Roy Moffitt: Last Day of School, Onward to Summer in the Arctic Ocean. June 21, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Roy Moffitt
Aboard Ship: USCGC Healy
Cruise Dates: 8/7/2018 – 8/25/2018

Mission: Arctic Distributed Biological Observatory

Geographic Area: Arctic Ocean (Bering Sea, Chukchi Sea, Beaufort Sea)

Date: June 22, 2018

From New Hampshire and coming soon this August from the Arctic

Yesterday, June 21, 2018, was the last day of school for us at the Maple Street School in Hopkinton, New Hampshire. It was an appropriate day for the last day of school as summer vacation starts on the summer solstice this year. We ended the school year with a promotion of the NOAA research mission I will be taking part in this summer. Part of this unique learning opportunity is to bring the learning experience to students and the general public, not only in Hopkinton, NH but across the country. If you have found my blog, congratulations! Please follow the blog so you to can join me on this adventure.

Above are the students of Maple Street during the end of year assembly. The Maple Street School is located in the village of Contoocook in the town of Hopkinton New Hampshire. The school is composed of students in grades 4-6 grade and approximately 210 students.

Above are the students of Maple Street during the end of year assembly. The Maple Street School is located in the village of Contoocook in the town of Hopkinton, New Hampshire. The school is composed of students in grades 4-6 grade and approximately 210 students.

Overview of Mission

There will be over 40 scientists and I the Science teacher headed into the Arctic Ocean sailing out of Nome Alaska to the Barrow Canyon. The Barrow Canyon is an underwater gorge that runs East to North West of Barrow Alaska and is known for its rich marine life. Scientists will be conducting numerous studies and observations at many locations during the trip.   The scientific studies taking place will have a common theme, how are the rapid changing Arctic Sea Ice conditions affecting the region?

This NOAA image from November shows the historically low ice in the study area this fall. Historically the Chukchi Sea has had sea ice at this time. This map is a good guide to orient you to the study area from Nome to the north-northwest of Barrow Alaska.

This NOAA image from November shows the historically low ice in the study area this fall. Historically the Chukchi Sea has had sea ice at this time. This map is a good guide to orient you to the study area from Nome to the north-northwest of Barrow, Alaska.

For the last two years, regional sea ice in the Bering Sea has been at a historic low. What changes does this have on the region’s ecosystem? This includes the microscopic plankton to fish, marine birds to larger marine mammals. These creatures live anywhere from the sea floor to the air, and all these areas will be observed. As we observed in my 6th-grade science class this year, in an ecosystem the living (biotic) is affected by the non-living (or abiotic). Non-living factors that will be measured will include the salinity of the water, the water temperature, and changes in ocean currents themselves. Changes in ocean currents have larger effects on local and regional climates, which include those on land.

This annual survey will allow for changes over time to monitored. What will scientists learn this year? Follow this blog to find out. To sign up to be notified of updates click the follow button on the bottom right of your screen and you will be notified when there is a new post to read.  The blog will be updated at the start of and during the mission from the from one of the most remote areas of the world, north of the Arctic Circle in the Arctic Ocean.  I look forward to talking to you again soon from the Arctic Ocean during the first week of August!

Maggie Prevenas, May 15, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Maggie Prevenas
Onboard US Coast Guard Ship Healy
April 20 – May 15, 2007

Mission: Bering Sea Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Alaska
Date: May 15, 2007

Science Log

I waited until most people had left the airplane before I gathered up my gear, treasures, and technology equipment. So many people, in such a hurry, and my senses were overloaded; the bright lights and loud sounds of rush hour in a huge international airport shook me to my toes. I continued through the terminal as I had approached my entire journey, one step at a time.

I realized there were only one or two airlines in this terminal so I knew I had to do some investigating. Walking, walking, walking past many, many, many people, gosh that was something! I had to kindly interrupt a Security Guard, an airport cleaning staff, and a sky cap before I even approached the terminal of my last flight.

