Kathy Schroeder: My Journey Ends, but will Never Be Forgotten, November 2, 2019

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Kathy Schroeder

Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II

September 15 – October 2, 2019

Mission: Shark/Red Snapper Longline Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico

Date: 11/2/19

Weather Data from Naples, FL

Latitude: 26.17
Longitude: 81.34
Temperature: 89° F
Wind Speeds: ESE 11 mph

Personal Log

Our last day on Oregon II together was filled with lots of hugs and new Facebook friends.  I left Pascagoula, MS and arrived back in Naples, FL around midnight.  It was nice to be back in my big bed but I really missed the rocking of the ship to put me to sleep. 

The next morning I was greeted at my classroom door at 7 am by my students who had a lot of questions.  They all had been following along on my blog and have seen a few pictures that were posted.  I made a PowerPoint of pictures from the ship so they could see what my living and working arrangements were like.  The funniest part was when I showed them my sleeping arrangements.  They thought it was great that I was on the top bunk, but surprised at how small the room was and how I didn’t have a TV.  (I think some thought it was more like a hotel room – boy were they wrong.)  The part they were shocked the most was the size of the shower and the toilet area.  I was able to organize my pictures into folders of the same species.  I was then able to show them all of the wonderful pictures that the crew, scientists, volunteers and I had taken during our excursion. 

The following week a reporter from the Naples Daily News and her photographer came to my classroom to interview me about my trip as well as what the students were learning in AICE Marine.  

I was able to bring back with me the one of the 12 foot monofilament line and hook that is attached to the longline.  I was able to explain to them how the lines are attached and the process for leaving the longline in the water for exactly an hour.  We also started a lesson on random sampling.  I discussed how the location for the longline deployment is chosen and why scientist make sure they are randomly chosen. 

My biggest surprise was a package I received from my Uncle Tom a few days after I returned home.  He is a fantastic artist that paints his own Christmas cards every year.  In the package I received he painted the sunset picture I had taken of Oregon II when we were docked in Galveston.  It is now hanging in my classroom.

NOAA Ship Oregon II
NOAA Ship Oregon II, September 16, 2019. Photo by Kathy Schroeder.
Kathy's uncle's painting
Painting by my Uncle Tom Eckert from the picture I took

In December I will be presenting about my experiences with NOAA.  Students, their families, and people from the Naples community will all be welcome to attend.  I will be working with fellow colleagues from other high schools in Naples that also teach marine to spread the word to their students.  My goal is to get as many students who are interested in a marine career to attend the presentation so that going forward I will be able to work with them in a small group setting to help with college preferences and contacts for marine careers. 

I can’t thank NOAA enough for choosing me to participate as the NOAA Teacher at Sea Alumnus.  The experiences I have received and the information I will be able to pass along to my students is priceless!

Science and Technology Log

My students have been able to see and touch some of the items I was able to bring home from Oregon II that I discussed.  I was able to answer so many questions and show them a lot of the pictures I took. We are anxiously awaiting the arrival of a sharp-nosed shark that is being sent to us from the lab in Pascagoula, MS.  For students that are interested I will be conducting a dissection after school to show the anatomy of the shark as well as let them touch and feel the shark. (An additional blog will be posted once the dissection is competed)

Anne Krauss: All at Sea (But Learning Quickly), August 14, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Anne Krauss

Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II

August 12 – August 25, 2018


Mission: Shark/Red Snapper Longline Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Western North Atlantic Ocean/Gulf of Mexico

Date: August 14, 2018

Weather Data from the Bridge

Conditions at 0030

Latitude: 25° 22.6’ N

Longitude: 84° 03.6’ W

Barometric Pressure: 1017.4 mb

Air Temperature: 28.8° C

Wind Speed: 9.1 knots


Science and Technology Log

For the first few days, we steamed, or traveled, to our first station. Each station is a research location where several activities will take place:

  1. Preparing and setting out the longline gear.
  2. Letting the line soak (fish on the bottom) for one hour while other tasks are performed.
  3. Deploying a CTD (Conductivity Temperature Salinity) to collect samples and information about the water.
  4. Hauling back the longline gear.
  5. Recording data from the longline set and haulback.
  6. Collecting measurements and samples from anything caught on the longline.
  7. Depending on what is caught: attaching tags and releasing the animal back into the water (sharks) or collecting requested samples for further study (bony fish).

