Steven Frantz: Critters at Sea, August 5, 2012

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Steven Frantz
Onboard NOAA Ship Oregon II
July 27 – August 8, 2012

Mission: Longline Shark Survey
Geographic area of cruise: Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic off the coast of Florida
Date: August 5, 2012

Weather Data From the Bridge:
Air Temperature (degrees C): 29.0
Wind Speed (knots): 10.28
Wind Direction (degree): 138.68
Relative Humidity (percent): 076
Barometric Pressure (millibars): 1022.33
Water Depth (meters): 28.45
Salinity (PSU): 35.612

Location Data:
Latitude: 3323.40N
Longitude: 07808.17W

Critters at Sea

On my last blog I introduced you to five species of shark found so far. I think you can tell which one is my favorite, which is yours?

Even though our mission is to collect data on sharks, you never know what might come up on the end of a hook (or tangled in the line!). Data is still collected on just about everything else we catch. For today’s blog I have put together a photo journey on the so many other beautiful creatures we have caught.

Basket Starfish
Basket Starfish with pieces of soft red coral
Black Sea Bass
Black Sea Bass
Blue Line Tile Fish (Unfortunately damaged by a shark)
Blue Line Tile Fish (Unfortunately damaged by a shark)
Box Crab
Box Crab
Clearnose Skate
Clearnose Skate
Conger Eel
Conger Eel
Red Grouper
Red Grouper
Mermaid's Purse (egg case from a skate or ray)
Mermaid’s Purse (egg case from a skate or ray)
Candling the Mermaid's Purse reveals the tail and yolk of the animal
Candling the Mermaid’s Purse reveals the tail and yolk of the animal
Hammerjack
Amberjack
Scallop Shell
Scallop Shell
Scomberus japonicus (Can you come up with a common name?)
Scomberus japonicus (Can you come up with a common name?)
Sea Urchin
Sea Urchin
Spider Crab
Spider Crab
Starfish
Starfish
Red Snapper (10Kg)
Red Snapper (10Kg)

There you have it. I hope you enjoy the pictures of just some of the beauty and diversity in the Atlantic Ocean. Be sure to visit my next blog when we tie up loose ends!

Sunset
Sunset

Anne Artz: July 26, 2011

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Anne Artz
Aboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
July 25 — August 5, 2011

Mission: Clam and Quahog Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: July 26, 2011

Weather Data from the Bridge
Location: 40 32.672 N070 43.585 W
Temperature: 18.5 C
Winds:  Easterly at 3-4 knt
Conditions:  Sunny today, some clouds, ocean calm

Science and Technology Log

Our first full day at sea (and at work)!  We left the dock at Woods Hole, MA yesterday at 2 pm and headed out past Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.  While steaming towards our sampling site, we practiced two very important safety drills — a fire drill and the abandon ship drill.  The abandon ship drill was unique in that we had to don our survival suits (supposedly in a minute but I think I took longer than that) that protect us in the water from hypothermia and also help keep us afloat.

Survival Suit
Anne Artz in her survival suit

Around 6 pm we reached our first sample location and the “day team” (that’s me and some fellow volunteers) started our work.  The testing protocol is fairly simple: sample sites have been predetermined by computer.  Survey sites are selected based on depth and location (latitude and longitude).  When we reach those locations, a large sled-like cage called a dredge is lowered into the water and dragged along the ocean floor for a prescribed amount of time (generally 5 minutes).

Sampling dredge on the Delaware II
This cage goes on the ocean floor scooping up samples for our analysis.

The dredge is then brought up and the contents emptied onto the deck.  Our work then takes 10-15 minutes to sort through what is brought up, keeping those items we are surveying or counting, and throwing the rest back into the water.  We attempt to identify organisms we bring up and we count all live bivalves, any gastropods, hermit crabs, starfish and all fish.  Species we identify and measure are the surfclam, the ocean quahog, the southern quahog, and sea scallops.  Once we’ve separated out what we need, we weigh the catch then measure the size of each item collected.  We throw everything back into the water and clean up the deck while heading to our next location.  The procedure is repeated about twice each hour.  For our work on the deck we wear protective clothing, hard hats, and of course, a life vest.

Personal Log

There are seven volunteers aboard this trip, including myself.  They are a varied group from all over but are all very interested in ocean science.  Some of them are college graduates, some are still in college and we are all first-timers on this type of research vessel.  We were assigned a 12-hour shift, either noon to midnight or midnight to noon.  I feel fortunate to be on the noon-midnight shift as that means I don’t have to alter my sleeping pattern much.  It’s tiring work but the good part is there are breaks between each haul so most of us have our books with us on the deck (so handy to have a Kindle!).  The crew here is as varied as the volunteers, from all over the country and they are all very good at what they do.  I initially thought having 4 girls sleeping in a room the size of a walk-in closet would be difficult but it’s not.  At any given time two of us are on deck, on duty, so the room is available for sleeping, changing, showering, etc.  We all respect quiet below deck because at any given time, someone is always trying to sleep!

Interesting Things Seen Yesterday

A shark with a rather large fin above the water was following us from a distance for a while — maybe curiosity?  We brought up several skates (they look like rays) the largest being about 12 inches long.  They are incredibly beautiful up close, looking almost angelic.  It seems a shame they have such a bad reputation!

Kathleen Brown: Last Days at Sea, June 16-17, 2011

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kathleen Brown
Aboard R/V Hugh R. Sharp
June 7 – 18, 2011

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Atlantic
Dates: June 16-17, 2011

June 17, 2011

Weather Data from the Bridge
Time: 9:27 AM
Winds 7.2 KTs
Air Temperature: 14.89 degrees C
Latitude 41 47.28 N
Longitude 069 49.13 W

Personal Log

We are headed back into Woods Hole sometime tomorrow.

In one of my conversations with Captain Jimmy, he told me that he likes scientists to “enter the ship as customers and leave as family.” Without a doubt, I feel like the whole R/V Hugh R. Sharp team has made that happen. From the excellent meals cooked three times daily, to the willingness of the crew to answer any of my questions, I have felt included and welcome.

Sunset from the deck
Sunset from the deck

My fellow scientists have made travel on this journey fun and worthwhile. I can’t count the number of times someone yelled over to me, “Hey Kathleen, get a picture of this. Your students will love it!” It has been a pleasure to be around others who are curious and passionate about the sea.

In my classroom, I try to convey to my students that science is about collaboration. I will have many real life examples to share with them when I return.

My thanks to the NOAA Teacher at Sea Program, my colleagues and students at Freeport Middle School, and my family, for supporting me on this adventure of a lifetime!

June 16, 2011

Weather Data from the Bridge
Time: 1:28 PM
Winds 9.3 KTs
Air Temperature: 14.67 degrees C
Latitude 41 08.86 N
Longitude 069 20.97 W

Science and Technology Log

It has been amazing to me to see the variations in the catches from the many tows. When the tension on the wire used to haul the net is high, it might be because we have a huge haul of sea scallops. Sometimes the table will be filled with so many sand dollars it is difficult to see anything else. We had a number of tows that contained large amounts of brittle stars. The arms of the brittle stars move like little worms. (It is eerie to see thousands of them wiggling.) The last tow, in the open area, had only forty-six scallops. The pile was filled with quahogs, urchins, starfish, sea cucumbers, hermit crabs, and rocks. Sometimes the animals we collect are covered in mud and sometimes the sediment is very sandy. We are now traveling in the shipping channel and the sea floor is rocky. Before we began to tow in this area, the scientists put the rock chains on the dredge. There is also a metal chute attached to the table so that the larger rocks can more easily be rolled back into the ocean.

Brittle Stars
Brittle Stars

We have now completed the inventories in the closed areas of Georges Bank. I learn that large areas in the Gulf of Maine had originally been closed as a measure to restore groundfish stocks. What scientists discovered is that, over time, the sea scallops flourished in the closed areas. It was an unintended result of the fisheries management policies.

There is always something interesting to learn about the species that we collect. Sea scallops have the ability to move through the water column by clapping their shells together. Sometimes, moving up five or six inches can mean escape from a predator like a starfish. (Of note, during this study we also count and measure empty sea scallop shells, provided that they are still hinged together. These empty shells are called clappers.) Speaking of starfish, on this trip we have seen five species of starfish, in colors ranging from purple to yellow to orange. The common name for my favorite starfish is sunburst, an animal that looks just like it sounds. Monkfish, sometimes referred to as goosefish, are called an angler fish. There is a modified spine at the top of its mouth that appears as though the fish is dangling bait. With this structure, the monkfish can lure a prey near its enormous mouth (and sharp teeth) and capture it. The longhorn sculpin feel like they hiss or grunt when they are picked up. I have learned that it is likely the sound is the vibration of a muscle in their chest.

