Becky Moylan: Preliminary Results, July 13, 2011

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Becky Moylan
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
July 1 — 14, 2011


Mission: IEA (Integrated Ecosystem Assessment)
Geographical Area: Kona Region of Hawaii
Captain: Kurt Dreflak
Science Director: Samuel G. Pooley, Ph.D.
Chief Scientist: Evan A. Howell
Date: July 13, 2011

Ship Data

Latitude 1940.29N
Longitude 15602.84W
Speed 5 knots
Course 228.2
Wind Speed 9.5 knots
Wind Dir. 180.30
Surf. Water Temp. 25.5C
Surf. Water Sal. 34.85
Air Temperature 24.8 C
Relative Humidity 76.00 %
Barometric Pres. 1013.73 mb
Water Depth 791.50 Meters

Science and Technology Log

Results of Research

Myctophid fish and non-Myctophid fish, Crustaceans, and gelatinous (jelly-like) zooplankton

Crustaceans

Chief Scientist guiding the CTD into the ocean

Chief Scientist guiding the CTD into the ocean

Beginning on July 1st, the NOAA Integrated Ecosystem Assessment project (IEA) in the Kona region has performed scientific Oceanography operations at eight stations.  These stations form two transects (areas) with one being offshore and one being close to shore. As of July 5th, there have been 9 CTD (temperature, depth and salinity) readings, 7 mid-water trawls (fish catches), over 15 acoustics (sound waves) recordings, and 30 hours of marine mammal (dolphins and whales) observations.

The University of Hawaii Ocean Sea Glider has been recording its data also.The acoustics data matches the trawl data to tell us there was more mass (fish) in the close to shore area than the offshore area. And more mass in the northern area than the south. This is evidence that the acoustics system is accurate because what it showed on the computer matched what was actually caught in the net. The fish were separated by hand into categories: Myctophid fish and non-Myctophid fish, Crustaceans, and gelatinous (jelly-like) zooplankton.

Variety of Non-Myctophid Fish caught in the trawl

Variety of Non-Myctophid Fish caught in the trawl

The CTD data also shows that there are changes as you go north and closer to shore. One of the CTD water sample tests being done tells us the amount of phytoplankton (plant) in different areas. Phytoplankton creates energy by making chlorophyll and this chlorophyll is the base of the food chain. It is measured by looking at its fluorescence level. Myctophids eat phytoplankton, therefore, counting the amount of myctophids helps create a picture of how the ecosystem is working.

The data showed us more Chlorophyll levels in the closer to shore northern areas . Phytoplankton creates energy using photosynthesis (Photo = light, synthesis  = put together) and is the base of the food chain. Chlorophyll-a is an important pigment in photosynthesis and is common to all phytoplankton. If we can measure the amount of chlorophyll-a in the water we can understand how much phytoplankton is there. We measure chlorophyll-a by using fluorescence, which sends out light of one “color” to phytoplankton, which then send back light of a different color to our fluorometer (sensor used to measure fluorescence). Myctophids eat zooplankton, which in turn eat phytoplankton. Therefore, counting the amount of myctophids helps create a picture of how the ecosystem is working.   The data showed us more chlorophyll-a levels in the closer to shore northern areas.

Bringing in the catch

The Sea Glider SG513 has transmitted data for 27 dives so far, and will continue to take samples until October when it will be picked up and returned to UH.

Overall the mammal observations spotted 3 Striped dolphins, 1 Bottlenose dolphin, and 3 Pigmy killer whales.  Two biopsy “skin” samples were collected from the Bottlenose dolphins. A main part of their research, however, is done with photos. They have so far collected over 900 pictures.

Looking at all the results so far, we see that there is an area close to shore in the northern region of Kona that has a higher concentration of marine life.  The question now is why?

We are now heading south to evaluate another region so that we can get a picture of the whole Eastern coastline.

Personal Log

In the driver's seat

In the driver's seat

Krill

Krill

And on deck the next morning we found all kinds of krill, a type of crustacean. Krill are an important part of the food chain that feed directly on phytoplankton. Larger marine animals feed on krill including whales. It was a fun process finding new types of fish and trying to identify them.Last night I found a beautiful orange and white trumpet fish. We also saw many transparent (see-through) fish with some having bright silver and gold sections. There were transparent crabs, all sizes of squid, and small clear eels. One fish I saw looked like it had a zipper along the bottom of it, so I called it a “zipperfish”. A live Pigmy shark was in the net, so they put it in a bucket of water for everyone to see. These types don’t ever get very big, less than a foot long.

