Melissa George: Crossing the Line, July 25, 2013

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Melissa George
Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
July 22 – August 9, 2013

Mission:  Pollock Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise:  Gulf of Alaska
Date:  Thursday, July 25, 2013

Current Data From Today’s Cruise 

Weather Data from the Bridge (at 6:00 am Alaska Daylight Time)
Sky Condition:  Fog
Temperature:  12° C
Wind Speed:  11 knots
Barometric Pressure:  1017.5 mb
Humidity:  87%

Sun and Moon Data
Sunrise:  5:51 am
Sunset:  10:40 pm

Moonrise:  10:57 pm (July 24, 2013)
Moonset:  10:37 am

Geographic Coordinates (at 6:00 am Alaska Daylight Time)
Latitude:  58° 30.5′ N
Longitude: 148° 47.7′ W

The ship’s position now can be found by clicking:

Oscar Dyson’s Geographical Position

Science and Technology Log

How can you determine the population size of species?  You could count every member of the population.  This would be the most accurate method, but what if the individuals in the population move around a lot? What if the population is enormous and requires too much time to count each individual?   For example, krill is a small crustacean (usually between 1 and 6 cm long) that accounts for 400-500 million metric tons of biomass in the world’s oceans.  Would you want to count all of the krill in the Gulf of Alaska?

Krill (and a Few Capelin)

Krill (and a Few Capelin)

Often, ocean populations of animals are just too large to count.  Sampling, or collecting a manageable subset of the population and using the information gathered from it to make inferences about the entire population, is a technique that ocean scientists use.   There are a variety of ways to sample.

One method is called mark and recapture.   In this method,  one catches individuals from the population, tags them, and releases them in a certain area.  After a set amount of time, an attempt is made to recapture individuals.  Data are compiled from the recaptures and the population is mathematically calculated.  Tuna populations in some areas are monitored this way;  fishermen are required to report any fish that are recaptured.  (Photo courtesy of Western Fishboat Owners’ Association)

Tuna with Tag Locations

Tuna with Tag Locations

Another method is quadrat sampling.  The organisms in a subset area (quadrat) are counted and then the overall population in the entire area is calculated.  For example, in the picture below, one quadrat would be randomly selected and the organisms counted.  From this count the overall population would be extrapolated.  (Photo courtesy of BBC Bitesize Biology)

Quadrat Sampling

Quadrat Sampling

The sampling method used on the Oscar Dyson employs the use of a transect line.  The picture below illustrates the use of a transect line.  On various increments along the transect line, samples of populations are taken.  Imagine the Oscar Dyson’s path  on the sea as the measuring tape and the trawl net is the sampling square.  (Photo courtesy of Census of Marine Life Organization)

Transect Line Sampling

Transect Line Sampling

The overall survey area of the pollock study this summer is the northern Gulf of Alaska between the shore and the continental break.  Within this area transect lines were established.  These are pathways that the Oscar Dyson will travel along and periodically take samples of the fish.

The current set of transects are 25 nautical miles apart and are parallel, but transects in other areas may be 2 or 5 nautical miles apart.  One nautical mile is equal to 1/60 of a degree (or 1 minute ) of latitude. Transects that we are following now are located on the shelf and are perpendicular to the coastline.  Transects in inlets and bays may run differently, perhaps even zigzag.

Screen Shot of Oscar Dyson Transect Line Travel

Screen Shot of Oscar Dyson Transect Line Travel

If fish are located through acoustics monitoring off the transect line,  the ship might break transect (a mark is made on the map), circle around to the desirable position, and collect a sample by trawling.  The population of pollock can then be mathematically calculated from counting the sample.  After trawling, the ship will return to the break and continue along the transect line.

Most days, scientists hope that the Oscar Dyson will finish a transect line by nightfall and then the ship can be at the next transect by sunrise.  This maximizes the time for detecting fish acoustically and trawling to collect samples.

Personal Log: 

In his 1943 paper “A Theory of Human Motivation,” Abraham Maslow, a developmental psychologist, proposed a hierarchy of needs which focus on describing the stages of growth in humans.  The largest, most fundamental needs are at the bottom, and as those are satisfied, individuals are able to progress up the pyramid.  So, I am going to use this diagram (somewhat tongue-in-cheek) to discuss how  basic needs are met on the ship.  In today’s blog, I will begin the discussion at the bottom level (where else?).
A Version of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

A Version of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

The bottom layer includes the most basic physiological needs one requires for survival:  food, water, warmth, and rest.  (We might also include exercise in this level).   So, let us begin at the beginning.
Food

Food is available in the galley.  It is planned for and shopped for before the mission.  Chief Steward, Ava, and Second Cook, Adam, do an excellent job preparing and executing delicious, healthy meals at set times during the day (Breakfast: 7 to 8 am, Lunch 11 am to noon, Dinner 5 to 6 pm). Since the staff on the ship are working around the clock, there is always food available (salad bar, cereal, yogurt, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches) if meal time is missed for sleeping.  Below is a photo of the galley.  (What are those neon yellow things on the bottom of the chair legs for, do you think?)

Oscar Dyson Galley

Oscar Dyson Galley

Water

Water is needed for in several capacities on the ship.  The staff on the ship needs potable water to drink and to cook with.  Additionally,  water is needed for washing dishes, bathing, flushing toilets and doing laundry.

To get clean drinking water, we pump the salt water from the ocean into a desalination unit (a distiller). The distilled water is then sent to a 10,000 gallon holding tank. When water is needed, it is pressurized so that it will move to the faucets, drinking fountains, showers, and so on.

Water is also needed on the ship in the lab and on the deck to clean up after the catch is hauled in and processed.   The water used here is salt water and is pumped onto the boat directly from the ocean.