Scientist of the day watch
Scientist of the day watch

The technology used to support the science on this survey is remarkable. In the dry lab, there are fifteen computer screens being used to track all of the data collected. These are in addition to the many that are being used to manage the ship. Everything is computerized: the CTD collection, the route mapping, and the information about the species we are catching. After each tow, the Chief Scientist or Crew Chief can immediately plot the data from the catch. Several screens show images from the cameras that are placed at various locations on board the deck. From the dry lab, the scientists can watch the dredge go in and out and view the tension on each cable. When the technology fails, as it did for four hours one day this week, it is up to the crew and scientists to figure out what is wrong and how to fix it.

When the ship is off shore for hundreds of miles, the skills and talents of each individual on board must be accessed for anything that happens out of the ordinary. The Captain is the chief medical officer. The crew acts as firefighters. The scientists and crew work together on mechanical issues – like yesterday when the hydraulics on the CTD stopped working. Working aboard a scientific research vessel is perfect for those who are flexible and innovative.

Personal Log

It is difficult to explain how beautiful the scene from the back deck of the ship looks. All I can see to the horizon lines is dark blue water. Flocks of seagulls follow the ship to scavenge the buckets of fish we throw overboard. Last evening the full moon was bright and round. When I breathe in the salt air, I think about how grateful I am that I am here.

Question of the Day
Why are the rubber rain pants worn by marine workers called “oilers”?

Channa Comer: Crabs and Stars, May 15, 2011

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Channa Comer

On Board Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp
May 11 — 22, 2011

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey Leg 1
Geographical area of cruise: North Atlantic
Date: Monday, May 15, 2011

Weather Data from the Bridge
Air Temperature: 16.2C, Mostly Cloudy
Wind Speed: 11.6 knots
Water Temperature: 13.4C
Swell Height: 1.0 meters

Science and Technology Log
Question of the Day (See the answer at the end of the post)
How do you count a basket of crabs?

It’s hard to believe that we’re already at the halfway mark of the cruise. Since my last log, we’ve covered a total of 966 nautical miles. Today, we’ve traveled from Hudson Canyon which is 60 nautical miles east of Atlantic City to about 50 nautical miles from the coast of Point Pleasant, NJ.

Bucket of Crabs
Bucket of Crabs

Each day, the boat stops at predetermined points along the route. At each stop, the scallop dredge is lowered to the ocean floor at depths ranging from 15 to 60 fathoms. The dredge is then towed for 15 minutes at a speed of 3.8 knots. When 15 minutes has passed, the dredge is brought up and the catch is dumped onto a platform were we all wait anxiously to see what comes up. Once the empty dredge is secure, we get to work sorting the catch. Scallops and fish get separated, with everything else collected into baskets, cataloged as “trash” and returned to the ocean. The scallops are measured, and the fish are sorted by species, then counted, weighed and in some cases saved for further scientific study back at NOAA labs. Once everything has been counted, weighed and measured, it’s time for my favorite activity – shucking! Scallops are shucked and if there’s time, washed bagged and placed in the deep freezer for Paul to use in the galley for meals. To date, we’ve completed 90 tows and dredged 23,212 scallops.

What comes up at each catch depends on the location of the tow. The southernmost, areas that have been open, or those areas that have recently been closed will usually yield fewer scallops. Scallop yields increase as we head northward and in areas that are closed to fishing. In addition to scallops, our tows have included a variety of deep sea fish, starfish, lots of live sand dollars (with their accompanying green slime), and very often, mud.

At select tows, representative samples of scallops are processed beyond the usual length measurements. The shells are scrubbed clean and weights are recorded for the meat and gonad (reproductive organ). The shells are then labeled and bagged for transport to the lab where they will be aged. The age of scallops are determined by counting the number of growth rings on the shell – similar to counting rings on a tree.

Every three tows is my favorite – Crabs and Stars!! In this tow, in addition to the usual sorting and measuring, all Cancer crabs are collected, counted and weighed and a representative sample of starfish are sorted by species, then counted and weighed. Astropecten, a small starfish is a predator of scallops and the most abundant species of starfish that we’ve counted. Usually, a tow that has large numbers of Astropecten has very few scallops. Being a stickler for detail, having the job of counting starfish has been perfect for me.

Did you know?
Starfish eat a scallop by attaching themselves to the scallop in numbers, forcing the shell open, then extruding their stomachs into the shell and digesting the meat.

Animals Seen
Dolphins
Red Hake
Sea Mouse
Chain Dogfish
Little Skate
Four Spot Flounder
Red Sea Robin
Sea Urchin
Snake Eel
Ocean Pout
Sand Dollar
Sand Lance
Goosefish
Starfish
Gulf Stream Flounder
Black Sea Bass
Hermit Crab
Sea Raven

Personal Log
Day 3 – Thursday, May 12, 2011
With my sea sickness over after the first day and having adjusted to my new sleep schedule — I actually get to sleep a full 8 hours! — the days are starting to take on a nice flow. It’s been great being part of a team. We’re like a well-oiled machine. Everyone in my crew continues to be generous, sharing the best shucking techniques and giving me a little extra time to take photos and collect samples. We’ve jokingly renamed the “crabs and stars” tow to “crabs, stars and mud”. It’s really hard to count starfish when they’re covered in mud. Dinner was especially delicious today with salmon in pesto sauce with potatoes and broccoli.

Day 4 – Friday, May 13, 2011
The day started out cloudy and overcast, but the sun made an appearance late in the afternoon. The first tow of the day was my favorite — Crabs and Stars!! — with accompanying mud. As part of the Teacher at Sea program, in addition to my logs, I am required to write a lesson plan. I’ve started to draft what I think will be a great unit using the sea scallop as a springboard to explore issues in ecology and the nature of ecological science. Highlights will be an Iron Chef style cooking competition using scallops and a design challenge where students will have to build a working model of a scallop dredge. Vic has been great with providing whatever data, materials and background information that I need for my lessons. Lunch today was chicken burritos with fresh, spicy guacamole.

Day 6 – Sunday, May 15, 2011
Since its Sunday, I decided to take it easy and instead of trying to get a lot done before my shift and during the breaks, I took it easy and watched a little TV. With satellite TV and a large selection of DVDs, there are always lots of options. Although the guys tend to prefer sports or reality TV. The first few tows were back to back which meant little time for breaks, or snacks, or naps. Just enough time to clean up, shuck and be ready for the next tow.

Day 7 – Monday, May 16, 2011
The trip is half over. It’s hard to believe. The tows were once again, back to back with a fair amount of scallops, but I think after today, we won’t need to shuck anymore. Yay! Today was the day that the animals fought back. I was chomped by a scallop and a crab! The scallop was more of a surprise than a pain, but the crab clawed right through my glove. After days with no restrictions, we received the warning from the engineers today that we have to be careful with the faucets. Dripping faucets waste water and it takes time for the water to be converted through condensation in the condenser to usable water. If we’re not more careful, we’ll be faced with restrictions on how much water we can use……… I hope that doesn’t happen since I think we all officially smell like fish. Lunch today was cream of asparagus soup, yummy and reminiscent of my recent trip to Peru. The only thing missing was Quiona. And finally, today was the day that I’ve been waiting for. I found my favorite ice cream. I’ve been rationing myself to one per day, but after I found my favorite – butter pecan ice cream sandwiches – I could not resist a second.

Answer to Question of the Day: Very carefully!

Richard Chewning, June 21st, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Richard Chewning
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
June 4 – 24, 2010

NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
Mission: Pollock Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Gulf of Alaska (Kodiak) to eastern Bering Sea (Dutch Harbor)
Date: June 21st, 2010

Weather Data from the Bridge

Position: northeast of Dutch Harbor, Bering Sea
Time: 1100 hours
Latitude: N 54 45.610
Longitude: W 167 06.540
Cloud Cover: cloudy
Wind: 35 knots
Temperature: 6.2 C
Barometric Pressure: 1000.8 mbar

Science and Technology Log

Throughout this cruise I have been continually impressed with the engineering of the NOAA ship Oscar Dyson both in terms of modernization and capacity. State of the art technology can be found throughout the ship from the bridge to the engine room. Computer touch screens are used to control such operations as navigation on the bridge, power management in the engine room, and data entry in the wet lab. Junior engineer Walter Daniel summed up the advanced look and feel of the ship well; in comparison to the many vessels he has encountered in his career, he likened the Dyson to the Starship Enterprise of the science fiction franchise Star Trek. Even though the Dyson is one of the most technologically advanced fisheries vessels in the world, the engineers still get their fingers dirty from time to time. Although most of the equipment in the engine room can be adjusted with the simple touch of a button, flip of a switch, or turn of a knob, the Dyson’s veteran engineers still carry a screwdriver and wrench in their back pocket. Fred Ogden, first assistant engineer, told me he always likes to be prepared to bypass the computers and be able to make an adjustment by hand if needed, and you need to have the right tools for the job at hand. Recognizing that sometimes a person needs to get back to basics and that one should always be prepared, Fred says he never goes fishing without packing his sextant. Tracing its origins to the days of Sir Isaac Newton, the sextant is a tool used for navigation that only needs a clear view of the sky and horizon to work!

