Hayden Roberts: Wet and Wild, July 14, 2019

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Hayden Roberts

Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II

July 8-19, 2019


Mission: Leg III of SEAMAP Summer Groundfish Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico

Date: July 14, 2019

Weather Data from the Bridge:
Latitude: 29.19° N
Longitude: 83.45° W
Wave Height: 1-2 feet
Wind Speed: 10 knots
Wind Direction: 180
Visibility: 10 nm
Air Temperature: 30.5°C
Barometric Pressure: 1019 mb
Sky: Few clouds


Science Log

NOAA Ship Oregon II includes many departments and sections of the ship. As part of the TAS program (Teacher at Sea), I spend most of my time assisting the research team in the wet lab, which occurs in 12-hour shifts. The wet lab is where each catch is brought after it is hauled aboard. The process involves bringing what we find in the trawling net on deck so that we can weigh, sort, count, and measure a subsample of what is found. Fortunately, we do not have to weigh and determine the sex of everything that comes aboard in the net; otherwise, it would take hours when the catch is large. By taking a subsample, fishery biologists can split the catch into percentages depending on the weight of the entire catch and sample size. This subsample’s diversity can then be used as a basis for the entire catch. This conserves our efforts and while still providing an accurate representation of what was caught.

Pulling in the trawling net
Pulling in the trawling net.
Sorting the catch
Opening and sorting the catch.
Wet Lab
Wet Lab aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II.
Sorted samples
Sorted samples ready to be cataloged.

In order to ensure that our leg of the groundfish survey covers the maximum area possible, NOAA uses a method called independent random sampling. A computer program randomly selects stations or research sites based on depth data and spatial area. By choosing random samples independently, fishery biologists can ensure that they have not inadvertently singled out or favored one area over another and that the data collected represents an accurate picture of the fish population in the Gulf. Previous legs of the groundfish survey this summer have focused on research stations along the Texas and Louisiana Gulf coast. Our sampling takes place along the Florida side of the Gulf. The goal is to hit 45-50 research sites during our trip.

So far, I have learned that the eastern side of Gulf can be more challenging to survey than the west. NOAA and its SEAMAP partners have covered less area in the eastern part of the Gulf. While the eastern Gulf is not exactly uncharted waters, NOAA is still perfecting its research techniques in this part of the Gulf. As early as the 1970s, NOAA has surveyed the muddy bottom of the western Gulf off the coast of Texas. In that part of the Gulf, silt from rivers (mostly the Mississippi) makes for a more uniform surface to trawl for fish samples. East of Mobile, Alabama, tends to be rocky and sandy with outcrops of coral and sponge. The craggy surface, while ideal for a host of aquatic species, can create challenges for collecting samples. With each research station we visit on our cruise, we have to be careful not to cause too much damage to the sea floor. Therefore, we have been using a torpedo-shaped probe to scan our trawling paths before we drop the net. While this doubles the time it takes to complete each research station, it does improve our odds of collecting good samples as well as protecting our trawling net from jagged objects that might tear the net.


Did You Know?

A fishery biologist is a scientist who studies fish and their habitats. As biologists, they mostly focus on the behavior of fish in their natural surroundings. Some biologists work mostly in a lab or sorting data in a research facility like NOAA’s office in Pascagoula, but many spend quite a bit of time collecting field samples in various ecological settings. To become a fishery biologist, scientists have to study botany, zoology, fishery management, and wildlife management as a prerequisite to a career in the fish and game biology field. A bachelor’s degree may be acceptable for managerial positions, but many fishery biologists have advanced degrees such as a Master’s or Doctorate.


Personal Log

At the beginning of the cruise, we conducted safety drills aboard Oregon II. Safety drills include fire, man overboard, and abandon ship. Each drill requires the crew to go to various parts of the ship. For fire, the research crew (including myself) heads to the stern (or back of the ship) to wait instructions and to be out of the way of the deck crew working the fire. For man overboard, we are instructed to keep eyes on the individual in the water, yelling for help, and throw life preservers in the water to help mark the person’s location. For abandon ship, the crew meets on the fore deck with their life jackets and “gumby” survival suits (see picture). If life rafts can be deployed, we put on our life jackets and all of us file into groups. If we have to jump into the water, we are asked to put on our red survival suits, which are a cross between a wetsuit and a personal inflatable raft.

Hayden in gumby suit
Practicing donning my survival suit.

I asked Acting Commanding Officer Andrew Ostapenko (normally the Executive Officer but is the acting “captain” of our cruise) about what we would do in the event of a storm. With a length of 170 feet and a width of 34 feet, Oregon II is large enough to handle normal summer squalls and moderate weather like the ones we have sailed through the first few days our trip, but it is important to avoid tropical storms or hurricanes (like Barry, which is gathering near the coast of Louisiana), which are just too big to contend. On the ship, the officers keep a constant watch on the weather forecast with real-time data feeds from the National Weather Service (NWS).

As part of my orientation to the ship, I took a tour of the safety features of Oregon II with the officer in charge of safety for our cruise, OPS Officer LT Ryan Belcher. He showed us what would happen in case of an emergency. There are 6 life rafts on board, and each can hold 16 people. Three rafts position on each side of the ship, and they automatically float free and inflate if that side of the ship goes underwater. An orange rescue boat can be deployed if someone falls overboard, but that craft is more It is more regularly used for man overboard drills and to support periodic dives for underwater hull inspections and maintenance.

Rescue vessel
Rescue vessel.
radio and satellite receivers
NOAA Ship Oregon II funnel with radio and satellite receivers.
Foghorn
Foghorn is a device that uses sound to warn vehicles of navigational hazards and hazards or emergencies aboard the ship.

If an emergency on the ship did occur, it would be essential to send out a call for help. First, they would try the radio, but if radio communication no longer worked, we also have a satellite phone, EPIRBS (satellite beacons), and a radar reflector (that lets ships nearby know there is an emergency). On the lower tech end, old fashion emergency flares and parachute signals can be launched into the air so other ships could locate us.

Chris Murdock: We’re not in Kansas (or Iowa) Anymore, June 12, 2017

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Chris Murdock

Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II

June 7 – June 20, 2017

Mission: SEAMAP Groundfish Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico

Date: June 9 – June 12,  2017

Weather Data from the Bridge

Latitude: 27.0532N
Longitude: 96.3602W
Sea wave height: 4-6 ft
Wind Direction: 17 degrees
Windspeed: 17.31 knots
Air Temperature: 28.2 C
Barometric Pressure: 1010.9 mbar
Sky:  Overcast

Science and Technology Blog

The main focus of this research cruise is stock assessment in the Gulf. This is done using a trawl net. Trawl nets are large nets with the intention of collecting a wide variety of organisms. The specific type of system used aboard the Oregon II is called an otter trawl, which is the most common type of trawl used in the Gulf of Mexico to harvest shrimp. This enormous net forms a large cone shape once deployed. A trawling net has several main components: The first are two areas called the headrope (top line) and footrope. The headrope has floats attached to it that provide flotation to the top portion of the net. The footrope has long chains (often called tickler chains due to the fact that they “tickle” the bottom of the ocean to stir up sea life) on the bottom side of the net. Attached to the net itself are large wooden boards, called otter boards that are located on the main cable between the ship and the net. Water resistance forces the doors to spread and open the net. Inevitably, the organisms caught get held in the cod end of the net, which is the tip of the cone.

Trawl-Diagram
An Otter Trawl (Terraproject.com)

 

IMG_4222[2]
One of Oregon II’s trawl nets. These are switched out every ten tows to check for any structural issues.
The types of organisms caught depends on both the depth of the net, as well as the mesh size (the spaces in between the net). All trawls on this cruise are done with the intention of collecting the three main commercial shrimp species of the Gulf, all under the genus Peneaus, which I will focus on in another blog post. The OOD (Officer Of the Deck) looks at the fathometer and electronic chart to determine how much scope to put out, and then  relays pertinent water depth information to the deck crew, who then release the proper amount of tow line to bring the net to the desired depth. The net is carried behind the ship for 30 minutes at a speed of 2.5-2.8 knots. At that time, the dry lab relays to the deck to “haul up” the net. Depending on the depth the net is currently at, this can take almost a half hour!

Once the Otter boards have reached the surface, the net is then pulsed. This means that the ship returns to a speed of 6-8 knots with the intention of pushing the catch down into the cod end. At that time the ship slows again and the crew hauls the load onto the deck. This entire process is repeated at predetermined locations called stations. If all runs smoothly a typical 12 hour shift will run through 5-6 stations. I will focus about the actual process of sorting the catch in future blog posts.