This is a very simplified summary of the various activities, and I’ll explore some of the steps in further detail in other posts.

During these operations and in between tasks, scientists and crew are very busy. As I watched and participated, the highly organized, well-coordinated flurry of activity on deck was an incredible demonstration of verbs (action words): clean, rinse, prepare, gather, tie, hook, set, haul, calibrate, operate, hoist, deploy, retrieve, cut, measure, weigh, tag, count, record, release, communicate

Last night, I witnessed and participated in my first longline station. I baited 100 hooks with mackerel. I recorded set and haulback data on the computer as the gear was deployed (set) and hauled back in (haulback). I attached 100 numbered tags to the longline gangions (attached to the hooks). I recorded measurements and other data about SHARKS!

We caught, measured, sampled, tagged, and released four sharks last night: a silky, smooth-hound, sandbar, and tiger shark! I’ve never seen any of these species, or types, in person. Seeing the first shark burst onto the deck was a moment I’ll remember for the rest of my life!

A sandbar shark being measured with a measuring tape in a rope sling.
A sandbar shark being measured on the cradle or sling used for measuring larger, heavier sharks.

Sometimes, we didn’t catch any fish, but we did bring up a small piece of coral, brittle sea stars, and a crinoid. All three are marine animals, so I was excited to see them in person.

In between stations, there was some downtime to prepare for the next one. One of my favorite moments was watching the GoPro camera footage from the CTD. A camera is attached to the device as it sinks down through the depths to the bottom and back up to the surface again. The camera allowed me to visually ‘dive along’ as it collected water samples and data about the water temperature, salinity, pressure, and other information. Even though I watch ocean documentaries frequently and am used to seeing underwater footage on a screen, this was extremely exciting because the intriguing ecosystem on the screen was just below my feet!

Personal Log

Perhaps it is sea lore and superstition, but so far, the journey has been peppered with fortuitous omens. One of my ocean-loving former students and her Disney-bound family just happened to be on my flight to Orlando. Yes, it’s a small world after all. Her work samples were featured in our published case study, reminding me of the importance and impact of ocean literacy education. Very early the next morning, NASA’s promising Parker Solar Probe thunderously left the Sunshine State, hurtling toward the sun. New York’s state motto: Excelsior. Later that morning, a rainbow appeared shortly before the Oregon II left Port Canaveral. Although an old weather proverb states: “rainbow in the morning gives you fair warning,” we’ve had very pleasant weather, and I chose to interpret it as a reassuring sign. Sailing on the Oregon II as a Teacher at Sea is certainly my pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.


According to seafaring superstition, women on board, whistling, and bananas are supposed to be bad luck on a boat. On the Oregon II, folks do not seem to put much stock into these old beliefs since I’ve encountered all three aboard the ship and still feel very lucky to be here.

A fruit basket and a bunch of bananas
The rest of the fruit seems to think that bananas are bad luck…the crew doesn’t!

In another small-world coincidence, two of the volunteers on the Second Leg of the Shark/Red Snapper Longline Survey recently graduated from SUNY Potsdam, my undergrad alma mater. What drew us from the North Country of New York to Southern waters? A collective love of sharks.

These small-world coincidences seemed indicate that I was on the right path. Out on the ocean, however, the watery world seems anything but small. The blue vastness and unseen depths fill me with excitement and curiosity, and I cannot wait to learn more. For the next two weeks, the Oregon II will be my floating classroom. Instead of teaching, I am here to learn.

As a fourth generation teacher, education is in my blood. One great-grandmother taught in a one-room schoolhouse in 1894. My other great-grandmother was also a teacher and a Potsdam alumna (Class of 1892). As we traverse the Atlantic Ocean, I wonder what my academic ancestors would think of their great-granddaughter following in their footsteps…whilst studying sharks and snapper at sea. Salt water equally runs through my veins.