Los Angeles airport is set up like a big horseshoe with the terminals like nails in the hoof. In the center is the giant Star Wars Air Control Tower that looms over the site like Darth Vader. Everything is concrete, or blacktop, or steel, or glass. The cars, and taxis, and police vehicles zoom around the loop at racecar speeds. No lie, I ran into the same police motorcycle three times as I walked from one end of the terminal complex to the other.

I got into my home terminal and had to check through security once again. Since my breakfast yogurt was ‘safe and under control’ in the wastebasket in Anchorage, I had to purchase my protein and calcium from yet another vendor. I found my gate and a good wall with an outlet and floor space . I sat down, plugged in my computer and stretched out my legs. Leg room would be precious on the flight.

There was a layover of at least an hour until the gate began to fill with excited tourists getting ready to go to the vacation of their dreams. So I worked away on my computer, updating images, and cleaning up photo files. Even though the flight was delayed, then delayed again, and then delayed indefinitely, I wasn’t upset. One step at a time I got here, and one step at a time I’d get home.

I saw a grown woman throw a temper tantrum. I saw another man talk in a mean voice to the airline check-in lady. I saw a baby child take wobbly steps around and around the gate. “Would you please watch HIM!” the mother hissed at the father. The father rolled his eyes and opened his cell phone, attempting to reschedule a flight that may or may not be cancelled due to repair. “What is the hurry?” I thought and then I realized that if I lived there I would be desperate to go to paradise as well.

Finally, whatever had been broken, was fixed. The pilot gave her thumbs up, and I was on a plane bound for my home on an airplane that was full, full, full of people. Five short hours later, I was home, the air full of honey sweet plumeria and humidity. Without rain there are no rainbows.

I saw my husband before he saw me and I choked up, just a hitch. I was home. I was really home. He had kept the house clean, and fed all the animals, had done all the yard work, and managed everything while I had spent 38 days in a galaxy far, far away. For that and him I will be forever grateful.

But there are so many to thank.

My risk-taking principal who believes in his teachers.

My uber substitute student teacher, who taught ME about fighter planes and MY STUDENTS so much more.

My mumma, who gave birth to more than just me. She kept an entire binder of my journals and questions.

My sister, who kept me in the dark, so I wouldn’t slip into a crack.

My daughter, who is a source of constant interest and growth.

My students who delight in learning from me as much as I do from them. Their warm Aloha from the boots they signed always kept my feet and my heart warm.

My Inupiat Eskimo friends, who gave me so much more than I could ever offer. All I had to do was listen with my eyes.

PolarTrec support staffers who make it all look so easy but know that it’s not.

NOAA and the Teacher at Sea program. Now it’s my turn to tell stories and inspire the next generation of marine biologists, waitresses, gardeners, truck drivers, and the homeless not hopeless.

The kind Fed Ex shipper, Ed, who gave me a box, wrapped up half my cold weather gear and offered to take me to the post office because it was too expensive to ship it from there.

All the researchers on the Healy for having so much patience with me and my questions, and tolerating me. But especially the bird men and women, the ice seal team, the algae population explosion experts, the nutrient decoders, the fish stalkers, the lovers of marine mammals when they aren’t studying plankton (a life style). Heck, everyone who had to put up with me and my eternal enthusiasm. Thank you.

The Coast Guard women and men of the Healy, I was never afraid because I knew you’d keep me safe. Look for an increase in enlistment from Hawaii in about 5 years…

And thank you, for following my mission. I hope you will continue to check back as I will continue to post and share what I am doing with what I heard when I listened with my eyes.

Maggie Prevenas, May 14, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Maggie Prevenas
Onboard US Coast Guard Ship Healy
April 20 – May 15, 2007

Mission: Bering Sea Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Alaska
Date: May 14, 2007

Science Log

Monday arrived cold and snowy. I peeped out of the warm hotel room and looked at the snow blusters that swirled and danced across the gravel. I had a number of things to mail, and the USPO was right across the road. Guess I better start my day.