IMG_4258[1].JPG
Pulling the haul aboard
IMG_4257[1].JPG
Pulsing the tow
 

IMG_4284[1].JPG
A beautiful Gulf sunset behind the trawling gear
Personal log:

The first few days of real work are in the books! I have genuinely loved every minute of my time here on the Oregon II so far. I am assigned the day shift, which is 12 noon to midnight. This is most similar to my normal schedule back in Iowa. Thankfully, I haven’t had to adjust my sleep schedule as a result. It has allowed me to get into a fairly constant rhythm on board. My pre-work schedule typically consists of waking up around 8:30am, eating a light breakfast, working out, and doing work on this blog. I must say the amount of time I have to write meaningful posts is not nearly as much as I anticipated. I could very easily spend all of my waking hours dedicated to uploading photos and videos and writing. I have been keeping a journal on the cruise whenever I have free time so I can go back and elaborate.  Besides sorting out time management issues, everything else has been fantastic!

 

One of the biggest unexpected aspects of the cruise so far has been the food. I was anticipating eating a relatively basic diet while onboard. Boy was I wrong! The food has been absolutely fantastic, above and beyond my wildest expectations. That is in no short part to the wonderful stewards onboard, Arlene and Valerie. They bend over backwards making sure the crew of over 30 people are well fed. Every day has different food, and they are all very accommodating to any dietary restrictions. Roasted Duck is on the menu tonight, and I for one cannot wait!

I don’t know what I was expecting in terms of the type of work I would be doing, but this wasn’t it. I mentally prepared myself to become an expert at shrimp, but in reality I need to become an expert in latin. I routinely make my students memorize certain scientific names to organisms, but never to this extent. The first day of sorting I will admit was very overwhelming. Andre DeBose (the FPC) kept rattling names off to me like Synodus foetens, or Lutjanus campechanus, and all I kept saying to myself is “how in the world am I going to remember this”!? The first name I memorized was the Mexican flounder, or Cyclopsetta chittendeni. The first time I heard that my immediate though was “cyclops chicken dinner”? And just like that, I memorized my first species. After that if felt like every haul I was learning more and more. I am nowhere close to having them down, but I am making serious progress.

IMG_4114[1]
Cyclopsetta chittendeni or the “Mexican Flounder”. The defining characteristic of this fish is the Sombrero-shaped spots around it.
It was so exciting sorting through our various hauls, and seeing dozens of organisms I have never heard of before. To me that is the best part of this whole experience so far. I get to see things that many people (and most of you back in Iowa!) never get the chance to see. How cool is that? I will do my best to post photos of every different species I encounter, but as you can imagine that will not be an easy task.

So far, the most memorable haul for me has been the one depicted below. I have always been a monumental shark fan and advocate, but the only experience I get with them is during Shark Week and when my biology class dissects Squalus acanthius (The atlantic dogfish shark). That all changed when we pulled up two Sphyrna tiburo (The bonnethead, which is a type of hammerhead) sharks. It was very difficult to contain my excitement, but I had to remain focused at the task at hand and get to work. I will speak more at length about the sorting process in my next post, but normally we do not get to save the animals as most are collected for further research back on land. Thankfully we got the sharks weighed and measured and successfully returned them to the sea unharmed. It was a moment I will never forget.  Again, I cannot say enough how lucky I am to get the opportunity to experience this amazing field work. I wake up each day like a child on Christmas Day, wondering what amazing secrets the Gulf has in store for me. The link to the haul can be seen here!: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l8hm1tmtFyY

 

Fish Species Identified Today:

 

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John Clark,Headed Home Early, October 1, 2014

NOAA Teacher at Sea
John Clark
Aboard NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow
September 23 – October 4, 2013

Mission: Autumn Bottom Trawl Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise: North Atlantic
Date: October 1, 2013

Science and Technology  Log 

A few hours into our shift midnight we get the word we have been expecting for several days – government shutdown. Our mission will be cut a few days short. That reality means the Bigelow has 24 hours to return to its homeport of Newport,  R.I.  It takes us 10 hours and we dock around 1 in the afternoon. With our fisheries operations suddenly declared over comes clean-up time, and we spend the next 6 hours of our shift cleaning up the on‐board fish lab. It is a time consuming but important process. The lab needs to be spotless and “fish scent” free before we can call our work finished on this cruise.  The lab is literally solid stainless steel and every surface gets washed and suds downed so there is no residue remaining.

Eau de fishes
Fish scales hiding under a flap!

Our work is inspected by a member of the crew. If it were the military, the officer would have had white gloves on I believe, just like in the old movies, rolling his finger over a remote spot looking for the dust we missed. But this is a shining stainless steel fish lab so there are two simultaneous inspections going on at once – the one with the eyes and the one with the nose.  It takes us twice to pass the visual inspection as small collections of fish scales are spotted in a few out-of‐the way areas. It takes us one more pass to clear the smell inspection. Up and down the line we walk, we can all smell the faint lingering perfume of “eau de fishes,” but we are having trouble finding it. We keep following our noses and there it is. Hiding under a black rubber flap at the end of the fish sorting line we find a small collection of fish scales revealed  when the flap is removed for inspection.  With that little section cleaned up and sprayed down the lab is declared done! There is a smile of satisfaction from the team. It is that attention to detail that explains why the lab never smelled of fish when I first boarded the ship 10 days ago nor has it smelled of fish at any time during our voyage. There is a personal pride in leaving the lab in the same shape we found  it. Super clean, all gear and samples stowed, and ready for the next crew to come on board – whenever that turns out to be.

The abrupt and unexpected end to the cruise leaves me scrambling to change my travel plans. Like the ship, I have a limited amount of time to make it home on my government travel orders. The NOAA Teacher at Sea team goes above and beyond to rebook my flights and find me a room for the night.

Personal Log 

On the serendipitous side, the change in plans gives me a little time to see Newport, a town famous for its mansions and the Tennis Hall of Fame.  My first  stop is  the Tennis  Hall  of  Fame.  My father was a first class  tennis  player who invested many  hours  attempting to

teach his  son the game. Despite the passion in  our  home  for  the  great  sport  we  never  made it  to  the  Tennis  Hall  of  Fame in  Newport.  Today I get the  chance to fulfill that  bucket  list  goal. I still remember being court side as a young boy at The  Philadelphia Indoor Championships watching the likes of Charlie Pasarell, Arthur Ashe, and Pancho Gonzales playing on the canvas tennis court that was stretched out over the basketball arena. There was even a picture of the grass court lawn of the Germantown Cricket Club from its days a USTA championship venue before the move to Forest Hill, NY. I grew up playing on those tennis courts as my father belonged to that  club. Good memories.

Clark Log 4b

There was also a  “court tennis” court, the game believed to be the precursor  to outdoor  tennis. Court  tennis derived from playing a  tennis  type  game  inside a walled‐in  court yard.  Using  the  roof and  the  wall and the open side windows to beat your opponent is all part of the game. I played court tennis as a  young teen. It’s a very unique game that is only played in a few spots now. There are only 38 court tennis courts in the world and Newport has two of them. If you like tennis, give court tennis a go if  you ever get the  chance.

The tennis court

Thoughts of a leisurely stroll evolve into a brisk walk as I head toward the ultimate and most famous Newport mansion: The Breakers, the 100,000 plus square foot summer home of the Vanderbilt family. This house has to be toured to understand the conspicuous consumption as a  pastime of the then super rich. My 2000 square foot  home would fit entirely inside  the  grand  hall  of  the  Breakers.  In  fact you could stack my home three high and they would still be below the Breaker’s ceiling. A ceiling inspired by Paris, a billiard room with walls of solid marble overlooking the ocean, a floor of thousands of mosaic floor tiles all put  down by hand one by one, a stair case from Gone With the Wind, and 20 bathrooms to choose from all speak  to the wealth and pursuit of elegance enjoyed by  the Vanderbilt clan. It is a lifestyle of a bye–gone era often referred to as the “Gilded Age.” It is  an apt description.

Clark Log 4dClark Log 4e

Clark Log 4g

After sightseeing, it’s off to the bus stop for my shuttle to the Newport Airport where I take off at dawn the next morning to head for  home. I’m  leaving  so  early that the complementary coffee isn’t out yet! After an uneventful flight comes the end to an amazing adventure. Nothing left now except laundry and memories. And lots of great ideas for lesson plans to work into my classes. Thank you NOAA Teacher at Sea Program for offering me the learning experience of a lifetime. I cannot wait to get back and share the experiences with my students.