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As we steamed, or traveled, to our first station (research location), I wondered about the unfamiliar waters and equipment around me. Before I could indulge my questions about marine life, however, I first needed to focus on the mundane: daily life at sea. In many ways, I was reminded of the first day at a new school. It was junior high all over again, minus the braces and bad bangs. At first, those long-forgotten new school worries resurfaced: What if I get lost? Where is my locker (or, in this case, my stateroom)? What if I forget my schedule? What if I have to sit by myself at lunch? To combat these thoughts, I draw upon a variety of previous travel and life experiences: studying abroad, backpacking, camping, meeting new friends, volunteering, working with a marine science colleague, and sailing on other vessels. Combined, those experiences provided me with the skills to successfully navigate this one.

The Atlantic Ocean and a high flyer buoy
The Atlantic Ocean and a high flyer buoy

I’ve spent the first few days getting acquainted with the layout, personnel, safety rules, and routines of the Oregon II. My students wondered about some of the same aspects of life at sea.

Where do I sleep on the ship?

The staterooms remind me of a floating college dorm, only much quieter. I’m sharing a small stateroom with Kristin Hannan, a scientist. We are on opposite work shifts, so one of us is sleeping while the other is working. I am assigned to the day shift (noon to midnight) while she is assigned to the night shift (midnight to noon). Inside the stateroom, we have berths (similar to bunk beds), a sink, and large metal storage cabinets that are used like a closet or dresser. Space is limited on the ship, so it must be used efficiently and sometimes creatively.

A view of water, a pier, and a pulley
The view as we leave Port Canaveral.

Do you know anyone else on the ship?

No, but I’m meeting lots of new people. They have been welcoming, offering interesting information and helpful reminders and pointers. Those first-day-of-school jitters are fading quickly. I didn’t get lost, but I got a bit turned around at first, trying to figure out which deck I needed for the galley (like the ship’s cafeteria), where we eat our meals. And I only had to eat lunch by myself once. On the first day at sea, I made a PB & J sandwich. Eating that, I felt like a kid again (only without my lunchbox), but it was nice to be at a point in my life where I’m confident enough to be all by myself and feel a bit out of place. That’s how you learn and grow. Everything is new to me right now, but with time, it’ll start to make sense. Pretty soon, the equipment and unfamiliar routines will start to feel more familiar. Hopefully, the sharks will like me.

Did You Know?

The Gulf of Mexico is home to approximately 200 orcas (scientific name: Orcinus orca, also known as killer whales).

Recommended Reading 

As an introduction to biographies in grades 4 and up, I recommend Women and the Sea and Ruth! written and illustrated by Richard J. King, with additional text by Elysa R. Engelman. Ruth and her stuffed shark explore a maritime history museum, learning about the important roles women have held at sea. Inspired by female sea captains, explorers, and naturalists, Ruth imagines herself in the photographs and paintings, part of an actual exhibit in the Mystic Seaport Museum in Mystic, Connecticut. For more information about the intrepid women featured in the book, brief biographical information is provided at the end. Ruth would no doubt be impressed with the seafaring women (and men) aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II.

A children's book about women at sea
Women and the Sea and Ruth! written and illustrated by Richard J. King, with additional text by Elysa R. Engelman; published by Mystic Seaport (2004)

Richard Chewning, June 5th, 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 5th, 2010

Weather Data from the Bridge

Position: Three Saints Bay, Kodiak Island, Alaska
Time: 1000 hrs
Latitude: N 57 10.480
Longitude: W 153 30.610
Cloud Cover: overcast with light rain
Wind: 12 knots from NE
Temperature: 10.3 C
Barometric Pressure: 1001.1

Science and Technology Log

While taking on supplies and preparing for our cruise, the NOAA ship Oscar Dyson had the pleasure of welcoming six kids from the United States Coast Guard (USCG) 2010 Summer Program for a visit. These kindergarten through second graders were visiting from the USCG Integrated Support Command Kodiak, the largest Coast Guard base in the US. The Oscar Dyson’s medical officer ENS Amber Payne and I gave the students a firsthand tour of the Dyson.

NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson tied up in Kodiak, AK.

