Catherine Fuller: Searching for Water in the Ocean, July 9, 2019

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Catherine Fuller

Aboard R/V Sikuliaq

June 29 – July 18, 2019


Mission: Northern Gulf of Alaska (NGA) Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER)

Geographic Area of Cruise: Northern Gulf of Alaska

Date: July 9, 2019

Weather Data from the Bridge

Latitude: 57° 47.549 N
Longitude: 147° 30.222
Wave Height: 0-1 with swell of 4 ft
Wind Speed: 1.7 knots
Wind Direction: 170 degrees
Visibility: 5 nm
Air Temperature:  13.1 °C
Barometric Pressure: 1014.4 mb
Sky: Overcast


Science and Technology Log

Ana’s Work: 

iron fish deployment
Dr. Aguilar-Islas oversees the iron fish deployment.
iron fish on deck
The “iron fish” on deck…
iron fish in water
..and in its habitat.

Dr. Ana Aguilar-Islas and her team of Annie, Kelsey, and Carrie are studying how the different sources of iron in the Gulf of Alaska influence its chemical structure.  Iron is considered a micronutrient, because it is a nutrient that is needed in lower quantities than silicate, phosphate and nitrate, which are macronutrients. Iron is essential for phytoplankton.  Iron does not easily remain dissolved in ocean water, but has a tendency to precipitate and become a particle.  It is essential for many functions within phytoplankton, including gene function and photosynthesis, so the presence or absence of iron in the water is an indicator of the viability of the ecosystem. 

Testing phytoplankton in both an iron-limited environment and an iron-rich one allows scientists to pinpoint the effect that iron has.  The water in the Gulf of Alaska is notable for having more iron, leading to larger zooplankton as compared to areas, such as Hawaii, where the lack of macronutrients in the water means that they’re much smaller.  The Copper River plume was an example of a naturally occurring source of iron although its decrease is exponential the farther you move from the plume. 

In order to test samples without any contamination from being in an iron ship, Ana’s team created a “bubble” room or a clean space to do testing.  Her samples come directly from the “iron fish,” a collection instrument that is towed along the starboard side of the ship, and a pump on deck sends water through a tube that is carefully strung from the “fish” through the hallways and into the “bubble.”  The team is testing water samples for dissolved iron, particulate iron, and ligands (naturally occurring structures that bind iron and allow it to stay dissolved in seawater).  Both the filtered (any plankton filtered out) and unfiltered samples that Ana’s team collects are also used by other teams to provide context for their own experiments, especially testing the behavior of phytoplankton populations in iron-rich and iron-poor water.

looking in the bubble
The bubble from the outside.
Annie at the bubble
Annie spends many hours patiently taking water samples in the bubble.


The Search for “Perfect” Water

After completing our comprehensive zig-zagging study through the Copper River plume, it was decided to continue on a path south to find HNLC (high nitrate low chlorophyll) water.  We’re specifically looking for water with a salinity over 32.4 psu and nitrates over 3 micromoles. Water like this would be low in iron.  Normally, the lack of iron is a factor that limits photosynthesis,.  However, in areas with these numbers, phytoplankton communities have evolved to survive in an iron-deprived environment. 

What Clay, Suzanne and Ana hope to do is to introduce both Copper River iron-rich water and commercially available iron into samples of these communities to see if a “bloom” or a sudden growth in population will occur.  It’s been a long search so far, taking us through an offshore eddy, watching salinity numbers slowly creep up as we leave the plume’s fresh water influence behind us.  To pass the time, my cribbage board came out and I’ve lost to Pete, Seth and Ana (although I beat Seth once).  To help Suzanne and Ana find their water, Seth stitched together a composite satellite picture of the chlorophyll in the Gulf from images taken over the last few weeks.  This showed an eddy south of the Copper River plume that provided a possible location for the right sampling of water.

Our initial target was 58 degrees N, 146 degrees W, however, we’re continuing on the journey south to see if we can find the right spot.  For a long time, we were towing the Acrobat behind us, trying to get additional readings, however, our speed with the Acrobat is limited to a maximum of 7 kts.  Early this morning, the Acrobat was pulled in and we’re now cruising at about 10 kts.  We’re supposed to move over to the GAK (Seward) line of waypoints after this, but the joke is that we’ll reach GAK 125, i.e. Honolulu, before we find water that fits the parameters we need.

After careful monitoring of our position and the information screens in the computer lab, it seems that our target water is between 57 degrees 21 minutes N between 145 degrees 42.8 minutes W and 145 degrees 39.9 W.  Finding the perfect water is complicated by the number of anomalies in the sea surface. We’re having the bridge go through specific maneuvers to take us back and forth through the target patch of water. As we move through what seems reasonable, Ana’s iron fish will be deployed to start bringing in  “perfect” water samples. 

Sea Surface Temperature Anomalies
These anomalies represent changes in sea surface temperature, and in turn in the chemical composition of the water. On the map, you can see the lines we’re surveying from left to right: Kodiak, Seward (GAK) and Middleton.
our course
Our zigzag course: the bridge asked if we were making course lines with an Etch-a-Sketch!

Since last night, there has been at least one person stationed in the computer lab with eyes on the underway data display to monitor the salinity and nitrate levels.  Today, with Dr. Strom, Clay and myself there, we jump every time the nitrate value does.  Once our target patch is isolated, Dr. Strom directs the bridge to zigzag the ship through it to find maximum nitrate values and then radios the iron fish team. It’s 2.1….it’s 2.7…quick! Collect samples!  It’s a crazy system, but for now it’s getting us the best results we can, considering the fluidity and changeability of the ocean. 

I’m not sure what the bridge thinks about our maneuvers, and we’re all imagining what they’re saying! They have been very patient and willing to go along with requests; they’re pretty used to the demands of scientists in search of specific answers.  We’re finding our highest values to be about 3.2 micromoles, and it seems that we’ve also narrowed down the “sweet spot.” In addition, a group of fin whales is moving through the area and is making regular appearances as we trace and retrace our path. At one point, Eric, the captain came down to chat and helpfully volunteered to look up the definition of “zig” and “zag” so that we would have our terminology correct.  Is zig the upward progression or the downward one?

Most of the science done on board is carefully planned and prepared for.  Methodologies are clean and precise in order to produce specific and incontestable results.  Sometimes, however, science requires taking advantage of the situation at hand to find optimum data.  Science can be messy and inexact, too, if the end result is finding the perfect drops of water in the ocean.


Personal Log

We are now over the 50% point in our trip.  It is a bit ironic that as the science team and the crew get to know each better and develop friendships, both sides are also looking ahead to the end of the trip.  It’s been fun to get to know the crew and to discover the personalities that make this ship run so smoothly. 