Clark Log 4h

John Clark, September 27, 2013

NOAA Teacher at Sea John Clark

Aboard NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow

September 23 – October 4, 2013

Clark Log 3gMission: Autumn Bottom Trawl Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise: North Atlantic
Date: September 27, 2013

Science and Technology  Log 

It’s going to be a busy night trawling and processing our catch.  Yippee. I like  being busy as the time passes more quickly and I learn about more fish. A large number of trawling areas are all clustered together for our shift. For the most part that means the time needed to collect data on one trawl is close to the amount of time needed for the ship to reach the next trawling area. The first trawl was a highlight for me as we collected, for the first time,  a few puffer fish and one managed to stay inflated so I had a picture taken with that one.

We found a puffer
We found a puffer

However, on this night there was more than just puffer fish to be photographed with. On this night we caught the big one that didn’t get away. One trawl brings in an amazing catch of 6 very large striped bass and among them is a new record: The largest striped bass ever hauled in by NOAA Fisheries! The crew let me hold it up. It was very heavy and  I kept hoping it would not start flopping around. I could just see myself letting go and watching it slip off the deck and back into the sea. Fortunately, our newly caught prize reacted passively to my photo op. I felt very lucky that the big fish was processed at the station I was working at. When Jakub put the big fish on the scale it was like a game show – special sounds were emitted from our speakers and out came the printed label confirming our prize  – “FREEZ – biggest fish ever “-‐-‐the largest Morone Saxatilis (striped bass) ever caught by a NOAA Fisheries research ship.  It was four feet long. I kept  waiting for the balloons to come down from the ceiling.

Catch of the day
Catch of the day

Every member of the science team sorts fish but at the  data  collection tables my role  in the  fish lab is one of “recorder”. I’m teamed  with  another scientist who serves  as  the “cutter”, in this  case Jakub. That person collects the information I enter into the computer. The amount of data collected  depends on  the quantity and  type of fish  caught in  the net. I help  record  data on length, weight, sex, sexual development, diet, and scales. Sometimes fish specimens or parts of a fish, like the backbone of a goose fish, are preserved. On other occasions, fish, often the small ones are frozen for further study. Not every scientist can make it on to the Bigelow to be directly part of the trip so species data and samples are collected in accordance with their requests.

Collecting data from a fish as large as our striped bass is not easy. It is as big as the processing sink at our data collection  station and it takes Jakub’s skill with a hacksaw-‐-‐yes I said hacksaw-‐-‐to open up the back of the head  of the striped  bass and retrieve  the  otolith, the  two small bones  found behind the head that are  studied to determine  age. When we  were  done, the fish was bagged and placed in the deep freeze for  further  study upon our return. On the good side we only froze one of the six striped bass that we caught so we got to enjoy some great seafood for dinner. The team filleted over 18 pounds of striped bass for the chef to cook up.

Too big for the basket
Too big for the basket

More Going On: 

Processing the  trawl is not the  only data  collection activity taking place on the  Bigelow.  Before most trawls begin the command comes down to “deploy the bongos”. They are actually a pair  of  closed end nets similar to nets used to catch butterflies only much longer. The name bongo comes from the deployment apparatus that holds the pair of nets. The top resembles a set of bongo drums with one net attached to each one. Their purpose, once deployed, is to collect plankton samples for further study. Many fish live off plankton until they are themselves eaten by a predator farther up the food chain so the health of plankton is critical to the success of  the ecological food chain in the oceans.

Processing
Processing

Before some other trawls, comes the command to deploy the CTD device. When submerged to a target  depth  and  running in  the water as the ship  steams forward, this long fire extinguisher sized  device measures conductivity and temperature at specified depths of the ocean. It is another tool for measuring the health of the ocean and how current water conditions can impact the health  of the marine life and also the food chain in the area.

Personal Log 

On a personal note, I filleted a fish for the first time today – a  flounder. Tanya, one  of the science crew taught me how to do it. I was so excited about the outcome that I did another one!

Processing fish
Processing fish

Clark Log 3gg

A mix of fish
A mix of fish

Paired trawl
Paired trawl

Learning to fillet
Learning to fillet

John Clark, September 25, 2013

NOAA Teacher at Sea John Clark

Aboard NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow

September 23 – October 4, 2013

The galley
The galley

Mission: Autumn Bottom Trawl Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise: North Atlantic
Date: September 25, 2013

Science and Technology  Log 

I was  told  that  the  first  12  hour night watch shift was the hardest for staving off sleep and those who spoke were right. Tonight’s  overnight shift seems to be flying by and I’m certainly awake. Lots of trawling and sorting this  evening with four sorts complete by 6am. One was just full of dogfish, the shark looking fish,  and  they  process  quickly  because  other  than  weight  and  length there is little request for other data. The dogfish were sorted at the bucket end of the job so determining sex had already been completed by the time the fish get to my workstation. Again I’m under the mentorship of Jakub who can process fish faster than I can print and place labels on the storage envelopes. The placement of the labels is my weakness as I have no fingernails and removing the paper backing from the sticky label is awkward and time consuming. Still tonight I’m showing speed improvement over last night. Well at least I’m getting the labels on straight most of the time.

Sorting fish
Sorting fish

In  addition  to  the  dogfish,  we  have  processed  large  quantities  of  skate  (the  one  that  looks  like a  sting  ray to me), left  eyed flounders, croakers (no relation to the frog), and sea robins of which there are two types, northern and stripe. The sea robins are  very colorful with the  array of spines just behind the  mouth. And yes it hurts when one of the spines goes through your glove. Sadly for me sorting has been less exciting tonight.  With  the big fish being grabbed off at the front of the line there has been little left for me to sort. I feel like the goal keeper in soccer  – just  don’t let them get past me. To my great surprise, so far I’ve experienced no real fear of touching the fish. The gloves are very nice to work with.

Species in specific buckets
Species in specific buckets

And let us not overlook the squid. There have been pulled in by the hundreds in the runs today. There are two types of squids, long fin (the lolligo) and short fin (the illex). What they both have in common is the ability to make an incredible mess. They are slimy on the outside and  inky on the inside. They remind me of a fishy candy bar with really big eyes. And  for all the fish  that enjoy their squid  treat the species  is,  of  course,  (wait  for  it) just  eye  candy.  The  stories  about  the  inking  are  really  true. When  upset, they give  off ink; lots of ink. And  they are very upset by the time they reach the data collection stations. If you could bottle their ink you would  never need  to  refill your pen  again. They are also  very, very  plentiful which  might explain  why there are no requests to collect additional data beyond  how long they are. I guess they are not eye candy to marine scientists. However, there vastness is also their virtue. As a food source for many larger species of marine life, an absence of large quantities of squid in our trawling nets would be a bad sign for the marine ecosystem below us.

Safety equipment
Safety equipment

When the squid are missing, our friend the Skate (which of  the four  types does not  matter)  is glad to pick up  the slack on  the “messy to work with” front. As this species makes it down the sorting and data collecting line the internal panic button goes  off and they exude this thick, slimy substance  that covers their bodies and makes them very slippery customers at  the weigh stations.  It turns out the small spines on the tails were placed there so that fisheries researchers could have a fighting chance to handle them without dropping. Still, a skate sliding onto the floor is a frequent event and provides comic relief for all working at the data collection stations.

Clark Log 2There was new species in the  nets tonight, the  Coronet fish which looks like  along  drink straw with stripes  and a string attached to the back end. It is  pencil thick and about a foot long without the string. We only caught it twice during the trip. The rest of the hauls replicate past  sorting as dogfish, robins, skates, squid, croakers, and flounder are the bulk of the catch. I’ve been told that the diversity and size of the trawl should  be more abundant as we steam along the coastline heading north  from the lower coast of  New Jersey. Our last trawl of the shift, the nets deployed collect two species new for our voyage, but ones I actually recognized despite my limited knowledge of fish – the Horseshoe Crab and a lobster! I grew up seeing those on the Jersey shore.  We only got one lobster and after measuring  it we let  go  back  to  grow  some  more.  It  only  weighed in at less than two pounds.

Personal Log 

The foul weather suit we wear to work the line does not leave the staging room where they are stored as wearing them around the ship is not  allowed. After  watching others, I have mastered the art  of  pushing the wader pants over the rubber boots and  thus leaving them set-‐up  for quick donning and  removal of  gear  throughout  the shift.

While the work is very interesting on board, the highlight of each  day is meal time. Even though I work the night  shift (which ends at  noon) I take a nap right after my shift so I can  be  up  and  alert in  time  for dinner. My favorite has been  the T-‐bone steaks with Monterey seasoning and  any of the fish cooked up from our trawling like scallops or flounder. The chef, Dennis, and his assistant, Jeremy serve up some really fine cuisine. Not fancy but very tasty. There is a new soup every day at  lunch and so far my favorite has been the cream of tomato. I went back for seconds! Of course, breakfast is the meal all of us on the night watch  look forward  to  as there is no  meal service between midnight and  7am. After 7 hours of just snacking and  coffee, we are ready for  some solid food by the time breakfast  is served.

