10 with the bow being 1 and the stern being 10. Decks run from A to G with G being the Flying Bridge and A being the bilge. My cabin is number C-5-106.  I’m on C-deck, just about amidships.  The sheet of paper above my cabin number is my duty station list for emergencies.  Each crewmember has one of these on their door and it tells where you belong in emergencies: Fire/AbandonShip/MOB (ManOverBoard). Just outside my door there is a small computer area about 10’ x 10’.  In that area are two terminals for the ship’s LAN.  Additionally there is room in this area for each member berthed there (there are four of us) to stow some gear (like the work vest/life jacket on the hook next to my door.) To the left is a yellow ladder and the sign behind it reads “Escape Hatch Do Not Block.” There are escape hatches like this all over the ship and above them the decks are kept unobstructed. 

The “chiller” where the food is refrigerated
The “chiller” where the food is refrigerated

Unlike a cruise ship, most of the ship is accessible to people on board.  Of course the cabins of other folks are off limits.  Violate this and the punishment is severe . . . you’d never get a position on another ship in the fleet again.  Also, officers’ offices are restricted.  Other than that, I spent a good couple of hours nosing around and learning my way around the ship. I found that EVERY spare nook and cranny is used for storage. If she had to, I bet the Fairweather could sail for months at a time with the only limiting factor being fuel.  Fairweather even makes her own fresh water by evaporating and re-condensing seawater in order to extract the salt. They should sell it as bottled water!

Hazardous materials remediation equipment in the quartermaster’s storage.
Hazardous materials remediation equipment in the quartermaster’s storage.

I found a “chiller” where food is refrigerated.  It’s HUGE – must have been 300-400 square feet!  The freezer was locked, but it must be comparably sized. When I saw the lock on the freezer door I thought of the movie The Caine Mutiny with Humphrey Bogart as Captain Queeg (“they had the keys to the food locker. They ate the strawberries.”  (If you’re not familiar with the movie it is certainly worth renting!). I also found several smaller compartments where dry goods for the chefs were stored. There were cake mixes, spices, cases of condiments (including 3 flavors of Tabasco Sauce) . . . name it, and the chefs can find it!

If you look up through the circular hatch you can see the caged hazmat locker.
If you look up through the circular hatch you can see the caged hazmat locker.

Further forward I found the quartermaster’s stores. Line, chain, tools and an entire 250 square foot caged off area for Hazardous materials and asbestos remediation equipment.  I opened a hatch in the floor and there was a ladder that went straight down.  So, I went in to find another compartment of stores.  The shot below is from the bottom of that ladder, and you can see the caged hazmat locker up through the hatch.  In this lower compartment were survival coats and immersion suits, printer cartridges, more work vests and more. As I worked my way aft, I went into C-9 and C-10.  C-10 is the steering compartment and the rudder posts (those are the “axles” of the rudder that come up into the ship) are about a foot in diameter! There’s a motor just to turn them and for them to operate in tandem there is an 8” steel bar connecting them.  You can see it with the yellow stripes.  C-10 is also the home to the stern mooring lines, lubricants, hoses and power cables and spare propellers for the launches as well as the hydraulic motors for the winches and equipment on the fantail.

Just forward of C-10 is C-9. C-9 has dozens of parts drawers with thousands of parts and fittings for all over the ship.  It is also the home to the exercise equipment.  The crew has figured out how to cram just about everything they need into the compartment.  Free weight, Pilates balls, punching bag, speed bag, treadmill, and weight bench! There are even a few bicycles hanging from the overhead that are used in port.

This is the part of the ship called the steering compartment which houses the machinery that controls the direction of the ship.
This is the part of the ship called the steering compartment which houses the machinery that controls the direction of the ship.

To close the story (I’ll have to do your tour of decks D and up on a later day) I made it all the way down to A-Deck. A-Deck is the bottom of the ship.  It is accessed by going through a shower compartment forward on C-deck into a small, half-height, sloped-ceiling opening in which there is a 24-inch diameter hatch.  The 24-inch hatch connects with rungs welded into the wall and it goes straight down. Descend this ladder and your feet are on B-deck.  Open an even SMALLER hatch and you can see the inner bottom of the ship.  This compartment is only about 3••• feet tall, but I squeezed through the hatch and put my feet on the bottom.  In retrospect, I should have taken off my Crocs to see how cold the steel was.  I’ve been told that people actually go into this space to do work.  I think if I could wiggle my way in somehow, the only way to ever get me out would be to drydock the ship and cut me out through the bottom!

