Sandra Camp: Aloha from San Francisco! June 5, 2015

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Sandra Camp
Soon to be aboard NOAA Ship Hi’ialakai
June 14 – 24, 2015

Mission: Main Hawaiian Islands Reef Fish Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Hawaiian Islands, North Pacific Ocean
Date: Friday, June 5, 2015

Personal Log

ocean and bay
The Golden Gate Bridge between the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay

My name is Sandra Camp, and I teach math and science to 5th graders at Robert Louis Stevenson Elementary School in the Sunset neighborhood of San Francisco in northern California. San Francisco is located on a peninsula, which means it is surrounded by water on three sides. On the eastern part of the city lies San Francisco Bay. The western side is bordered by the Pacific Ocean. The famous Golden Gate Bridge spans the divide between these two large and important bodies of water.


tide pools
Me exploring tide pools


The Pacific is sometimes called the “Mother of all Oceans” because it is the largest ocean on our planet. Although we have many beautiful beaches here, in San Francisco the Pacific Ocean is much too cold for humans to swim in. Even though I can’t swim in it, I do love to go tide pooling along the Pacific Ocean, looking for tiny sea creatures when the tide goes out like sea stars, crabs, and anemones.


sea star
Sea star in tide pool


elephant seals
Elephant Seals
kelp forest
Kelp Forest – photo courtesy of NOAA

Being surrounded by so much water makes us care a great deal about the health of the world’s oceans and the plants and animals that live there. In our part of the Pacific Ocean, there are giant kelp forests. We are also home to many different kinds of marine animals, such as sea otters, harbor seals, elephant seals, crabs, sea lions, bat rays, and sharks. When there are healthy populations of these creatures living off the coast of northern California, it indicates that our part of the Pacific Ocean is healthy.

I am very excited, because in about a week I will be visiting a different part of the Pacific Ocean, a part where the ocean is warm enough to swim in! Hawaii is a chain of islands located in the northern Pacific Ocean.  Unlike San Francisco, islands are surrounded on all sides by water, and because the ocean water there is warmer, it allows coral reefs to grow.  I will be flying to Honolulu, Hawaii where I will board the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) Ship Hi’ialakai at its home port in Pearl Harbor. Do any of you know what Pearl Harbor is famous for?  If so, write your answer to me in the comments section of this blog.  As a Teacher at Sea, I will spend 10 days aboard the ship while scientists conduct reef fish surveys around the main Hawaiian Islands. This means that they will be studying the fish that normally live in the coral reefs around the islands. If there are healthy populations of these fish in the reefs, then that means the coral reefs are healthy. If not, then that indicates the reefs are having problems. Here is a picture of the Hi’ialakai. Its name means “embracing pathways to the sea” in Hawaiian.

The Hi’ialakai – photo courtesy of NOAA

It takes a lot of people to run a ship this big.  Stay tuned, because in addition to the scientists, I will introduce some of the people who work aboard the ship to you in my upcoming blogs.

Science and Technology Log

coral polyps
Coral Polyps – photo courtesy of NOAA

What exactly is a coral reef, anyway? Coral reefs are ecosystems located in warm, shallow ocean water that are home to a very diverse amount of sea creatures, including fish, crabs, turtles, octopus, sharks, eels, and shrimp. Reefs are structures that are made from the skeletons of colonies of tiny animals called coral. The individual animals that make up the colonies are called polyps.  Polyps usually have a cylindrical-shaped body with a mouth surrounded by tentacles at one end.  The polyps use these tentacles to catch tiny animals that drift by called zooplankton, which they eat for food.


coral reef
Coral Reef – photo courtesy of NOAA


The coral polyps have a symbiotic relationship with algae. The algae help corals build their skeletons, and the corals provide the algae with protection and compounds they need for photosynthesis. Coral reefs are the largest structures built by animals on Earth! Sadly, coral reefs around the world are in danger because of human factors like pollution, over-fishing, and global warming.


Scientist Diving – photo courtesy of NOAA

Most of the scientific work aboard the Hi’ialakai will be conducted by scientists who are scuba diving. While they are under the water, scientists can take pictures of the ocean floor and the coral reefs, as well as count the number of reef fish they find. The information they gather will help them determine if the reefs around Hawaii are healthy places for animals to live. I will be sharing a lot more about the work they do with you in the blogs I write while I am aboard the Hi’ialakai.


Did You Know?

The Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia is over 1400 miles long! Even though coral reefs are the largest structures built by animals and are home to so many diverse species, they cover less than one percent of the ocean floor.

Important Words

peninsula – a body of land surrounded on three sides by water

symbiotic – a relationship between two different species that benefits them both

polyp – the individual body of a coral animal, which is shaped like a cylinder, and has a mouth surrounded by tentacles at one end

zooplankton – tiny aquatic animals

Lollie Garay, May 12, 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 12, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge  
High pressure ridge building late today until wed
Temperature: 12.22˚ C
True winds: 5KTS Seas: 2-4 ft.

Science and Technology Log 

Wynne readies the CTD.
Wynne readies the CTD.

As soon as our shift began today, the dredge was already on deck so we went straight to work. After several stations I noticed that the scallop and crab count was lower than yesterday. We are working in an area called Elephant Trunk. It is named this because the bathymetry of the sea floor makes it look like one. We have many stations in this Closed area, so we may see an increase in scallop numbers as the shift progresses.

Today I learned about “clappers”. Clappers are scallop shells that have no meat in them. They are sorted out from the rest and counted. I asked Vic Nordahl why they were important and he said that clappers give us an estimation of natural mortality or predation, so they need to keep count of how many are found.

Can you see the Red Hake tucked in the scallop shell?
Can you see the Red Hake tucked in the scallop shell?

Between dredges today, I spoke with Wynne Tucker. Wynne is an oceanographic tech from the University of Delaware and is in her third season on this research vessel. Wynne does a CTD cast every third station. A CTD measures conductivity, temperature, and depth. She takes samples in the water column at depths of 50-70M. Sensors on the CTD send information to a computer where the data is recorded. The CTD also records information about fluorescence, presence of particulates, and oxygen. The data gives us a visual of the water column which is then sent to NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) for analysis. When Wynne is not doing CTD casts, she is working at many different jobs Larry Brady and I processed some special samples this evening. We usually measure 5 scallops. Two of the samples had a larval or young Red Hake inside. It lives inside the scallop shell for protection from predators and is tucked on one side of it. This is not a symbiotic relationship, rather more commensalism. I continue to be amazed about the life systems in these waters!

Personal Log 

Elise Olivieri (the teacher from New York) and I have made plans to photograph each other as we work. We work different 12 hour shifts so we do not see each other except during the shift change. And as we have both learned, there is not time for picture taking once the work begins! Unfortunately, our pictures will not be included in our journals at this time, but will be added upon our return!

Look at the teeth in the Goosefish!
Look at the teeth in the Goosefish!

My day ended with two incredible sights. First, as I carried the special samples up to the storage cage, I looked out from the portside at a totally dark scene. You could not make out sky or sea- it all blended into …black! I have never seen anything quite like that before. The second occurred on the starboard side just as I was ending my shift.  Glen Rountree (NOAA Fisheries Service volunteer) told me he had seen a strange red light in the sky and after looking through his binoculars realized it was the Moon. Elise and I grabbed our cameras and went out on deck. It was beautiful! One solitary red light in the middle of black! It was a good way to end the day.

Question of the Day 
What is the difference between symbiosis and commensalism?

Animals Seen Today 
Spider Crab, Sea Squirts, Gulf Stream Flounders, and Bobtail Squid.