Our weather has been notably calm so far, with today’s nearly flat seas being the smoothest to date.  We have fog every day; every day the sea surface temperature is higher than the air temperature.  What might that be an indication of? Russ seems to think it’s a fairly unusual pattern.  Even though today’s temperature is in the mid-50s, the stillness and reflected light off the surface of the ocean almost make it seem warmer.  It looks like we can continue to expect fairly calm seas for the next few days, too.  Every day someone posts a weather forecast in the mess hall, and every day the forecast is similar.    

fog bank on the horizon
Seeing fog banks on the horizon is a daily occurrence.

We continue to eat remarkably well.  Today’s lunch was spaghetti or zoodles with eggplant parmigiana, shrimp, and hot veggies.  This week already, we’ve had pecan pies and oatmeal raisin cookies for dessert and apple and berry turnovers for breakfast.  The food is definitely one of the benefits of being on this ship!


Did You Know?

The fresh water measured in the Copper River plume equates to a quarter of the yearly excess melt from area glaciers.  The question then is, where does the other three-quarters go?


What do you want kids to know about your research?

Ana: There are nutrients in the water that sea creatures need: large nutrients and small ones.  The small ones are important because they’re needed more often, like vitamins being a more regular part of your diet than hamburgers.


Sea Creatures seen today:

fin whales
A small group of fin whales came near us several times during our zigzag maneuvers.

Mary Cook: Day 7, March 25, 2016

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mary Cook
Onboard R/V Norseman II
March 18-30, 2016

Mission: Deepwater Ecosystems of Glacier Bay National Park
Geographical Area of Cruise: Glacier Bay, Alaska
Date: Friday, March 25, 2016
Time: 6:49 pm

Data from the Bridge
Temperature:
35.1°F
Pressure: 1012 millibars
Speed: 0.2 knots
Location: N 58°52.509’, W 137°04.299’

Science Log

Last night we headed out to open-sea and the waters got a bit rougher. I felt queasy so I took seasick meds and went to sleep. We steamed ahead to open sea and arrived to the site for our ROV dive. But the ROV dive didn’t occur due to a mechanical problem with the ship’s engine, so we headed back into the Bay on toward Johns Hopkins glacier for another round of sampling. Today was a very good day for many of the scientists to get a much-needed rest. The ship’s labs were quiet as we traveled back to the glacier. The ship’s crew on the other hand did not get a break. The ship must still be piloted. The galley work continued with meal preparation. The engine room and all of the ship’s operations were still in working mode.

Once we arrived at Johns Hopkins glacier, the ROV proceedings for the night began. It didn’t take long to find Primnoa pacifica! Samples were being carefully taken and put into quivers until resurfacing in the morning.

ROV Quivers for Samples
ROV samples stored in quivers overnight

 

There are all sorts of other important work that’s occurring in addition to coral collection. One of those is water sampling.

Amanda water sample
Amanda filters water samples

Scientist/Diver Amanda Kelley helps with filtering seawater collected in a Niskin bottle attached to the ROV Kraken. The Niskin bottle has plugs at both ends that are propped open to allow it to fill with water. When the plugs are tripped, the water at a certain depth is collected and sealed so that no other water will enter that sample.

Niskin bottle demo
Dann Blackwood demonstrates Niskin bottle mechanics

Filtering the water sample will help determine the concentration of particulate organic matter in a given amount of seawater at the same location of the Primnoa pacifica being collected. Scientists are trying to determine if the corals derive their food from the particulate organic matter or chemosynthetic sources. The filtered matter will be used to assess for the presence of nitrogen and carbon isotopes helping the scientists better understand the nutritional pathways of the coral ecosystem within Glacier Bay.

The scientists are measuring as many environmental variables as possible and hoping to link these to the health of the coral in Glacier Bay.

Accurate record keeping is of the utmost importance!
Oh my goodness! There are backups to the backups!

Kathy recording data
Kathy records data and checks the logbooks

Geologist Kathy Scanlon shares that she is putting geographic position data into a Geographic Information System (GIS), a digital mapping system, along with the other data collected such as diver comments and coral samples.

Kathy and GIS
Kathy records data in the Geographic Information System (GIS)

In a nutshell, it’s a way to organize data based on geographic location. In the process of gleaning this information, she says it’s also a great way of double-checking the record keeping for any inconsistencies. Another backup to the backups!
Some of the data points being recorded and re-recorded are date, time, site, depth, species, several reference numbers, and diver’s comments.

In addition to samples of Primnoa pacifica being collected, the divers are gathering samples of other organisms for documentation. These scientist divers are looking for something new—something they don’t recognize—possibly a new species or an extension of a known species location. When they surface with something unusual to them, the excitement is palpable! Everyone on the ship wants to see what’s new!

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Personal Blog

Today I’ve been a bit groggy because seasick meds make me sleepy, but I was glad to avoid the “5-star barfing” as one person described their seasick experience.

I’m so impressed with the enthusiasm for education amongst the people involved with this scientific cruise. Yesterday, I met several people at Bartlett Cove who were reading my blog and keeping up with this research cruise. All the scientists and crew onboard the Norseman II are willing and eager to answer any of my questions.

I got an email from a co-worker, Holly, one of Scammon Bay’s English teachers! She told me that she shared my blog with two of her classes and used it as a journaling prompt. Also, our principal Melissa Rivers, is sharing photos and facts with the entire school on a monitor in the Commons. I so appreciate the enthusiasm from my co-workers and their willingness to help our students learn about this cutting-edge research being done in Alaska. What a wonderful opportunity to learn and expand our horizons together!
Thanks again for your support and interest!

Where’s Qanuk?

Stephen Bunker: Science Experiments on the R/V Walton Smith, 20 October 2011

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Stephen Bunker
Aboard R/V Walton Smith
October 20 — 24, 2011

Mission: South Florida Bimonthly Regional Survey
Geographical Area: South Florida Coast and Gulf of Mexico
Date: 20 October 2011

Weather Data from the Bridge

Time: 11:39 AM
Wind direction: North-northwest
Wind velocity: 4.5 m/s
Air Temperature: 23 °C (75° F)
Clouds: Alto cumulus

Science and Technology Log

We left port today at about 6:30 AM, before the sun had even come up. We are  headed out to the Florida Keys. The rain has stopped as well as the wind. We left Miami Harbor as the sun was coming up.

Our scientific research will take place along the Florida Keys, a chain of low-lying  Islands that arc around the southern tip of Florida. The R/V Walton Smith will stop at predetermined stops and take measurements.

There are many science experiments happening on board. In each post, I will try to highlight a different experiment. I’ll start off with the CTD  because it is the experiment that drives our schedule throughout our cruise.

The Conductivity, Temperature, & Depth Instrument. Everyone on board calls it the CTD for short. The CTD schedule is our game plan. At about every 3 -5 hours — night and day —  we’ll cycle through a series 3-4 CTD drops.

Lower CDT
These are the instruments on the lower part of the CTD.

On the bottom of the CTD are a number of instruments that give real-time data to a scientist on board the boat. The conductivity part of the instrument measures how much electricity passes through the sea water. Using a mathematical algorithm that takes in account temperature and how much current passes through the water, we can determine the density (salinity) of the water.