The Bridge
The Bridge

Highlights of the visit included a tour of the bridge with Executive Officer Lieutenant Jeffrey Shoup. The students were impressed to learn that the propeller of the Oscar Dyson is 14 feet across and specially tooled to be as quiet as possible so as not to scare away any fish that the scientists onboard want to study. The students also enjoyed looking through the BIG EYES, two high powered binoculars located on the flying bridge (the highest point on the vessel above the bridge) of the Oscar Dyson that will be used to survey marine mammals. Scientist Suzanne Yin of the National Marine Mammals Laboratory told the students about how she and her colleagues wbe surveying for whales during the upcoming cruise

The Big Eyes
The Big Eyes

Safety onboard the Oscar Dyson
Safety onboard the Oscar Dyson

The highlight of the tour involved a demonstration by Safety Officer Ensign Russell Pate of one of the Dyson’s Damage and Control lockers. The students also enjoyed trying on the immersion suits with help of Ensign Payne. Immersion suits are designed to protect the wearer from exposure other frigid waters that the Dyson will soon be sailing The kids had great fun donning the firefighting equipment and helping Fisherman Glen Whitney test one of the Dyson’s fire hoses off the fantail. The USCG kids also learned how to tie a square knot with Glen’s help. With a little practice, they were able to join their individual lines into one large line by tying each line end to end using the square knot they just learned. Each student was able to take their line home to practice their newly acquired knot tying skills

Another fun activity was led by Senior Survey Technician Kathy Hough. After Kathy led the students through a tour of the Dyson’s dry and wet labs, the students acted as junior scientists by sorting an array of Alaskan fish and measuring and describing each species, just like the Oscar Dyson’s scientists will do later during the upcoming Pollock survey.

After lunch, the students received a fun science lesson using the property of water’s high surface tension. The students constructed two-dimensional boats out of plastic milk jugs and used soap to propel their boats over a tray of water. This is a very fun activity for younger students that you can easily do at home. The materials required include cleaned plastic milk jugs, scissors, markers, trays of water, and soap (a bar of Ivory soap cut into small cubes). After tracing the outline of a boat (as if looking from the top down) on the flat surface of a milk jug, the kids cut out their boats and made a small notch on the back of the boat to place a small block of soap to serve as the engine. The kids then enjoyed racing their boats against each other across the trays of water! If trying at home, you will need to replace the water in the tray after each race as the water becomes contaminated by the soap. This activity works because water molecules want to strongly stick to each other creating a strong but flexible surface. By disrupting the arrangement of the water molecules and causing the water molecules to push away from each other, the soap enables the boat to ‘power’ across the surface of the water.

Holding a Baby King Crab
Holding a Baby King Crab

After all equipment and supplies were loaded and crew members were boarded, the Dyson moved a short distance to take on diesel at the fuel dock. At 1820 hours, we departed St Paul Harbor and said goodbye to the Oscar Dyson’s home port of Kodiak. The Dyson then sailed about eight hours south to Three Saints Bay, a protected harbor south on Kodiak Island. Three Saints Bay will serve as a location to anchor so the science team can calibrate their acoustic equipment and will shelter the Oscar Dyson from an approaching low pressure system producing gale-force winds.

Personal Log

Hello Everyone! My name is Richard Chewning, and I have the honor to be a part of NOAA Teacher at Sea program sailing with NOAA ship Oscar Dyson. For those who do not know, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is a federal government agency charged with studying all aspects of the ocean and atmosphere. As you can imagine, these are broad areas of study. While large in scope, the work of NOAA affects everyone, whether you live on a coast or not. Have you ever heard of The National Weather Service or The National Hurricane Center? Both are NOAA divisions.
Here I am holding a baby king crab.

NOAA’s Teacher at Sea Program (TAS) aims to increase the public’s awareness and knowledge of NOAA science and career opportunities by having educators work alongside NOAA offices, ship’s crew, and shipboard scientists. NOAA’s TAS program invites both formal classroom teachers and non-formal educators alike to be a part of this amazing program. I myself am an environmental educator with the Jekyll Island 4-H Center. A Georgia 4-H program, the Jekyll Island 4-H Center is part of the University of Georgia. The Jekyll Island 4-H Center’s Environmental Education program welcomes 1st-12th grade students for environmental education field studies teaching coastal ecology using Jekyll Island as an outdoor classroom. I am the Environmental Education Program Coordinator and have enjoyed working for Jekyll 4-H for five years. For more information, visit http://www.jekyll4h.org .

I am very excited to be selected as a NOAA Teacher at Sea Participant and look forward to sharing my experiences with you through these logs.

Animals Seen Today

Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)
Kittiwakes (Genus Rissa)
Pigeon Guillemot (Cepphus columba)
Magpie (Family Corvidae)