Carol Schnaiter: Our First Day of Work, June 10, 2014

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Carol Schnaiter

Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II

June 6 – 21, 2014

Mission: SEAMAP Summer Groundfish Survey

Gulf of Mexico

June 10-11, 2014

South wind  10 to 15 knots

Seas (waves) 3 to 4 feet

Partly cloudy

My home away from home for a few weeks!

My home away from home for a few weeks!

Science and Technology Log

On June 9th we arrived at our first station. There are over 120 stations on this survey in the Gulf of Mexico. Unfortunately I was not able to participate in the first station. (More on that later)

When we arrive at the station the ship’s crew is very busy. The deck crew put trawling nets into the water and down to the bottom to catch fish, shrimp, and other organisms. Once these nets are back at the surface the crew uses cranes to lift them to the deck where the scientists can work on the catch. When the nets are in the water the ship must slow down, so the nets do not rip.

After the nets are raised the organisms collected in the nets are emptied into buckets. The scientists then weigh the buckets on a scale. To make sure they are only weighing the organisms, they first weigh the bucket when it is empty.

Weighing the catch

The basket must be weighed before we sort it.

Next everything goes into the “wet” lab. It is called a wet lab because this area has water available and it is where the organisms are poured out on to a long conveyor belt, sorted, and washed off.

Catch on the conveyor belt

Everything is poured onto the conveyor belt to be sorted.

First, everything is sorted by species. Then everything is counted, measured, weighed, and sometimes the gender and maturity are calculated. All of this is recorded into computers.

Some of the species are very tiny and others are large, but everything is counted.  Many of them look alike so the scientists need to be careful when sorting everything.

The scientists on the Oregon II know many of the names of what they catch, but they also use books, charts, and the computer to look up information to make sure.

Sometimes someone in the lab back on shore may be doing research on a certain species and if that species is found it will be tagged, bagged and sent back to the lab.

The CTD’s and bongo net tows are conducted from the forward well deck (check the first blog if you forgot what those do).

The bongo nets are used to collect ichthyoplankton and so the mesh on these nets is very tight, sometimes as small as 0.333 millimeters. These samples are placed into jars and will be examined back in the lab on land later.

Material from bongo net

This is what we collect using the bongo nets. Photo by Chrissy Stepongzi

By time everything is finished, it is time for the next station and everything starts over again.

The work that the Oregon II does is very important. This survey has been conducted twice a year since the early 1970’s and the information collected can show the scientists what is happening under the surface of the water.

The survey helps to monitor the population and health of everything, plus shows any interactions with the environment that may be happening.

Personal Log:

You may have noticed that I mentioned I could not participate in most of the first day’s work, I was seasick and I spent a lot of time in my stateroom.

State Room

State Room

Thank goodness for the medics and Chief Steward on the ship. Walter, the Chief Steward, sliced up fresh ginger for me to suck on, while Officer Rachel Pryor gave me sugar coated ginger to chew on.

The two trained medics, Lead Fisherman Chris and Fisherman James, both were great help and were all very concerned. Kim, the lead scientist, and my bunk mate, Chrissy, checked in on me throughout the night. I am so grateful for everyone that helped. I am now drinking a lot of water and Gatorade to stay hydrated.

As soon as I felt better I was able to help in the wet lab by sorting, counting, weighing, and measuring organisms that were pulled up. We found some really cool things, like this Atlantic Sharpnose shark that Robin Gropp is holding.

Atlantic Sharpnose Shark

Atlantic Sharpnose Shark

The Atlantic Sharpnose Shark can grow to be 3.9 feet long and can live 10-12 years. It is a relatively small shark, compared to others.

The Common Terns (seabirds) follow the ship when we are trawling hoping to find a free meal. They sit on the ship’s rig that holds the nets waiting for food. The Common Tern is the most widespread tern and can be found by many large bodies of water. They are mostly white with a little black.

Common Terns waiting for dinner!

Common Terns waiting for dinner!