It wasn’t planned, but I made three separate trips to the post office that day. I needed to mail a beautiful large map of Alaska to Hawaii. I needed to mail the squished decorated styrofoam cups back to my new friends from St. Paul in the Pribilof Islands, and I needed to send my cold weather gear back to VECO in Fairbanks, Alaska.

In between the trips to the PO, I was drawn to the edge of the bay as it licks the main drive that curls around the mountains of the island. I heard it before I saw it, the musical sound that cold ocean water makes when colliding with smooth round stones. I knew that sound. It was the same sound as the beach at Yaquina Head outside of Newport along the Oregon coast. I closed my eyes and felt the snow sting my face. The smell was the same too. Rich and fecund, the north Pacific.

I stumbled along the stony beach, watching my feet, watching the stones, measuring the bull kelp from holdfast to shorn bald bulb. I decided to take some beach memories home to Hawaii, a discarded plastic ice cream bucket held my treasures until I tucked them in my pregnant duffels, still wet and cold.

By this time the air was a white whizzy chaos. I could not see the mountains. Rumor had it that if you couldn’t see the mountains, the plane wouldn’t land. The weather forecast told of snow showers, especially towards evening. I thought I might try to hang out at the airport in hopes I could fly standby with an earlier flight.

Luck was with me and I got the last back seat of that tiny plane. Three hours later, I was in Anchorage, an airport in the throes of remodeling. I slipped off the plane into another dimension, in which I had to give up two perfectly good containers of yogurt to the TSA. Yes, those are really dangerous, those cups of yogurt. I had forgotten about the horror of terrorists when I was in the Bering Sea.

Somehow my white pure world of Bering Sea memories was about to collide with reality. I would have yet one more gentle midnight flight. On board Alaskan airlines, I flew south, to a megalopolis named Los Angeles. Little did I know, as I munched my warm pumpkin scone, a rude reintroduction to civilization was about to say, ‘Hey wake up!’

Maggie Prevenas, May 13, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Maggie Prevenas
Onboard US Coast Guard Ship Healy
April 20 – May 15, 2007

Mission: Bering Sea Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Alaska
Date: May 13, 2007

Science Log

It took Robyn and me quite a while to get off the boat. I was waiting around to send my cold weather gear via parcel pick-up. Robyn had a great idea that we could take our time and say our goodbye to our friends, eat one last lunch, and then take a taxi into town.

So we hugged and hugged all our Bering Sea Shipmates and called a taxi to the hotel. Just as our taxi arrived, the Alaska Maritime Shipper did as well, so we departed the Healy and took on a new residence at the Grand Aleutian Hotel in town.

After we hauled out duffels to our rooms, we took time talking to our loved ones still at home, a long shower, and then rendezvoused for supper with whoever was in the dining room. All the food was delicious! We had fresh green salads again, and so much more.

I went back to my room, sprawled across the huge bed. As soon as I closed my eyes, I found the sleep of a person transforming from sea to cement.

I woke in Mother’s Day. Mother’s Day was created by a mother who wanted to recognize the sorrow of mothers who were losing their sons in war. I pondered that sorrow as I shared my last meal with Robyn. I had a different kind of sorrow today, it was a bittersweet feeling for sure.

After eating we left for the airport and said our goodbyes. Was it coincidence that the next chief scientists arrived on the same plane that Robyn was about to depart on? The science continues in the Bering Sea, a mission passed on as surely as any relay racer passes on their baton. Goodbye Robyn! Good life and happy memories. As we hugged goodbye our life changing experience spent on the Healy was realized and acknowledged.

The afternoon was spent with one of my Healy roommates. She rented a car and we bravely went where we had never been before. We found the ‘wild herd’ of horses that roams the Dutch Harbor mountains. After our hike, we were very tired and accepted the warmth and rest our rooms afforded.

Tomorrow would bring a new day, a new week, and a return to civilization. Was I ready?

Maggie Prevenas, May 9, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Maggie Prevenas
Onboard US Coast Guard Ship Healy
April 20 – May 15, 2007

Mission: Bering Sea Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Alaska
Date: May 9, 2007

Science Log

I had learned from Dr. Michael Cameron, that we were about to pass through the most concentrated seal soup of the entire mission around 9:30 yesterday evening. He said that there were so many seals in that region, that the helo opps (helicopter observations) had to take turns recording their seals, waiting for one to finish until the other could sight verbally.