Rest

Half of the staff on the ship is working around the clock; the other half is resting.   For the science staff, there are two shifts, a morning shift (4 am to 4 pm) and an evening shift (4 pm to 4 am).  The shifts are staggered at these hours so that the evening shift will be able to share two meals with the rest of the staff (usually lunch and dinner).  In most cases, two people share a stateroom:  one works days and the other works nights.  Because the quarters are close on a ship, this gives each person some time alone in the room to sleep, bathe, and take care of other personal needs.  A stateroom consists of a bunk bed, a desk, two lockers, and a bathroom/shower.  Below are some photos of the stateroom that I share with my roommate, Abby.  (Note:  Because rooms are small and space is shared, it is not advisable to bring a large purple suitcase that won’t fit inside one’s locker.)

Oscar Dyson Stateroom

Oscar Dyson Stateroom

Oscar Dyson Stateroom Bath

Oscar Dyson Stateroom Bath

Exercise

There are two workout areas on the ship.  One workout area has a treadmill, an elliptical machine, a bike, and a yoga mat; the other has a treadmill, a rowing machine, and some free weights.  There are limited walking spaces on the ship, so these machines provide a way to stretch one’s legs, so to speak.

Oscar Dyson's Exercise Room

Oscar Dyson’s Exercise Room

 
Did you Know?
With a bachelor’s degree in science, math, or engineering and a 6 month training program at the US Coast Guard Academy in New London, CT, one can serve the United States as a member of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Commissioned Officer Corps (NOAA Corps).  Members of the NOAA Corps serve as operational experts, taking researchers to sea and helping to generate environmental intelligence.  My roommate, Abby, serves as a member of the NOAA Corps.
Abby Controlling the Oscar Dyson

Abby Controlling the Oscar Dyson

This is Abby’s second cruise with the NOAA Corps.  She has a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and just completed her NOAA officer basic training.  One of her tasks is to be ready to deploy specific measures in case of a fire on board.  Below, she is reviewing all of the locations on the Oscar Dyson with fire response equipment.  For more information on NOAA Corps, click on the link.
Abby Locating Fire Response Equipment

Abby Locating Fire Response Equipment

Something to Think About
Knowing geography is essential to various positions on the ships such as scientific exploration and navigation.  Many types of maps are seen on board, for example, computer generated bathymetric maps show the contour and depth of the ocean.  Equally valuable are the “old school” tools (paper maps, compasses, straight edges, and pencils) used to plot the ship’s course.
Navigation Tools

Navigation Tools

Plotting Transects

Plotting Transects

Fun Fact

Etymology is the study of the origin of words.  Many of the words in science originate from ancient languages such as Greek or Latin.   For example, the word etymology comes to us from two Greek words: etymon meaning “the true sense of a word combined with  logia meaning “doctrine, study.” Combining these two roots gives us “the study of the true sense of words,” which can be said to be the meaning of the word etymology.

Here are some root words I came across today all originating from Greek words:

zoo-from zoion meaning “animal”

phyto-from phyto meaning “plant”

plankton-from planktos meaning “drifting” or “wandering”

vorous-from vorous meaning “eating”

In the blogs thus far, I have discussed two species:  walleye pollock and one of their prey, krill.  Krill are classified as zooplankton, literally “animals that drift. ” Krill eat phytoplankton, or “animals that drift.”  Pollock are considered to be zooplanktivorous, or “drifting animal eaters.”  An award winning short video explaining The Secret Life of Plankton can be viewed by clicking on the link.

Marla Crouch: I Bid You Adieu, July 14, 2013

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Marla Crouch
Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
June 8-26, 2013 
 

Mission:  Pollock Survey
Geographical area of cruise:  Gulf of Alaska
Date: July 14, 2013

Weather Data from the Bridge: as of 1700
Wind Speed 6.02 kts
Air Temperature 52.10°C
Relative Humidity 100.00%
Barometric Pressure 1,024.60  mb

Latitude:  57.16N   Longitude: 151.78W

Science and Technology Log

The 2013 Walleye Pollock Survey extends from the Isles of Four Mountains to Yakutat, Alaska.  As the crow flies that is a distance of 2371 statute miles.  By the time the Oscar Dyson reaches Yakutat the distance traveled will be over three times that distance.  The survey is completed in three segments, called legs; during the first leg of the survey we traveled 3448 nmi.  A nautical mile is longer than a statute mile, 1 nmi is equivalent to 1.15 statute mile.

Map of the Alaskan Coastline

Map of the Alaskan Coastline

When we were surveying the waters around the Shumigan Islands we frequently encountered large schools of juvenile pollock, identified as age 1.   I asked Patrick Ressler, the lead scientist on this leg, if this was a nursery area.  Patrick indicated that the science team would need to go back and review the data collected on previous surveys to determine if there was sufficient evidence to make that determination.  The high number of age 1 pollock is a good sign that the fish stocks are healthy.

In my “Gumbi Marla” blog I talked about NOAA’s Ship Tracker and the transects, or the course, the ship navigates during the survey.  Surveys are completed during daylight hours, as the pollock behave differently at night, by changing the depth at which they swim.  When the acoustics data show a school of pollock that the science team wants to fish the position is recorded and the science team communicates with the Dyson’s bridge officer about when they can safely return to the specific position to trawl the area.  When the bridge crew is ready to leave the current transect they contact the science team, the science team then records the time and the exact position where the Dyson left transect.  After the trawl is completed the Dyson returns to the exact position they left transect to continue the survey.  During night time hours one of the scheduled tasks was to use the camera to review areas of the sea floor that had previously been deemed “untrawlable” as the seafloor was to rocky and would snag or tear the nets.

One type of gas that is trapped in Earth’s lithosphere is methane.  Methane escapes the lithosphere under the seafloor through vents and along fault lines.  The screen shot of the acoustics monitor shows vertical columns believed to be methane.  One theory about the Bermuda Triangle is a massive release of methane that creates a massive bubble.  When the bubble bursts objects in the immediate area are sucked into the momentary void created by the bubble, and swallowed by the sea.

