Steven Frantz: A Day’s Delay, July 26, 2012

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Steven Frantz
Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II
July 27 – August 8, 2012

Mission: Longline Shark Tagging Survey
Geographic area of cruise:  Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic off the east coat of Florida.
Date:  July 26, 2012

Personal Log


The Oregon II was supposed to leave Pascagoula, Mississippi on Thursday, July 26, 2012. However, a momentous event occurred which delayed our departure by one day. This upcoming mission just so happened to be the Oregon II’s 300th mission. Thursday was set aside as a day to celebrate this milestone.  NOAA employees, media, and public alike joined to reminisce the past and look toward the future. The very first Teacher at Sea sailed upon the Oregon II. Now it is my turn. I am humbled to think of all the great teachers who have gone before me and am honored to now be following in their footsteps.

Oregon II
The Oregon II all decked out and ready to sail
The cake decorated with the 300th cruise artwork

The day’s delay afforded me the opportunity to see some of the land operations NOAA conducts and a little bit that the Pascagoula area has to offer.

First stop was the NOAA lab. This building was just opened in 2009 as the former lab was destroyed during Hurricane Katrina. After checking in we saw office upon office of researchers working on their projects.


Alex Fogg was working in the lab. He was busy studying the stomach contents of lionfish. Lionfish were released around the Florida Keys several years ago. Having no predators, this invasive species has been reproducing at an alarming rate. Listen to Alex tell about his research.


NOAA also has an educational outreach program. Earlier in the morning a group of four year olds visited and learned how a Turtle Excluder Device (TED) works. TED’s are required to be installed on shrimp nets. Before the advent of TED’s, when a sea turtle was caught in a shrimp net, it usually drowned before the net was hauled up. Now, when a sea turtle gets caught in a net, it travels through the net until it gets to the TED. The TED looks like bars on a jail cell. The smaller shrimp can pass through, but the sea turtle gets pushed up and out through an opening in the net.

Turtle Steve
Mr. Frantz demonstrating how a TED works

The Pascagoula area is known for food: barbecue and seafood. The Shed is a famous outdoor barbecue restaurant, which has been featured on TV. I couldn’t decide what to order, so the sampler, with a little bit of everything fit the bill. A “little bit” has an entirely different meaning here than it does in Ohio. This was a huge meal of ribs, wings, and brisket. It also came with sides of collard greens, macaroni and cheese, and baked beans. There were plenty of leftovers for the next day!

It was also interesting that even though it was very hot and humid and the The Shed was outdoors, it did not feel hot at all. Swamp coolers were installed around the perimeter of the restaurant. What is a swamp cooler? I’ll leave it to you to find out!

Pascagoula, Mississippi is a port town with a rich history. Because of its close affiliations with everything nautical, they use nautical flags in their town logo. See if you can spell out P-A-S-C-A-G-O-U-L-A in the arch of flags. Then, see if you can spell out your own name!

City Hall
City Hall
Nautical Alphabet Flags
Nautical Alphabet Flags

There you have it! One long hot day of good food, celebration, and the wonderful people of Pascagoula, Mississippi. Tomorrow we set sail to find sharks! We have to travel three days at sea to get out of the Gulf of Mexico, around Florida, then to the Atlantic Ocean.

Steven Wilkie: June 30, 2011

JUNE 23 — JULY 4, 2011

Mission: Summer Groundfish Survey
Geographic Location: Northern Gulf of Mexico
Date: June 30th, 2011

Ships Data

Latitude 28.32
Longitude -95.19
Speed 9.10 kts
Course 273.00
Wind Speed 12.71 kts
Wind Dir. 79.58 º
Surf. Water Temp. 28.20 ºC
Surf. Water Sal. 24.88 PSU
Air Temperature 29.50 ºC
Relative Humidity 75.00 %
Barometric Pres. 1014.84 mb
Water Depth 35.70 m

Science and Technology Log

So despite the long shifts, I managed to rouse myself out of bed early for my shift.  I wandered up to the drylab (just off of the deck) to check in and see what had been brought on board during the last trawl.  The second watch was working up a catch in the wet lab and on the deck was an unusual but significant catch, a sea turtle.  Definitely not a targeted species of

An unintended catch, the Kemp's Ridley (Lepidochelys kempi) was brought on board with one of the trawls, but returned to the sea safe and sound.

this cruise.   Although rare on NOAA cruises, sea turtles are unfortunately often caught up as bycatch by the fishing industry.  Bycatch is an unintended species in the net, and sea turtles were a  large bycatch component of the shrimp industry.