This room has many drawers that contain thousands of different parts and fittings for all over the ship.  It also has the exercise equipment.
This room has many drawers that contain thousands of different parts and fittings for all over the ship. It also has the exercise equipment.
Here I am squeezing through the hatch that leads to the very bottom of the ship
Here I am squeezing through the hatch that leads to the very bottom of the ship
Here are my feet touching the bottom of the ship.
Here are my feet touching the bottom of the ship.

Questions for You to Investigate 

  1. Where does the term “scuttlebutt” (meaning rumors and gossip) come from?
  2. The survey technicians use the term NADIR a lot in regards to the multi-beam echo sounder.  What is a nadir?
  3. When was the Marine Mammal Protection Act passed?
  4. What was “Seward’s Folly” and how do you think it turned out for America?
  5. Which is closer to the Shumagin Islands, New York City or Moscow?  San Diego or Guam?

Duane Sanders, June 15, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Duane Sanders
Onboard Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp
June 8-19, 2009 

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: New England Coast
Date: June 15, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Wind: Speed 6.8 KTS, Direction 65.7 degrees
Barometer: 018 millibars
Air temperature: 11.33 0C
Seas: 2-3 ft.

Dumping a dredge on the sorting table.
Dumping a dredge on the sorting table.

Science and Technology Log 

We had to change out the dredge during my last watch.  Actually, I watched while the crew did the dangerous work. We have been working in an area with a rocky bottom and the rocks caused substantial damage to the netting in the dredge. Fortunately, we are carrying four dredges plus spare netting. The crew put a new dredge into operation right away so that we didn’t lose too much time.  Geoff, our watch chief, directed the installation of the new mesh into the first dredge.

The scallop dredges we use are eight feet wide. Commercial dredges are sixteen feet wide. The basic design is the same for each.  The mouth of the dredge is a welded steel rectangular frame, with the height about one foot.  The bottom of this rectangle is a heavy steel bar, called the cutting bar. This breaks loose organisms from the bottom.  A steel plate, called the pressure plate, is welded at an angle across the top of the rectangle.  This plate creates a downward swirl of water that directs the organisms into the mouth of the netting. The bag attached to the dredge is made of a net of steel rings. A mesh liner is mounted inside the bag for scientific use. This helps to trap other organisms that make up bottom-dwelling communities.  This gives scientists a more complete picture for the survey.  Commercial dredges do not use a liner and the rings of the bag are larger.  This allows smaller size scallops and other organisms to pass through the bag and remain to help sustain a healthy scallop population.

The business end of a scallop dredge
The business end of a scallop dredge

We have been ‘shadowed’ by another ship, the Kathy Marie for part of the time we have been working.  She is carrying a device known as the “HabCam”, short for Habitat Camera.  This is an underwater camera system that is towed just over the bottom. It makes a photographic record of still images of the bottom taken at a rate of three per second. The HabCam accumulates data at about three terabytes per day. The Kathy Marie runs over the same area dredged by the Sharp after we move on to the next station. Images from these runs provide scientists with an index of dredge efficiency at capturing the bottom dwellers.  Once enough image data has been collected to make useful correlations to dredge data, it might be possible to reduce the number of physical dredge samples taken and use the HabCam to record the community ‘in situ’, that is, in position without disturbance.

Personal Log 

I said in an earlier log entry that fish are not my favorite type of organism.  Because of this bias, I had been avoiding helping with the fish sorting and identification.  After thinking about this for a bit, I decided that I needed to embrace my bias against fish and try to learn something as well as help my colleagues.  Besides, how could I face my students without at least making an effort?  So, I am trying to learn how to identify these critters.  So far, I am pretty good with goosefish, red hake, longhorn sculpin and some of the flounder species.

I wonder how long it will take me to adjust to walking on dry land after being at sea for eleven days. I guess I’ll find out soon enough.  I have been trying to read some before going to sleep, but I find that I can do a few pages at best.  Hard work, sea air and the rocking motion of our ship make powerful sleep inducers.

Duane Sanders, June 10, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Duane Sanders
Onboard Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp
June 8-19, 2009 

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: New England Coast
Date: June 10, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Wind: Speed 19.4 KTS, Direction 86.8 degrees
Barometer: 1013 millibars
Air temperature:  14.2 0C
Seas: 2-3 feet

I’m having fun at the sorting table.
I’m having fun at the sorting table.

Science and Technology Log 

The primary mission of this cruise is to complete the second leg of a three-leg survey of scallop populations along the New England Coast. Other information about the scallop ecosystem is also collected. Scientists evaluate the status of the scallop fishery use data gathered from the survey.  Decisions about which areas to allow commercial scalloping and which areas to close to commercial use are based on these surveys. These science-based management decisions help to promote long-term stability of the scallop industry.