Acoustic image of probable methane seepage.

Acoustic image of probable methane seepage.

Personal Log

Trees, there are trees on Kodiak!  I saw trees for the first time in 18 days, and I realize that I have missed seeing trees.  It’s interesting that the first three people I talk to as we approach the island of Kodiak all ask if I saw the trees.  I guess I’m not the only one that has missed seeing trees.  Sometimes the simplest observation makes the biggest impression.

Thank you to the crew of the Oscar Dyson and Science Team and to NOAA for giving me a phenomenal experience with the Teacher at Sea Program. Many students will benefit from my experiences.  Pictured is the Science Team from Leg 1 of the Pacific Walleye Pollock Survey, from left to right:  Lead Scientist Patrick Ressler, Taina Honkelehto, Kresimir Williams, Rick Towler, Abigail McCarthy, Marla Crouch (that’s me), behind me is Charles Andersen and Mike Gallagher.

Science Team

Science Team

There were so many great experiences; I hope you enjoy the video giving you glimpses into the science, technology, sights and the Oscar Dyson.

 Thanks to everyone that made my experience possible!

Obed Fulcar, July 26, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea Obed Fulcar
NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
July 27, 2010 – August 8, 2010

Mission:Summer Pollock survey III
Geograpical Area:Bering Sea, Alaska
Date:July 26, 2010

Weather from the Bridge: 

Time: 04:18 am
Latitude:60.02 N
Longitude:176.59 W
Wind Speed:15.2 knots
Wind Direction:180 degrees South
Sea Temperature:9.2 C (48.56 F)
Air Temperature:8.2 C (46.76 F)
Barometric Pressure: 1009.7 mb
Cloudy Skies

SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY LOG:
The purpose of this mission aboard the Oscar Dyson is for a team of scientists to conduct a survey of the Bering Sea Walleye Pollock population, in oder to help the government establish sustainable commercial fishing quotas that will allow to manage a healthy population of this abundant, but yet fragile species. In order to carry the Pollock survey it is necessary to perform a combined Acoustic -Trawl Survey where acoustic data is collected along a line transect and then a Trawl (net) is used to catch a sample quantity of the fish observed in the acoustic data.

Acoustics Lab

Acoustics Lab

In the Acoustic Lab there are a number of video monitors displaying several screens. Taina Honkalehto, the Chief Scientist of the Oscar Dyson explained to us how the acoustic sonar operates. First the acoustic survey relies on Sonar technology where it sends an acoustic “ping” powerful enough to detect fish at any depths. It travel back and forth between the bottom and the surface of the ocean, and its signature then registered on a video screen, allowing us to “see” where the fish are and the precise location. One screen shows an actual graph, or “echogram”, displaying several layers at different depths in colors ranging from gray, blue, green, yellow, orange to red. The dark red color represented the ocean floor, and the green/blue dots represented the fish. The darker the color, the more dense were the objects. Another sceen showed the location of the ship on a Nautical Topographic Map, including a red line showing transects (line routes) followed by the ship., as well as icons showing the points where the fish has been detected along the way. Tainathen uses this constant information to decide how to instruct the bridge into when where to position the ship in order to launch thetrawl net.

transect lines

Transect Lines

The trawl net used is known as an Aleutian Wing Trawl (AWT). It is equipped with specialized sensors that show in the video monitor where the fish are in relation to the net. Once the trawl is finished the net is then hauled back and the contents spread on deck for sorting out and identification. Target species such as the Walleye Pollock will be separated to be measured and weight then released overboard. Some of the catch will be kept for dissection to determine the sex, and to determine the age by studying the Ear bone or Otholith,that registers the gowth of the fish by marking each year with a dark ring, just like the growth rings on a tree. The otolith, stomach contents, and sample fish are carefully placed in vials, mesh and ziploc bags to be sent to NOAA’s Alaska Fisheries Science Center in Seattle for laboratory analysis. all this information will tell us how healthy is the Pollock population o the Bering sea, and help determine commercial fishing quotas for next year’s fishing season.

Video Monitor

Video Monitor

PERSONAL LOG:

I could not help to think about the amount of technology involved in the Pollock survey. I am pretty sure that Mr.Sanchez, my school technology teacher would be excited to see all the servers, CPUs, monitors, and all the coputer harware and gear used around here onboard the Oscar Dyson. I believe that the middle school students of the Maria Teresa Mirabal school MS319 will be right at home, since they are accustomed to used technology as part their everyday school work. From getting their password to log on into the school website network, using Netbooks for interactive podcast lessons, to taking online reading comprehension quizzes, these are part of a technology rich learning environment. Technology literacy is basic for a 21st Century education. But technology alone is not enough if we don’t tech the kids how to apply it in the real world. One example of the importance of using mathematical skills in the real world is best demonstrated in the Acoustic survey when calculating the estimated size of the fish that appears as dots on the Acoustic radar screen. The sonar software allows to isolate the fish by scanning a selected area of the monitor display and calculating the average decibel (sound unit) value per dot representing a fish. Knowing this value we can replace it in a given formula and easily calculate the approximate size of the fish in order to start trawling.