NOAA takes sea turtle bycatch very seriously.  No sooner had the turtle been put on the deck did the science team spring into action to collect vital statistics and data about the turtle before returning it back to the Gulf safe and sound.   The Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle (Lepidochelys kempi), like most sea turtles, is considered and endangered species.   By collecting data about the sea turtles, NOAA scientists can continue to monitor the health of the population, especially in light of last  year’s Deep Water Horizon oil spill.

Scientists worked the turtle up by collecting measurements (length and width) of the shell, and collecting a tissue sample in order to perform DNA analysis.  An electronic tag was inserted under the skin, so that if the turtle is caught again  it can be scanned and more data can be added to its file. This would allow scientists to determine migratory patterns and growth rates.  Finally the turtle’s rear flippers were fitted with tags that, again, would allow scientists to monitor its movement, age and growth.

Trained NOAA scientists measure the carapace length of our unexpected catch.Before being returned to the Gulf, the Kemp's Ridley is outfitted with two flipper tags. These tags can be used to help scientists monitor the life history of this particular turtle.
Trained NOAA scientists fit the Kemp's Ridley sea turtle with tags that can be used to collect additional data should the turtle be caught again.
In the early 1980s the situation with turtle populations in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico waters had gotten so dire, that scientists began researching ways to reduce turtle bycatch.  TEDs or Turtle Exclusion Devices were introduced to the shrimping industry on a volunteer basis.  These devices are rigged to the catch-end of shrimpers’ nets and act like a grate over a storm drain.  The water (and shrimp) can flow into the end of the net, but anything as big as a turtle is stopped and able to escape through a trap door.  To get a better idea of how a TED works follow this link to NOAA’s video of a TED in action.
  Today, TEDs are mandated on all trawl nets used by the fishing industry.  Although at first the shrimping industry was reluctant to embrace the technology, by working collaboratively, scientists, the fishing industry, and government legislators are helping to  curtail the drastic reduction in sea turtle populations in American waters.

Jeannine Foucault, November 19, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jeannine Foucault
Onboard NOAA Ship Pisces
November 7 – 19, 2009

Mission: Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Southeast U.S.
Date: November 19, 2009

Seafloor ROV images
Seafloor ROV images

Science Log

Our last day of ROV dives and it was definitely worthwhile. PISCES held off the coast of South Carolina at the Edisto MPA (Marine Protection Area). We were able to get in four dives with the ROV. The scientists paid close attention to the marine habitat within the ecosystems of all four dives. The interesting conclusion was that all four dives had very different habitats. What is even more interesting is that these differing habitats affect the number of animals that live there. Some of the areas we saw were smooth sandy bottom and interspersed on the smooth bottom are rugged rocky outcrops.

The rocky reefs range in height from some being really short to some being very tall. Some of the rocky reefs can even be in a small area the size of a dinner plate and others are hundreds of square miles.

Rocky reefs from the ROV
Rocky reefs from the ROV

The important fact of the matter is that the rugged hard bottom is favored by many species of animals including corals, sponges, and other invertebrates. Scientists find that sunken ships or other debris that ends up at the bottom of the ocean becomes perfect habitat for animals. These areas protect fish species during spawning and from predators. Today’s discovery is that the most fish species we have seen was found not in the smooth sandy bottom but in fact in the rugged rocky outcrops and rocky reef ranges.

Things I have seen today:

hammerhead shark
sea turtle
sea cucumber
spotted goat fish
pencil urchin
banded butterfly fish
sand tilefish
sea biscuit

Question of the Day

What is a TED?