Diesel fuel centrifuges

At full power, the Dyson can reach 15.0 knots or a little more than 17 miles per hour. A knot is a unit measurement of speed roughly equal to 1.151 miles per hour. Four diesel generators capable of 3,017 horse power turn the Dyson’s shaft and prop. Horse power is a unit of measurement of power. To give you some perspective, modern cars typically only have 125 to 200 horsepower. To ensure these generators operate as efficiently and cleanly as possible, diesel is first cleaned using powerful centrifuges (machines that rotate very quickly to separate oil from the fuel). Fuel is also filtered twice more in each engine using filters. By burning clean fuel, the Dyson reduces pollution output and increases the life of the generators. Most of the oil and dirty water can be filtered on board to remove the impurities and reused.

Two of the Dyson’s powerful diesel generators

The Dyson also has two desalinization machines. What is desalinization and why is it important? ‘Desalinization’ is easy to subdivide and define to reveal its meaning. ‘De-’ is a prefix that means removal or reversal. ‘Salin’ is a French root word that means salt. ‘-zation’ is a noun suffix meaning an action, process, or result of making. If you put the parts together, desalinization means the process of removing salt. Desalinization machines produce fresh water by removing the salt from seawater. The importance of fresh water on a ship at sea cannot be overstated. Fresh water is essential to the crew of the Dyson for drinking, food preparation, waste management, and washing. Fresh water is also used to remove the heat from the generators in the engine room and to cool living spaces throughout the ship. The generators give off so heat much in fact there is never a shortage of hot water for the crew!

The desalinization machine

After touring the engineering spaces of the Dyson, I was surprised to see several work stations comprising of work benches and many hand tools dedicated to servicing equipment and fabricating new parts while at sea. Any one of these machine shops would satisfy any suburban Mr. Fix-it! In addition to these work stations, the Dyson also has numerous storage cabinets and cubby holes located throughout the ship storing everything from screws and zip ties to transistors and electronic circuit boards. The extent to which technology has permeated the Dyson is revealed by the maze of wires found overhead in every room and passageway. The many wires and pipes snaking from one room to another remind me of a giant circulatory system. The Dyson has two rotating Electronic Technicians, Vincent Welton and Stephen Macri, and an Engineering Electronics Technician, Terry Miles, whose job is to keep all these technologically advanced electronics in good working order.

Personal Log

Amber and Sarah keeping a sharp lookout on the bridge
CO Hoshlyk at the helm during 2pt anchoring in Three Saints Bay

One of my favorite places on the Dyson is the bridge. The bridge of the Dyson is the command and control center for the entire ship. The bridge not only allows the NOAA Corps officers to safely navigate the Dyson but allows communication with the entire ship, nearby boat traffic, and the shore. Utilizing radar, electronic charts, magnetic compasses, GPS, sonar, advanced radio and communication equipment, and various weather instruments, the bridge provides a wealth of information at one’s fingertips. The OOD (Officer of the Deck) carefully monitors the numerous screens and readouts on the bridge control panels and keeps a sharp eye on the surrounding seas. While I have become familiar with several of the main systems on the bridge and can deduce a great deal about the Dyson’s current location and movement, I recognize there is much to learn to safely navigate and operate the ship. I am comforted when resting in my rack knowing there are skilled and experienced hands on the bridge 24 hours a day!

Ensign Payne maneuvering from starboard control station

Located five stories above the water, the bridge has a fantastic view. The bridge is wide and open and has windows in every direction. The bridge provides a great view of the operation of the ship and the surrounding seas. I am most impressed with the layout of the bridge. The ship can be controlled from any one of four stations located around the bridge. The bridge is laid out like a capital T: a central control station located in the middle of the bridge, a station positioned on both the port (left) and starboard (right) sides of the bridge, and a station located aft (back) facing the rear of the ship. This allows the OOD to pilot the vessel while keeping a close eye on deployments/operations being conducted anywhere on the Dyson. For example, when conducting an Aleutian wing trawl off the stern (back) of the vessel, the OOD can transfer control to the aft station and pilot the Dyson while facing backwards!

In addition to the view, the bridge is also fun to visit as there is always someone to talk to and usually fun music playing quietly in the background. Recently, I have enjoyed watching the bow crash through 15-20 foot waves as we continue running each transect of our acoustic trawl survey.

Richard holding a sea star, better known as a starfish

While the weather continues to make deployments challenging, we have still managed to fish a few times. Interesting bycatch from these trawls includes seastars and brittle stars from the Tucker trawl and Pacific cod and sturgeon poacher from the Aleutian wing trawl.

A Pacific cod

Did you know?

The summer solstice marks the longest day and the shortest night of the year. The word solstice comes from the Latin word ‘sol’ meaning ‘sun’ and the word ‘stice’ meaning ‘to stand still’. As summer days lengthen (meaning the sun rises earlier and sets later each day), the sun’s path through the sky takes the sun higher and higher above the horizon forming a greater and greater arc. At a certain point, the sun reaches its highest point. At this point the sun seems to stand still before slowly falling back to the horizon with each passing day. This point when the sun reaches its highest arc in the sky is called the summer solstice. The earth’s tilt on its axis causes the sun to travel slightly different paths through the sky each day and causes the sun’s rays to fall with varying intensity on different regions of the earth. Over the period of one year (one orbit of the sun by the earth), this variation in sunlight explains why the earth has four seasons: summer receives the most direct rays, winter receives the least direct rays, and spring and fall are times of transition between these two extremes. The summer solstice always falls around June 21st in the northern hemisphere (above the equator). With the Dyson surveying southeast of Pribilof Islands in the Bering Sea, the sun will rise at 6:30 AM and will set at 11:50 PM on June 21st. If you were standing at the North Pole during the summer solstice, you would experience 24 hours of sunlight (the sun would never dip below the horizon!) while 24 hours of darkness would be observed at the South Pole.

A sturgeon poacher

Jeff Lawrence, June 19, 2009

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

Mission: Sea scallop survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Atlantic
Date: June 19, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge In port at Woods Hole, Mass. 
W winds 5-10 KTs, cloudy overcast skies Light rain, 2-3 foot waves Air Temp. 66˚F

Jakub Kircun watches as a beautiful sunset unfolds.
Jakub Kircun watches as a beautiful sunset unfolds.

Science and Technology Log 

The Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp finally made it into port this morning at the National Marine Fisheries Service in Woods Hole on the Cape Cod coast of Massachusetts.  Although this cruise was not terribly long it is great to be back on land.  Scallop surveying is tedious work that is ongoing on a research vessel 24/7. The people onboard were great to work with and it is always a pleasure to get to know other people, especially those who share a passion for ocean research and science. Few people realize the great effort and sacrifices that people in the oceanography field have to give up to go out to sea to complete research that will help give a better understanding to three-fourths of the planet’s surface.  They must leave home and loved ones for many days to get the science needed for a more complete understanding of the Earth’s oceans.

lawrence_log6The noon to midnight shift includes myself, the Chief Scientist onboard, Stacy Rowe, watch chief Jakub Kircum, Shad Mahlum, Francine Stroman, and Joe Gatuzzi.  We are responsible for sorting each station on our watch, measuring and weighing the samples into the computer.  These people are very good at what they do and quite dedicated to performing the task with professionalism, courtesy, and a great deal of enthusiasm.  It is clear to see that each person has a passion for ocean sciences especially the fisheries division. The NOAA fisheries division carefully surveys and provides data to those that make regulations about which places will be left open for commercial fishing and those which will be closed until the population is adequate to handle the pressures of the commercial fishing industry. I have observed many different species of marine animals, some of which I did not even know ever existed.  Below is a photo of me and the other TAS Duane Sanders putting on our survival at sea suits in case of emergency.  These suits are designed to keep someone afloat and alive in cold water and are required on all boats where colder waters exist.

The Goosefish, also called Monkfish, is a ferocious predator below the surface and above!
The Goosefish, also called Monkfish, is a ferocious predator below the surface and above!