Full CDT
The CTD on deck. The grey tubes fill with water.

The top part of the CTD has 12 cylinders that can trap water. Those are the grey tubes you see in the picture to the left. There are lids on the top and bottom of each tube that can be closed with a remote control from inside the boat. In this way the scientists can take water samples from any depth of water.

So, when we arrive at one of these predetermined location we’ll lower the CTD.

Once the CTD is just below the surface of the water and everything checks out, the scientist will radio to the crane operator to lower the CTD to within a meter of the bottom of the ocean. That can be anywhere from 5 meters to over 100 down. As the CTD lowers, the scientist monitors the CTD instrument real-time readouts. Using a graph of the data, he or she will decide at which locations to close the cylinders on its return trip to the surface.

CDT Control Center
Nelson monitors the CTD data as it is collected.

Water sample processing
Cheryl is processing water samples from the CTD.

Once it surfaces, we’ll  assist in placing the CTD back on the deck and securing it. We’ll then take water samples from the grey tubes. Those water samples will be analyzed in one of the laboratories on the boat. The water samples will show us chemical properties of the water.

Personal Log

Teamwork works! It takes a lot of teamwork to make things happen on board. Guiding the boat to the precise locations is the easy part for the crew. They have a GPS to help them do it. After they get there they have to maintain the location. That’s hard when currents, wind and waves, move the boat which is the size of a house. Then they delicately raise and lower the CTD.

Dave Diving
Crew member Dave preparing to dive in order to remove ropes caught in the ship propeller.

If something happens, they also need to fix it. They can’t drive it to a repair shop. They have to fix things on the spot. During the night, some ropes from lobster traps got tangled into one of the propellers. One of the crew put on scuba gear, got in the water, and removed the ropes.

The group of scientists have been organized into a day shift from 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM and the other half is on the night shift for 7:00 PM to 7:00 AM. This can be uncomfortable to have to stay awake all night, but it also means they have to sleep during the day. The day shift will also have a heavier work load because there are additional experiments that have to be done during the sunshine.

The bridge of the SV Walton Smith
Crew member Bill at the helm of the R/V Walton Smith

Bruce Taterka, July 4, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea: Bruce Taterka
NOAA Ship: Oregon II

Mission: SEAMAP Summer Groundfish Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico
Date: Sunday, July 4, 2010

Out in the Gulf

Weather Data from the Bridge

Time: 1000 hours (10:00am)
Position: Latitude = 27.58.38 N; Longitude = 096.17.53 W
Present Weather: partly cloudy, haze on the horizon
Visibility: 8-10 nautical miles
Wind Speed: 17 knots
Wave Height: 2-4 feet
Sea Water Temp: 28.6 C
Air Temperature: Dry bulb = 29.2 degrees Celsius; Wet bulb = 26.1 C
Barometric Pressure: 1011.1 mb

Science and Technology Log

The purpose of the SEAMAP Summer Groundfish Survey is to collect data for managing commercial fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico. SEAMAP stands for Southeast Area Monitoring and Assessment Program.

Right now we’re working along the Gulf Coast of Texas, far from the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, so we’re not seeing any effects of oil here. However, part of our mission is to collect fish for testing to make sure that oil spill has not impacted the marine life in this area and that the fish and shrimp from Texas are safe to eat. We’re also collecting water samples from this area to use as baseline data for the long-term monitoring of the impact of the oil spill in Gulf.

Analyzing a water sample in the Oregon II’s lab.

There are four main ways the Oregon II is gathering SEAMAP data on this cruise, and we’ve already learned how to use all of them. The main way we collect data is by trawling, and this is where we do most of our work on the Oregon II. In trawling, we drag a 42’ net along the bottom for 30 minutes, haul it up, and weigh the catch.

Hauling in the trawl net.

We then sort the haul which involves pulling out all of the shrimp and red snapper, which are the most commercially important species, and taking random samples of the rest. Then we count each species in the sample and record weights and measurements in a computer database called FSCS (Fisheries Scientific Computer System).

Logging a sample into FSCS.

Here on the Texas coast, where we’re working now, the SEAMAP data is used to protect the shrimp population and make sure that it’s sustained into the future. Since 1959, Texas has been closing the shrimp fishery seasonally to allow the population to reproduce and grow. The SEAMAP data allows Texas to determine the length of the season and size limits for each species. Judging by our trawls, the Texas shrimp population is healthy.

Another tool for data collection is the CTD, which stands for Conductivity, Temperature, and Depth. The CTD also measure dissolved oxygen, chlorophyll and other characteristics of the marine ecosystem and takes measurements from the surface to the bottom, creating a CTD profile of the water column at our trawling locations. These data are important to assess the extent of the hypoxic “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico, and to relate the characteristics of our trawling hauls to dissolved oxygen levels. SEAMAP data collected since the early 1980s show that the zone of hypoxia in the Gulf has been spreading, causing populations to decline in hypoxic areas.

We also use Bongos and Neustons to gather data on larval fish, especially Bluefin Tuna, Mackerel, Gray Triggerfish, and Red Snapper. The Neuston is a rectangular net that we drag along the surface for ten minutes to collect surface-dwelling larval fish that inhabit Sargassum, a type of seaweed that floats at the surface and provides critical habitat for small fish and other organisms.

Examining the results of a Neuston drag.

Bongos.

We drag the Bongos below the surface to collect ichthyoplankton, which are the tiny larvae of fish just after they hatch. The Neuston and Bongo data on fish larvae are used for long-term planning to maintain these important food species and keep fish stocks healthy.

Personal Log

This is a great learning experience, not only about marine science but also about living and working on a ship. The Oregon II is literally a well-oiled machine, and the operation of the ship and the SEAMAP study depends on a complex effort and cooperation among the science team, the crew, the officers, engineers, and the steward and cook. Everyone seems to be an expert at their job, and the success of our survey and our safety depends on that. It’s a different feeling from life on land.

Life aboard the Oregon II is comfortable, especially now that I’ve gotten my sea legs.(I was hurting after we set out on Friday in 4’ to 6’ swells, but by Saturday afternoon I felt fine.) The food is excellent and most of the ship is air conditioned. The Gulf – at least the Gulf Coast off of Texas right now – is beautiful. The seas are deep green and blue and teeming with marine life. I’m looking forward to spending the next 2 weeks on board the Oregon II and being part of the effort to study the marine ecosystem in the Gulf and how it’s changing.

View of Gulf of Mexico
View of Gulf of Mexico

Jillian Worssam, July 13, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jillian Worssam
Onboard U.S. Coast Guard Vessel Healy
July 1 – 30, 2008

Mission: Bering Sea Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Bering Sea, Alaska
Date: July 12, 2008

Science Log

First there is the disclaimer, then the alarm rings indicating a general emergency.  The Crew jumps to action and the science personnel report to their designated standby stations.