So what do YOU see? There are two walrus here.

So what do YOU see? There are two walrus here.

So I rambled up the three ladders to the bridge, and as I have for so many days this cruise, screwed the binocular eye cradles into my eye sockets and swooped back and forth across the magnified ice vista.

I LOVED to go up to the bridge and observe.

I LOVED to go up to the bridge and observe.

What did I see? Lots and lots of seals! There were spotted seals, and ribbon seals, and even a bearded seal pup or two. The Coast Guard crew assigned to watch those few hours were taking the ‘Seal Avoidance Mission’ seriously, much to my relief.

And then what?

There it was, the edge of the ice.

There it was, the edge of the ice.

It was obvious on the horizon.

It was obvious on the horizon.

The ice was changing too.

The ice was changing too.

Not so much large ice cakes anymore. There were smaller pieces honeycombed with holes and meltpools.

The concentration of small pieces jumbled together became thicker, and thicker.

Until there was no more.

Until there was no more.

And the ice melted away. Behind us.

Maggie Prevenas, May 8, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Maggie Prevenas
Onboard US Coast Guard Ship Healy
April 20 – May 15, 2007

Mission: Bering Sea Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Alaska
Date: May 8, 2007

Science Log

During this scientific mission to the ice pack of the Bering Sea, I have met many new creatures. Let me introduce you to yet one more.

**Dr. David Hyrenbach**

Scientific name: *Hyrenbachia daveediosus PhD***

Where does Dr. David live? Dr. David lives in Greenlake, slightly north of down-town Seattle. In the summertime he migrates down to central California to rendezvous with black-footed albatross. During the school year he forages around the University of Washington.

Dr. David Hyrenbach has spent two years coordinating the BEST research mission.

Dr. David Hyrenbach has spent two years coordinating the BEST research mission.

How many Hyrenbachs are there? Just him. He is an only child, however, there are close species in Spain and in France.

What are Dr. David’s identifying characteristics? David is an exemplary teacher. He is able to take complex ideas and explain them to others. He hangs out with Carleton, the walrus puppet. He is often seen carrying binoculars and on Sundays he wears his green penguin shirt.

What does he eat? David totally enjoys curry and coffee. He consumes bananas and his favorite vegetable is bok choy with tofu and soy sauce. Mahi mahi is one of his favorite fish to eat.

Dr. David dons the MS 900 survival suit prior to his flight in the helicopter.

Dr. David dons the MS 900 survival suit prior to his flight in the helicopter.

How was Dr. David educated? He went to high school in Spain. At 17, he was a YFU (Youth for Understanding) exchange student in Saint Paul, Minnesota. After that, he went to the University of California San Diego and earned a Bachelor’s degree and PhD in ecology and oceanography. Then he went to the Duke University Marine Laboratory in North Carolina. In 2005, he returned to the west coast to the University of Washington.

How old is he? Dr. David has lived 37 years; longer than a ribbon seal. His main predators are mosquitoes, viruses, and possibly zombies. There seems to be little interaction between him and cigarettes or any tobacco products.

Dr. David Hyrenbach wears the albatross hat.

Dr. David Hyrenbach wears the albatross hat.

Do you know what is really cool about Dr. David Hyrenbach? He owns an albatross hat that his mother has made for him. It comes in very handy when he has to pick up other species at the airport.

He moves about the city by bus or by flex car. He really likes the flex cars because they are mostly hybrid cars and are gentle on gasoline.

He enjoys silly walks, especially when he launches from the curb.

Dr. David likes to hang out at the arboretum. He frequents Freemont, where there is a large troll statue that is of great interest to him.

Dr. David has a commensal relationship with Chorbiken, the beanie baby.

Why do we know so little about Dr. David Hyrenbach? Dr. David is an elusive being. He is always running around. The only place he sits is in his office. The best way to find him is by e-mail.