Seas continue to be  very calm and the  weather sunny and pleasant. That’s quite a surprise for the North Atlantic in the fall. And  the sunrise today was amazing. The Executive Officer, Chad Cary, shared that the weather we are experiencing should continue for at least four more days. I am  grateful  for  the  calm weather – less  chance  to  experience  sea  sickness.  That is something I’m determined to avoid if possible.

John Clark, Hi Ho, Hi Ho It’s Off to Work We Go, September 24, 2013

NOAA Teacher at Sea
John Clark
Aboard NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow
September 23 – October 4, 2013

Mission: Autumn Bottom Trawl Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise: North Atlantic
Date: September 24, 2013

Survival suits!
Survival suits!

Science and Technology  Log 

Today is my first full 12 hour shift day. I’m on the night crew working midnight to noon. Since we left port yesterday I’ve been  trying to  adjust my internal clock for pulling daily “all night”ers.  On Monday, after we  left port, safety briefs for all hands occurred once we made it out to sea and I got to complete my initiation into the Teacher at Sea alumni program  – the donning of  the Gumby suit as I call it. It is actually a bright red wet suit that covers your entire body and makes you look like a TV Claymation figure from the old TV show. In actuality it is designed to help you survive if  you need to abandon ship. Pictures are  of course taken to preserve this rite of passage.

The Henry B. Bigelow is a specially-built NOAA vessel designed to conduct fisheries research at sea.  Its purpose is to collect data that will help scientists assess the health of the Northern Coastal Atlantic Ocean and the fish populations that inhabit it. The work is invaluable to the commercial fishing industry.

The Bigelow in port
The Bigelow in port

Yesterday, I learned how we will go about collecting fisheries data. Our Chief Scientist, Dr. Peter Chase, has selected  locations for sampling the local fish population and the ship officers have developed a sailing plan that will enable the ship to visit all those locations, weather permitting, during the course of the voyage. To me its sounds like a well-‐planned  game of connecting the dots. At each target location, a trawling net  will be deployed and dragged near the bottom of the sea for a 20 minute period at a speed of 3 knots. Hence the reason  this voyage is identified as a bottom trawl survey mission. To drag the bottom without damaging the nets is not easy and there are five spare nets on board in case something goes wrong. To minimize the chance of damaging the net during a tow, the survey technicians use the wide beam sonar equipment to survey the bottom prior to deployment. Their goal is to identify a smooth path for the net to follow. The fish collected in the net are sorted and studied, based on selected criteria, once on board. A  specially designed transport system moves the fish from the net to the sorting and data collection stations inside the wet lab. I’m very excited to see how it actually works during my upcoming shift.

The big net.
The big net.

Work is already underway when our night crew checks in. The ship runs 24/7  and the nets have been down  and trawling since 7pm. Fish sorting and data collection  are  already underway.  I don my foul  weather gear which  looks  like a set of waders used for British fly fishing.  There is also a top jacket  but the weather is pleasant  tonight and the layer is not needed. I just need to sport some gloves and get to work. I’m involved with processing  two trawls of fish right away. I’m assigned to work with an experienced member of the science team, Jakub. We will be collecting information on the species of fish caught on each trawl.  Jakub carries out the role as cutter, collecting the physical  information or fish parts needed by the scientists. My role is recorder and  I enter data about the particular fish  being evaluated  as well package up  and  store the parts of the fish  being retained  for future study.

Ship equipment
Ship equipment

Data collection on each fish harvest is a very detailed. Fish are sorted by species as they come down the moving sorting line where they arrive after coming up the conveyer belt system from the “dump”  tank, so  named  because that is where the full nets deposit their  bounty. Everybody on the line sorts fish. Big fish get  pulled off  first  by the experienced scientists at  the start  of  belt  and then volunteers such as I pull off the smaller fish. Each  fish  is placed  into  a bucket by type of fish. There are three types of buckets and each bucket has a  bar code  tag. The  big laundry  looking  baskets  hold  the  big  fish,  five  gallon  paint buckets hold  the smaller fish, and  one gallon  buckets (placed  above the sorting line) hold  the unexpected  or small species. On  each  run  there is generally one fish  that is not sorted  and  goes all the way to the end untouched and unceremoniously ends up in the catch-‐all container at the  end of the  line. The watch leader weighs the buckets and then links the bar code on the bucket to the type of fish in it. From there  the  buckets are  ready for data  collection.

Clark Log 1d
The sorting line

After sorting the fish, individual data collection begins “by the bucket” where simultaneously at three different stations the sizing, weighing, and computer requested activities  occur. By  random sample certain work  is  performed on that fish. It  gets weighed and usually opened up to retrieve something from inside the fish. Today, I’ve observed several types of  data collection. Frequently requested are removal of  the otolith, two small bones in the head that  are used to help determine the age of  the fish. For bigger fish with vertebra,  such  as  the  goose  fish,  there  are periodic  requests  to  remove a  part  of  the backbone and  ship  it off for testing. Determining sex is recorded  for many computer tagged  fish  and  several are checked stomach contents.

Of the tools used to record data from the fish, the magic magnetized measuring system is the neatest. It’s  rapid  fire  data  collecting  at  its  finest.  The  fish  goes  flat  on  the measuring  board;  head  at  the  zero point, and  then a quick touch  with  a magnetized block at the end  of the fish  records the length  and  weight. Sadly, it marks the end of tall tales about the big  one that got  away and keeps getting bigger as the story is retold. The length of  the specimen is accurately recorded for  posterity in an instant.

 

clark 1e

Personal Log

Flying into Providence  over the  end of Long Island and the  New England coast line  is breath taking. A jagged,  sandy  coast  line  dotted  with  summer  homes  just  beyond  the  sand dunes. To line  up  for  final  approach we  fly right over Newport where  the  Henry B. Bigelow is berthed at the  Navy base  there. However, I  am  not  able  to  spot  the  NOAA  fisheries  vessel that  will be my home for the next two weeks from the air.Clark Log 4b

I arrive a day prior  to sailing so I have half a day to see the sites of Newport, Rhode Island  and  I know exactly where  I’m headed – the Tennis Hall of  Fame. My father was a first class tennis player who invested  many  hours  attempting  to  teach  his  son  the  game.  Despite  the  passion in  our  home  for  the great sport we  never made  it to the  Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport. Today I fulfilled that bucket  list  goal. I still remember being  court side  as a  young boy at The  Philadelphia  Indoor Championship watching the likes of  Charlie Pasarell, Arthur  Ashe, and Pancho Gonzales playing  on the canvas tennis court that was stretched out over the basketball arena. Also  in  the museum, to  my surprise, was a picture of the grass court lawn of the  Germantown Cricket Club from its days as a USTA championship venue. I  grew up playing on  those  grass tennis courts as my father  belonged to that  club. After seeing that picture, I left the museum knowing my father  got  as much out  of  the visit  as I did.

Jennifer Fry, July 28, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jennifer Fry
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman (tracker)
July 14 – 29, 2009 

Mission: 2009 United States/Canada Pacific Hake Acoustic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Pacific Ocean from Monterey, CA to British Columbia, CA.
Date: July 28, 2009

Map of the world showing longitude and latitude lines
Map of the world showing longitude and latitude lines

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Wind speed:  17 knots
Wind direction: 345° from the north
Visibility: 8 nautical miles /clear
Temperature: 16.8°C (dry bulb); 11.6°C (wet bulb)
Sea water temperature: 15.5°C
Wave height: 3-5 ft.
Air pressure: 1012.9 millibars
Weather note: Millibars is a metric unit used to measure the pressure of the air.

Science and Technology Log 

Weather Instruments and Predicting Weather 

Lt Oliver Brown, surrounded by navigational tools, and Fishery Scientist Steve DeBlois make observations on the bridge of the Miller Freeman.
Lt Oliver Brown, surrounded by navigational tools, and Fishery Scientist Steve DeBlois make observations on the bridge of the Miller Freeman.

Everything that happens out at sea is dependent upon the weather forecasts.  Throughout history man has used a variety of instruments to acquire accurate weather information.  The Miller Freeman is equipped with state of art weather reporting instruments. Every 3 hours weather data is sent to the National Weather Service to help predict the weather at sea.  Once again accuracy in reporting data is paramount.

Global Position: The Miller Freeman has several methods by which to determine longitude and latitude, which is our position in the ocean or on land.  There are 2 G.P.S. systems on the bridge, a magnetic compass, a gyro compass, and radar. These instruments help determine the ship’s position.