Personal Log 

The fish with a bad attitude award has to go to the goosefish. This ferocious predator lies in wait at the bottom of the ocean floor for prey. On the topside of its mouth is an antenna that dangles an alluring catch for small fish and other ocean critters.  When the prey gets close enough the goosefish emerges from its muddy camouflage and devours its prey. I made the error of mistaking it for a skate that was in a bucket. I was not paying close enough attention as I grabbed what I thought was the skate from a bucket, the goosefish quickly bit down. Blood oozed out of my thumb as the teeth penetrated clean through a pair of rubber gloves. I pay closer attention when sticking my hand in buckets now.  There are many creatures in the sea that are harmless, but one should take heed to all the creatures that can inflict bodily damage to humans. 

Spiny Dogfish caught in the dredge
Spiny Dogfish caught in the dredge

Questions of the Day 
Name four species you my find at the bottom on the Atlantic:
What is another common name for the goosefish?
What is the species name (Scientific name) for the goosefish?
What are the scientific names for starfish and scallops?

Jeff Lawrence, June 14, 2009

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

Mission: Sea scallop survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Atlantic
Date: June 14, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
East winds 3 KTs
1015mb pressure
Seas 2-4ft
Partly cloudy early, clearing sunny skies late afternoon

Science and Technology Log 

The bridge of a ship is a very busy place where all activities that are occurring on the ship being managed from this location.  When any equipment is going overboard it is the responsibility of the captain or first mate to ensure that it is done safely and correctly.  The ship must follow a predetermined route for each stations sampling and be kept on tract by precise navigating from the bridge. Whenever anything goes overboard the bridge has to be notified, it is important for the bridge to know everything that is in the water to avoid the boat from being fouled up by miscellaneous line in the water.  This could be dangerous and costly for the ship and crew.

Left: The bridge of the ship; Right: Crewmembers on the bridge discussing the cruise operational procedures
Left: The bridge of the ship; Right: Crewmembers on the bridge discussing the cruise operational procedures

Captain Bill Byam has been very helpful to me and my fellow teacher at sea making sure we have the availability of the crew and ship to write our journal entries and then submit them online to NOAA. The ship’s crew is also responsible for deployments and retrieving of all instruments put overboard the ship. Along with the dredge and occasional CTD is deployed to get a profile of the water column and collect water samples at varying depths.  The water samples can be used for a variety of things, such as water filtering to see what microscopic critters may be present, chemical analysis, as well as conductivity or salinity of the water.  The CTD is standard instruments used on most science research vessels.  The crew on the Sharp are very proficient, professional, and hard working as they also help with assisting the scientist with some of the work on deck.

Personal Log 

Shad and Stacy repair the net on one of the dredges
Shad and Stacy repair the net on one of the dredges

The cruise has gone very smoothly with lots of scientific data have been collected for future analysis. I have worked closely on the deck with members of the noon to midnight shift for almost two weeks.  In that time we have collected many samples of scallops, crabs, starfish, sand dollars, sea urchins, many varieties of fish, and even occasional pieces of trash left from man’s misuse of the ocean.  I hope to be able to take the knowledge gleaned from this experience and the scientist onboard the ship and give my students back in Oklahoma a better understanding of our oceans and how their health impacts everyone around world even those in land-locked Oklahoma.  It has been my goal to better inform my 5th-8th grade students, my college students who are training to become teachers, and the general lay member how all of us impact the health of the oceans and how important the oceans are to us all in maintaining a homeostatic balance with the Earth’s biosphere and atmosphere.   We all have much to gain with a healthy ocean system and much more to lose if we are not adequate in our stewardship of our oceans.

I would like to give a special thanks to Chief Scientist Stacy Rowe for allowing me to participate in all aspects of the cruise and collecting samples.  The team I am with are very cordial and extremely helpful in answering all my questions.  They made me feel a part of the team and not an outsider. It was great to work with a group of people who are so dedicated.  When one team member finished a task they simply moved to help another team member until the whole catch was sorted, measured, and weighed.  It is good to work with people who are equally vested in their work. No one person stood and watched as others worked, each did an equal share of the work and made sure the task was completed in a timely and organized fashion.  This made the long hours of the shift seem shorter and the days went by much quicker.  It is always good to be a part of a good team.  Thanks to the crew aboard the Sharp, and the scientist that made this trip a profitable one, not only for me but also for my students back in Oklahoma.  Thank you Bill Byam, captain aboard the Sharp and all of his dedicated crew.  The ship’s crew, were hospitable host and I really enjoyed meeting you all.  Thanks to NOAA for allowing a previous teacher at sea another opportunity to learn more about the oceans and have another lifetime memory to share with others. 

Questions of the Day 
What instrument does a ship use today to navigate in precise lines? (hint cars use it also to find their way around town)

Who is Hugh R. Sharp? (ship is named after him)

Jeff Lawrence, June 13, 2009

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

Mission: Sea scallop survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Atlantic
Date: June 13, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
East winds 3 KTs
Temperature: 13˚C
Seas 3-4ft
1015 mb of pressure

Magnetic measuring board
Magnetic measuring board

Science and Technology Log 

There is a lot of sophisticated equipment aboard a science research vessel of today. Shad who is one of the scientists aboard the ship explained to me how they used to do scallop surveys on older ships just a few years ago. Then they would catch scallops using the dredge net that was then hauled onboard and dumped on the deck.  The scientist would then get on their hands and knees and sort through the pile for scallops or whatever they were looking for. The pile would have to be scoured twice to ensure everything was accounted for. There was a lot of shoveling and moving of the pile as things were being sorted. The work was long, dirty, and backbreaking.

Today the Sharp has a sorting table onboard which makes the job much easier and gives the ship and crew the availability of adding more stations to the survey and getting much more work done than in past seasons. Below is a photo of a magnetic measuring board.  The scallop or fish are placed on the board and a magnetic wand is put at the end of the sample where an accurate measurement is made and placed into the computer showing the size of the sample.  This process is much faster than measuring and recording by hand.  They are also weighed in large baskets to determine average weight of the catch.

Personal Log 

Scallops opening in the warm sun!
Scallops opening in the warm sun!

Some days have been very long at times yet fruitful.  A week has passed and we have collected thousands of scallops, hundreds of thousands of starfish, and many other species of bottom dwelling fishes and animals.  I have observed many varieties and species of animals that I have never seen before except on TV or in a textbook.  This hands-on experience will leave an indelible picture in my mind for many years of what research life is like onboard a research vessel. There are many dedicated scientist and crewmembers in NOAA fisheries that are insuring the viability of certain species so that commercial fishing does not over fish areas of our oceans.

These scientists do valuable research in the labs around the United States but also go out on research vessels and get their hands dirty, work extremely hard, and commit a large part of the personal lives to preservation of species in our oceans so that future generations can enjoy the wide diversity that our oceans provide for us today.  NOAA has scientist working all around the oceans of the United States as well as other parts of the world to give science a better understanding of the vital role each species has in its environment and how that species overpopulation or disappearance could impact the immediate area, larger habitat of the ocean, and the world as a whole. I feel more at ease knowing that there are dedicated people in the world ensuring not only the interest of humans but are also advocating for all species.  The diversity on earth is better understood every year giving scientist and the general public a better understanding of each species role on the world stage of life.

Question of the Day 
What does the term Keystone species mean?

Jeff Lawrence, June 11, 2009

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

Mission: Sea scallop survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Atlantic
Date: June 11, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
NE winds 15-20KT
Seas 4-8ft, cold front moving off land
Temperature at Sea 68˚F
Foggy with low visibility, light rain periodically

Science and Technology Log 

The crew is busy collecting scallops.  Occasionally between tows, the crew shuck scallops to eat onboard, this is allowable in open areas.  A meal of freshly shucked scallops will be enjoyed by those onboard the ship.  Shucking scallops is a skill that can be learned over several days.  A long curved skinny knife is inserted between the shells and part of the scallop is cut away from the shell.  With a little skill one more quick cut of the knife and all the inside parts of the scallop are whisked away leaving behind a cylinder shaped piece of white meat that is the part of the scallop enjoyed by people around the world.

TAS Duane Sanders (left) is busy sorting scallops while others shuck the scallops (right).
TAS Duane Sanders (left) is busy sorting scallops while others shuck the scallops (right).

Some dredges produced scallops exclusively, while others produce very few scallops and lots of starfishes or sand dollars.  Scientists are trying to understand the dynamics between the starfish and scallop populations as well as other species.  Getting rid or over fishing one species can have a profound effect on other species especially if that species is considered a keystone species in that particular environment.