I was very lucky when DCC (Damage Control Chief) George Marsden said that I could observe today’s training.   Three teams were involved in this specific drill: Medical, Damage Control and Engineering with approximately 10 people per team observing the actions of the crew as they responded to the reported emergency scenario.

It is very important to prepare for any drill scenario, and make sure it doesn't turn into an actual casualty.
It is very important to prepare for any drill scenario, and make sure it doesn’t turn into an actual casualty.

Our situation is a fire in the number two boiler room with a collateral injury, a crew member with a broken arm.  Prior to the drill all training personnel met to discuss the risk assessment and make sure all safeties were in place so that an actual casualty would not occur.    The crew knows that a drill is impending, they just don’t know the specific details of this drill.  The DCC and I first traveled to the CO2 room to discuss the situation with Chief Kidd who was responsible for simulating the release of the CO2 into the Boiler room compartment.

Making sure that the release of the CO2 system is only a simulation.
Making sure that the release of the CO2 system is only a simulation.

The set up prior to the drill was that a hot work chit (notice) was placed in the engineering control center that hot work was being done in Boiler Room two.  This notice set the stage for DCC Marsden who then began to set up his props for the drill, a smoke machine, identifying flags and a strobe light.  All vital components in alerting the crew as to exactly what casualty they were responding to.

Finally the black smoke flag was placed in front of a shipboard closed circuit camera system and we were off.  Bells and whistles, crew doing exactly as they were trained and I an active observer with a  camera!

Just one of the props used in training scenarios. This flag indicates black smoke.
Just one of the props used in training scenarios. This flag indicates black smoke.

Here are the steps to extinguishing a fire in number two boiler room.   Shut off ventilation TOW first responder CO2 released Investigators set up for fire suppression team.

Similar to an initial response team, specialists work to ensure safety
Similar to an initial response team, specialists work to ensure safety

Simultaneously on the vessel, boundary compartments are checked, water tight doors closed and ALL personnel are accounted for. Once the CO2 has been activated the fire suppression team waited fifteen minutes before entering the space, and checked the door for heat.  AFFF (Aqueous Film Forming Foam) was also discharged .

Once the all clear was issued for entering the space in went the fire suppression team, with DCC Marsden and me right on their heals.  I was amazed at how effective the smoke machine was, there was literally no visibility.  DC2 Petty Officer Redd had a thermal imaging camera which was used as soon as they entered the space.

Using the thermal imaging camera helps the crew members know more about the intensity of the fire.
Using the thermal imaging camera helps the crew members know more about the intensity of the fire.

Had this been an actual fire it would have taken the crew up to a day and a half to clear the space as safe.  And I was fascinated to learn that in an enclosed space at around 1800° degrees a fire can actually do structural damage, which  to me is terrifying.  And so I say again, thank goodness the crew is trained and maintains these types of training drills so that if a casualty similar to this did occur, we would no doubt be in good hands!

I would say that the smoke machine was pretty effective.
I would say that the smoke machine was pretty effective.

**Photo of the Day:*

Thermal imaging!

Quote of the Day: Man is whole when he is in tune with the winds, the stars, and the hills…Being in tune with the universe is the entire secret. -Justice William O. Douglas

FOR MY STUDENTS: Have you ever thought of a career in the U.S. Coast Guard?

Jillian Worssam, July 12, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jillian Worssam
Onboard U.S. Coast Guard Vessel Healy
July 1 – 30, 2008

Mission: Bering Sea Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Bering Sea, Alaska
Date: July 12, 2008

Science Log

Yesterday I watched the deployment of the “Spider C40” a bottom mounted instrument mooring.  Today I will spend some time with Jimmy Johnson as he builds a new mooring, from scratch, right here on the HEALY.

The parts

Jimmy is building a subsurface mooring, but this one is barely subsurface, designed to float about 10 meters below the surface.  But wait a minute, I think I need to back up a bit.  Check out this drawing, the potion of the mooring Jimmy is building is at the tippy top.
BEST N55-08

This is the BEST (Bering Ecosystem STudy) mooring to be deployed on the northwest side of Nunivak Island.

The entire length of this mooring is over 55 meters.  But for our build a mooring experience we are only focusing on the top component of the mooring, which lies at the 10 meter mark.

Jimmy’s mooring has an ISCat, Inductive Sacrificial microCat, phew… This piece of equipment is designed for shallower depths, and works like a CTD, collecting information on the Conductivity of the water, Temperature, and Depth.  This microCat is an inductive device, it uses sea water to complete a circuit (similar to a potato clock) to send the data it collects to the ISCAT logger found 11 meters lower.  So what does all this mean?  If seas get rough, the mooring caught in fishermen’s nets, or the ice gets too thick, Jimmy’s sacrificial mooring has a 600 lb weak link that will snap and sacrifice his creation.  But there is no need to worry, all the data the device already collected has been sent to the logger at the end of the cable, safe from the unpredictable conditions close to surface.  Thanks to this great design scientists are able to sample areas previously un-sampleable do to the conditions I already mentioned.

Voila!

The final product, you can’t see the microcat, it is on the other side.

If you look carefully at the design for this mooring you will see that it includes a:    -Flurometer:  which measures chlorophyll (primary productivity organism) concentrations. -MicroCats (3):  This measures conductivity, temperature and depth. -HOBO sensors:  Temperature sensor to look at the water column and temperature changes. -ADCP:  An Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler sends out a frequency, gets a return signal that has bounced off small animals and or particles that FLOAT/MOVE with the current (not swim) which can give them the speed and direction of the current.

Can you find the microCat?

A scientific work station is a sacred place, there is even a HOBO in here.

Wow, I think my brain is tired, it took a while to understand the concept of the mooring, and then to transcribe was a challenge.  Needless to say these amazing oceanic devices collect valuable data. These records are then used in scientific research papers to better explain and understand the Bering Sea Ecosystem Study, thus BEST!

The nuts and bolts of any operation!

If you need it, Jimmy has it, all the hardware to make a mooring.

**Photo of the Day:*

Waiting to retrieve!

It was a little chilly yesterday as Chief Rieg and MST3 Kruger patiently waited in the cold for the signal to retrieve.

Saying of the Day:  “Rummage Sale” From the original French, Arrimage, a rummage sale historically was when damaged cargo that could not be delivered was sold at cost, or discounted.  As a source of great discounts, the present day rummage sale was originally nautical.  I wonder if Jimmy ever needed a rummage sale while making a mooring aboard a sea going vessel?

FOR MY STUDENTS:  Can you make up a list of the equipment we will need to make our mooring?   I need to add a post script…The deployment of a mooring is not the most thrilling science I have seen on board.  A lot of work, and then, well it is gone.  There is though one part that is a hoot, which I really love.  When the quick release is activated and the 800 lb train wheel plummets to the sea floor, the floats shoot across the surface before they are pulled under.  It is great and reminds me of the movie Jaws!