Members of the day watch working at measuring stations.
Members of the day watch working at measuring stations.

After two complete watches, I think I understand the procedure. Stations to be sampled are determined by a stratified random sampling procedure. Computers, following certain parameters set by NOAA staff, determine which area is to be sampled. It is important to be consistent so that each station from each of the three legs of the cruise can be reliably compared other data from this survey as well as from other years.  Once the captain puts the ship on station, an eight-foot wide dredge is lowered to the bottom and dragged for 15 minutes.  The captain keeps the ships speed to a constant 3.8 knots.  When the dredge is hauled in, its contents are dumped on a large steel sorting table that is bolted onto the to deck. The science team on watch sorts through the contents of the catch and separates all scallops into one basket, all fish into a different bucket and all the rest of the haul into another basket.

We then determine the total weight of the scallops and measure the length of each one. Thankfully we use a computerized system for determining the lengths which automatically record them.  All of the fish are sorted by species, and then weighed by species.  The length of each fish is recorded using the same system as for the scallops. The total volume of the remaining haul is estimated with each basket being equivalent to 46 liters. The general contents of the basket are characterized by types of shells found, types of substrate material and other organisms present.

Personal Log 

A sea mouse (Aphrodite aculeate)
A sea mouse (Aphrodite aculeate)

I have been assigned to the night watch. This means we work from midnight to noon. Although I am doing better today, it has been difficult to adjust to sleeping during the day. I am sure that I will continue to adapt. As long as Paul, our cook, keeps preparing his delicious meals I will survive quite nicely!

I have really enjoyed seeing the variety of organisms that come up in the dredge.  My favorites are the invertebrates. Some examples include different species of starfish, other mollusks beside scallops, and sea mice.  A sea mouse is actually a marine worm in the group known as polychaetes. These strange looking creatures grow long, thin scales that looks like fur. Their bodies have the general shape of a mouse with no tail.  There are also many fish species, which I am learning about, but they do not interest me as much as the other organisms.

Duane Sanders, June 8, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Duane Sanders
Onboard Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp
June 8-19, 2009 

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: New England Coast
Date: June 8, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Wind: Speed 16.1 KTS, Direction 50.5 degrees
Barometer:  1014 millibars
Air temperature: 16.8 0C Seas: 1-3 ft.

Science and Technology Log 

The Hugh R. Sharp at dock in Delaware
The Hugh R. Sharp at dock in Delaware

I have been assigned to participate in the annual scallop survey in the New England fisheries area. Our ship, the Hugh R. Sharp, is two years old and designed specifically for ocean research. The Sharp is owned by the University of Delaware and is under contract with NOAA for the scallop survey. It has laboratories, a workshop and specialized equipment for handling large or bulky devices. There is a continuous data stream gathered by the ship’s instruments and posted on monitors on the bridge and in the lab. This includes some parameters related to ocean chemistry as well as the usual weather data. There are several other high-tech sensing systems to assist in a variety of research projects. The ship’s flexible design allows for the science team to install computers, servers and ancillary equipment specific to the research project at hand.  Also, modular labs outfitted for specific purposes can be secured to the fantail (rear deck) of the ship.

My favorite piece of technology is the diesel electric drive system.  Diesel generators produce electricity that supply power to the drive motors all other electrical needs on the ship.  Propulsion is provided by thrusters, which are capable of rotating in any direction as needed.  There are two thrusters in the stern and one in the bow.  These three acting together can keep the Sharp within six feet of a specified location.  The ship’s engineer can monitor all systems from his station on the bridge. This system is very quiet and vibration is kept to a minimum.  That means we can sleep much better than with a conventional diesel engine drive. All in all, this vessel seems to me to be an ocean scientist’s dream come true.  It is designed for high-tech applications and configurations that change as the need arises.

Here I am practicing donning my emergency immersion suit.
Here I am practicing donning my emergency immersion suit.

Personal Log 

Today is our first day at sea. We spent the morning hours getting acquainted with each other and learning about safety, emergency procedures and shipboard etiquette. For example, the science team was divided into two watches, midnight to noon and noon to midnight.  The rule is that people coming on watch need to take everything they want to use during watch hours with them. This allows those coming off watch to get some undisturbed rest.  Living in close quarters requires everyone to be considerate and cooperative. We all rely on each other to do their part to help make the cruise a safe and successful one.  While there is always room for some fun, everybody takes their responsibilities quite seriously.  Life and limb often depend on this careful approach to our work. 

Candice Autry, August 7-12, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Candice Autry
Onboard NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson
August 7 – 18, 2006

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: Northwest Atlantic
Date: August 7 -12, 2006

“Ships have many pieces of complicated equipment!” 