Take the Dr. David Hyrenbach quiz! Write the number of the question with the letter of the best answer on any ‘Ask the Team’ comment form. Make sure to include your name ? Thanks!

Which of the following is true?

a. David drives his big SUV smoking a cigarette on his way to work. b. David works at a circus training chickens to play the piano c. David thinks the Bering Sea is boring d. None of the above

Which of the following animals is David’s favorite?

a. cockroach b. centipede c. Black footed albatross d. mosquito

What would David order from the following menu?

a. seal steak b. steak tartar c. spoiled milk d. mahi-mahi

What does Dr. David like to do more than anything else in the whole wide world?

a. Make money b. Teach the next generation to be stewards of their environment c. Smoke cigarettes d. Super glue his fingers together

Why has David spent two years coordinating the BEST (Bering Sea Ecosystem Study) program?

a. So he can make money to buy cigarettes b. To understand how the Bering Sea Ecosystem will respond to global warming. c. To find the Seattle Seahawk. d. To put on MS 900 survival suits

Maggie Prevenas, May 8, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Maggie Prevenas
Onboard US Coast Guard Ship Healy
April 20 – May 15, 2007

Mission: Bering Sea Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Alaska
Date: May 8, 2007

Science Log

I’ve been feeling a little sad these past few days because the Healy 0701 mission is coming to a close. There’s been so much data taken, so many measurements done, and more than a few hypotheses tested.  So WHAT has been learned?

The CTD was lowered and fired over 200 times in rough water

The CTD was lowered and fired over 200 times in rough water

This research here, this Bering Sea Ecosystem Study, has been some of the first research done with SEASONAL ice during this time of the year. SEASONAL ice is ice that melts and then reforms each year. The algae blooms occur because the seasonal ice melts, creating a stable freshwater layer, a place for the algae to grow.  The algae take up nutrients, which act as a fertilizer, and explode in numbers. The nutrients are quickly used up. The bloom for that year is over.

Rob tested the water for iron, getting baseline data to see if it is a limiting factor in Bering Sea productivity.

Rob tested the water for iron, getting baseline data to see if it is a limiting factor in Bering Sea productivity.

In areas of the Bering Sea that we visited that were really shallow, like around Nunivak Island, the ice has melted and the nutrients have been used. The bloom is over.

Nancy Kachel collected many samples from the CTD during this research mission.

Nancy Kachel collected many samples from the CTD during this research mission.

What has been a surprise to some of the scientists is that the very productive algae blooms occur at the ice edge, not so much under the ice.

When phytoplankton reproduce very quickly they can actually turn the color of the seawater green. Photo from Ray Sambrotto.

When phytoplankton reproduce very quickly they can actually turn the color of the seawater green.

The algae need sunlight, and the sunlight just doesn’t seem to penetrate ice. Algae explode in large numbers when the ice, under which they have been growing, melts away.

Although this seems to be a small observation, it is actually HUGE!  Or at least it was for me. Look at areas of the Arctic that do not have the seasonal ice.  The flow of energy in that ecosystem is different. The energy transfer from sunlight through the high Arctic permanent ice to the algae that populate the Arctic Ocean is different. Same thing with the Antarctic permanent ice.

This is one of the deepest drops that the CTD made. Over 3000 meters!

This is one of the deepest drops that the CTD made. Over 3000 meters!

If the Arctic or Antarctic holds more seasonal ice, i.e. starts melting, the model of how energy is transferred in the polar region will change. Knowing how seasonal ice acts as a medium to facilitate algal blooms will be very important. Right now is a critical time to research this key component.

TAS Maggie observing the sea ice

TAS Maggie observing the sea ice

I learned a huge amount about ice. I made ice observations many, many times. The scientists on this mission to help them interpret their data will use that information.

The science community has named this an International Polar Year (IPY). What I am doing, in trailing along with scientists, is acting to translate and understand the Bering Sea Ecosystem Study, and to act to educate others about cutting edge scientific research of climactic change. I think I can begin to start telling you the story.