Maria Madrigal: My Teacher at Sea Adventure: March 31, 2012

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Maria Madrigal

NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette

April 2-16, 2012

Mission: Comparison of Fishery Independent Sampling Methods

Geographical area of cruise: Tutuila, American Samoa

Personal Log: March 31, 2012

Maria Madrigal, Teacher at Sea on Oscar Elton Sette
Maria Madrigal, Teacher at Sea on Oscar Elton Sette

My name is Maria Madrigal and I am one of the lucky few to be selected as a NOAA Teacher at Sea.  I am not a classroom teacher, and I have to admit that I stumbled upon my career. I actually graduated with a degree in Studio Arts. What was I going to do with an art degree? Good question.  I didn’t know myself.  So, I began a search for different AmeriCorps programs where I could gain some work experience.

Luckily, I found the SEA Lab. The SEA Lab is a small aquarium located in Redondo Beach managed by the Los Angeles Conservation Corps. My days were spent sharing “cool” and “interesting” facts about the marine animals housed at our facility.  The animals were our ambassadors as we relayed the importance of taking care of our environment to students throughout the Los Angeles area.  However, my teaching was lacking in that I had never explored the marine environment beyond the shoreline.

How can you truly relay the beauty and importance of a kelp forest if you have never explored it? I wanted to experience for myself what it would be like to swim through a kelp forest. It was then that I decided I would face my fears and learn how to swim. That’s right, I didn’t know how to swim but I wasn’t going to let that be an obstacle.

I took some swim lessons and a few months later with my heart racing I dove into the cold waters off Santa Cruz Island. It was a life-changing experience. Naturally, my teaching became greater from my personal experience. The excitement I used to teach was genuine and informed.  Being accepted into NOAA’s Teacher at Sea program is providing me with a similar experience. A teacher’s experience can truly enrich the learning of his/her students whether it is in a classroom setting or outdoors.

It is with that same mentality that I embark on this new adventure.

I am traveling to American Samoa where I will join a team of scientists aboard NOAA’s research vessel, the Oscar Elton Sette. I will be working alongside scientists that are assessing the fish populations that inhabit the shallow and deepwater coral reef environments around the island of Tutuila. The project is being lead by the Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center (PIFSC)  which is one of the six regional science centers of the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS).  Also aboard are scientists from the Northwest Fisheries Science Center and the University of Western Australia. Their work is basically to assess fish populations to ensure sustainable fisheries. The study will involve two of NOAA’s Hawaii-based research vessels , the Oscar Elton Sette and the Hi’ialakai.

It will undoubtedly be an enriching experience.  It will provide me with first-hand knowledge of current research that will help me develop new educational activities at the SEA Lab. I also look forward to gaining some insight on career paths to properly guide my current and future corpsmembers.

It has been twelve years since I started working at the SEA Lab. I am currently the Program Manager and my managerial responsibilities typically keep me behind a desk or sitting in traffic, so I’m thrilled to immerse myself again and explore what is beyond the shoreline. I hope you join me along the way. You can track the ship’s journey using NOAA’s ship tracker.

If you want to learn more about the overall mission plan, head over to the mission overview page. There’s one for the Oscar Elton Sette ( and another for the Hi’ialakai (

Follow the Ship!

I just found out about a great tool for those of you that want to follow the path that we’re taking on this expedition.  Go to , choose Oscar Dyson (DY), and the resulting map will show you where we’ve been, as well as our current location.
Looking at the current map, you can see why it’s taken so long for us to get to our first sampling location.  We departed from Kodiak on Monday night, and spent all of Tuesday at Three Saints Bay- that’s the little “dip” back into Kodiak that you see.  From there, we’ve just been sailing towards the western Aleutians.  Today, we cut through some of the islands to the northern side because the seas were pretty rough (I was feeling a little seasick for a while there). Last time I checked, we were scheduled to arrive at our first location tomorrow (Friday 6/17) morning, and will be conducting our first trawl shortly thereafter.  Science logs are soon to come, along with more of my entertaining personal logs 🙂

Kimberly Lewis, July 7, 2010

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

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

July 7, Science is dirty 🙂

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

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

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

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

Bye for now.