I have really enjoyed living on this ship, and it will be sad to leave. Everyone treated me like I was part of the group. I have learned so much about NOAA and the ecosystem of the Kona coastline which will make my lessons more interesting this year. Maybe the students won’t be bored!

Sunrise over Kona Region

Sunrise

Sunrise

Becky Moylan: July 2, 2011

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Becky Moylan
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
July 1 — 14, 2011

Mission: IEA (Integrated Ecosystem Assessment)
Geographical Area: Kona Region of Hawaii
Captain: Kurt Dreflak
Science Director: Samuel G. Pooley, Ph.D.
Chief Scientist: Evan A. Howell
Date: July 2, 2011

Science and Technology Log

Life of all sizes

Glider in Water

Glider in Water

Today I woke up late because the ship rocked me back to sleep many times. When I stumbled out of the berth, people were busy working. They had already released a seaglider that is owned by the University of Hawaii. This is a machine that looks kind of like an airplane. It collects information about the ocean and relays it back to land via satellite.

Glider for CTD

Glider

It goes down, collects data, comes back up to send data to land, then goes back down again for more data, and on and on. The glider is collecting information on ocean temperature, salinity, and phytoplankton (through fluorescence). There is also a hydrophone attached which is “passive” acoustics. This means that the hydrophone can hear sounds, but does not “actively” send out a signal. With passive acoustics they can hear cetacean sounds, and can possibly identify species, but would have less luck understanding *where* the animals were.

Everyday samples of ocean water are taken. This is done using a CTD (conductivity, temperature, and depth) machine. It is cast off several times a day. The CTD is dropped into the ocean using a crane and winch. It is sent down to 1,000 meters, and water is collected at specific depths between 200 meters and the surface. Most of the biological signal they see is in the upper 200 meters of the water, which is roughly the depth of the Euphotic (or Sunlit) Zone.

CTD Ready to launch in the water

CTD Ready to launch

The CTD is attached to the ship’s computers with wire inside a cable. It sends signals to the computers so the scientist can keep track of the where it is, and “fire” one bottle (Niskin Bottles) at a time. This means closing the bottle’s lid so it can hold the water it has collected. After each  one is fired, the water from all the different depths is lifted to the surface and collected for sampling. Scientists then filter the seawater to get a concentrated sample of phytoplankton cells using a small round piece of paper. These filters are put in a liquid called acetone and kept cold (-20 degrees celsius) for 24 hours and then fluorescence levels are measured in the lab. This gives them an idea of how much phytoplankton is located at different depths. Other samples are put in liquid nitrogen, and sent back to the  University of Hawaii where they will use specialized equipment (High Performance Liquid Chromatography) to identify the types of phytoplankton.

Cetacean Crew

Cetacean Crew

Another group of scientists went out on a small boat to look for cetaceans (Spinner dolphins and False Killer whales). They will be taking pictures and collecting samples of the mammal’s “skin” to test it for various reasons. These can tell them what the dolphins are eating and where they are eating. Scientists look at their genetics to help them determine the amount of dolphin species and how different groups are related to each other. Today they were able to see striped dolphins which are very beautiful and not as easy to find.

Sample organisms form the trawl

Sample organisms form the trawl

There are also trawl operations at certain places called stations. This is where the ship releases a net and scoops up small organisms for studying. We saw a lot of shrimp, squid, and fish called Myctophids. They were weighed, sorted by types, and counted.

Personal Log

It has been an exciting day! There are many different activities going on at the same time, so I am glad my time onboard will be two weeks. I have met scientists, student interns, and employees of NOAA. Everyone works together on the ship whether they are from New York, Florida, California, Rhode Island, New Jersey, or Hawaii. Eating in the galley is like going to grandma’s house for dinner. I am looking forward to tomorrow’s adventures when I hope to learn more about the acoustic operations and how they are tracking fish.

Filtering ocean water for photoplankton

Filtering ocean water for photoplankton

Myctophid (Lantern Fish): common in the area

Myctophid (Lantern Fish): common in the area