The R/V Hugh R. Sharp (Lewes, Delaware)
The R/V Hugh R. Sharp (Lewes, Delaware)

Personal Log 

The Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp is one of the newer ships in the fleet of research vessels along the Atlantic coast. The ship is 146 feet long with state of the art equipment onboard to help it complete missions vital to ocean research.  It cost about $14,000 dollars a day to keep the ship doing research while at sea. The ship is very versatile and has completed a varied amount of differing research cruises along the east coast of the United States.  I am amazed at how quiet the ship is when running. I have been on two other research vessels, and they were much louder when underway.  The Sharp has diesel engines that run electric motors making it run much quieter and smoother than other research ships. The ship will also turn on a dime usually it takes quite of bit of time and space to turn a ship around. This is not true on the Sharp it will turn very quickly due the bow thrusters onboard the ship. The ship may be smaller than many research vessels, however it is versatile and efficient when conducting research along the Atlantic coast.

The crew which are captained by Bill Byam are well trained and prepared for the task required of them to make sure the science is completed in a timely manner and efficiently for the scientist aboard. I have found working with the crew to be an enjoyable experience.  The food onboard is superb, Paul is a great cook and prepares unique dishes for every meal and is also an avid fellow soccer fan.

Question of the Day 
What and how do scallops eat to survive?

Name two predators of scallops. 

Jeff Lawrence, June 9, 2009

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

Mission: Sea scallop survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Atlantic
Date: June 9, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
S winds 5-10KT
Seas 1-2ft
Barometric pressure 1029mb
Air Temperature 78˚F
Visibility clear
Cold front moving offshore towards us later today, rain expected.

The contents of the dredge are emptied onto the sorting table.
The contents of the dredge are emptied onto the sorting table.

Science and Technology Log 

The sorting table is full of activity as soon as the dredge is pulled aboard the ship. After the crew secure all lines and dump the load the volunteers and scientist begin to sort through the biological that has been brought up from the bottom or the Atlantic Ocean.  Each dredge can bring a varied amount of sea life on the ship.  We are always looking for scallop, yet every third dredge we also sort for crabs. All fish are also sorted and counted.

After all the sorting is done the fish, scallops, and crabs are weighed and measured for length. They are then logged into the onboard computer for analysis of results for each catch.  We are trawling along closed areas for scallops. These areas have been closed for commercial fishing to ensure that the population has time to recover in that area. Scallop surveys are carried out by the R/V Hugh R. Sharp, in three phases during the summer.  Duane and I are on the second leg, which encompasses the area to the east of Delaware, areas around Long Island, and the area around Martha’s Vineyard south of Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

Personal Log 

You may find some interesting creatures during sorting.
You may find some interesting creatures during sorting.

The work aboard the ship can be very long and laborious. The days are long, as each member of the cruise will do a 12-hour shift.  My shift is from noon to midnight.  The conditions can vary greatly during a shift. During the day the sun may be out with light winds and it gets very warm with all the wet weather gear that is worn during sorting. It is necessary to leave the gear on between dredges, since they occur so often. As soon as the sun goes down the temperatures can drop very rapidly.  It is important to keep a hooded sweatshirt and other warm weather gear nearby for the changing conditions.  All gear must be taken with you when you leave your cabin so that the other shift can sleep uninterrupted.  The days are long, with the goal of all who are onboard to get the science completed in a timely fashion.  Keeping a ship stored with goods and running is very expensive so the goal is to get as much science completed in the allotted time as possible.

Question of the Day 
What other bottom dwelling species in the Atlantic are under protection from over-fishing?

Animals Seen Today 
Scallops, eels, crabs, starfish, clams, silver dollars, urchins, goose fish, and many varieties of bottom dwelling fish.

Susan Smith, June 4, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Susan Smith
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier
June 1-12, 2009 

Mission: Hydrographic survey
Geographical area of cruise: Trocadero Bay, Alaska; 55°20.990’ N, 33°00.677’ W
Date: June 4, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Visibility: 10 nautical miles
Wind: light
Temperature 11.1 C (52 F)
Cloud Cover: FEW 1/8-2/8

A nautical chart indicating underwater cables
A nautical chart indicating underwater cables

Science and Technology Log: Bottom Sampling 

This morning I spent time in the Plot Room, and on the Fantail, involved in bottom sampling. The Plot Room has nine work stations with at least two screens per technician. The airplane symbol is the location of the Rainier and the colored dots show locations of bottom sampling areas. One purpose bottom sampling serves is to determine areas suitable for anchoring.

The clamp shell being retrieved
The clamp shell being retrieved

The chart to the right shows there is an underwater cable area (pink dotted lines) from which we cannot take samples, because it could accidently get damaged, thus rendering residents without power. The numbers shown on these When the ship takes bottom samples, from the Fantail, it uses a spring loaded clamp shell device. It is attached to an A frame and uses a winch to lower it into the sea by cable. The operator calls out the depth, using a cable counter, as it is lowered into the water and when it raised. This enables the plot room to know when a sample is coming and it verifies the information received remains accurate.  The numbers on these charts indicate water depth in fathoms (1 fathom=6 ft.). As you can see there are drastic dropoffs in some locations. 

Identifying the samples: small coarse pebbles
Identifying the samples: small coarse pebbles

If the cable is not straight down, the ship must move around it, avoiding the screws (propellers) at all costs. When the clamp hits bottom it scoops up the debris under it immediately and is brought back to the surface. When the sample arrives at the top it is shaken to release a majority of the water. Then it must be dismantled to see the solid matter inside. This is a two person job, as it is heavy and impossible to control for just one person. One holds the spring loaded clamp shell, the other takes off the sample section by pulling on either side of the device.

Identification chart for the samples
Identification chart for the samples

Because safety is always an issue the clamp must be kept from swinging once the collection unit is removed. The items found in the sampler are placed on the chart (shown to the right) to make sure identification is accurate. The chart is divided into sand, gravel, and pebbles. Each type of rock found is divided further into fine, medium, and coarse. This information is relayed to the plot room where someone labels the survey chart in the appropriate location. In the first four samples green, sticky mud was identified near the coastline of Ladrones Island, Madre de Dios Island, and on the southwestern arm of the Prince of Wales Island. These were deep areas where people are not likely to anchor their boats. In the sixth sample we were in fairly shallow water and sampled gritty sand and small pebbles.

This sample was full of sand and some pebbles.
This sample was full of sand and some pebbles.

Sometimes the water arrives only with living things in the sampler. Samples eight through ten provided us with living things. Shells with little creatures inside were found in one sampling, and in another the only item was a black sea star. Finally after three such samples in the same location we moved on to the next location. This is a somewhat tedious process when the samples do not provide a great deal of useful data. However, that in itself gives sufficient information as to what is NOT in a location. Now imagine being charged with this assignment is an area where surveys have either never been done, or it has been decades since the previous survey. Remarkably the survey charts are fairly accurate, even from when lead weights and ropes were used to survey. NOAA certainly has a daunting task when it comes to surveying Alaska.

Personal Log 

This sample had only a little black sea star!
This sample had only a little black sea star!

Yesterday, and today, allowed me the opportunity to see the technical aspects of the Rainier’s mission. Small sections of the oceans and bays are meticulously mapped and charted for use by recreational boaters, the fishing industry, large shipping companies, and the military. Without the information gleaned by the people and ships of the NOAA Corps our waters would continue to go uncharted, perhaps unused, and remain hazardous to all. I am amazed at the patience needed for this work, but it is well worth their efforts to provide the necessary tools to keep our waterways safe for everyone.

Jack on the bow
Jack on the bow

I was discussing interesting things I noticed on the Rainier with several of the officers. Did you know there are two flags we fly on the NOAA ships? There is the Jack, a flag with the 50 stars and blue field, and the Stars and Stripes, our nation’s flag. When it is flown on a ship it is called an Ensign. The Jack is flown on the Jackstaff (origin 1865-1895) located on the ship’s bow. The Ensign is flown on the fantail while in port or anchored at sea. I suppose I have now become a student of vexillology, the scholarly study of flags. 

Lollie Garay, May 18, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Lollie Garay
Onboard Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp
May 9-20, 2009 

The camera is attached to the dredge
The camera is attached to the dredge

Mission: Sea scallop survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: May 18, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Scattered showers, thunderstorms
Temp: 9.28˚ C
True wind: 13.4 KT

Science and Technology Log 

Today a video camera was attached to the dredge.  Using the camera they are able to see when the dredge is actually on the ground to determine the amount of bottom contact.  It is important to verify sensors like these anytime you work in science. The inclinometer records angle changes that we can interpret into a time on bottom which can be used to calculate a tow distance or bottom contact. This is compared to the tow distance calculated from the GPS recorded by FSCS.   Unfortunately, the inclinometer angle change is not abrupt enough to determine the start time, so the camera is used to determine the amount of time before we start recording tow distance with FSCS.

Looking for crabs in a pile of Starfish is harder than you think!
Looking for crabs in a pile of Starfish is harder than you think!

We have two days of sampling left and then we begin to clean and pack. The first dredge today brought up so many sand dollars that they had to shovel some away before they could even secure the dredge! By late afternoon we were back into starfish; in all the dredges the scallop count was comparatively small.