The NOAA Ship THOMAS JEFFERSON awaits a necessary part for the crane that lifts the fast rescue boat, then we set sail
The NOAA Ship THOMAS JEFFERSON awaits a part for the crane that lifts the fast rescue boat, then we set sail

Personal Log 

Hello, greetings from Teacher at Sea Candice Autry.  I teach science to middle school students at a wonderful school called Sheridan School in Washington, DC.  I have been given the great opportunity to sail with the crew on the NOAA Ship THOMAS JEFFERSON. Our cruise has been delayed several days due to unforeseen problems with some of the complex and necessary equipment on the ship.  It is important to be flexible with any kind of change, so these past few days have given me the opportunity to explore the ship as we wait for final repairs. The objectives of this particular ship primarily involve hydrographic surveys.  Hydrography is the science that has to do with measuring and describing physical characteristics of bodies of water and the shore areas close to land. Thanks to hydrographic surveys, ships, ferries, pleasure boats, and other vessels can safely navigate in busy waters without hitting any obstructions on the bottom of a harbor.

A functioning crane on the NOAA Ship THOMAS JEFFERSON lifts the necessary fast rescue boat (FRB) aboard.
A crane lifts the necessary fast rescue boat aboard.

Hydrographic surveys can also locate submerged wrecks in deep waters; examples include unfortunate events such as shipwrecks out at sea as well as plane crashes over the ocean. These surveys are done by using technology that involves side scan sonar and multi-beam sonar technology. The combination of these two types of technologies can create a clear picture of a barrier on the ocean floor and the depth of the obstruction.

The THOMAS JEFFERSON holds several smaller boats including two launches (one launch is visible in the picture, it is the gray boat) that have this sonar technology located underneath the vessel. The instrument that collects data is often called a “fish.”  The data can be seen on a computer screen so that the surveyors can view the data being collected.  Once we reach our destination, we will use these launches, one equipped with a fish that uses multi-beam sonar technology and the other with a fish that uses side scan sonar to create a chart of what is on the bottom of a very busy harbor!

Seaman Surveyors Doug Wood and Peter Lewit interpret hydrographic data in the survey room
Seaman Surveyors Doug Wood and Peter Lewit interpret hydrographic data in the survey room
Staterooms are comfortable and cozy!
Staterooms are comfortable and cozy!
One of the workrooms aboard the NOAA Ship THOMAS JEFFERSON.
One of the workrooms aboard the NOAA Ship THOMAS JEFFERSON.
 A closer look at the navigational equipment on the bridge
A closer look at the navigational equipment on the bridge

Diana Griffiths, June 24, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Diana Griffiths
Onboard UNOLS Ship Roger Revelle
June 22 – June 30, 2006

Mission: Hawaiian Ocean Timeseries (WHOTS)
Geographical Area: Hawaiian Pacific
Date: June 24, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility:  10 miles to less than 25 miles
Wind direction:  065°
Wind speed: 06 knots
Sea wave height: small
Swell wave height:  4-6 feet
Sea level pressure: 1014.5 millibars
Cloud cover:  3, type:  stratocumulus and cumulus

Buoy Technician, Sean Whelan, contacting the Acoustic Releases on WHOTS-2.
Buoy Technician, Sean Whelan, contacting the Acoustic Releases on WHOTS-2.

Science and Technology Log 

Today was very busy because it was the day that WHOTS-2 mooring, which has been sitting out in the ocean for almost a year, was recovered.  At around 6:30 a.m., Sean Whelan, the buoy technician, tried to contact the Acoustic Release.  (The Acoustic Release is the device that attaches the mooring to the anchor. When it receives the appropriate signal, it disengages from the anchor, freeing the mooring for recovery.  There are actually two releases on WHOTS2.) He does this by sending a sound wave at 12 KHz down through the ocean via a transmitter, and when the release “hears” the signal, it returns a frequency at 11 KHz. The attempt failed, so the ship moved closer to the anchor site and the test was repeated.  This time it was successful.  Based on the amount of time it takes the acoustic signal to return, the transmitter calculates a “slant range” which is the distance from the ship to the anchor. Because the ship is not directly over the anchor, this slant range creates the hypotenuse of a right triangle. Another side of the triangle is the depth of the ocean directly below the ship.  Once these two distances are known, the horizontal position of the ship from the anchor can easily be calculated using the Pythagorean theorem.

Recovery of WHOTS-2 buoy aboard the R/V REVELLE.
Recovery of WHOTS-2 buoy aboard the R/V REVELLE.