True north: The actual location of a point on the earth related to the north pole.

A Gyrocompass with cardinal headings including north, south, east, and west
A Gyrocompass with cardinal headings including north, south, east, and west

Magnetic north: Caused by the magnetic pull on the earth.  Magnetic north heading is different depending on where you are on the earth, for instance, Magnetic north in Oregon has a variation of 16.45°east from true north. Southern California has a variation of 13.3° east from true north.

Temperature: Measured by a thermometer, units used are Celsius. Dry bulb: Measures air temperature.  Wet bulb:  Uses a thermometer wrapped in a wet cloth. The dry and wet temperatures together give the dew point and help to determine humidity.

Wind Speed: Measured in knots using an anemometer, or estimated by using the Beaufort scale. The Beaufort scale uses observations of the sea surface, and the effects of wind on people or objects aboard ship to estimate the wind speed.

Wind Direction: Is measured by what direction in which the wind is coming.

Cloud Height/Type: Is measured visually.

Cloud Type: Is measured visually using a variety of names of clouds depending on their patterning and altitude.

Magnetic compass
Magnetic compass

Visibility: Is measured by estimating how much of the horizon can be seen.

Wave Direction: measured visually from the direction the wave comes.

Wave Height: The vertical distance between trough (bottom of the wave) and crest (top of the wave) and is usually measured in feet.

Swell Direction/ Height: Measured visually usually in feet.

Personal Log 

I have enjoyed my time on the bridge of the Miller Freeman immensely.  I have a better understanding of the weather instruments used onboard and am getting better at spotting whales and identifying birds. I want to thank the entire NOAA Corps Officers who have taught me so much about how navigation and weather work aboard the Miller Freeman.

Crewmember John Adams uses on-board weather instruments to record hourly weather readings that are then sent to National Weather Service.
Crewmember John Adams uses on-board weather instruments
to record hourly weather readings that are then sent to National
Weather Service.

An anemometer, which measures wind speed
An anemometer, which measures wind speed

Jennifer Fry, July 27, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jennifer Fry
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman (tracker)
July 14 – 29, 2009 

Mission: 2009 United States/Canada Pacific Hake Acoustic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Pacific Ocean from Monterey, CA to British Columbia, CA.
Date: July 27, 2009

The CTD, resembling a giant wedding cake constructed of painted steel, measures the composition of the water, salinity, temperature, oxygen levels, and water pressure.
The CTD, resembling a giant wedding cake constructed of painted steel, measures the composition of the water, salinity, temperature, oxygen levels, and water pressure.

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Wind speed: 13 knots
Wind direction: 003°from the north
Visibility: clear
Temperature: 13.6°C (dry bulb); 13.2°C (wet bulb)
Sea water temperature: 15.1°C
Wave height: 1-2 ft.
Swell direction: 325°
Swell height: 4-6 ft.

Science and Technology Log 

Each night beginning at around 9:00 p.m. or 21:00, if you refer to the ship’s clock, Dr. Steve Pierce begins his research of the ocean. He is a Physical Oceanographer and this marks his 11th year of conducting CTD, Conductivity, Temperature, and Density tests.

It takes 24 readings per second as it sinks to the seafloor. The CTD only records data as it sinks, insuring the instruments are recording data in undisturbed waters. For the past 11 years Dr. Pierce and his colleagues have been studying density of water by calculating temperature and salinity in different areas of the ocean. By studying the density of water, it helps to determine ocean currents. His data helps us examine what kind of ocean conditions in which the hake live. Using prior data, current CTD data, and acoustic Doppler current profiler, a type of sonar, Dr. Pierce is trying to find a deep water current flowing from south to north along the west coast.  This current may have an effect on fish, especially a species like hake.

This map illustrates part of the area of the hake survey.
This map illustrates part of the area of the hake survey.

Dr. Steve Pierce reminds us, “None of this research is possible without math. Physical oceanography is a cool application of math.” Another testing instrument housed on the CTD apparatus is the VPR, Visual Plankton Recorder.  It is an automatic camera that records plankton, microscopic organisms, at various depths.  The scientists aboard the Miller Freeman collect data about plankton’s feeding habits, diurnal migration, and their position in the water column.  Diurnal migration is when plankton go up and down the water column to feed at different times of day (see illustration below).  Plankton migration patterns vary depending on the species.The scientists aboard the Miller Freeman followed the east to west transect lines conducting fishing trawls. The first one produced 30 small hake averaging 5 inches in length.  The scientists collected marine samples by weighing and measuring them.

Dr. Steve Pierce  at his work station and standing next to the CTD on a bright sunny day in the Northern Pacific Ocean.
Dr. Steve Pierce at his work station and standing next to the CTD on a bright sunny day in the Northern Pacific Ocean.

This illustration depicts the diurnal migration of plankton.
This illustration depicts the diurnal migration of plankton.

Personal Log 

It was extremely foggy today.  We traversed through the ocean evading many obstacles including crab and fishing buoys and other small boats.  Safety is the number one concern on the Miller Freeman. The NOAA Corps Officers rigorously keep the ship and passengers out of harm’s way.  I am grateful to these dedicated men and women.  LTjg Jennifer King, marine biologist and NOAA Corps officer says, “Science helps understand natural process: how things grow and how nature works. We need to protect it.  Science shows how in an ecosystem, everything depends on one another.”

Jennifer Fry, July 26, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jennifer Fry
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman (tracker)
July 14 – 29, 2009 

Mission: 2009 United States/Canada Pacific Hake Acoustic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Pacific Ocean from Monterey, CA to British Columbia, CA.
Date: July 26, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Wind speed: 10 knots
Wind direction: 100° [from the east]
Visibility: fog
Temperature: 13.5°C (dry bulb); 13.5°C (wet bulb)
Sea water temperature: 10°C
Wave height: 1ft.
Swell direction: 315° Swell height:  6 ft.

Here I am checking HAB samples.
Here I am checking HAB samples.

Science and Technology Log 

We conducted a number of HAB, Harmful Algal Bloom sample tests. The Harmful Algal Bloom test takes samples at predetermined location in our study area. The water is filtered to identify the presence of toxic plants (algae) and animals (zooplankton). The plankton enter the food chain specifically through clams and mussels and can be a possible threat to human health.

We also conducted XBTs, Expendable Bathythermograph; and one  fishing trawl net. The trawling was successful, catching hake, squid, and Myctophids.  Fishery scientist, Melanie Johnson collected specific data on the myctophids’ swim bladder.  The swimbladder helps fish regulate buoyancy.  It acts like a balloon that inflates and deflates depending on the depth of the fish. Sharks on the other hand have no swim bladder. They need to swim to maintain their level in the water. Marine mammals such as dolphins and whales have lungs instead of a swimbladder.  Most of the sonar signal from the fish comes from their swimbladder.  The study of the swimbladder’s size helps scientists determine how deep the fish are when using the sonar signals and how strong their sonar signal is likely to be.

Commander Mike Hopkins, LTjg Oliver Brown, and crewmember John Adams conduct a marine mammal watch on the bridge before a fishing trawl.
Commander Mike Hopkins, LTjg Oliver Brown, and crewmember John Adams conduct a marine mammal watch on the bridge before a fishing trawl.

The scientists tried to conduct a “swim through” camera tow, but each time it was aborted due to marine mammals in the area of the net. During the “Marine Mammal Watch” held prior to the net going in the water, we spotted humpback whales. They were observed breeching, spouting, and fluking. The humpback then came within 30 feet of the Miller Freeman and swam around as if investigating the ship.

Animals Seen Today 
Fish and animals trawled: Hake, Squid (Cephalopod), and Myctophids.
Marine Mammals: Humpback whale.
Birds: Albatross, Fulmar, and Shearwater.

Jennifer Fry, July 25, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jennifer Fry
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman (tracker)
July 14 – 29, 2009 

Mission: 2009 United States/Canada Pacific Hake Acoustic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Pacific Ocean from Monterey, CA to British Columbia, CA.
Date: July 25, 2009

Black-footed Albatross
Black-footed Albatross

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Wind speed: 10 knots
Wind direction: 355°from the north
Visibility: fog
Temperature: 11°C (dry bulb); 10°C (wet bulb)
Sea water temperature: 9.2°C
Wave height: 2 ft.
Swell direction: 310°
Swell height: 5 ft.