VOCABULARY:
Aleutian (Alaska native group), Dissection, Decibel, Nautical Topographic Map (underwater map of the ocean floor), Otolith, Transect

Tecnologia en Alta Mar” El proposito de la Mision abordo del Oscar Dyson es la de tomar un muestreo del Pollock o Bacalao para poder determinar que tan robusta esta su poblacion, a fin de poder determinar las cuotas apropiadas a ser dictadas a las flotas de pesca comercial. Para poder hacer este muestreo es necesario el uso de tecnologia de Sonar Acustico en combinacion con el uso de la Red de Arrastre.Todo comienza en el Laboratorio Acustico donde un numero de pantallas de monitor muestran diferentes imagenes. Taina Honkalehto, la Cientifico en Jefe del Oscar Dyson, nos explico que la tecnologia de sonar consiste en enviar un “ping” acustico que es lo suficiente poderoso para viajar de la superficie al fondo del mar de ida y vuelta, penetrando las capas mas profundas. La onda acustica que es reflejada es pues registrada en las pantallas permitiendonos ver una imagen de la ubicacion de los peces, y la precisa profundidad. Una pantalla nos muestra una grafica en tiempo real con lineas de diferentes colores que van del gris, azul, verde, amarillo, hasta el rojo que representa el fondo del mar. Otra pantalla nos muestra un Mapa Topografico Nautico que incluye una linea roja mostrando la linea de transeccion o el curso que sigue la nave. Con toda esta informacion Taina puede instruir al puente sobre que ruta de navegacion debe tomar la nave a fin de hacer la pesca. La red de Arrastre Aleutina, empleada en el muestreo, esta equipada con sensores especiales que indican en la pantalla la ubicacion de los peces en todo tempo. Realmente tienen la pesca totalmente calculada a lo mas minimo! Tan pronto se termina la pesca, el contenido de la red es pues depositado en la cubierta donde los peces seran separados para ser medidos y disecados a fin de averiguar el sexo y la edad. Muestras del contenido del estomago, y especimenes seran recogidos a fin de enviarlos a los laboratorios de NOAA en Seattle para determinar si la poblacion estara optima para la peca de la proxima estacion.

Michele Brustolon, July 10, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Michele Brustolon
Onboard NOAA Oscar Dyson
June 28 – July, 2010

NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
Mission: Pollock Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Eastern Bering Sea (Dutch Harbor)
Date: July 10, 2010

Weather Data from the Bridge

Time: 1400
Latitude: 59.12N
Longitude: 174.02W
Cloud Cover: 5/8
Wind: 17 knots
Air Temperature: 8.00 C/ 460 F
Water Temperature: 7.00 C/ 450 F
Barometric Pressure: 1006.9 mb

Science and Technology Log

Weather, weather everywhere!
Aside from weather helping you decide what to wear for the day, weather is critical on board a research vessel. Each hour the bridge collects the same data that is then input into the AMVER Sea system and sent to NOAA Weather. Some of the information included is: time, latitude, longitude, cloud cover, air and water temperatures, wind, barometric pressure, visibility, and swell height. This helps determine our exact location (check out shiptracker.noaa.gov) as well as the weather at sea and also weather inland. It is not uncommon for marine weather systems to move inland. This information also helps us understand long term climate changes, precipitation, and ocean currents.

Exactly where are we?
The latitude and longitude help determine the position of the ship and the time is recorded to understand how the ship is moving and in what direction. This allows the scientists to follow the transects to conduct their research. If I told you at 1500 hours (3pm) our mark was 58.00N and 171.48W, you would be able to pinpoint our location on a map. Our latitude so far on this trip (July 7th) has been in the range of 56.12N-58.69N depending on the transect that we are following and the longitudes’ range is between 170.01W-171.48W.

Transect lines for Leg II onboard Oscar Dyson

It’s cloudy again?
It tends to be quite cloudy and foggy here in the Bering Sea and cloud cover is measured in eighths of the sky. For example, on July 6th the cloud cover at 1500 hours was 7/8 which means that 87.5% of the sky was filled with clouds. Cloud type and location can help predict the type of weather. The majority of our days have been 8/8 or 100% cloud cover with stratus clouds and lots of moisture in the air.

Stratus Clouds

This is definitely not the heat wave they are getting back home!
This brings us to air temperature and wind. The temperature is always taken on the windward side of the ship because this is the side of the ship in the stream of air fresh from the sea that has not been in contact with or passed over the ship. There are two types of thermometers in each case on the deck in front of the bridge. The dry bulb measures the air temperature and the wet bulb has a muslin wick which absorbs heat from the thermometer. The temperature difference between the two, called the depression of the wet bulb, can help determine what the percent humidity is by referring to the humidity chart. Wind can affect these readings which is why there are thermometers on either side of the bridge. The wind direction is logged as the same direction from which the sea waves are coming. Average temperature through July 7th for Leg II has been 5.680C/420F with winds averaging 10.29 knots.

The weather mentioned has been the trend for Leg II; however, this could be changing by the end of the week…stay tuned!

Wet and dry bulb thermometers

Hold on tight!

It’s July 10 and we are still waiting for the big seas to hit us. (not that I am complaining about calm weather!) The swells have gotten larger and the wind definitely picked up yesterday. The strongest wind recorded yesterday was 26 knots while on my shift. There is still a chance for NW sustained winds up to 25 knots and 10 foot seas before the weekend is up. Part of the reason for calmer seas yesterday was that we were so far north and the low pressure system was to the south of us. It was actually the farthest north I have ever been, and we will go even farther north before it is time to head back to Dutch Harbor.

Weather forecast

Personal Log

While we have had some quiet days, the fishing has been picking up. Unfortunately, the fish seem to be accessible more for the night crew than our shift. For example, we may fish once in a twelve hour shift, but the night crew may fish 2-3 times! We did have a couple of fishing mornings where there was enough time for a quick coffee and piece of toast and then on to the wet lab. Let me paint a picture for you… its 0430, the four of us (Abigail, Katie, Rebecca, and I) are keeping the beat to the tunes on the iPod of choice for the day in our full foul weather gear while we sort, sex, weigh, and find the lengths of pollock. It’s quite the jam session- all before breakfast! It may seem like a strange way to start the day, but it’s pretty cool!

Pollock on the sorting table

Processing Pollock: we record data about length, weight, stomachs, and otoliths.