Rebecca Bell, August 19, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Rebecca Bell
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II 
August 14-28, 2008

Mission: Ecosystems Monitoring Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: August 19, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Latitude: 4000.7 N Longitude: 6931.5
Sea Surface Temperature: 21.2 C
Depth: 114m

The Delaware’slatest cruise track has taken it from Woods Hole, MA, south past the Outerbanks of North Carolina, and then north again toward Georges Bank
The Delaware’s latest cruise track has taken it from Woods Hole, MA, south past the Outerbanks of North Carolina, and then north again toward Georges Bank

Science and Technology Log 

We are heading east out to sea, right now at 4005 N latitude, 6942 W longitude. (Pull out those atlases). We will begin a turn north towards Georges Bank. Georges Bank is a large elevated area of the sea floor which separates the Gulf of Maine from the Atlantic Ocean and is situated between Cape Cod, Massachusetts and Cape Sable Island, Nova Scotia. Georges Bank is (was) one of the most productive North Atlantic fisheries (Grand Banks being the most productive). “Legend has it that the first European sailors found cod so abundant that they could be scooped out of the water in baskets. Until the last decades of this century these banks were one of the world’s richest fishing grounds… (Source: AMNH web site below).

This map shows the location of Georges Bank and the underwater topography.
This map shows the location of Georges Bank and the underwater topography.

Northeastern fishery landings are valued at approximately $800 million dockside, of which a large proportion is produced on Georges Bank. Recently, scientists of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) have undertaken an effort to document direct interactions between physical environmental factors and the abundance and distribution of fishery species. (Source: USGS below). This means that the water chemistry, temperature and other factors affect how many fish there are, how many kinds of fish there are, and where they are. The article from USGS explains that the sea floor sediments that form Georges Bank came from the time when glaciers scoured the area. Since that time, sea level has risen, covering the glacial sediments, and tides and currents are eroding the bottom. When this erosion happens, small sediment particles are winnowed out by tides and currents leaving larger gravel-sized sediments on the floor. This kind of surface is good for scallop larvae and other small animals so they can settle on the bottom and not get buried by sand. Thus, the type of sediment on the ocean floor helps determine what kinds of animals can live there.

This map shows the continental U.S. Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs).
This map shows the continental U.S. Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs).

Interestingly enough, politics and international relations have affected our trip to Georges Bank. We have been waiting for clearance through the U.S. State Department working with the Canadian government, to get permission to go into Canadian waters. As Wikipedia explains below, part of Georges Bank is “owned” by the U.S. and part is “owned” by Canada. Our route is to take us through the eastern part of Georges Bank, the part owned by Canada. Unfortunately, due to the speed of processing the request, we just this morning found out we got clearance to go there. If the request had been denied, we would have had to sail around the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) to avoid Canadian waters. Fortunately, we are now good to go.

From Wikipedia: 

“During the 1960s and 1970s, oil exploration companies determined that the seafloor beneath Georges Bank possesses untold petroleum reserves. However, both Canada and the United States agreed to a moratorium on exploration and production activities in lieu of conservation of its waters for the fisheries.

The decision by Canada and the United States to declare an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of 200 nautical miles (370 km) in the late 1970s led to overlapping EEZ claims on Georges Bank and resulted in quickly deteriorating relations between fishermen from both countries who claimed the fishery resources for each respective nation. In recognition of the controversy, both nations agreed in 1979 to refer the question of maritime boundary delimitation to the International Court of Justice at The Hague in The Netherlands. Following five years of hearings and consultation, the IJC delivered its decision in 1984, which split the maritime boundary in the Gulf of Maine between both nations out to the 200 NM limit, giving the bulk of Georges Bank to the United States. Canada’s portion of the Gulf of Maine now includes the easternmost portion of Georges Bank.”

American Museum of Natural History (easy to medium to read)

USGS (more difficult to read) The map above is also from the USGS website.

Personal Log 

It’s been a very quiet day today. We had several station samples this morning. At the first one, around 6:30 a.m. one of the crew members spotted two whales. They were too far away to see what kind they were. I, unfortunately, was inside the ship at that time and missed it. However, we are heading north so maybe we will have a chance to see some.