Science/Technology Log 

Three fishing trawls were conducted today. We took biological samples from the hake collected. The following is a list of other fish retrieved:

  • Octopus: 1
  • Squid: 47
  • Glass shrimp: 50
  • Shrimp (another species): 3
  • Bird observations: Many bird species are seen around the boat each time there is a fishing trawl net. They range in size and flying pattern. Here are a few of them.
  • Black-footed Albatross (Phoebastria nigripes): Mostly dark in all plumage, or feathers; White undertail and white may be on belly; Range: Seen around the year off west coast in spring and summer; Winters in Hawaii.

While observing the albatross and fulmar fly, I noticed that they glide gracefully across the waves gently touching the tip of their wing into the water. During take off, the albatross uses his giant webbed feet to push off by “running” on the surface of the water. Similarly during landing; his feet appear to “run” on the water which seems to slow him down.

  • Sooty shearwater
    Sooty Shearwater (Puffinus griseus): Whitish underwing contrasts with overall dark plumage; Range: breeds in southern hemisphere; Abundant off west coast, often seen from shore.

Pink-footed Shearwater (Puffinus creatopus): Blackish-brown above; white wing underparts, a bit mottled; Range: spends summers in northern Pacific; winters in Chile
Pink-footed Shearwater (P. creatopus): Blackish-brown; white wing underparts, a bit mottled; Range: spends summers in northern Pacific; winters in Chile

Northern Fulmar (Fulmarus glacialis): Gull-sized seabird; rapid wingbeats alternating with gliding over waves; color is rather uniform with not strong contrasts; gray overall with whitish undersides; range: Northern Pacific Ocean and Northern Atlantic Ocean; Breeds: Aleutian Islands, Alaska.
Northern Fulmar (Fulmarus glacialis): Gull-sized seabird; rapid wingbeats alternating with gliding over waves; color is rather uniform with not strong contrasts; gray overall with whitish undersides; range: Northern Pacific Ocean and Northern Atlantic Ocean; Breeds: Aleutian Islands, Alaska.

Fun on-line NOAA activities such as Make your own Compass, Tying Knots, Learn about Nautical Charts, Be a Shipwreck detective, and Make a tornado in a bottle.

Commander Mike Hopkins overlooks the North Pacific Ocean just off the Oregon Coast from the bridge. His job is to make sure everything aboard the Miller Freeman is running smoothly.
Commander Mike Hopkins overlooks the North Pacific Ocean just off the Oregon Coast from the bridge. His job is to make sure everything aboard the Miller Freeman is running smoothly.

NOAA Commissioned Corps Officers are a vital part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Officers provide support during NOAA missions  ranging from launching a weather balloon at the South Pole, conducting hydrographic or fishery surveys in Alaska, maintaining buoys in the tropical Pacific, flying snow surveys and into hurricanes. NOAA Corps celebrates its 202nd birthday this year.

Animals Seen Today 
Fish and other trawled animals: Hake, Octopi, Squid, and Shrimp.
Birds: Fulmar, Shearwater, Albatross, and Gulls.

Jennifer Fry, July 24, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jennifer Fry
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman (tracker)
July 14 – 29, 2009 

Mission: 2009 United States/Canada Pacific Hake Acoustic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Pacific Ocean from Monterey, CA to British Columbia, CA.
Date: July 24, 2009

Pacific White-Sided Dolphins
Pacific White-Sided Dolphins

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Wind speed: 24 knots
Wind direction: 355° from the north
Visibility: clear
Temperature: 17.3°C (dry bulb); 15.5°C (wet bulb)
Sea water temperature: 9.8°C
Wave height: 3 ft.
Swell direction: 350°
Swell height: 5-6 ft.

Science and Technology Log 

There is an abundance of marine life in the ocean today: sightings include a humpback whale breaching and spy-hopping.  Breaching is when a whale jumps out of the water.  Spy-hopping is when the whale’s head comes out of the water vertically and “takes a peek” at his surroundings. We also sighted the Pacific white-sided dolphins that appeared to be “playing” with the ship.  They would swim perpendicularly to the ship’s hull and at the last minute; veer away at a 90° angle. The dolphins were also swimming alongside the bow and the side of the ship.

Beautiful view
Beautiful view

The sonar signals indicate an abundance of marine life under the sea and the presence of marine mammals helps us draw that conclusion. All that life is probably their prey. We made 2 fishing trawls which included hake and 2 small squid, split nose rockfish, and dark, blotched rockfish. That was the first time I had seen rockfish.   They are primarily a bottom dweller. Scientists don’t want to catch too many rockfish because they tend to be over fished and their numbers need to be protected. Also, we only want to catch the fish species we are surveying, in this case, hake. The scheduled camera tow was cancelled because we did not want to catch marine mammals.  The camera tow is described as a net sent down to depth that is opened on both sides.  It takes video of the fish swimming by.  This helps the scientists determine what species of fish are at each particular depth, during which the fish are not injured for the most part.

Personal Log 

It was very exciting to see the humpback whale and dolphins today.  They appeared to be very interested in the ship and it looked like they were playing with it.  It was a perfect day with the sun shining and calm seas.

Question of the Day 
What are ways scientists determine the health of the ocean?

Did You Know? Breaching is when a whale jumps out of the water.   Spy-hopping is when the whale’s head comes out of the water vertically and “takes a peek” at his surroundings.

Animals Seen Today 
Marine mammals: Pacific white-sided dolphins, California sea lion, and Humpback whale: spy hopping.
Birds: Fulmar, Shearwater, Albatross, and Skua.
Fish: Hake, Split nose rockfish, and Dark Blotched rockfish.

Ode to the Miller Freeman 
As the chalky white ship, the Miller Freeman cuts through the icy blue waters of the North Pacific Ocean,
I stand in wonderment at all I see before me.
A lone Pacific white-sided dolphin suddenly surfaces over the unending mounds of waves.
A skua circles gracefully negotiating up and over each marine blue swell
Off in the distance, the band of fog lurks cautiously, waiting its turn to silently envelop the crystal blue sky.
Watching this beauty around me I have arrived, I am home.

Jennifer Fry, July 23, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jennifer Fry
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman (tracker)
July 14 – 29, 2009 

Mission: 2009 United States/Canada Pacific Hake Acoustic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Pacific Ocean from Monterey, CA to British Columbia, CA.
Date: July 23, 2009

Here I am in the lab helping with the HAB samples.
Here I am in the lab helping with the HAB samples.

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Wind speed: 15 knots
Wind direction: 350°from the north
Visibility: clear
Temperature: 12.0°C (dry bulb); 11.8°C (wet bulb)
Sea water temperature: 9.7°C
Wave height: 2 ft.
Swell direction: 000°
Swell height: 4 ft.

Science/Technology Log 

We began the day conducting 2 HAB (Harmful Algal Bloom) sample tests of the ocean. This tests the amount of plankton in the water.  Scientists test this because some plankton can carry harmful toxins that can get into the fish and sea life we eat, such as clams. Later we sighted numerous marine mammals including: 2 humpback whales (breaching), 12 Pacific white-sided dolphins, and California sea lions.

Acoustic data
Acoustic data

We made two trawls which provided plenty of hake for us to observe, measure, and collect data.  Acoustic Judging:  One important aspect of the acoustic hake survey is what scientists do when not trawling.  There is a process called judging that fishery biologist, Steve De Blois spends most of his day doing. While looking at acoustic data, he draws regions around schools of fish or aggregations of other marine organisms and assigns species identification to these regions based on what he sees on the acoustic display and catch information gathered from trawls.  He uses 4 different frequencies to “read” the fish signals—each shows different fish characteristics. Having started at the Alaska Fishery Science Center in 1991, this is Steve’s 19th year of participating in integrated acoustic and trawl surveys and his eighth acoustic survey studying Pacific hake. He’s learned how to read their signs with the use of sonar frequencies and his database. Steve tells us about the importance of science: “Science is a methodology by which we understand the natural world.” 

Pacific white-sided dolphin
Pacific white-sided dolphin

New Term/Phrase/Word Pelagic: relating to, living, or occurring in the waters of the ocean opposed to near the shore. In terms of fish, this means primarily living in the water column as opposed to spending most of their time on the sea floor. 

Steve De Blois, NOAA Research Fishery Biologist, shares acoustic datawith Julia Clemons, NOAA Oceanographer, aboard the Miller Freeman.
Steve De Blois, NOAA Research Fishery Biologist, shares acoustic data
with Julia Clemons, NOAA Oceanographer, aboard the Miller Freeman.

Did You Know?
Northern fur seals are pelagic for 7-10 months per year. Pelagic Cormorant birds live in the ocean their entire life.

Humpback whales
Humpback whales

Animals Seen Today 
Humpback whales (2), Pacific white-sided dolphin (12), California sea lions (6), and Northern fur seal.