Another benefit to having the day shift is that I was able to experience sunset as I looked west (off the port side of the ship) from my stateroom at 0330 and by the time we finished fishing at 0645, the sun was rising! Between 0400 and 0700 is one of the quieter times during my shift. It is a good time to get laundry done, regroup for the day, and one of the most peaceful places to go is the bridge. As you finish climbing the stairs you enter the darkness of the bridge; no fluorescent or incandescent lights staring you in the face. Even the headlamps worn and the covered monitors are red. I found myself closing my eyes and rocking as the boat swayed back and forth. Definitely a different atmosphere then being in the wet lab processing fish. This of course all changes after breakfast when more people are up for their shift. I find it amazing how many different environments there are on one ship throughout a day.

Sunset: 0400

Sunrise: 0645

The bridge at sunrise

Another new experience for me occurred by the time I made it to the Acoustics lab on Friday morning. The echo sounder was already in the water collecting data. The advantage of this single transducer is that it has the ability to be dropped closer to the fish (about 50m) to allow for more precise data. It still functions like the transducers that are on the centerboard of the ship: sending “pings” or sound waves and recording target strength. The transducers that do not interfere with the echo sounder continue to collect the same data but from farther away (around 80m), and then the two sets of data can be compared. There is also a small CTD that is attached to the unit. To make it even better, I was able to see the North Star and the moon while on the deck where the echo sounder comes on board!

The echo sounder

This might be too much excitement for some of you, but like I said before I need things to do. This brings me to the new challenge on the ship; Ensign Amber Payne spearheaded a “European Challenge of the Century.” It is a series of exercise challenges that include all members on board the Oscar Dyson. Now, this challenge continues throughout this season which ends in October, so the scientists (that’s me!) were randomly placed on teams to contribute while onboard. Even before the challenge, Abigail, Katie, Rebecca, and I have made a habit of heading to one of the two gyms to rip it up while blasting tunes. That’s right- two gyms on this ship! You can chose to run, bike, row, lift, and there are plenty of other options as well. Even though the gym has become part of my daily routine and running on a boat MUST burn more calories than on land, I don’t think it has been enough with Ray’s cooking. It’s like eating out at your favorite restaurant EVERY day!

Animals seen
Chrysaora melanaster
pollock (1-2 years)
fulmars
murres
puffin

Word of the day
guile: deceit

New Vocabulary
barometric pressure: the downward force that the atmosphere exerts per unit of a certain area.
swell height: measure of wind waves generated locally; vertical distance between trough and crest
muslin wick: plain woven cotton fabric
humidity: the amount of moisture in the air
gale force winds: strong winds between 28-47 knots
target strength: strength of the sound waves returning after reaching the fish

Anne Marie Wotkyns, July 8, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Anne Marie Wotkyns
Onboard NOAA Ship Pisces
July 7-13, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea: Anne Marie Wotkyns
NOAA Ship Pisces
Mission: Reef Fish Survey
Geographic Area: Gulf of Mexico
Date: Thursday, July 8, 2010

Weather Data from the Bridge

Wind: 7-9 mph
Other Weather Features:
Sunny, scattered light clouds
Waves 1’; Swells 3-4’
Location: 28.37.2 N
089.33 W

Science and Technology Log

Hello, my name is Anne Marie Wotkyns and I am participating in the NOAA Teacher at Sea program. I teach 4th grade at J.B. Monlux Magnet School in North Hollywood, California. I joined the NOAA ship Pisces on the evening of July 6 to begin a 6 day cruise in the Gulf of Mexico. I will be posting logs to share the information I learn and the experience of working aboard a scientific research vessel. We will be working on the SEAMAP Reef Fish Survey of Offshore Banks, a project which provides information about the relative abundance of fish species associated with geographic features such as banks and ledges on the continental shelf of the Gulf of Mexico. I’ll be explaining this project more in my next log entry.

Me in front of the Pisces

Me in front of the Pisces

After meeting the other Teacher at Sea, Liz Warren and bird expert Scott Mills, at the Gulfport Mississippi Airport, we were driven to the NOAA docks in Pascagoula, Mississippi. It was quite late when we boarded the Pisces, so we found the cabin Liz and I would share, explored the ship a bit, and turned in for the night.

Wednesday, July 7 found us eager to get started on our TAS adventure. We started the day at the NOAA office and lab building, adjacent to the ship docks. There we met Kevin Rademacher, Chief Scientist for the SEAMAP (Southeast Area Monitoring and Assessment Program) offshore reef fish survey which we will be participating in on our cruise. He showed us around the NOAA facilities, which house the Southeast Marine Fisheries Offices, Seafood Inspection, and Documentation Approval and Supply Services. The fisheries division deals with resources surveys, harvesting, and engineering related to commercial fishing. The seafood inspection division deals with issues related to seafood safety and chemical and microbiological analysis of seafood. These labs can help determine if the “red snapper” your favorite restaurant serves is really red snapper or a different type of fish! This division will also be testing some of the fish we collect on our cruise for baseline data on fish from areas outside the oil spill for possible later comparison to fish collected within the spill zone.

Me in Front of the Southwest Fisheries Building

Me in Front of the Southwest Fisheries Building

Now a little more about the Pisces, my home away from home for the next 6 days. The Pisces was commissioned in 2009 and is one of NOAA’s newest ships. She is 63.8 meters (209 feet) long, 15 meters (49.2 feet) wide, and has a draft of 6 meters (19.4 feet.) Her cruising speed is 14.5 knots and she can stay out to sea for 40 days if necessary. On this cruise there are 22 crew comprised of a commanding officer, deck officers, engineering officers, deck hands, engineers, stewards, and survey and electronic technicians. There are 6 on our science team and 2 bird observers conducting surveys of pelagic seabirds possibly affected by the oil spill.