Personal Log 

Around 4PM the skies cleared and we had sunshine again! It was a welcome sight after days of fog, cloud cover, and cold. That, along with calmer seas, made for a great day. Sitting on deck in the warmth of the Sun watching the wave action, I reflect all the different moods of the sea I have seen. I also think about all the wondrous animals I have seen; and wonder about how much more life there is that we didn’t see.

Lollie and a heap of Sand dollars!
Lollie and a heap of sand dollars!

Elise Olivieri, May 13, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Elise Olivieri
Onboard Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp 
May 9 – 20, 2009 

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Northwest Atlantic
Date: May 13, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Air Temperature: 12.06 Degrees Celsius
Barometric Pressure: 1026 mb
Humidity: 89%

Here I am holding up a skate.
Here I am holding up a skate.

Science and Technology Log 

Sea Scallops’ number one predator is starfish.  Starfish are very strong. They pry open the shell and then push their stomach inside and devour it.  Starfish are very abundant in the Mid-Atlantic.  Many tows yield hundreds of starfish.  It would be too time consuming to count every one of them so sub-sampling is done to attain an estimate of starfish.  The entire catch is sorted but only a portion of the catch is measured.  This is a good method when there are many starfish and little substrate (trash). The substrate is then collected in buckets and volume can be determined.  The data is then entered into the FSCS computer system.  As I mentioned before FSCS is extremely advanced and is a one-ofa-kind biological data system.  Prior to 2001, Fisheries Surveys information was sent to federal prisons to be entered into a computer data base.  This took an extremely long time to process.  Inmates would get compensated as little as a penny per log sheet. This was dangerous and the data could have been destroyed or lost. Today all data is backed up on a server in three different locations to secure data entries. This long-term study about age and growth of sea scallops helps scientists see a trend in different area’s ecosystems.

I have met some intriguing scientists aboard the Hugh R. Sharp. Shayla Williams is a research chemist for NOAA.  She specializes in fatty acid analysis of Fluke.  A fatty acid analysis is like a fingerprint of what you eat. By studying fatty acid in certain types of fish she can make generalizations about the health of an area. Shayla has done research on NOAA cruises since 2006. She has sailed on the Hudson Canyon Cruise, the Fall Fish Survey, and the Spring Fish Survey to name a few.  It takes a whole crew to run a ship and the Hugh Sharp has a very sharp crew. Wynn Tucker is an Oceanographic Technician aboard the Hugh R. Sharp. She has worked for NOAA, EPA, and the Navy. She loves being out on the open water and I don’t blame her.  It is magnificent to look out and be surrounded by blue as far as the eye can see. A.J. Ward is another crewmember aboard the Sharp. He works the inclinometer which lets the scientists know of the dredge is in the right spot on the bottom of the ocean floor.

Using the FSCS to record data about a scallop.
Using the FSCS to record data about a scallop.

Personal Log 

Today was a great day! It was beautiful weather and I got a chance to talk with some of the crew members on the Sharp. I saw a whole school of dolphins less than three feet from the boat.  It was incredible!  I ran up to the bridge to get a better look and saw a couple of Finback whales as well. It is extremely hard to get pictures because they surface for a few seconds and then dive back under water.  There are many fish in this area known as the Elephant Trunk. I can’t wait for tomorrow!  Another exciting day where I have the opportunity to be working with cutting-edge technology and incredible scientists.  For now I can’t wait to get some sleep.

Animals Seen Today 

Little Skates, Goose Fish, Gulf Stream Flounder, Sand Dollars, Sea Mice, Razor Clams, Surf Clams, Hermit Crabs, Sea Sponge, Red Hake, Monk Fish, Cancer Crabs, Sea Scallops, White Back Dolphins, Finback Whales, and Starfish.

Elise Olivieri, May 11, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Elise Olivieri
Onboard Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp 
May 9 – 20, 2009 

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Northwest Atlantic
Date: May 11, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Air Temperature: 11.83 Degrees Celsius
Barometric Pressure: 1021 mb
Humidity: 83%

The dredge
The dredge

Science and Technology Log 

There were 5 tows today on my  shift. I discovered open areas have far fewer sea scallops in each tow compared to closed areas.  In the open areas each catch was mostly starfish and cancer crabs. In the closed areas there were many sea scallops and various fish collected. Five scallops from each basket collected were processed for weight, length, gonad weight, and meat weight.  The sex of each sea scallop is also identified and all data is entered into the FSCS computer system.  The sea scallop shells were labeled and stored away for further identification.  If the sea scallops rings are clear and visible, lab tests can be done to identify its exact age and health. The Nordic Pride which is a commercial vessel contacted us today. The Nordic is working its way through the areas the Hugh R. Sharp already sampled.  The Sharp will compare tows with the Nordic. The Nordic surveyed with NOAA research vessels before and is taking this opportunity to survey with NOAA again. In the next few days we expect to see the Nordic Pride a few miles away. 

Personal Log 

A scallop opened up—the bright orange thing is its gonad and indicates it’s a female (they’re white in males).
A scallop opened up—the bright orange is its gonad and indicates it’s a female (white in males).

Today I feel much more confident about the tasks at hand. I have a lot of support from the crew and the Watch Chief. I am always up for new assignments and am very confident I can complete them correctly. Around 5:30 AM I saw about 12 white-sided dolphins. It was incredible. They are curious and fast animals.  They swarmed around the Hugh Sharp for a while until they got bored with us and continued on their way. Not long after the dolphins appearance 2 Finback whales surfaced. What an incredible night. I hope to see more dolphins and whales and hopefully get a picture of them.

Animals Seen Today 

Starfish Sea Scallops, Horseshoe Crabs, Hermit crabs, Cusk-eels, White Sided Dolphin, and Finback Whale.

Sea stars and sea scallops!
Sea stars and sea scallops!

Elise Olivieri, May 10, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Elise Olivieri
Onboard Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp 
May 9 – 20, 2009 

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Northwest Atlantic
Date: May 10, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Air Temperature: 16.3 Degrees Celsius
Barometric Pressure: 1019 mb
Humidity: 78%

Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp
Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp

Science and Technology Log 

Today around 08:00 we set sail to begin the Sea Scallop Survey that will be conducted on this cruise.  This annual series of quantitative data is collected to determine the distribution and abundance of Sea Scallops. This survey will randomly collect sea scallops from Virginia all the way to Canadian waters. The Chief Scientist and his field operations officers randomly selected stations with in depth boundaries called strata. These selections are either in closed areas where commercial fishing is prohibited, or open areas where commercial fishing is allowed. Areas may be closed to protect the population growth for 2-3 years.  The government will most likely allow closed areas limited access with recommendations from NOAA.  Samples of sea scallops are taken randomly by using a dredge.

The dredge is 8 feet wide and 20 feet long.  It has a metal frame with a ring bag off the back.  Each ring is 2 inches in diameter and the bag is lined with a 1.5 inch twine mesh liner.  The bag is closed on the top and open on the bottom.  This survey consists of three Legs.  Leg I will complete approximately 200 tows.  Each tow is deployed to the bottom of the sea floor.  An inclinometer is used to ensure the dredge is completely at the bottom of the sea floor. This instrument measures time on the bottom.  If you know your average speed and multiply it with time this equals the distance towed on the bottom. Timestamps are matched up between the data collected at FSCS and the inclinometer.  Each tow lasts for 15 minutes at a speed of 3.8 knots.  Tows can be as shallow as 20 meters, and as deep as 150 meters.  After a tow is pulled up from the sea floor, 4 to 6 people manually sort through the catch and pull out Sea Scallops, Starfish, Cancer Crabs, and all fish.  All samples that are collected are placed into baskets.  The baskets are weighed and sea scallops and fish are measured. 

Personal Log 

Sorting scallops brought up by the dredge
Sorting scallops brought up by the dredge

Today I spent most of the day feeling sea sick.  I thought it would never end.  Now I feel like a million bucks.  It took me a little while to get my sea legs. Today I learned so much.  I spent most of the day asking a lot of questions and watching everyone closely.  I work the night shift from 12:00 AM to 12:00 PM. There is much excitement when a tow comes in and is emptied on the sorting table. The crew gets excited to see what we brought up. Today we deployed 9 tows on my shift.  We had quite a few clean tows and many muddy tows. A clean tow has many scallops and very few mud clumps.  Life at sea is not easy, it is hard work. The living conditions are great on the Sharp. The galley is stocked with anything you can imagine.  Meals are excellent and snacks are a part of sea life. My stateroom is very comfortable and the showers are very nice too.