Humpback whale breaching
Humpback whale breaching

In Praise of…Harmful Algal Bloom Samples 
Crystal cold ocean water running through clear plastic pipes
Be patient as containers are carefully rinsed out three times.
The various sized bottles are filled with the elixir of Poseidon
Accurate measuring is essential.
Consistency ensures accurate results.
Once the water is filtered, tweezers gently lift plankton-laden filter papers.
All samples await analysis in the 20°F freezer.
Data from each test is later recorded;
Levels of domoic acid,  Chlorophyll,
And types, populations, and species of phytoplankton and zooplankton.

Jennifer Fry, July 22, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jennifer Fry
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman (tracker)
July 14 – 29, 2009 

Mission: 2009 United States/Canada Pacific Hake Acoustic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Pacific Ocean from Monterey, CA to British Columbia, CA.
Date: July 22, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Wind speed: 13 knots
Wind direction: 003°from the north
Visibility: clear
Temperature: 13.6°C (dry bulb); 13.2°C (wet bulb)
Sea water temperature: 15.1°C
Wave height: 1-2 ft.
Swell direction: 325°
Swell height: 4-6 ft.

Science/Technology Log 

Today we did a fishing trawl off the coast of Oregon. First, the scientists used multiple acoustic frequencies of sound waves.  After analyzing the sonar data, the scientists felt confident that they would get a good sampling of hake. The chief scientist called the bridge to break our transect line (the planned east/west course) and requested that we trawl for fish.

Here is an acoustic image (2 frequencies) as seen on the scientist’s screen. The bottom wavy line is the seafloor, and the colored sections above are organisms located in the water column.
Here is an acoustic image (2 frequencies) as seen on the scientist’s screen. The bottom wavy line is the seafloor, and the colored sections above are organisms located in the water column.

The NOAA Corps officers directed operations from the trawl house while crew members worked to lower the net to the target depth.  The fishing trawl collected specimens for approximately 20 minutes. After that time, the crew members haul in the net. The scientists continue to record data on the trawl house.

The trawl net sits on the deck of the Miller Freeman and is ready to be weighed and measured.
The trawl net sits on the deck of the Miller Freeman and is ready to be weighed and measured.

Today’s total catch fit into 2 baskets, a “basket” is about the size of your laundry basket at home, approximately 25-35 kilos. Included in the sample were some very interesting fish:

  • Viper fish
  • Ctenophores or comb jellies
  • Larval stage Dover sole, lives at the sea bottom
  • Jelly fish, several varieties (*Note: Jelly fish are types of zooplankton, which means they are animals floating in the ocean.)
  • Hake, approx. 30 kilos

The scientists made quick work of weighing and identifying each species of fish and then began working with the hake. Each hake was individually measured for length and weighed.  The hake’s stomach and otolith were removed. These were carefully labeled and data imputed into the computer.  Scientists will later examine the contents of the stomach to determine what the hake are eating. The otolith (ear bone) goes through a process by which the ear bone is broken in half and then “burnt.” The burning procedure allows one to see the “age rings” much like how we age a tree with its rings.

Personal Log 

A view from the trawl house during a fishing trawl.
A view from the trawl house during a fishing trawl.

Everyone works so very hard to make the Hake Survey successful.  All hands on the ship do a specific job, from cook to engineer to captain of the ship.  It is evident that everyone takes their job seriously and is good at what they do. I feel very fortunate to be part of this very important scientific research project.

 

 

A viper fish
A viper fish

Did You Know? 
Bird facts: An albatross’ wing span can be 5 feet, which equals one very large sea bird. A shearwater is slimmer and smaller yet resembles an albatross.

Animals Seen Today 
Ctenophore, Jelly Fish, Dover sole, Hake, Humboldt squid, Fulmar, Albatross, Gull, and Shearwater.

Here is something interesting, a hake with two mouths discovered in the trawl net.
Here is something interesting, a hake with two mouths discovered in the trawl net.

A hake and its stomach contents, including krill, smaller hake and possibly an anchovy
A hake and its stomach contents, including krill, smaller hake and possibly an anchovy

Dover Sole, larval stage
Dover Sole, larval stage†

NOAA Oceanographer John Pohl and NOAA Fish Biologist Melanie Johnson discuss data about the fish collected.
NOAA Oceanographer John Pohl and NOAA Fish Biologist Melanie Johnson discuss data about the fish collected.

Jennifer Fry, July 21, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jennifer Fry
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman (tracker)
July 14 – 29, 2009 

Mission: 2009 United States/Canada Pacific Hake Acoustic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Pacific Ocean from Monterey, CA to British Columbia, CA.
Date: July 21, 2009

Boatswain Matt Faber, and Skilled Fisherman, Gary Cooper, tend to full net of hake from one of the day’s trawl.
Boatswain Matt Faber, and Skilled Fisherman, Gary Cooper, tend to full net of hake from one of the day’s trawl.

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Wind speed: 10 knots
Wind direction: 011°from the north
Visibility: cloudy
Temperature: 16.2°C (dry bulb); 14.9°C (wet bulb)
Weather note: When you speak of wind direction you are talking about the direction in which the wind is coming. 

Science/Technology Log 

You can see by the weather data above that the seas were much calmer today. We were able to conduct 3 fishing trawls amounting to several thousand kilograms of hake. Once the fish were hauled onto the deck, we began measuring, weighing, dissecting, and removing otoliths, ear bones, for age analysis. I removed my first pair of otoliths today.  The best part of the day was the last and final trawl. We collected approximately 3,000 pounds of Humboldt squid which equals 444 squid.  The math problem to calculate is… “How much would one squid weigh in our catch?”

Julia Clemons, NOAA Fisheries and Jennifer Fry, TAS pictured with Humbolt squid. Today’s catch totaled 444 squid.
Julia Clemons, NOAA Fisheries and Jennifer Fry, TAS pictured with Humbolt squid. Today’s catch totaled 444 squid.

Personal Log 

What strikes me today is just how dedicated the scientists and crew are to their jobs.  Everyone has a specific job aboard the Miller Freeman that they take seriously.

Question of the Day 

Can you use squid ink as you do regular ink? Is there a market for squid inked products such as cards?

New Term/Phrase/Word 

Cusk eel

Animals Seen Today 

Fish:  Humbolt squid, Hake, Iridescent Cusk eel (see photo), Myctophid
Birds:  Shearwaters, Albatross, Gulls

The Squid 
The squid come on little tentacled feet
Falling, splatting, rolling, and sliding out of its netted jail.
Free at last
To be weighed and measured
Sitting on a strong mantle in a flowing liquid of ebony and midnight.
Your silent escape goes unnoticed.

The Clouds 
The clouds slither on little squid tentacles
The midnight inky darkness envelopes the sky and warns us of foreboding
It sits looking over ships and sea lions
Its silent mantle quietly slides away.

(Inspired by Carl Sandberg’s “The Fog”)

The squid were examined, weighed, and the data entered into the data base.
The squid were examined, weighed, and the data entered into the data base.

A cusk eel
A cusk eel

Jennifer Fry, July 20, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jennifer Fry
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman (tracker)
July 14 – 29, 2009 

Mission: 2009 United States/Canada Pacific Hake Acoustic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Pacific Ocean from Monterey, CA to British Columbia, CA.
Date: July 20, 2009

Chief scientist, Dezhang Chu, gets to know a hake while chief scientist, Lisa Bonacci looks on.
Chief scientist, Dezhang Chu, gets to know a hake while chief scientist, Lisa Bonacci looks on.

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Reading in the morning:
Wind speed: 40 knots
Wind direction: 000°from the north
Visibility: clear
Temperature: 11.6°C (dry bulb); 10.5°C (wet bulb)

Reading in the afternoon:
Wind speed: 20 knots
Wind direction: 358°from the north
Visibility: foggy
Temperature: 12.2°C (dry bulb); 11.8°C (wet bulb)

Science/Technology Log 

Collecting the hake’s stomach help scientists determine its diet.
Collecting the hake’s stomach help scientists determine its diet.

Fishing trawl #1. We conducted a successful fishing trawl.  Collection of hake totaled 3500 kg. (kilograms.)  Pictured are chief scientists Lisa Bonacci and Dezhang Chu getting to know the hake.  Fishing trawl #2: There was trouble with the sonar equipment so we were unable to conduct a successful fishing trawl.

Personal Log 

Today’s unsuccessful fishing trawl due to a malfunction reminds me that we often learn more from our mistakes that our successes. Scientists are constantly reviewing their scientific process to make sure they align with their hypothesis. After 3 days of gale force winds (34-40 knots) and big waves, today was a welcome change with 20 knot winds and calm seas in the afternoon.  I finally feel like I’ve my “sea legs” about me.