Taniya Wallace and Andre Debose are the two scientists on the night shift (midnight to noon) and they are extremely knowledgeable and explain everything to me. I am learning a lot of new words and I am even getting better at telling one fish from another.

Andre and Taniya holding the stingray.

Andre and Taniya holding the stingray.

The Southern Stingray that Andre is holding is just one of the amazing creatures we caught. We also brought up a Blackedge moray, a Texas Clearnose Skate, a sea hare, red snapper, jellyfish, pufferfish, sea horse, and many more. I can’t wait to share all of my photos next school year!

He may not look dangerous, but he could really hurt you!

He may not look dangerous, but he could really hurt you!

I am working the midnight to noon shift and it is strange to “wake-up” at midnight and eat supper (the cooks save a plate if you ask) and then go to work. Again, the food is wonderful. Last night I had the best prime rib and mashed potatoes!

Everyone on the ship is so helpful and friendly. I enjoy listening to where everyone is from and why they decided to make the Oregon II their home.

On the Oregon II

Here I am enjoying the beautiful view from the bow. Photo by Rebecca Rosado

Peggy Deichstetter, September 8, 2010

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

Mission: Longline Shark and Red Snapper Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Gulf of Mexico
Date:  September 5, 2010

 Remora

Remora

The day shift reported to me that they tried fishing. The seas were incredible rough. Besides that they had and incredible number of fish and different kinds of fish The deck was rocking and rolling and waves were crashing over the bow. Ashley was soaking wet because a wave hit her. Fishing was once again suspended.

Red Drum

Red Drum

Sting Ray

Sting Ray

Hammer Head

Hammer Head

Bruce Taterka, July 11, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea: Bruce Taterka
NOAA Ship: Oregon II

Mission: SEAMAP Summer Groundfish Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico
Date: Sunday July 11, 2010

Sorting the Catch

Weather Data from the Bridge

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

 

Science and Technology Log

Kim and I have blogged about some of the tools we use aboard the Oregon II like FSCS, CTD, Bongos and the Neuston. But what, you ask, are some other tools we use that are not high tech?

Me with a shovel

Me with a shovel

Believe it or not, shovels, baskets and trays are important tools on the ground fish survey. When a catch comes in the net is held by a crane and emptied into baskets, but a lot flops out onto the deck. We use shovels to pick up the rest. In the wet lab we use small shovels to move the catch along and trays to sort the organisms by species.(Check out the video below!) When it comes to identification paperback field guides and laminated posters can help with ID.

Once we sort the catch, certain species have to be prepared and saved for research.Some specimens go to university scientists. For example, we bag and freeze specimens of batfish for an ongoing research study.

Slantbrow batfish, Ogcocephalaus declivirostris

For food species like shrimp and red snapper, we bag specimens to go to NSIL (National Seafood Inspection Lab). This is especially important now because of the oil spill –seafood samples are being tested to determine what parts of the Gulf can be opened to commercial fishing. Samples from leg I of the Groundfish Survey are going to be sensory tested, or “sniff” tested. For this test we have to wrap the specimens in foil to contain any scents so that the ‘sniff testers’ (people trained to pick up petroleum scent at an amazing 100 ppm) can identify if petroleum products are present. For leg II the focus is on chemical sampling for petroleum. However, protocols can change daily when you are sampling during a disaster. Here’s a link to a recent news story on testing the fish we’re catching and sending to the lab:http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/us/2010/07/09/gupta.seafood.test.cnn

 

Personal Log:

Shark

Shark

We’ve been seeing lots of cool stuff. Yesterday we were trailed by a school of sharks for most of the day.

 

Here's a shark circling our CTD.

Here’s a shark circling our CTD.

We also caught a large Roughtail Stingray, Dasyatis centroura, in our trawl.

Roughtail Stingray, Dasyatis centroura

Roughtail Stingray, Dasyatis centroura

He swam away feeling fine.

Stingray swimming

Stingray swimming

Elizabeth Eubanks, July 22, 2007

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

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

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

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

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

Science and Technology Log 

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

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

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

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

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

Personal Log 

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

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

Question of the Day 

What does the word pelagic mean?

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

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