NOAA Ship Pisces

NOAA Ship Pisces

After we set sail on Tuesday afternoon, we spent much of the late afternoon up on the flying bridge, the highest deck on the ship. We observed a wide variety of boats and ships in the channels around Pascagoula Bay. Scott and Ron, the bird observers, helped us identify the bird species we saw, including Brown Pelicans, Laughing Gulls, and Sandwich Terns. We also saw several Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin swimming near the ship. Soon the seas grew rougher and after dinner and a short welcome meeting, we retired to our cabins for the night.

Wednesday morning brought calmer seas, and the start of “science “ on board the Pisces. Before we reached the areas selected for the SEAMAP fish surveys, Chief Scientist Kevin Rademacher wanted to conduct bathymetric mapping of an area called Sackett Bank, off the coast of Lousiana. This involves sailing the ship in a series of overlapping transects 1.6 miles long, .05 miles apart, similar to “mowing your lawn” at home. The ME70 multibeam acoustic system covers a swath of 120 degrees using 27 beams which can detect and map features on the sea floor down to .5 meters in size. This will allow NOAA to produce highly accurate nautical charts of the region. The charts will eventually be available to commercial and sport fishermen, sailors, shipping companies, and anyone else who is interested.

Mapping Sackett Bank

Mapping Sackett Bank

When a ship is conducting activities like this bathymetric mapping or other “Restricted Mobility and Manuevers” work, they hoist a nylon “Ball-Diamond-Ball” to notify other ships in the area that it is restricted in its movement so the other ships can change their course. This message is also sent electronically by VHF radio signal. I happened to be on the bridge while they prepared to start the first transect, so Commanding Officer (CO) Jeremy Adams let me hoist the ball-diamond-ball.

Hoisting the ball-diamond-ball

Ball-diamond-ball

    Hoisting the ball-diamond-ball

Hoisting the ball-diamond-ball

Transect Lines

Transect Lines

In this photo, the green boat indicates the position of the Pisces as we conduct the mapping transects.

Tomorrow the plans are to begin the SEAMAP reef fish surveys, “one hour after sunrise” – looks like we’ll be working from about 7 am to 7 pm with the fish! Bring it on!!

Personal Log

After submitting Teacher at Sea applications for 3 years (the first 2 years I was not selected) I am thrilled to be here! The opportunity to participate in a cruise like this on such an amazing ship is truly a once in a lifetime experience!

Here are a few more pictures of life aboard the Pisces.

Stateroom

Stateroom

Desk

Desk

Galley

Galley

Our cabin is a little small, but very clean and functional. Liz volunteered to take the top bunk, so I have the bottom. I love the little curtains that can enclose the bunk – makes a dark little “cave” for me! And the reading lamp lets me read late at night! We have a flatscreen TV, but so far we have only been able to watch the USA network – one channel only. But we don’t spend much time in the cabin anyway. The bathroom is very similar to a cruise ship bathroom, and the shower has great water pressure – however the ship is under water conservation so showers need to be quick. Notice we’re eating on paper plates with plastic utensils. No dishwashing either! After the ship moves farther from the oil spill they will able to use their salt water to fresh water conversion process and we’ll be able to use water more freely.

Pascy chooses his dinner in the “mess” – sorry – no fish!

In Pascagoula I purchased a small stuffed penguin and named him “Pascy” (for Pasacagoula.) Pascy has been exploring the Pisces so here are some shots of him around the ship!

Pascy helps check off each transect in the acoustics lab.

A little coffee is always good in the morning.

The cookies here are great!

Another big event today was the fire drill and abandon ship drill. We were assigned “muster stations”, places we would go to in event of an emergency. Part of the drill was to practice donning our “survival suits” – one piece insulated buoyant suits that would keep us afloat and warm if we ever had to abandon ship. The hardest part of the drill was getting the awkward suit on and off – they seem to be one-size-fits all and I seem to be smaller than most sailors!

Even Pascy got to participate in the drill! I don’t think he need to worry about staying afloat or warm in the water! Good thing, because that lifejacket looks a little big!

Immersion suit

Immersion suit

Me in my Gumby Suit

Me in my Gumby Suit

Deborah Moraga, June 21, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea Log: Deborah Moraga
NOAA Ship: Fulmar
Cruise Dates: July 20‐28, 2010

Mission: ACCESS
(Applied California Current Ecosystem Studies)
Geographical area of cruise: Cordell Bank, Gulf of the Farallones and Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuaries
Date: June 21, 2010

The R/V Fulmar

Overview
The R/V Fulmar sets out from the dock early each morning. This ACCESS cruise has 5 members of the scientific team and myself (the NOAA Teacher at Sea.) There are two crew members for a total 8 people onboard.

The three central California National Marine Sanctuaries and the ports where the R/V Fulmar docks

The three central California National Marine Sanctuaries and the ports where the R/V Fulmar docks

Applied California Current Ecosystem Studies

Applied California Current Ecosystem Studies

National Marine Sanctuaries

National Marine Sanctuaries

ACCESS is an acronym for Applied California Current Ecosystem Studies. This is a partnership between PRBO Conservation Science, Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary and the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary. These groups of conservation scientists are working together to better understand the impacts that different organisms have on the marine ecosystem off the coast of central California.

Immersion suit for safety

They do this so that policy makers (government groups) have the most accurate data to help them make informed decisions on how the productive waters off the coast can be a resource for us and still protect the wildlife. You can read a more in depth explanation at http://www.accessoceans.org

Flying Bridge

The R/V Fulmar is a 67 foot Marine Grade Aluminum catamaran (a multi hulled vessel.) This vessel can travel 400 miles before refueling and can reach 27 knots (30 miles per hour) with a cruising speed of 22 knots (25.3 miles per hour.) Although that may sound slow compared to the cars we drive… you have to take into account that there can be 10 foot waves to go over out on the ocean.