Jillian Worssam, July 11, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jillian Worssam
Onboard U.S. Coast Guard Vessel Healy
July 1 – 30, 2008

Mission: Bering Sea Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Bering Sea, Alaska
Date: July 11, 2008

Meet Kevin, Jimmy, John and Dave, all ready for mooring action on the Bering Sea!
Meet Kevin, Jimmy, John and Dave, all ready for mooring action on the Bering Sea!

Science Log

They are the men of the back deck, working diligently to prepare and then release their moorings in depth determined locations, where they will settle (literally) for a year.  These unsung heroes are the mooring men!

For the past week I have been observing a lot of scientific research and much has been based on living critters, but there is so much more occurring on the HEALY this summer.  Under the guidance of Tom Weingartner, the mooring men have been working diligently to not only construct, but then release their moorings which will stay here in the Bering, collect data and then be retrieved, next year!

With various forms of sampling equipment the Spider C40
With various forms of sampling equipment the Spider C40

So what then is a mooring, well this specific example is a bottom mounted instrument, or “Spider C40.” You will notice that the “Spider” is chock full of sampling equipment, there is an: acoustic Doppler current profiler, flurometer, Sea Cat, and transmissometer.  Each one of these instruments is designed to collect specific data, which will be saved then interpreted next year.

The “spider” commonly referred to as Helen, is the second of three instruments being placed on what is known as the central ray to the south of Nunivak Island.  There are three ” mooring rays,” central, southern and northern,  and placed on each will be a series of three mooring. At this time Tom is working on a three year NSF grant. What exactly is Tom learning from this data, well check in tomorrow for a more in-depth look at what scientists learn from moorings? I would though like to go into a bit of detail on the deployment of a “spider” to the bottom of the Bering.

This Spider was deployed in 25 meters of water.  Its objective to sit firmly on the bottom.

AS the winch raises the instrument array, the scientists and MST team work in tandem to make sure everyone is safe and the deployment successful.
AS the winch raises the instrument array, the scientists and MST team work in tandem to make sure everyone is safe and the deployment successful.

Not only is this mooring going to the bottom, but it has two acoustic release mechanisms, one to be used in a year to bring the entire mooring back to the surface, and the other to be used, right now.  For a controlled fall, the spider is securely placed on the sea floor by the MST team using a 3/8inch winch wire. Kevin will then send a 12 kilohertz signal telling the second release mechanism to let go.

Kevin is setting up the electronics equipment necessary to release the mooring after placement on the sea floor.
Kevin is setting up the electronics equipment necessary to release the mooring after placement on the sea floor.

Once the signal is sent to the acoustic release, the line to the ship is let loose, and then a GPS bearing taken so that in a year the scientists will be able to retrieve the mooring and all the wonderful data it has collected.

Check in tomorrow for a continuation with the mooring men and the science behind why they are setting these moorings, and what they will do with the data.  We will also look at the actual construction of a mooring onboard.

Using the GPS to get an accurate location so that the team can come back for a pinpoint retrieval.
Using the GPS to get an accurate location so that the team can come back for a pinpoint retrieval.

Quote of the Day:  What is life?  It is the flash of a firefly in the night.  It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime.  It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and looses itself in the sunset. -Crowfoot

FOR MY STUDENTS:  Do you think we could construct a simple mooring to record data from the pond?

Those mooring men are working him to exhaustion! Thank goodness for the excellent food on board!
Those mooring men are working him to exhaustion! Thank goodness for the excellent food on board!

Jillian Worssam, July 5, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jillian Worssam
Onboard U.S. Coast Guard Vessel Healy
July 1 – 30, 2008

Mission: Bering Sea Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Bering Sea, Alaska
Date: July 5, 2008

02becce
A pre-drill brief, to discuss props, expectations and safety issues that the trainers might see. If a real casualty happens during a drill, the ETT would let the individuals who are training take control unless there were difficulties in responding to the casualty. Remember a casualty in this respect does not infer human.

At dinner last night I was invited to meet BECCE, and after a moments confusion I realized I had not been invited to meet a person, but to observe a readiness drill.  BECCE stands for Basic Engineering Casualty Control Exercise and I was on my way to watch as the experienced crew aboard the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter HEALY maintains their skills, and passes that knowledge on to new cadets (students from the CG Academy in New London, CT who are here for a month during their summer break) and enlisted personnel. There is an expression in the engineering department, “Slow it down or shut it down,” and that is what BECCE is all about.  Once a crew member on watch finds a problem it is their responsibility to report it to engineering and then take appropriate action, thus BECCE a drill.

The steps to take when there is a problem or alarm in Engineering are simple: investigate the alarm, take initial action to control the casualty, stabilize the plant and report status to the bridge.

Jet fuel has ruptured, pipe spraying leak...the circle indicates people have started to work on the leak. This Brian Liebrecht part of the ETT
Jet fuel has ruptured, pipe spraying leak…the circle indicates people have started to work on the leak. This Brian Liebrecht part of the ETT

This procedure might sound simple, but if 250 gallons of lube oil is rushing from a punctured pipe individuals can easily get flustered.  That is why BECCEs are such a great idea!  Drill, practice and make sure all personnel are prepared for the advent of anything, and you then have a smoother running vessel.

On a side note, as I learn more about the roles and responsibilities aboard a U.S. Coast Guard Vessel I am constantly stumped by acronyms.  The EOW is in charge of the “plant” during this drill and is being evaluated on his responses to the various “casualties”.

LCDR Petrusa (The officer in charge of all engineering on the ship) is observing and watching protocol, with the results of this drill falling on his shoulders.  Simultaneously MKC Brogan evaluates the EOWs during their drill sets.  How about CWO3 Lyons who is in charge of all machinery technicians, both main propulsion and auxiliary divisions? Do you see what I mean, lots of acronyms, and it gets confusing.   Everyone has collateral duties, and don’t even think you can figure out what an OSG is????  I also learned that there are nicknames as well, you could be a twidget (electronics technicians), or a snipe (who are mechanics), sparky (electricians), all of which are vital positions on the boat.  There is a lot of humor as well with the use of slang, for instance I wonder if anyone knows the difference between a Clean EM and a Dirty EM?

This is a fuel oil leak that has not been engaged...the team is discussing the situation.
This is a fuel oil leak that has not been engaged…the team is discussing the situation.

Expression of the Day: “A Clean Slate” Before we had the technology of the 21st century, and there were no onboard computers, or GPS, vital information such as course and distance were written on slates.  At the end of each watch this information was copied into the ship’s log.  The slate was then…”wiped clean.”

Chief Machinery technician Doug Lambert is addressing the casualty during his BECCE drill, while Chief Machinery Technician John O'Brogan observes and evaluates, as a member of EET team.
Chief Machinery technician Doug Lambert is addressing the casualty during his BECCE drill, while Chief Machinery Technician John O’Brogan observes and evaluates, as a member of EET team.

FOR MY STUDENTS: Can you think of any other nautical expressions we now use in everyday language?