After breakfast, the buoy recovery began. A small boat was lowered from the ship and driven over to the buoy, as the ship was steamed right near the buoy. A signal was sent down to activate the Acoustic Releases. Ropes were attached from the buoy through a pulley across the A-frame, located on the stern of the ship, to a large winch.  With Jeff Lord leading the maneuvering of the 3750-pound buoy, it was disengaged from the mooring and placed safely on deck.  This was a bit of a tense moment, but Jeff did a wonderful job of remaining calm and directing each person involved to maneuver their equipment to effectively place the buoy. Once the buoy was recovered and moved to the side of the deck, each instrument on the mooring was recovered.  The first to appear was a VMCM, (Vector Measuring Current Meter) located just 10 meters below the buoy.

Jeff Lord, engineering technician, directing the recovery of a Vector Measuring Current Meter (VMCM).
Jeff Lord, engineering technician, directing the recovery of a Vector Measuring Current Meter (VMCM).

Then two microCATs were pulled up, located 15 and 25 meters below the buoy, followed by a second VMCM. This was followed by a series of eleven microCATs located five or ten meters apart, an RDI ADCP (Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler), and two more microCATs.  As each instrument was recovered, the time it was removed from the water was recorded and its serial number was checked against the mooring deployment log.  Each instrument was photographed, cleaned off and sent to Jeff Snyder, an electronic technician, for data upload. Each of these instruments has been collecting and storing data at the rate of approximately a reading per minute for a year (this value varies depending on the instrument) and this data now needs to be collected. Jeff placed the instruments in a saltwater bath to simulate the ocean environment and connected each instrument to a computer by way of a USB serial adaptor port. The data from each instrument took approximately three hours to upload. Tomorrow, these instruments will be returned to the ocean alongside a CTD in order to compare their current data collection with that of a calibrated instrument.

Once all of the instruments were recovered, over 4000 feet of wire, nylon rope, and polypropylene rope were drawn up using a winch and a capstan. Polypropylene rope is used near the end of the mooring because it floats to the surface.  The last portion of the mooring recovered was the floatation.  This consisted of eighty glass balls chained together and individually encased in plastic. The glass balls, filled with air, float the end of the mooring to the surface when the Acoustic Releases disengage from the anchor.  It takes them about 40 minutes to reach the surface. Recovering the glass balls was tricky because they are heavy and entangled in one another. Once on deck they were separated and placed in large metal bins. After dinner, a power washer was used to clean the buoy (it is a favorite resting place for seagulls and barnacles) and the cages encasing some of the instruments.  The deck was cleaned and organized to prepare for tomorrow.

Recovery of mooring floatation on WHOTS-2, consisting of 80 glass balls encased in plastic.
Recovery of mooring floatation on WHOTS-2, consisting of 80 glass balls encased in plastic.

Personal Log 

The theme that keeps going through my mind during this trip and today especially, is how much of a cooperative effort this research requires. It begins with the coordination between Dr. Weller and Dr. Lukas to simultaneously collect atmospheric data using the buoy and subsurface data with the mooring instruments. In addition, Dr. Frank Bradley, an Honorary Fellow at the CSIRO Land and Water in Australia, is on the cruise working to create a manual set of data points for relative humidity using an Assman psychrometer to further check the relative humidity data produced on the buoy. Within the science teams, coordination has to occur at all stages, from the collection of data to its analysis. This was very evident in physical form today with numerous people on deck throughout the day working to retrieve the mooring, fix machinery as it broke down (the winch stopped twice), and clean the instruments.  In the labs, others were working to upload data and configure computer programs to coordinate all of the data.  In addition to all of this is the quiet presence of the ship’s crew who are going about their duties to be sure that the ship is running smoothly.  Several of the crew did take a break today just after the instruments were collected in order to put out fishing lines!  They caught numerous tuna and beautiful Mahi Mahi that the cook deliciously prepared for dinner.

Diana Griffiths, June 23, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Diana Griffiths
Onboard UNOLS Ship Roger Revelle
June 22 – June 30, 2006

Mission: Hawaiian Ocean Timeseries (WHOTS)
Geographical Area: Hawaiian Pacific
Date: June 23, 2006

Science and Technology Log / Interview 

Dr. Lukas, aboard the REVELLE collecting water samples from the CTD.
Dr. Lukas, aboard the REVELLE collecting water samples from the CTD.

Dr. Roger B. Lukas Professor of Oceanography Dept. of Oceanography and Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research University of Hawaii at Manoa.

After taking a CTD sample earlier this afternoon, I spoke with Dr. Lukas, the research scientist on this cruise who is leading the recovery and replacement of the mooring components below the WHOTS-3 buoy.  The following is a summary of our discussion.