The Fulmar’s homeport (where the boat ties up to dock most of the time) is in Monterey Bay, CA. For this cruise we will come into port (dock) in Bodega Bay, Sausalito, and Half Moon Bay. Each morning the crew wakes up an hour before the time we start out for the day. They check the oil and look over the engines, start the engines, disconnect the shore power and get the boat ready to sail out for a ten hour day.

Today (July 23, 2010) we left at 0700 (7:00 a.m.) out of Bodega Bay. Bodega Bay is on the coast of Sonoma county, California. It is from Bodega Bay that we will travel offshore to the “lines” that we will be surveying. Today we will survey lines one and two.

Then after the day’s work is done, we will sail into port, tie up to the dock and have dinner. The scientists and crew members sleep on the boat in the berths (bunks) that are located in the hulls of the boat.

Surveys
“Okay, take a survey of the types of pets your classmates have at home. Then create a graph.” How many times have math teachers assigned that assignment and expected that students knew how to survey? Today I received firsthand knowledge of how a survey takes place.

Marine scientist scanning for wildlife

Up on the flying bridge (about 5.5 meters from the surface of the ocean) scientists are surveying birds and marine mammals. There is a protocol that each follows. Here, the protocol is basically a list of agreed upon rules on how to count the marine life seen on the ocean. One researcher inputs the data into a waterproof laptop…imagine chilling at the pool and being able to surf the web! There are other researchers sitting alongside and calling out the types of birds and marine mammals they see. The researchers surveying the birds and mammals use not only their eyes but also binoculars.

Krill collected by the Trucker Trawl

After the researcher spots and identifies the birds or mammals, they call out their findings to the recording scientist in a code like fashion, doing this allows for the data to be inputted faster. The team can travel miles without Krill collected by the Trucker Trawl Researcher recording observations on the flying bridge Pacific White Sided dolphins bow riding seeing any organisms or there may be so many that the scientist at the laptop has a tough time keeping up. In this case the surveying scientist may have to write down their findings and report them when there is a break in the action.

Imagine that you are driving down the highway with your family. You have been asked to count the number humans, cows, horses, goats, dogs, cats, cars or trash on your trip. How would you make sure that your family members didn’t double count and still record all that you see? This is where protocols (instruction/rules) come in. So, let us say that you are behind the driver, and your brother or sister is in the backseat next to the window. There is also a family member in the passenger seat up front (yeah they called ‘shot gun’ before you did.) This is much like the seating arrangement on the flying bridge of the R/V Fulmar.

Researcher recording observations on the flying bridge

So how could you split up the road and area around the road so that you do not count something twice? You could split the area that you see into two parts. Take your left arm and stick it straight out the window. Have your sister/brother stick their right arm out their side window. If we drew an arc from your arm to your sibling’s arm it would be 180 degrees. Of the 180 degree arc, you are responsible for counting everything from your arm to the middle of the windshield. So, you are responsible for 90 degrees and your sibling has the other 90 degrees from the middle of the windshield to their arm.

Pacific White Sided dolphins bow riding

Once you start counting you need to record the data you are collecting. Can you write and count at the same time? Not very well, so we need someone to record the data. There are actually a lot of points of data that you need to enter.

You need to tell the recorder…
• Cue: How did you see the item you are counting?
• Method: Were you searching by eye or using a pair of binoculars?
• Bearing: The angle that the item is from the car as related to the front of the car.
• Reticle: How far the item was from your car when you first observed it (you would use your binoculars for this measurement).
• Which side of the car are you on and who is dong the observing?
• Behavior: What was the organism doing when you spotted it? Was it traveling, feeding or milling (just hanging out)?

Deploying the CTD

You also have to determine the age and sex of the organism. You need to record the species of the organism and how many you observed.
Now that is all for the species above the ground… what would you do for the animals below the road surface? On the R/V Fulmar they collect species from below the surface of the ocean and data about the water. They do this several different ways…

Bringing in the Hoop Net

1. CTD: Conductivity, Temperature, and Depth. This is a tool that records the physical properties of the ocean. It records…

a. Salinity (amount of salt in the water)
b. Temperature (how hot or cold the water is)
c. Depth (how far the instrument travels below the surface)
d. How much chlorophyll is in the water
e. Turbidity (how murky or clear the water is)
f. How much oxygen is in the water

Deploying the Tucker Trawl

2. Hoop Net: Looks like a very heavy hula hoop. Except this hoop has a cone shaped cylinder made of fine mesh attached to it. At the apex of the cone, a small PVC container, called a cod end, is attached. Zooplankton (tiny swimming animals) and some phytoplankton (tiny marine plants) are funneled into the cod end of the net as it is towed behind the boat. When the net comes back to the boat, the researchers take off the cod end and use this sample of organisms.

Collecting data from the CTD

3. Tucker Trawl: Is like three hoop nets attached together. The cool thing about this big net is that the scientists can close each net at different depths. As Map of the transect lines Retrieving the Hoop Net Phytoplankton Net the net is towed behind the boat they “close” each net to capture zooplankton at different depths. The tucker trawl is used primarily to collect krill

Map of the transect lines

Transects
Have you ever lost something in your room? Perhaps it was your homework? The bus is coming and you have to find your binder. So you start tearing your room apart. By the time the bus is five minutes away… you room looks like a disaster and you can’t remember where exactly you have looked and yet, still no binder.
Imagine a group of scientists 30 miles offshore, doing that same type of “looking” for organisms, with the captain piloting (driving) the boat any which way. Just like your binder that was missed when you were looking for it, number and location of organisms in parts of the ocean would be missing from the data set.

Retrieving the Hoop Net

So if you wanted a systematic way to look for your homework that is lost in your room, you would imagine a grid. You would have lines running from one wall to another. These lines would be parallel to each other. You would walk along the line looking for you binder. When you came to the end of the line (at your wall) you would then start on another line. By walking back and forth in your room in this systematic way, you will not miss any part of your room.