LCDR Petrusa as EO overseas operation of the BECCE exercises. On the computer you see a representation of main diesel generator set number one. Along with all live telemetry (pressure, temp, and speed) represented so that the EOW can at any time see what is going on with the engines.
LCDR Petrusa as EO overseas operation of the BECCE exercises. On the computer you see a representation of main diesel generator set number one. Along with all live telemetry represented so that the EOW can at any time see what is going on with the engines.

Recent academy graduate Lisa Myatt is the newest member of the engineering team. A rarity as a female engineer, Lisa probably represents the less than 10% of the HEALY crew as a woman in the engineering department.
Recent academy graduate Lisa Myatt is the newest member of the engineering team. A rarity as a female engineer, Lisa probably represents the less than 10% of the HEALY crew as a woman in the engineering department.

Petty Officer Hans proof-reads this journal entry to make sure that the information I have given on engineering is correct.
Petty Officer Hans proof-reads this journal entry to make sure that the information I have given on engineering is correct.

Jillian Worssam, July 4, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jillian Worssam
Onboard U.S. Coast Guard Vessel Healy
July 1 – 30, 2008

Mission: Bering Sea Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Bering Sea, Alaska
Date: July 4, 2008

Science Log

Today will be my first day as part of the MOCNESS team, so I though you should meet these amazing scientists.

From left to right: Alexei, Nicola, Elizabeth, and Ron, ready to deploy the MOCNESS.
From left to right: Alexei, Nicola, Elizabeth, and Ron, ready to deploy the MOCNESS.

Nicola studies the early life stages of fish and how they are effected by environmental changes, and how these changes affect their ecology.  Nicola works out of the University of Alaska Fairbanks in Juneau. Alexei studies zooplankton ecology with an emphasis on krill (euphausiids).  Alexei also works for the University of Alaska Fairbanks in Seward. Ron is a biochemist who works for NOAA, Auke Bay Lab in Juneau.  Ron studies fish lipid and fatty acid signatures, and looks at the energy stored in a fish’s body.  Ron also blows up fish, but that I will save for a later journal. Elizabeth is a PhD Graduate student for the University of Alaska Fairbanks, where she works with Nicola studying ichthyoplankton, and also looking at drift patterns with data on abundance and distribution of sample populations.

Nicola is blowing air into the flow meter making sure it is working correctly.
Nicola is blowing air into the flow meter making sure it is working correctly.

Before I forget, I guess you should know what “MOCNESS” stands for: Multiple Opening Closing Net Environmental Sampling System.  Quite simply a name for a wonderfully complicated piece of machinery.  The MOCNESS actually can take multiple samples of ichthyoplankton (small fish and different types of plankton) at multiple depths while on the same tow, or station.  There is a nine net capacity so theoretically the team can collect nine different samples at one station.

The scientists stand by as the Healy MST crew uses a wench to raise the MOCNESS prior to releasing it to fish behind the ship.
The scientists stand by as the Healy MST crew uses a wench to raise the MOCNESS prior to releasing it to fish behind the ship.

On a last personal note, I have been handling salt water today, so my hands have the most interesting consistency, dry like finely tanned leather.  I have a feeling that this will be the norm for the next month, and though it is not uncomfortable, it is interesting.

Quote of the Day: I only went out for a walk, and finally concluded to stay out until sundown; for going out, I found, was really going in. -John Muir

FOR MY STUDENTS: Why do you thin it is important to understand more about different types of plankton, where they live, how they travel, and how many there are?

Beth Lancaster, April 13, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Beth Lancaster
Onboard NOAA Ship McArthur II
April 6 – 14, 2008

Mission: Examine the spatial and temporal relationships between zooplankton, top predators, and oceanographic processes
Geographical area of cruise: Cordell Bank Nat’l Marine Sanctuary & Farallones Escarpment, CA
Date: April 13, 2008

reported surface sea water temperatures for the California coast from satellite data.  The region of sampling is indicated by the box.
Reported surface sea water temps for the CA coast from satellite data. The region of sampling is indicated by the box.

Weather Data from the Bridge 

April 11, 2008 
Wind – Northwest 4-17 knots
Swell Waves – 3-8 Feet
Surface Sea Water Temperature – 9.3-11.9oC

April 12, 2008 
Wind – Light Swell Waves –1 to less than 1 foot
Surface Sea Water Temp – 9.2-12.5oC

Science & Technology Log April 13, 2008 

At the onset of this cruise, ocean winds and swells kept scientists on alert for the next rock of the boat or wave crashing over the side, and into the fantail work area. These winds play an important role in delivering nutrient rich cold waters to the Cordell Bank and the Gulf of Farallones marine areas – this process is referred to as upwelling.  Conditions on Thursday April 11 marked a noticeable change in the weather for this research cruise.  Winds hit a low of 4 knots and swells of three feet were reported from the bridge for the majority of the day.  On April 12 it was hard to believe that we were conducting research out on the ocean.  Conditions were magnificent.  Winds were light and swells were less than one foot.  This change in conditions is termed a period of “relaxation.” 

The term relaxation refers to a period when winds decrease, allowing for conditions that promote a boost in primary productivity.  These conditions include decreased turbulence and the presence of sun and nutrients. The nutrients are readily available from the upwelling and phytoplankton are retained in the well-lit surface waters due to the decrease in wind mixing and the resulting stratification (layering) of the surface waters – thus, providing the optimal conditions for photosynthesis to take place.  Figure one shows surface water temperatures from April 12, 2008.  There was a visible change over the course of the research cruise in surface temperatures with the decrease in winds and swells indicating conditions suitable for primary productivity.

Left to Right: Beth Lancaster, Rachel Fontana (Grad Student, UC Davis), and Caymin Ackerman (Lab Assistant, PRBO) enjoy the sun and calm waters while waiting for a sample to return off the McARTHUR II.
Left to Right: Beth Lancaster, Rachel Fontana (Grad Student, UC Davis), and Caymin Ackerman (Lab Assistant, PRBO) enjoy the sun and calm waters while waiting for a sample to return off the McARTHUR II.

Continuous samples of plankton were taken during the day-time throughout the course of the research cruise. My observations suggest that samples collected early in the trip revealed little macroscopic (visible to the eye) plankton, while samples collected later in the trip during the relaxation event are more diverse and robust. Samples will be examined following the research cruise to draw conclusions based upon quantitative data. Night-time operations included targeted sampling for krill to look at species composition, overall abundance, age and sex.  Krill feed on phytoplankton, and will at times appear green after feeding. The optimal conditions for phytoplankton growth during a period of relaxation will result in a feast for krill that migrate up the water column at night to feed. A large portion of many resident and migratory bird and mammal diets consists of krill, indicating their importance to this marine ecosystem.

Weather conditions over the last few days also provided great visibility for mammal and bird observers. Nevertheless, there were still very few sightings of birds and mammals during this time period.  One sighting of importance was of a short-tailed albatross, an endangered species that is an infrequent visitor to the California Current ecosystem.  The short-tailed albatross population is estimated at 2000, and is currently recovering from feather harvesting in the late nineteenth century and loss of breeding grounds to a natural disaster.  For more information on the short-tailed albatross visit here.