Dr. Lukas encouraged to me to communicate to my students how imperative it is to set up means of continually confirming the accuracy of scientific data.  The data from the mooring, for example, is compared with six or seven different profiles in order to verify the accuracy of its data and to determine when an abnormal reading has occurred (i.e. a sensor breaks or fishing lines are caught in an instrument).

Organisms both in the sample and in the surrounding water can shift the conductivity calibration in a CTD (Conductivity Temperature Depth) instrument.  Therefore, the calibration of these instruments must be constantly checked and monitored.  Throughout the day today at two-hour intervals, Dr. Lukas has been sending down CTD’s that provide a continuous profile of the salinity and temperature of the ocean from the surface to the maximum depth of the cast.  There are sampling bottles on the rosette of the CTD that close at a depth of 10 and 200 meters. The water from these samples is brought to the surface and is used to calibrate the conductivity of the CTD.  The conductivity readings (which are used to determine salinity measurements) are compared to readings taken from the sampled water via an analytical instrument called an Autosal.  The Autosal is located in a lab on the ship near the main science lab.  This instrument is contained in a water bath for stabilization and is kept in a temperature-controlled room.  Any atmospheric pressure variations that might occur during the Autosal conductivity tests do not have enough of an effect on the conductivity determinations to create inaccuracies in salinity readings. The Autosal itself is calibrated against standard seawater which is quite expensive ($55 for a small vial) but whose salinity is known to the nearest part per million (ppm).

Salinity, or the number of grams of dissolved salts in a kg of seawater, is detected in one part per million (ppm) and is not taken as a direct measurement.  Instead, both the temperature of the sample and its conductivity are measured.  This is because the conductivity of seawater is affected by three variables:  temperature, pressure, and salinity. Temperature affects conductivity ten times more than does salinity.  Basically this means that temperature measurements must be extremely accurate in order to obtain precise salinity measurements.  If a temperature reading were to be off by 1°C this would produce an error in the salinity determination by a factor of ten.  This would render the salinity measurement entirely useless.  Salinity measurements are related to a scale known as the Practical Salinity Scale where, for example, a reading of 35 units would be equivalent to the conductivity of 35 grams of salt in 1 kg of water.  The scale is practical because the ratio of ionic chemical compounds in the ocean remains relatively constant.

Ultimately, the salinity readings produced by the instruments contained in the MicroCATs in the mooring are being compared to numerous measurements taken off of the ship via the CTD’s profiles.  The CTD’s readings are being calibrated against water samples taken by closing bottles on the CTD frame at different depths, which are then measured in the Autosal, which is, in turn, calibrated against standard seawater samples.  The multiple checks on the temperature measurements taken at sea are not a stringent as those of the salinity readings because the temperature instruments do not have nearly the same rate of calibration drift.  Unless they are broken, they will only drift approximately one millidegree per year.

There are different types of oceanographers who study various parameters of the ocean.  Dr. Lukas is a physical oceanographer as opposed to one who studies the biological or chemical aspects of the ocean.  Physical oceanographers study such factors as current, waves, wind, heat content, temperature, and salinity. However, there is overlap amongst the different areas of science. A chemical determination, such as salinity, can actually be quite pertinent to the physical study of the ocean.  Alterations in salinity correlate with changes in density.  Variations in density gradients across the ocean cause flow or ocean currents.  Other factors that affect the ocean currents include the depth of the water; wind, which drags water along; and the rotational motion of the earth.  For example, if a current is moving northward, the rotation of the earth causes an apparent force to affect the water thus drawing it eastward and changing the direction of the current.  Additional smaller factors that affect the current include turbulence in both the air and the sea.  Turbulence is chaotic eddying motions that cause mixing amongst masses of water at different temperatures and salinities.

Dr. Lukas has a Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics, and a Master’s and PhD in oceanography. The work that he has done in earning his PhD gives him the ability to lead a research project, such as the Hawaii Ocean Time-series (www.soest.hawaii.edu/HOT_WOCE). However, Dr. Lukas noted that one does not need a PhD to be a vital part of a research team.  We have people working as part of the science team on this cruise who are at the Master’s, Bachelor’s and Associate’s degree levels.

When asked about what he likes about his work, Dr. Lukas told me that he enjoys several aspects of his job. He enjoys going to sea and the fact that his work leads him to discover new things. He also values the freedom that his occupation affords him.  If he is successful in obtaining funding for a proposal, he has the freedom to carry out a project of his own design. His work has taken him to a variety of places including Papua New Guinea, the Philippines and the Bay of Bengal!