Phytoplankton Net

You have just traveled along a transect line. A transect is a path you travel and as you do you are counting and recording data. On the R/V Fulmar, scientists are counting birds, marine mammals, and collecting krill. By counting how many and what kinds of organisms are along the transect line, scientists will be able to calculate the density of organisms in a given area. There are several different types on lines that we survey. There are the near shore transects…which extend 12 kilometers from the shore (that is as long as running back a forth a football field 131 times). Offshore lines are 50 to 60 kilometers from the coast. Imagine how many football fields that would be!

Bow of R/V Fulmar

Density… Take your right hand and put it in your right front pocket of your pants and pull out all the coins you have in your pocket. Looking down at your hand you count 10 dimes. Now do the same for your left hand. You found you have two dimes. The “area” those coins were located is equal… meaning your pockets are the same size. The density of coins in your pockets is greater in your right pocket because there are more coins per square inch than in your left pocket.

Humpback Whale

The researchers on the ACCESS cruise use the data they have collected out in the field (in this case the field is the three central California National Marine Sanctuaries) to calculate the density of the organisms they are researching. They are counting and recording the number of organisms and their location so they can create graphs and maps that show the distribution of those organisms in the waters off the coast.

Taking a surface water sample

Why do they need this information? The data starts to paint a picture of the health of the ecosystem in this part of the world. With that information, they can make suggestions as to how resources are used and how to protect the waters off the California coast. By using data that has been collected over many years, suggestions can be made on how the ocean can still be utilized (used) today while insuring that future generations of humans, marine mammals, birds and krill have the same opportunities.

whale breach

whale breach

Miriam Hlawatsch, August 5, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Miriam Hlawatsch
Onboard NOAA Ship Nancy Foster
July 29 – August 10, 2007

Mission: Lionfish Survey
Geographical Area: Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of North Carolina
Date: August 5, 2007

Crew of the NOAA ship NANCY FOSTER deploys a small boat at a pre-marked dive site.

Crew of the NOAA ship NANCY FOSTER deploys a small boat at a pre-marked dive site.

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Visibility: 10 miles
Wind Direction: 0º
Wind Speed: 0
Sea Wave Height: 0 ft.
Swell Wave Height: 2-3 ft.
Seawater Temperature: 29ºC
Sea Level pressure: 1015.5 mb (millibars)
Cloud Cover: 0-1 oktas

Personal Log

The weather continues to be extremely favorable for dive operations and I look forward to assisting as dive tender again tomorrow morning. For the past week, I’ve observed as the NOAA divers and crew of the NANCY FOSTER work together to facilitate the study of lionfish in their watery habitat. Also, I’ve watched with great interest as the divers prepared themselves for their underwater excursions. Having purchased a wet suit in preparation for my Teacher at Sea adventure I thought I had an appreciation for these preparatory activities. Imagine my surprise when Coxswain Leslie Abramson informed me my wetsuit was too big (I couldn’t imagine squeezing into anything smaller). NOAA diver Roger Mays clarified the issue noting, tongue in cheek, that the proper fitting wetsuit should take at least five minutes to put on and the experience should hurt. Obviously there is more to diving than the wetsuit “experience,” so I asked Doug Kesling from NOAA’s Undersea Research Center (NURC) for specific information regarding diver training and specialized equipment.

A team of NOAA divers leaves the NANCY FOSTER. Small boats are used to transport the scientists and their equipment to and from the actual dive sites.

A team of NOAA divers leaves the NANCY FOSTER. Small boats are used to transport the scientists and their equipment to and from the actual dive sites.

Science Log 

Doug Kesling addressed three key components–training, equipment and dive operation procedure. All divers on the NOAA Ship NANCY FOSTER are certified to dive with standard open water SCUBA (Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus) techniques. Additional training in scientific diving research methods is provided by the NOAA Diving Program and the NOAA Undersea Research Program at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. Divers use standard dive equipment that consists of dive mask, fins, snorkel, cylinder, buoyancy compensator, scuba regulator, dive computer and wet suit. Additional tools–tape measures, quadrates, goody bags, video and still photographic equipment–also must be transported by the divers to the sea floor. To conduct their underwater research, the scientists dive to depths of 100 to 120 feet. Prior to each dive, the divers fill their Scuba cylinders with an enriched air nitrox (EANx) mixture to 3500 psig. Each mix must be analyzed to ensure a safe breathing mix for the targeted depth. Compared to tanks of compressed air (21 % oxygen), the enriched mixture enables the scientists to double the amount of time they can spend underwater. In preparation for their dive, divers don wet suits and load their equipment onto the small boats. The boats are lowered from the mother ship onto pre-marked dive sites. Working in buddy teams of two or three, the divers’ underwater work times range from 25 to 30 minutes. To return to the surface divers first ascend to a depth of 20 feet. At this point they conduct a safety stop of three to five minutes to allow off gassing of nitrogen (inert gas) from the body before surfacing. Divers then surface and are recovered by the small boats.  The boats return to the mother ship where they are hoisted back on deck and off loaded.

NOAA diver Roger Mays conducts a safety stop to decompress before surfacing.

NOAA diver Roger Mays conducts a safety stop to decompress before surfacing.

Dive Team A: NOAA divers, Brian Degan, PaulaWhitfield, Doug Kesling, and Wilson Freshwater

Dive Team A: NOAA divers, Brian Degan, PaulaWhitfield, Doug Kesling, and Wilson Freshwater

Dive team B: NOAA Divers Jenny Vander Pluym, Thor Dunmire, and Roldan Muñoz (left) and Dive team C: NOAA divers Brad Teer, Roger Mays, and Tom Potts

Dive team B: NOAA Divers Jenny Vander Pluym, Thor Dunmire, and Roldan Muñoz (left) and Dive team C: NOAA divers Brad Teer, Roger Mays, and Tom Potts (right)