I really enjoy sea life. The scenery is incredible.  At night you can see the moon so clearly and the light gently reflects off the rolling waves.  During the day there is blue sea for miles.  It is very relaxing.  Everyone is so nice and willing to explain how things are done.  I feel great and I am looking forward to resting for a while.

Animals Seen Today 

Sea Scallops, Starfish, Black Sea Bass, Hermit crab, Spider Crab, Sea Squirts or Tunicates, 4 Spot Flounder, Goosefish, Northern Sea Robin, and Scup.

Lollie Garay, May 10, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Lollie Garay
Onboard Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp
May 9-20, 2009 

Mission: Sea scallop survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: May 10, 2009

The dredge is hoisted to the sorting table
The dredge is hoisted to the sorting table

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Stationary front persists
West winds 10-20KT Seas 4-6 ft

Science and Technology Log 

We began our shift today sampling in an area called Del Marva Closed Area, which is an area currently closed to scallop fishing. We conducted 8 dredge hauls last night in spite of the turbulent weather that pursued us. But today, we had calmer seas and beautiful blue skies.

The serious work of sorting and measuring the catch begins right after the dredge is brought up and secured. As it is coming up, someone on either side of the dredge uses a rake to shake the net which allows the catch to fall out. After the net is secured, readings are taken using from a sensor mounted to the dredge. The sensor is called an inclinometer; it measures the dredge angle during the 15minute tow.  This allows the scientists to calculate the amount of time the dredge is on the bottom. Then I hop on the table to hold a whiteboard with the pertinent station information written on it next to the catch which is photographed for documentation. Then the frenzy begins! I leave and someone else gets on the sorting table to rake the catch towards waiting sorters who have several buckets and baskets ready.

The sorting begins!
The sorting begins!

The catch is a mixture of scallops, crabs, fish, lots of starfish, assorted other specimens and sometimes sand. We are primarily sorting out sea scallops and fish, but have had some stations that require us to sort out crabs as well. We work quickly to separate the catch which is then taken into the wet lab for measurement. I have been working with Larry Brady from NOAA Fisheries, learning how to measure scallops using the FSCS system. The FSCS is the Fisheries Scientific Computer System which is a collection of integrated electronic devices used to gather and store station and biological data. FSCS uses touchscreen monitors, motion compensation scales and electronic measuring boards. I feed Larry the scallops one after the other as he measures them using a magnetic wand. This information is automatically recorded into the data base. Last night we had a large number of scallops to process. However, today we have seen less and less; in fact we had one catch with none! The fish are not as plentiful either although we have seen various different specimens.

Starfish are plentiful on this catch!
Starfish are plentiful on this catch!

There are also special scallop samples that need to be processed. First, the scallops are cleaned with wire brushes. Then they are weighed in their shells. After this is recorded, they are opened to remove the meat and gonads, which are weighed separately. This information provides us with the gender of the scallop and can approximate their age. I dry the shells and number them. Then I put them into a cloth sack, tag them with identifying information and put them into the deep freeze.

The fish are also weighed and their species is recorded. Sometimes specimens need to be counted (I counted small crabs today).  Once all the measurements are taken, everything is washed down! That includes the deck, the sorting table all the catch buckets, the FSCS measuring boards and the lab floors. We are then ready for the next dredge haul which follows approximately 20-30 minutes later. This pace continues throughout the shift, barring any mechanical or weather issues.

Personal Log 

Lollie and Larry Brady scrub scallop shells for special samples.
Lollie and Larry Brady scrub scallop shells for special samples.

I am very impressed by the precision of the work that the science team does. As I waited for the dredge to unload a catch this evening I reflected on how everyone does their job quickly and efficiently. It’s something I never fully appreciated – that there are people out on the seas doing this very thing all the time! Already in one full day, they have taught me so much about how the fisheries system works, and they have expanded my knowledge of different marine organisms. Even as we sort quickly through the catch, they are always identifying specimens to me and answering my questions.

Loligo Squid
Loligo Squid

One of the most amazing sights for me has been the incredible number of starfish that each catch brings up! I have never seen so many, and I am learning about the different types. I am also learning how to shuck scallops for the galley for dinner. So far this has not been strength of mine, but I am determined to master this skill! By the way, our lunch today was scallop soup! The beautiful sunset today gave way to the almost-full moon shining on the seas. My shift is over for tonight, I’d best get some sleep.

Animals Seen Today 

Dolphins—made a quick but too brief appearance alongside the ship today. I caught a glimpse as they raced by. Polka dot Kuskeel; Baby Goosefish; Loligo Squid (pronounced Lollie go!) Snake Eel; and Clear Nose Skate.

Susie Hill, July 25, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Susie Hill
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 23 – August 3, 2007

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic Ocean
Date: July 25, 2007

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Air Temperature: 20.8 ° C
Sea Temperature: 21.8 ° C
Relative Humidity: 93%
Barometric Pressure: 1022.4 millibars
Wind Speed: 5 knots
Water Depth: 58 meters
Conductivity: 44.91 mmhos
Salinity: 31 ppt

Science and Technology Log 

It’s the morning after my first shift, and surprisingly, I still have energy! It was so much fun! It took us about 8 hours to get to our first tow station, and then we went right to work. At each tow station, the dredge is emptied out onto the deck for us to sort. In addition to the standard sampling to assess the stock, scientists request certain species samples for additional research before each cruise. The samples that are being pulled this trip are scallops, skates, hake fish, starfish (some of us call them sea stars), and monkfish (or goosefish). So, we pull these out of the catch and the rest is thrown back out to sea. It’s a race from there to get all of the research done before the next tow. The scientists everywhere (including me!) are weighing , dissecting, and recording the data into the FSCS (Fisheries Scientific Computer System). It’s awesome!

One of my stations was to help take the data on the sea scallops. We measured the gonad, meat, and viscera (pretty much everything else in the shell) weights of 5 randomly chosen sea scallops to determine the sex and shell height/meat weight relationships. The shells will be measured back at Woods Hole to determine the age. Do you know how scientists determine the age of a scallop? They count the rings on the outer shell just like you would to determine the age of a tree. We also collected these samples to help with a study being done by Scientist Stacey Etheridge and Melissa Ellwanger from FDA (Food and Drug Administration) to determine PSP (paralytic shellfish poisoning) levels. They are also testing for Alexandrium sp., a dinoflagellate phytoplankton, in the water sample that can also cause PSP in humans.

It is pretty cool that the scientists let us help out at the different stations so we could get a hand in everything that is going on. When I came on, I thought that we were only going to be doing one study- studying just scallops. It turns out that we get to experience so much more!

Mary Ann Penning, July 17, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mary Ann Penning
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 9 – 20, 2007

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic Ocean
Date: July 17, 2007

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Visibility: 4 nautical miles (nm)
Wind direction: 278 degrees
Wind speed: 6 knots (kts)
Sea wave height: 1 foot
Swell wave height: 3 feet
Seawater temperature: 25.2 degrees C
Sea level pressure: 1017.1 millibars (mb)
Air Temperature: 24.9 degrees C
Cloud cover: hazy

Dvora Hart is counting astropectin, a type of sea star (also called starfish), for sampling.
Dvora Hart is counting astropectin, a type of sea star (also called starfish), for sampling.

Science and Technology Log 

For a person who has rarely eaten scallops, I’m really getting an up close and personal look into the lives of these mollusks.  Dr. Deborah, aka Dvora, Hart is our resident scallops’ expert traveling and working on this trip. She has studied scallops for eight years and travels internationally speaking on behalf of scallops everywhere. She is an intermediary between the science side of scallops and with the fishermen and the fishing industry. While incorporating her mathematics background, she works closely with our Chief Scientist Victor Nordahl developing these surveys. Talking with her over the course of the trip and just listening to her wealth of knowledge have taught me a lot about scallops in such a short time.  She is passionate about scallops and knowledgeable about other organisms that we saw on the trip. In a nutshell or should I say “in a scallop shell”, I’ll share what I’ve learned about scallops in just a little less than two weeks.

Scallops have been around for millions of years.  Five to ten million years ago, in the Chesapeake Bay area, there used to be a shallow sea.  Much later, scallop fossils, found by Indians living in this area, were used for bowls.  In fact Virginia’s state fossil is a scallop measuring up to 200 mm, named Chesapecten jeffersonius, obviously named after Thomas Jefferson.  I didn’t even know there were state fossils!

These sea stars, also known as starfish, are classified as Astropecten americanus.
These sea stars, also known as starfish, are classified as Astropecten americanus.

Sea scallops like living in about 40 – 80 meters of water in the Mid-Atlantic. It is neither too warm in the summer nor too cold in the winter at these ocean depths for them to develop. In deeper water, one of their nemesis, Astropecten americanus, a type of starfish, will eat the baby scallops whole. (There are over 100 different species of Astropecten around the world.) Scallops swim, eat phytoplankton, and spawn when their food source is higher in the spring and fall.  They can range in size from a few centimeters to 15 centimeters from their hinge to their tip. The family of scallops includes our Atlantic Sea Scallops, (called Giant Scallops in Canada), Bay Scallops, and Calico Scallops.