The hake stomach and a pair of otolith, ear bones will help determine what the hake is eating and how old the fish are.
The hake stomach and a pair of otolith, ear bones will help determine what the hake is eating and how old the fish are.

Animals Seen 
Fish:  Hake Myctophidae
Birds:  Fulmar, Albatross, Gulls, and Shearwater

Jennifer Fry, July 19, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jennifer Fry
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman (tracker)
July 14 – 29, 2009 

Mission: 2009 United States/Canada Pacific Hake Acoustic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Pacific Ocean from Monterey, CA to British Columbia, CA.
Date: July 19, 2009

The XBT (Expendable Bathythermograph)
The XBT (Expendable Bathythermograph)

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Wind speed: 42 knots
Wind direction: 350°from the north
Visibility: clear
Temperature: 11.4°C (dry bulb); 10.4°C (wet bulb)

Science and Technology Log 

The seas are still very rough with 40 knot winds. No fishing trawls due to the high waves and heavy seas. However, despite the rough seas, we were able to conduct an XBT, which stands for Expendable Bathythermograph.  An XBT is a measuring apparatus consisting of a large lead weight connected to a very thin copper wire. The function of the XBT is to measure the temperature throughout the water column.  It is launched off the stern (back) of the ship. As it sinks to the sea floor, temperature data is transmitted to an onboard computer.

Biologist Chris Grandin prepares to launch an XBT
Biologist Chris Grandin prepares to launch an XBT

Personal Log 

The Miller Freeman is an NOAA research vessel.   Here’s a bit of information about the Miller Freeman…For more information go here. The Miller Freeman is a 215foot fisheries and oceanographic research vessel and is one of the largest research trawlers in the United States. Its primary mission is to provide a working platform for the study of the ocean’s living resources. The ship is named for Miller Freeman (1875-1955), a publisher who was actively involved in the international management of fish harvests. The ship was launched in 1967, but not fully rigged until 1975. The vessel was again re-rigged in 1982. Its home port is Seattle, Washington.  It is capable of operating in any waters of the world. The ship has 7 NOAA Corps officers, 27 crew members, and maximum of 11 scientists.

Following is a “tour” of the ship.  It has many nice amenities for extended life at sea.

The Laundry Room - Here’s where we do our laundry. The laundry room is located in the bow/front of the ship which bounces up and down a lot, so you can feel pretty sea sick if you’re up there too long.
The Laundry Room – Here’s where we do our laundry. The laundry room is located in the bow/front of the ship which bounces up and down a lot, so you can feel pretty sea sick at times.

The Kitchen - Our 3 amazing cooks, Bill, Larry, and Adam, work hard preparing 3 meals a day for over 30 people. They have quite a difficult and detailed job.
The Kitchen – Our 3 amazing cooks, Bill, Larry, and Adam, work hard preparing 3 meals a day for over 30 people. They have quite a difficult and detailed job.

The Galley - This is where we enjoy deliciously prepared meals.
The Galley – This is where we enjoy deliciously prepared meals.

The Library - Pictured here is the ship’s library where crew members can read and check e-mail.
The Library – Pictured here is the ship’s library where crew members can read and check e-mail.

The Lounge - Here’s the lounge where movies and video games can be watched.
The Lounge – Here’s the lounge where movies and video games can be watched.

The Gym - The gym is located on the lowest level of the ship.  This is where you can work off the great food that you’ve eaten.
The Gym – The gym is located on the lowest level of the ship. This is where you can work off the great food that you’ve eaten.

The Gift of Patience 
Wending our way through the North Pacific Ocean,
The massive waves crash against our hull with Herculean strength
As high as a one story building, their tops are dolloped with luscious whipped cream
They take their turn crashing against the ships sturdy hull, as gale force winds whip wildly past.
We play a waiting game. We practice the ancient art of patience.
When will we have hake, the silvery, slender fish that evades our sonar?

As the winds blow, cold sea spray stings my face.
I watch as the never ending line of waves wait their turn to hit the ship’s hull.
The waves wait patiently as do we.
The sea teaches us serenity.
We must not show greed or impatience.
The sea will provide.
One should lay empty and open waiting for the gifts from the sea.

~Inspired by Anne Morrow Lindberg’s Gifts from the Sea

NOAA Ship Miller Freeman
NOAA Ship Miller Freeman

Jennifer Fry, July 17, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jennifer Fry
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman (tracker)
July 14 – 29, 2009 

Mission: 2009 United States/Canada Pacific Hake Acoustic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Pacific Ocean from Monterey, CA to British Columbia, CA.
Date: July 17, 2009

Hake are unloaded into holding containers, soon to be weighed and measured
Hake are unloaded into holding containers, soon to be weighed and measured

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Wind speed: 20 knots
Wind direction: 340°from the north- north west
Visibility: foggy
Temperature: 15.2°C (dry bulb); 13.0°C (wet bulb)

Science and Technology Log 

Each day I observe the NOAA scientists using the scientific process.  These are the same process skills we learn in the classroom. The scientists determine what they want to find out and state it in a question form. These are some of the questions/hypotheses that they are trying to answer.

  • What and where are the populations of hake?
  • In what environments do the hake best thrive?
  • When do they migrate?
  • What do they feed on?
  • What feeds on the hake?

Once the hake are observed on the sonar, the trawl net is dropped into the water.  The fish are hauled out onto the deck where they are emptied into huge holding bins.  Scientists want a good sampling of hake for the survey, not too much and not too little.  Getting a good sample is important to the scientists; both for their research and the environment.  The scientists don’t want to take too many hake each time they fish, doing this might diminish the hake population. 

Collecting Data: Observing – Using the senses to collect information.

Classifying – Sorting or ordering objects or ideas into groups or categories based on their properties.

Measuring – Determining dimensions (length/area), volume, mass/weight, or time of objects or events by using instruments that measure these properties.

Otoliths—fish ear bones—are extracted and placed in vials (test tubes) for later study.
Otoliths—fish ear bones—are extracted and placed in vials (test tubes) for later study.

The scientists then collect their data. Fish are separated by species or classified.  All hake collected are then weighed. A certain number of them are measured in length, and their sex is determined.  Scientists observe; dissect a group of hake, and collect the fish’s ear bones, called the otoliths, (2 white oval shapes pictured above). Otoliths are stored in small vials, which are like test tubes, for later study. The test tube has a serial number which is fed into a computer as well. Later, scientists will observe the otoliths under a microscope.  The otolith helps determine the age of the fish. When observed under a microscope, the otolith, or ear bone has rings similar to rings of a tree. The more rings, the older the fish.  The age of the fish or data is then recorded in a computer spreadsheet.

Communicating – Using pictorial, written, or oral language to describe an event, action, or object.

Making Models – Making a pictorial, written or physical representation to explain an idea, event, or object.

Recording Data Writing down the results of an observation of an object or event using pictures, words, or numbers.

As data is collected, it is recorded into a computer database, then scientists create tables and graphs from information in this database.

Inferring  – Making statements about an observation that provide a reasonable explanation.

Predicting – Guessing what the outcome of an event will be based on observations and, usually, prior knowledge of similar events.

Interpreting Data – Creating or using tables, graphs, or diagrams to organize and explain information.

The otoliths look like small oval “winglike” structures.
The otoliths look like small oval “winglike” structures.

Once all the data is in the computer, scientists can analyze or figure out the answers to these questions.

  • What and where are the populations of hake?
  • In what environments do the hake best thrive?
  • When do they migrate?
  • What do they feed on?
  • What feeds on the hake?

Scientists use the data to infer or make a statement about the data that gives a reasonable explanation.  Scientists also make predictions by guessing what the outcome might be based on the data/observations.

Marine Mammal Watch – NOAA Fisheries instructs the scientists to conduct a “marine mammal watch” prior to a fishing trawl. This is to protect the marine mammals, such as dolphins, whales, sea lions, and seals.  When the nets go into the ocean, the curious sea lions want to see what’s going on and play around the nets.  This can prove dangerous for the animals because if they get tangled in the net, they cannot come up for air, and being mammals, they need air.  As it happened, a half a dozen sea lions were spotted around our trawl net. To protect the inquisitive animals we found another spot in which to put our net.

California sea lion
California sea lion

Personal Log 

Everyone aboard the Miller Freeman is a team.  It’s an amazing working environment.  The ship runs like a well oiled machine.  The crew is always so helpful and are dedicated to their work.  The scientists are incredibly dedicated to their specific field and are committed to helping the world and the ocean’s biome. Everyone is so patient with all my questions.  I am so grateful and honored to be part of this hake survey which is so scientifically important in determining the health of our ocean.

Animals Seen Today 
California sea lions
Hake Myctophidae: lantern fish