Putting it all together….. 

All of the sampling done over the course of this cruise will allow scientists to look at the dynamics of the food chain during the early springtime.  This is just a small piece of a larger puzzle. The same sampling protocol has been utilized at different times of year in the same research area since the projects beginning in 2004.  This will allow researchers to look at the entire ecosystem, its health, and the interdependence of species to drive management decisions.

Laysan Albatross.
Laysan Albatross.

Personal Log 

As the trip comes to an end I’m grateful to both the scientists and crew members onboard the McARTHUR II. I now have a better understanding of physical oceanography, and the Cordell Bank and Farallones Escarpment ecosystem which I am looking forward to sharing with students for years to come. The McArthur crew has been kind enough to answer every one of my many questions, made me feel welcome, and given me an idea of what life is like at sea. Thank you! This was truly an experience I will remember and look forward to sharing with others.

Animals Seen April 11, 2008 

Cassin’s Auklet (36), Black-legged Kittiwake (1), Western Gull (61), Herring Gull (1), Red-necked Phalarope (8), Sooty Shearwater (12), Northern Fulmar (6), Steller sea-lion (35), California Gull (6), Rhinoceros Auklet (9), Black-footed Albatross (6), and Bonaparte’s Gull (1).

Animals Seen April 12, 2008 

Black-footed Albatross (11), Northern Fulmar (6), Western Gull (48), California Gull (5), Cassin’s Auklet (25), Common Loon (2), Common Murre (58), Bonaparte’s Gull (4), Sooty Shearwater (8), Dall’s Porpoise (6), Red-necked Phalarope (26), Pink-footed Shearwater (3), California Sea Lion (2),  Rhinoceros Auklet (10), Humpback Whale (1), Harbor Seal (1), and Glaucous-winged Gull (2).

Beth Lancaster, April 7, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Beth Lancaster
Onboard NOAA Ship McArthur II
April 6 – 14, 2008

Mission: Examine the spatial and temporal relationships between zooplankton, top predators, and oceanographic processes
Geographical area of cruise: Cordell Bank Nat’l Marine Sanctuary & Farallones Escarpment, CA
Date: April 7, 2008

Beth Lancaster (right) preserves a plankton sample collected using a hoop net.
NOAA Teacher at Sea Beth Lancaster bottles a surface water sample that will be tested for the presence of nutrients.

Science and Technology Log 

Today was the first full daytime operations.  We began shortly after 7:00 a.m., and covered a 90 kilometer transect throughout the course of the day ending at 6:00 p.m.  At each sampling point along the transect a series of measurements and observations were made to look at relationships between the physical ocean environment, and abundance of living organisms that are observed and collected to gain a better understanding of the physical and biological features of the area, and how they interact. The daytime crew was divided into two groups: the marine mammal and bird observers, and a second group that was responsible for collecting water and plankton samples as well as other various physical measurements of the water.  I worked with the second group, and will share what sampling I assisted with.

At each sampling point we used the CTD, which is a piece of equipment that has several probes on it, to collect a vertical sample of the water column.  When the CTD is deployed into the water it is sent down 200 meters below the surface and collects water conductivity (used to calculate salinity), temperature, depth, and turbidity. There is also a fluorometer attached to the CTD that measures the fluorescence of chlorophyll-a, which approximates the abundance of phytoplankton.  The CTD collects all this data, and can then be downloaded onto a computer.  Surface water samples were also collected at each sampling point, and will be tested for the presence of nutrients which would also have a direct impact on the abundance of organisms in the area.

Beth Lancaster (right) preserves a plankton sample collected using a hoop net.
Beth Lancaster (right) preserves a plankton
sample collected using a hoop net.

To gather information on the living organisms present at each site, a hoop net was used to collect samples of plankton.  The net was sent down approximately 50 meters, and collected all of the tiny living organisms (zooplankton) on a screen as the net was pulled through the water column. When the hoop net was brought back onboard, the cod end of the net (where the sample is collected) was transferred to a sample bottle, and preserved for further investigations in the laboratory. In addition to the living organisms collected in the hoop net, marine mammal and bird observations are being made from the flying bridge of the ship. That would be the highest point on the boat, and not the location for people who are afraid of heights. Due to rough sea conditions (10-12 foot swells), sightings were few and far between today.  Springtime within Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary is a time where strong winds cause upwelling of deeper waters towards the surface near the coast.  This upwelled water is colder and has higher nutrient concentrations.

Sample of krill caught in the daytime with a hoop net.
Sample of krill caught in the daytime with a hoop net.

This influx in nutrients means the ecosystem becomes very productive. Given this high influx of nutrients, prey items for birds and mammals are readily available. The food of choice for a lot of these organisms is krill (a shrimplike zooplankton.)  We did collect some krill in the hoop net during the day, but the abundance of krill in shallower water is much greater in the evening, when krill migrate from deep depths towards the surface.  The night crew is collecting krill using a tucker trawl, which has three separate nets that are opened and closed at different depths. Krill play a vital role in the ecosystem scientists are currently studying. They provide nourishment for resident and migratory birds as well as marine mammals.  There is sufficient nutrient availability for primary producers which are then food for primary consumers such as krill, and therefore food availability for secondary consumers such as fish and tertiary consumers such as whales and dolphins.

Black-footed Albatross
Black-footed Albatross

Throughout the week the same measurements will be taken at different sights along the continental shelf and continental slope in the region of Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary and the Farallones Escarpment (within Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary). This information will allow scientists to better understand the dynamic relationship between zooplankton, top predators, and oceanographic processes.  Data gathered will also be used in conservation planning of the marine sanctuaries.

Some Animal Sightings 
Black-footed Albatross, Ancient Murrelet, Northern Fulmar, Laysan Albatross, and Pacific White-sided Dolphin.

Maggie Prevenas, April 23, 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: April 23, 2007

Science Log

I am sure that you know that there are many different scientists on board, all researching pieces of the Bering Sea ecosystem puzzle. Recently, some of the scientists started talking with each other because some of the results have not been what they expected. They asked, why is this happening and what is causing this to happen?

There were some puzzling results that couldn’t be explained from the data samples.
There were some puzzling results that couldn’t be explained from the samples.

Their conclusion?

No dirty snow here. This ice is covered with ice algae. Ice algae is the producer of the Bering Sea.
No dirty snow here. This ice is covered with ice algae. Ice algae is the producer of the Bering Sea.

What the heck, you might say. How come this piece of the puzzle has gone unchecked? Might I remind you that many of these scientists are doing baseline studies? They are collecting data from one or more of the factors in the ecosystem. Never been done, at this time, in this place before.

The information that is being collected is fed into a computer and displayed as a graph.
The information that is being collected is fed into a computer and displayed as a graph.

So a meeting was called. At that meeting were the researchers who were discovering that there was something missing. These researchers told the group of scientists that they believed their missing data had to do with the ice algae. That they needed access to algae samples that were not sent into shock from the collision of the icebreaker and the ice.