In the US, the scallop industry wholesale at the dock brings in about $400 million dollars, while the retail value is worth about $800 million.  All fisheries in the northeast bring in about 1.2 billion dollars and scallops and lobsters are responsible for about one third each, while all other fish comprise the other third.  Full time scalloping permits can range in the three to four million dollar range; one can somewhat understand why these permits would be highly desirable. There are a limited number available.

In 1998, only 12 million pounds of sea scallops were caught in the U.S.  Since 2002, they have been bringing in over 50 million pounds each year.  Why the change?  Part of it is skill, part of it is good luck, but the main reason is that areas were closed for three years to allow the baby scallops to grow to bigger sizes.  In some of our surveyed areas that have been open to harvesting scallops, we have seen fewer and smaller scallops.  In Elephant Trunk, which just opened for scallop fishing in March, we have generally seen more scallops which are bigger. Data collected over time by surveys such as this one have supported the closings and reopening of areas.

This sea scallop survey is collecting data about sea scallops and other species to manage the sea scallop fishery properly in the southern part of the range of sea scallops. Our trip has spanned from New Jersey to the tip of North Carolina and back again. We have targeted underwater areas such as Hudson Canyon, Elephant Trunk, and a station on the edge of Norfolk Canyon to name just a few.  The NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service manages the area from 3 miles to 200 miles across the continental shelf.  The waters from shore to three miles out are managed by the various states and operate under different rules. The restrictions for scallop fishing are managed by a fishery management board comprised of 19 representatives from various states.

Scallop boats are allowed to retrieve about one fourth of the total scallops a year.  If they catch more than that, they fish out too many of the big ones in an area. If they catch too few a year, more will die from natural causes.  It takes about four years to deplete an area of scallops. (The four inch rings in their dredges allow smaller scallops to escape.)

My interview with Dvora has spanned the entire cruise.  As we have asked questions, whether kneeling in the pile on the fantail or in the workrooms or at the dinner table, she has been generous with her information and we have become more aware and knowledgeable about scallops and their economic impact on the US.

Scientists in front of the NOAA map showing the location of the scallop sampling stations.
Scientists in front of the NOAA map showing the location of the scallop sampling stations.

Personal Log 

Thinking back over the trip, there have been some exciting highlights.  Three that come to mind are the following.  I finally went up to the bridge, about 1:00 AM one morning to see how the operations are run at night. I had been up there during the day and so I was familiar with the equipment during the daylight.  I walked into a quiet, dark room with only red lights showing. (I understand they don’t destroy your night vision.)  The side doors were open and a cool breeze was coming in.  It was hazy outside; I thought I couldn’t see any stars, something I had hoped to see.  The officer in charge said to look straight up and there were definitely some stars to see.  He helped me find the big dipper through the haze.  After craning my neck for awhile, I stepped to the starboard side and I found Cassiopeia, like a big, wide “W” in the sky.  He brought out a star chart to help me identify the constellations. Even though I was tired, it was definitely worth staying up a little later than usual.

Another job I learned how to do was check the inclinometer when the dredge came up on deck. (I had to wear a hard hat for safety.) It is a device which checks the dredge’s towing efficiency. A hand held wand type device transfers information from the inclinometer, which is stored in a protective steel tube at the top of the dredge.  Once back in the workroom, I would download the information onto a computer and print out a copy in graph form.  We could see from the graph if the dredge flipped when it went into the water. If it did, then we would have to turn around and retow.  This happened only twice that I am aware of during the entire trip.  The Chief Scientist ultimately analyzes all the data.

And I learned how to shuck a scallop! We could shuck scallops for the galley in our down time if the scallops came from an open area.  I’ve had them smoked, baked, sautéed, and even raw, marinated in special sauces.  Not that I’m a connoisseur now, but I’ve certainly learned to enjoy them.

Questions of the Day 

Estimate how many miles we will have traveled on our entire trip.  Remember we have zigzagged on our course from Woods Hole to the southern end of Virginia and back.  We left Woods Hole on the afternoon of July10th and we will be returning at 7:00 AM on Friday, July 20th.

How many gallons of diesel fuel does the ship hold? The ALBATROSS IV is a 187 foot long vessel with a breadth of 33 feet, and a draft of 17 feet 3 inches.  (It displaces 1115 tons of water.)

How does the ship get fresh water?

Patti Conner, August 4, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Patti Connor
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 31 – August 11, 2006

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: Northwest Atlantic
Date: August 4, 2006

Data: (collected mid-morning) 
Air temperature = 17 C(62.6 F0 )
Water temperature = 19.2 C0 (66 F0)
Weather = hazy
Depth of trawl = 85 meters (remember, a meter and a yard are pretty close)
Water salinity = 31.06 ppm
Wind speed = 10.56 knots

I am working in the Biology Lab which is located on the back deck of the ALBATROSS IV
I am working in the Biology Lab which is located on the back deck of the ALBATROSS IV

Science and Technology Log 

The 12 hour shift is going very well. It is a little cooler out here than I expected, but the water temperature does affect the air. It is quite foggy today as we continue to travel northeast around Georges Bank. We have been in a little deeper water today, and have collected fewer scallops but we continue to bring in fish and many broken mollusk shells. Surprisingly, we brought up more algae than before even though the water is deeper. The main fish we are collecting are: Flounder, Hake, Skates, Sculpin, and Goosefish (also know as Monk Fish). I will be sending some pictures of the fish as well as some more invertebrate pictures.

Personal Log 

I miss being at home and respect those who are at sea working. It is demanding work, but when the sun rises over the water it is an impressive site and makes everything seem worthwhile. I wouldn’t care to be out here in the winter, but the boat and crew are except for a few weeks of the year. Next time we have a snow day, I’ll be thinking of my friends out here on the boat in howling winds. Today we had a little time between dredging so I was able to come up with several new labs for next year. My students will have a few new labs for our Under The Sea Unit. We will have some fish, and reptile (Sea Turtle) identifications to make using taxonomic keys. I am also working on a Squid dissection lab in addition to the Starfish dissection lab. Of course there will be a lab on Scallops (no, we are not going to eat them!).

Invertebrate identification from previous log = Echinoderms (Sunstars), and Vertebrate identification = Me! 

What invertebrate is this?  Look at the number of shells.  What are the small black spots?

connor_log3a

Patti Conner, August 2, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Patti Connor
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 31 – August 11, 2006

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: Northwest Atlantic
Date: August 2, 2006

Data: (collected mid-morning) 
Air temperature = 17 C0 (62.6 F0 )
Water temperature = 15.5 C0 (60 F0)
Weather = sunny, windy
Depth of trawl = 45.4 meters (remember, a meter and a yard are pretty close)
Water salinity = 31.54 ppm
Wind speed = 13.52 knots

NOAA Teacher at Sea, Patti Connor, helps to sort sea scallops aboard NOAA ship ALBATROSS IV.
NOAA Teacher at Sea, Patti Connor, helps to sort sea scallops aboard NOAA ship ALBATROSS IV.

Science and Technology Log 

Today we are sailing northeast of our sailing position yesterday. We are going to circle Georges Bank counterclockwise. Our dredges today were interesting. We continue to bring scallops in, but my watch team tells me there are more plentiful spots to come.  At one site, we found so many sand dollars that I couldn’t believe my eyes.  This particular species of sand dollar produces a very brilliant green colored pigment which stains everything (starfish, algae, fish and me!).  I am learning to identify the many species of starfish that we bring in.  One of my jobs is to count them at various sites by randomly selecting from the dredge material.  At one site, I was counting hundreds of them.  It’s amazing how well they can hide and are camouflaged in the algae.  Many of the scallops have thick red layers of red algae on them (remember that red algae can grow at deeper depths because the red pigment can trap the minimal amount of sunlight needed for photosynthesis), and they also can be found carrying Porifera (sponges) on them which also helps them to be camouflaged.

Personal Log 

I do love it out here. My inner ear and brain has adjusted to the perpetual motion of the boat. I have not had a problem with seasickness yet.  It has helped that the weather has been nice. I am also doing well with the midnight to noon work schedule.  It is a little funny to see the fog roll across the deck of the boat in the darkness of the night.  Sunrise is my favorite time as the light changes how everything looks, especially the dredge samples, and it is nice to see the waves and the great expanse of the water.

Yesterdays invertebrate sample: Starfish (phylum = Echinodermata).

Today’s invertebrate sample: starfish!
Today’s invertebrate sample: starfish!