Ellen O’Donnell: All Good Things Come to an End, May 23, 2012

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Ellen O’Donnell
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
May 14 – May 25, 2012

Mission: North Atlantic Right Whale Survey
Geographical area of the cruise: Atlantic Ocean; Georges Basin heading back to Woods Hole
Date: May 23, 2012

Weather Data from the Bridge: Light winds, fog, ocean swells between 3 to 5 feet.

Science and Technology Log:

Tropical Storm Alberto brought in a low pressure system so Tuesday evening we headed back to Provincetown to wait out the effects. It takes about 12 hours to get between Georges Basin and Provincetown. We spent the day in port and everyone caught up on work and reading. It was a welcome rest from the excitement of the past 4 days.

Beth Josephson consolidating ocean survey data from around the US

Tuesday evening we pulled up anchor and headed back out to our right whale spot. Unfortunately, the fog creeped in and it was decided to head back to Woods Hole and cut our survey short. I have to say I am disappointed, but Mother Nature isn’t always cooperative and you can’t beat our previous successful days. While my trip is just about over, the scientists still have a great deal to do. The photos need to be matched up with known right whale individuals, whale poop and biopsies need to be analyzed, and reports need to be written. Data collection is very important, but don’t forget you need to handle the data correctly in order to make correct conclusions.

Being a NOAA scientist is a very exciting career. For many of these folks, this research survey was one of many. Two of our group will be doing an aerial survey next week searching for previously tagged seals. Other future trips include going to New Zealand on a southern right whale survey trip, and a trip to Alaska on an arctic ocean mammal survey. These people not only get to travel around the world, but they are top in their field and really making a difference in conserving our ocean environment. I feel incredibly lucky to have been one of their team on this survey cruise. It has definitely been an opportunity of a lifetime.

The scientist crew aboard the Delaware II including me!

Personal Log:

It has been fascinating learning about NOAA. While I have always heard of this organization, and even used their materials for lesson plans, I never fully understood its place in our government until now.

 NOAA’s Mission:

Science, Service, and Stewardship
To understand and predict changes in climate, weather, oceans, and coasts,
To share that knowledge and information with others, and
To conserve and manage coastal and marine ecosystems and resources

So I have mentioned three key groups that are important to this organization; the scientists, the NOAA Commissioned Corps, and the wage mariners. I already mentioned the scientists so now I’ll explain about the NOAA  Corps. The NOAA  Corps is one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. Officers operate ships, fly aircraft, facilitate research projects, conduct diving operations, and serve in staff positions throughout NOAA. To be eligible for the NOAA corps you need to have a baccalaureate degree, preferably in a major course of study related to NOAA’s scientific or technical activities. You also need a certain number of science and math course work hours while at college. Once accepted, recruits attend a 4-5 month training camp, and then are placed on a 2 to 3 year permanent assignment aboard a NOAA research vessel. Here is a link to a great video which describes the NOAA Officer Corps program. If only I were younger! http://www.corpscpc.noaa.gov/flash/recruit_video.html

Executive Officer, Lieutenant Commander Sean Cimilluca

Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Commander Rick Hester and Ensign Junie Cassone on the bridge

You can also be a part of NOAA by becoming a wage mariner. Wage mariners are civilians who perform various functions within NOAA. Civilian vessel jobs include deck mates, engineers, stewards, survey and electronic technicians. I talked about several of these groups in my previous blogs. The wage mariner program is a great way to see the world without joining the Corps. Some wage mariners stay with one vessel for many years, whereas others put themselves in a pool where they travel to whatever ship may need them. Here is a link to watch a video about the wage mariner program. http://www.moc.noaa.gov/shipjobs/WMvideos/WMv3_Complete_640x480_Caps.mov

So it’s hard to believe my trip is coming to an end. I can’t thank NOAA enough for this opportunity and I can’t wait to bring what I’ve learned into the classroom. This has been a rich experience for me that I will never forget. Memories of trying to walk normally on a rocking ship, to getting within 15 feet of a right whale, and working with these dedicated people will be with me for the rest of my life!

Right Whale in front of the Delaware II

Deborah Campbell: May 21st, 2012

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Deborah Campbell
Onboard NOAA Ship Nancy Foster
May 14 – May 24, 2012

Mission:  Collecting Zebra Arc Shells and Multibeam Mapping
Geographical Area:  Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary
Date: Monday, May 21, 2012

Teacher on land, Deborah Campbell, on Atlantic Beach near Mayport Navel Base in Florida.

Mission: Multibeam Mapping, Arc shell collections, Marine debris monitering, Fish telemetry, Acoustic receiver deployment/ maintenance

Weather Data from the Bridge: Monitoring Tropical Storm “Alberto”

Science and Technology Log

I am currently a “Teacher on Land”.  Tropical storm “Alberto” has forced our ship to dock in Florida.  I found out Saturday evening around 7:30 in the evening about the storm.  The CO (commanding officer) held a meeting in the mess deck (eating area) to inform all crew about the change in plans.  We were informed that we were heading to Florida to get away from the storm.  The plan would be to arrive in Florida at the Mayport Naval Base at 8:00 a.m. Sunday morning.  If the storm stayed on track as predicted we would leave Florida on Monday at 5:00 p.m.

A tropical storm causes high winds ranging from 33 – 73 miles per hour, and very high waves.  There is a weather buoy located by Gray’s Reef tracking weather conditions.  The Nancy Foster is docked at Mayport Naval Base near Jacksonville, Florida.  Another NOAA ship, Okeanos  Explorer, is docked behind us. Okeanos Explorer was headed north to Rhode Island which is their home base , when they had to turn around. What is really cool about Okeanos is that it has a giant soccer ball which is their satellite system.

CO Holly Jablonski on bridge of NOAA Ship Nancy Foster

NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer

On the bridge of the ship, the CO (commanding officer), and her crew use the ship’s computers to monitor radar, weather, navigation, and water depth.  The ship is equipped with GPS (global positioning system).  GPS is a space-based satellite navigation system that provides location and time information.  In all weather, anywhere on or near the Earth, where there is an unobstructed line of sight to four or more GPS satellites, weather can be tracked.  The GPS system is maintained by the United States government, and can be accessed by anyone using a GPS receiver.

Personal Log

Deborah Campbell, Teacher At Sea standing on top of submarine from Brazil at Mayport Navel Base in Florida

The view of Mayport Naval Base is amazing.  This base is like a city having everything imaginable.  There is a bowling alley, a hotel, stores, restaurants, a beach, a gym, and much more.  Yesterday, we went outside the guarded gates to the beach area.  We ate at a nice restaurant.  I am now having trouble walking on land.  It feels like I am still on the ship.  Today, I walked outside the gates where the ships are to go get some pizza for lunch.  I had to show the armed Navy guards my I.D.  We walked quite a distance.  We stopped at the base exchange to buy some magazines and snacks.  On the way back, I stopped where the submarine Tikuna, from Brazil is docked.  I got to climb on top of the sub.  It was very cool.  Some of our crew from the Nancy Foster went down a very steep ladder into the sub.  We are expecting to resume activities at Gray’s Reef on Tuesday.  We are heading back around eight this evening.  Okeanos Explorer left at ten this morning, and they are reporting rough seas as they head back to Rhode Island.  The crew will continue to monitor weather conditions….

Bridge deck computer systems aboard NOAA Ship Nancy Foster.

LT Josh Slater entering submarine Tikuna