It became very evident in talking with Dr. Lukas that he is devoted to this work that he so enjoys. He puts many hours into his profession.  As he stated, he and Dr. Weller have continual “time and a half” jobs.  His occupation involves many different aspects including being at sea, gathering data and preparing for such science cruises.  He spends large chunks of time working with his research group of eight members.  This work involves managing and training the members of the group as well as dealing with various personnel issues. Approximately 20% of his time is spent teaching at the graduate level.  This is a smaller percentage than many of his colleagues.  Dr. Lukas spends time developing projects and proposals and a significant amount of time completing the science for those that are funded.  This science includes analyzing data, writing papers, attending meetings, etc. Finally, another large aspect of his job is of a more global, community nature. Like many of his colleagues, he reviews the work of other scientists.  He is a member of various committees including those that make recommendations to funding agencies. He has numerous meetings each year, some of which require extensive travel. He travels to Washington D.C. several times a year, and has worked to raise awareness in congress concerning global issues relating to the ocean and our environment.

Finally, I asked Dr. Lukas if he had any advice for students interested in oceanography.  He replied that, “There is no such thing as too much math or science!”  One of his team members was nearby and commented that although math might seem boring in high school it becomes so important later on.  Dr. Lukas confirmed that it is a tool that allows scientists to accomplish a lot.  This is clearly evidenced by the work that he is able to complete.

Diana Griffiths, June 22, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Diana Griffiths
Onboard UNOLS Ship Roger Revelle
June 22 – June 30, 2006

Mission: Hawaiian Ocean Timeseries (WHOTS)
Geographical Area: Hawaiian Pacific
Date: June 22, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility:  10 miles to < 25 miles
Wind direction:  080°
Wind speed:  12 knots
Sea wave height: small
Swell wave height: 2-4 feet
Sea level pressure:  1016 millibars
Cloud cover: 5
Cloud type: cumulus, stratocumulus

 WHOTS –3 buoy during transfer from 2nd to 1st deck.
WHOTS –3 buoy during transfer from 2nd to 1st deck

The Cruise Mission 

The overall mission of this cruise is to replace a mooring anchored north of the Hawaiian island of Oahu. It’s called the WHOTS buoy: The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) Hawaii Ocean Timeseries (HOT) Site (WHOTS). The mooring consists of a buoy that contains numerous meteorological sensors that collect data on relative humidity, barometric pressure, wind speed and direction, precipitation, short and long wave solar radiation, and sea surface temperature.  The buoy serves as a weather station at sea, one of few such stations in the world.

There are two of each type of sensor on the WHOTS-3 buoy to ensure that data collection will continue should a sensor break down.  The buoy is equipped with a GPS unit. The buoy also serves as a platform for observing the ocean. Hanging below the buoy are four different types of instruments.  These include SeaCATs, MicroCATs, an ADCP and NGVM. The SeaCATs and MicroCATs take salinity and temperature measurements.  The MicroCATs, in addition to salinity and temperature, also take depth measurements. There are several of each instrument attached to the mooring and they are located approximately 5 meters apart down to a depth of 155 meters.  (The WHOTS-2 mooring only contains MicroCATs). The ADCP or Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler is an instrument that allows the scientists to measure the velocity of the current at a set of specific depths. The NGVM is a New Generation Vector Measuring device that measures the velocity of the current at fixed points using propeller sensors located at 90° to one another. Finally, two Acoustic Release Devices are attached to the anchor that is holding the mooring in place.

 SeaCATs being prepared for mooring.
SeaCATs being prepared for mooring.

These instruments allow the scientists to determine the location of the anchor and will also mechanically release the mooring from the anchor when sent a specific acoustic signal. (More about how these work in a later log).  The WHOTS-2 mooring has been sitting in the ocean for a year collecting data.  It is powered by 4000 D-cell batteries and is capable of running off of them for about 16 months.  I asked Jason Smith, the lead instrument calibration technician, why solar panels weren’t used on the buoy and he told me that they are susceptible to being shot at or stolen.  Evidently anything that looks valuable in the middle of the ocean is vulnerable to theft!

Personal and Science Log 

R/V REVELLE’s resident technician, Cambria Colt, operating the crane used to move the WHOTS-3 buoy to the main deck of the ship.
R/V REVELLE’s resident technician, Cambria Colt, operating the crane used to move the WHOTS-3 buoy to the main deck of the ship.

After arriving in Hawaii on the afternoon of Monday, June 19th, it feels good to be at sea on a moving vessel.  I spent the remainder of Monday meeting the science crew from WHOI (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution) led by the Chief Scientist, Dr. Robert Weller, having a nice dinner and falling asleep after a long day of travel.