Scientists often have to make their own data sampling equipment. It is a mixture of science, engineering, and creativity.
Scientists often have to make their own data sampling equipment. It is a mixture of science, engineering, and creativity.

Now here is the interesting part. Everyone agreed. EVERYONE agreed. This aspect of the BEST (Bering Sea Ecosystem Study) cruise had not been included in the research plans. Time to develop another protocol and possibly another piece of equipment that would permit the researchers to gather untouched pieces of the algae.

Researchers need to get samples of the water and sea algae. In order to get it, they need to pump the stuff up out of a teeny tiny hole they will punch through the ice.
Researchers need to get samples of the water and sea algae. In order to get it, they need to pump the stuff up out of a teeny tiny hole they will punch through the ice.

So it became a true collaboration. Everyone worked together to create the protocol, make the sampler, to decide time of day to collect and for how long and for how many. The nutrient scientists worked with the zooplankton folks worked with the mud researchers worked with fish acoustics. Now there is a plan, and a protocol, and scientists who will be sampling ice algae from undisturbed areas in the ice. The plan was created in just two short days, in addition to their crazy research schedule. This group of scientists is pumped to find out the role of ice algae in the ecosystem of the Bering Sea.

This is a new ice filter that was created especially for this machine.
This is a new ice filter that was created especially for this machine.

Stay tuned to this website as I am sure there will be more interesting data that will come out of all this.

And me?

I’ll be there 😉

Jenny Holen, September 18, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jenny Holen
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
September 17 – 21, 2006

Mission: Hawaiian billfish larval and eggs survey
Geographical Area: Hawaiian Islands
Date: September 18, 2006

Weather Data From Lab 
Location: 40 miles out from the Big Island of Hawaii
Depth: 4099 meters or 12,297 feet
Water Visibility: Clear
Water Temperature: 27.21 C
Salinity: 34.77 PSU
Wind Direction: 335.29 degrees, West
Wind Speed: 11.54 knots,
Breezy Air Temperature: 26.6 C
Cloud Cover: Cloudy

NOAA researchers aboard the SETTE, cleaning off the residue plankton still attached to the net into a plankton container.
NOAA researchers aboard the SETTE, cleaning off the residue plankton still attached to the net into a plankton container.

Science & Technology Log 

The plankton tows have not been as successful as the chief scientist, Bob Humphreys, would have liked. Few billfish larva and eggs have been found, and more are needed to generate a genetic analysis sample.  Bob believes this might be due to an eddy that is forming about 45 miles off shore, swooping the plankton out there. As we slowly start to migrate offshore, we are still obtaining plankton samples every hour until sunset.  Today, instead of helping to look for billfish eggs, I took microscopic plankton photographs with my Mic-D microscope given to me by NOAA’s South East Plankton Monitoring Network program, in South Carolina.  These individual plankton species photographs will be a get asset to the lesson plans I am generating from this research expedition of which could ultimately be used by teachers all over the world through NOAA’s website.

The plankton samples that we got today were almost the same as they were yesterday, nothing too new. However, I did get some background information on why this particular study is so crucial to the future survival of large billfish, such as Marlin.  Currently, some scientists believe that blue Marlin may be migrating between Hawaii and South America, but others are still not sure. Hawaii is a nursery ground for the larval and probably juvenile stages. Adults are migratory and apparently have a magnetic sense that allows them to migrate across to South America where there may be higher food nutrients. The importance behind obtaining this knowledge is to help conserve the declining population due to commercial and sport fisheries. If we knew where the mothers primarily spawn and if there are resident verses transient populations, than we could gain a better grasp of their overall ecology, life cycle, and habitat range. Unfortunately, the farther away from the island you go to get this valuable data the less protected you are from wind and large waves. Hence, at about lunchtime I got extremely seasick and was out of commission for the rest of the day.  I hope enduring all of the rocking and rolling will give rise to better plankton samples tomorrow!

Recommended books:

G. Wrobel & C. Mills.  1998. Pacific Coast Pelagic Invertebrates.

Monterey Bay  Aquarium Publisher, California.  (ISBN0-930118-23-5)

D.L. Smith.  1977. A Guide to Marine Coastal Plankton and Marine

Invertebrate Larvae. Kendall/Hunt Pub.  Company, Iowa. (ISBN0-8403-1672-0)

Personal Log 

Once again, I am amazed to witness and be part of a science research expedition that portrays through every member of the ship, from the cooks to the deck hands and Bridge Officers, the enthusiasm and positive attitude for the current research at hand.  Everyone here is extremely helpful, especially when I got sea sick and ending up hurling in a bucket in the kitchen. The professionalism is evident by everything they do, which gives an air of importance towards the research being done.  I wish more people, teachers, and high school to college students could participate in an experience like this.  It takes the illusion of scientists being a far away myth to being a regular Joe who cares about the environment and the conservation efforts towards the animals it holds.

Another cool thing about this trip is that the author from the acclaimed book Archipelago (the North West Hawaiian Islands) is here on the ship taking photographs of all the unique plankton we are catching for a National Geographic article.  I think that is amazing to know that not only is this research voyage being documented by NOAA scientists, but that the world will get to see and learn about plankton through journal media.  Education is the key to conservation.

NOAA chief scientist, Bob Humphreys, taking the freshly caught plankton and transferring it from a funnel into quart bottles, to be later filtered again into higher concentrations (less seawater) which will be viewed underneath microscopes aboard the SETTE.
NOAA chief scientist, Bob Humphreys, taking the freshly caught plankton and transferring it from a funnel into quart bottles, to be later filtered again into higher concentrations which will be viewed underneath microscopes.

Interview for the Day 

Today I interviewed one of the head scientists of the plankton cruise.  His name is Michael Musyl working with NOAA through the University of Hawaii in Oahu in conjunction with the Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research (JIMAR).  Michael had always had an interest in fisheries ever since he was a kid, fishing from a fishing pole. He took his education career after high school to Northern Illinois where he got his B.S. in zoology. After which, Mike did a five-year masters program in fisheries Biology from the University of South Dakota, to then go on and get his PhD from New  England in Freshwater fish population genetics.  He then used his knowledge and experience with the Arizona Fish and Game department for two years and then taught college biology and ecology for one year at the University of New Orleans.

Mike decided to go get a post doctorate from South Carolina in molecular genetics of blue fish tuna and ended up working with NOAA on electric tagging of pelagic fish and sharks through the University of Hawaii.  Mike is currently studying the post release  survivability of these fish through archival tagging which broadcast the information to satellites. He is also studying the post release mortality of fish captured in long line nets, to see how long they live after being rescued.

A typical year of work for Mike is answering emails, collaborating with fellow scientists around the world, developing and maintaining research projects, analyzing data obtained from research expeditions, writing about four to five papers for journal publications, and spending about 50% of his time on ships like OSCAR ELTON SETTE obtaining project data. Life as a scientist is busy, as well as exciting!