Tuesday brought my first view of the REVELLE, a working science vessel owned by the SCRIPPS Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, California. Go here for diagrams, pictures and statistics describing this ship. The ship has two platforms below the main deck and three decks above, not including the bridge. The main deck contains heavy equipment consisting of several winches, a crane, an electric winding cart and other machinery designed to move heavy objects. All of this equipment operation is run or overseen by Cambria Colt, the resident technician, who knows the ship like the back of her hand.  It is her primary job to act as a liaison between the ships’ crew and the scientists, making sure that the needs of the science team are met. We were at the ship by 7:30 a.m. and the team started working, preparing for the cruise.

Many of the team members had already been here for a week unloading and working with the instruments.  The team works well together – everyone keeps busy and seems to know what to do without a lot of discussion. I helped Jason to string up two GPS units on an upper deck of the stern of the ship as well as an antenna.

GPS units set up by science team on stern of R/V REVELLE.
GPS units set up by science team on stern of R/V REVELLE.

The antenna is used to transmit all of the data from the mooring and from the ship to a satellite, which then directs it to WHOI.  I also recorded measurements as Sean Whelan, the buoy technician, measured the distances from the top of the buoy to all of the instruments located on the buoy. He also wrapped bird wire repellant along the top of the tower of the buoy in an attempt to keep birds from landing on the instruments.  The bird wire is spiky wire that jets out in various directions and can be quite treacherous to work with!  Along the deck, Jeff Lord, an engineering technician, and Scott Burman, an undergraduate volunteer, worked on bolting down numerous winches to the deck that will be used to pull the buoy out of the water.  Several winches are used on all sides to maintain maximum control over whatever is being maneuvered into or out of the water.

I also met the captain of the ship, Tom Desjardins, in the afternoon.  I had no idea he was the captain when I first saw him, he was working hard on deck with the rest of the crew, clad in a T-shirt and shorts.  He is quite affable, calm, and willing to put in a hand where it is needed. In a quick discussion with him I learned that security has become much tighter on the ship since 9/11. There are always two people on watch at the entrance to the ship when it is in port making sure that everyone who enters and leaves is accounted for. We all wear badges when we are on ship when it is in port.  I also asked him about potable water use on the ship. The ship can hold 12,000 gallons of water and up to 3,000 gallons more can be distilled per day.  Heat from the ship’s engines is used to distill the water.

I had Wednesday free to do a bit of sightseeing and that leads me back to today.  We packed our clothes onto the ship early this morning and made up our berths (beds).  The staterooms (bedrooms) are larger than I had expected.  I have my own room and share a head (bathroom) with Terry Smith, another member of the team.  Terry is also an undergraduate who won the NOAA Hollings Scholarship to participate on this cruise.  Currently working towards a second career, Terry was a chef for 20 years before making the plunge to study science. She is working towards a degree in geo-oceanography.  During the day I was able to get a computer set up and mostly watched and asked a few questions as more work was being done. The ship left port at 4:00 p.m.  After taking a few pictures and watching the beauty of the coast slip away, I went back inside to attend a meeting led by Cambria and Dr. Weller.

Life Aboard Ship 

Cambria talked about safety and reviewed some basics about living on the ship.  We wear closed toed shoes at all times (except in our rooms), preferably steel-toed.  When we are working on deck during the scientific operations we will wear hard hats and safety vests.  Tomorrow there will be a safety drill at some point to be sure we all know where to “muster” and how to proceed should a fire or other problem occur on the ship.  We separate our trash here – anything plastic and non-biodegradable has a separate bin.  All of the paper and food waste, etc, has its own bin and is eventually tossed into the sea.  Meals are at specific times during the day (and they are quite good!) but we are asked to “eat and run”, as the galley crew needs to get on with their work of cleaning up and preparing for the next meal or just getting some time off.  The ship is equipped with a laundry and an exercise room.  Evidently on long cruises members of the crew can be seen running laps around the main deck.

Vocabulary – Weather Data 

Wind direction: Wind direction is measured in degrees, which follow the readings on a compass.

Wind speed:   Measured in knots. A knot is 1 nm/hr.  A nautical mile is the distance required to travel 1° longitude.  It is equivalent to 1.85 km.

Sea wave height: This is the height of waves produced by the wind.  This is logged in the ships log as either small or slight.  The technical formula for sea wave height is .026 x (speed of wind)2.

Swell wave height: This is the height of the swells produced by distant weather patterns. Swells form a wave pattern as opposed to sea waves, which are more random.  Swell wave height is measured in feet.