Carol Glor: Lights, Camera, Action, July 7, 2014

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Carol Glor

Aboard R/V Hugh R. Sharp

July 5 – 14, 2014

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey (Third leg)

Geographical Area: Northwest Atlantic Ocean

Date: July 7, 2014

Weather Data from the bridge: Wind SW 18-20 knots, Seas 4-7 ft,  Visibility – good

Science and Technology Log: Starring the HabCam

The HabCam is a computerized video camera system. It is a non-invasive method of observing and recording underwater stereo images, and collecting oceanographic data,such as temperature,salinity, and conductivity.  The vehicle is towed at  1.5 – 2 meters from the floor of the ocean. The main objective of this mission is to survey the population of scallops as well as noting the substrate (ocean floor make-up) changes. Most substrate is made up of sand, gravel, shell hash and epifauna. We also note the presence of roundfish (eel, sea snakes, monkfish, ocean pout, and hake), flatfish (flounders and fluke), whelk, crab, and skates. Although sea stars (starfish) are a major predator of scallops, they are not included in our annotations.

The HabCam awaiting deployment.

The crew and science staff work on alternate shifts (called watches) to ensure the seamless collection of data. The scallop survey is a 24-hour operation. The science component of the ship consists of 11 members. Six people are part of the night watch from 12am-12pm and the remaining members (myself included) are assigned to the day watch which is from 12pm until 12am. During the HabCam part of the survey all science staff members rotate job tasks during their 12-hour shift. These include:

A. Piloting the HabCam – using a joystick to operate the winch that controls the raising and lowering of the HabCam along the ocean floor. This task is challenging for several reasons. There are six computer monitors that are continually reviewed by the pilot so they can assess the winch direction and speed, monitor the video quality of the sea floor, and ensure that the HabCam remains a constant 1.5 – 2 meters from the ocean floor. The ocean floor is not flat – it consists of sand waves, drop-offs, and valleys. Quick action is necessary to avoid crashing the HabCam into the ocean floor.

HabCam pilot
Carol piloting the HabCam.

B. The co-pilot is in charge of ensuring the quality of digital images that are being recorded by the HabCam. Using a computer, they tag specific marine life and check to see if the computers are recording the data properly. They also assist the pilot as needed.

HabCam image
One of the images from the HabCam

C. Annotating is another important task on this stage of the survey. Using a computer, each image that is recorded by the HabCam is analyzed in order to highlight the specific species that are found in that image. Live scallops are measured using a line tool and fish, crabs, whelk and skates are highlighted using a boxing tool so they can be reviewed by NOAA personnel at the end of the cruise season.

Personal Log:

When not on watch there is time to sleep, enjoy beautiful ocean views, spot whales and dolphins from the bridge (captain’s control center), socialize with fellow science staff and crew members, and of course take lots of pictures. The accommodations are cozy. My cabin is a four-person room consisting of two sets of bunk beds, a sink, and desk area. The room is not meant to be used for more than sleeping or stowing gear. When the ship is moving, it is important to move slowly and purposely throughout the ship. When going up and down the stairs you need to hold onto the railing with one hand and guide the other hand along the wall for stability. This is especially important during choppy seas. The constant motion of the ship is soothing as you sleep but makes for challenging mobility when awake.

Top bunk
My home away from home.
Captain Jimmy
Captain Jimmy runs a tight ship.


Before heading out to sea it is important to practice safety drills. Each person is made aware of their muster station (where to go in the event of an emergency), and is familiarized with specific distress signals. We also practiced donning our immersion suits. These enable a person to be in the water for up to 72 hours (depending upon the temperature of the water). There is a specific way to get into the suit in order to do so in under a minute. We were reminded to put our shoes inside our suit in a real life emergency for when we are rescued. Good advice indeed.

immersion suit
Carol dons her immersion suit.
life jacket
Life jacket selfie.


Did you know?

The ship makes it’s own drinking water. While saltwater is used on deck for cleaning purposes, and in the toilets for waste removal, it is not so good for cooking, showers, or drinking. The ship makes between 600 and 1,000 gallons per day. It is triple-filtered through a reverse-osmosis process to make it safe for drinking. The downside is that the filtration system removes some important minerals that are required for the human body. It also tends to dry out the skin; so using moisturizer is a good idea when out at sea.

Photo Gallery:

Waiting to board the RV Hugh R. Sharp
WG flag
West Genesee colors; flying high on the Sharp
Floating Frogs
Floating Frogs at the Woods Hole Biological Museum.
Seal at aquarium
Seal at the Woods Hole Aquarium – Oldest Aquarium in the US.





Virginia Warren: Introduction, June 27, 2013

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Virginia Warren
Aboard R/V Hugh R. Sharp
July 9 – 17, 2013

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise: Northwest Atlantic Ocean
Date: Thursday, June 27, 2013

Personal Log:

Virginia Warren, 2013 NOAA Teacher at Sea
Virginia Warren, 2013 NOAA Teacher at Sea

Hello, my name is Virginia Warren and I live in Theodore, Alabama. I teach 5th grade science and social studies at Breitling Elementary School in Grand Bay. I am really excited to have been chosen by NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) to be a part of their Teacher at Sea program! I believe that one of my biggest responsibilities as a teacher is to educate my students about the importance of protecting and conserving the earth and its seas so that they will continue to thrive for many generations to come. Both Theodore and Grand Bay are only minutes from the Gulf Coast. The Gulf Coast has abundance of what I think are the prettiest, sugar-white-sand beaches the world has to offer. Growing up on the Gulf Coast has created a love and passion in my heart for the sea and all the wonder creatures that live in it! I’m so thankful to NOAA for giving me the opportunity to be a real scientist and to learn more about the scientific research behind protecting the seas that I love so much.

Beautiful Dauphin Island, Alabama!  Courtesy of
Beautiful Dauphin Island, Alabama! 

Science and Technology Log:

I will be sailing from Woods Hole, Massachusetts aboard the R/V Hugh R. Sharp to participate in an Atlantic sea scallop survey. The R/V Hugh R. Sharp was built in 2006, is 146 feet long, and is the newest vessel in the University of Delaware’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment fleet. You can take a virtual tour of the ship by clicking here. If you would like to follow the ship while I am at sea you can track the ship here (Google Earth is required).

R/V Hugh R. Sharp Courtesy of
R/V Hugh R. Sharp
Courtesy of

The purpose of a sea scallop survey is to protect this important fishery from being over-harvested. Traditionally scientists will dredge the bottom of the ocean with a scallop dredge to collect samples. NOAA uses the information collected from the surveys to make decisions about which areas are okay to harvest scallops.

Atlantic Sea Scallop Courtesy of
Atlantic Sea Scallop
Courtesy of

The R/V Hugh R. Sharp is equipped with a relatively new piece of equipment called the HabCam, short for Habitat Camera Mapping System. The HabCam is a less invasive way to survey populations and allows scientists to see what is on the ocean floor. This is an alternative method of surveying, compared to dredging. I look forward to learning how both methods of surveying work.

What I Hope to Learn:

I am so excited to be able to learn firsthand what it’s like to be a real scientist and to be able to participate in a genuine research experience. I hope to learn more about the scientific process and pass the knowledge I learn on to my students. I am also excited to learn about the different types of sea life found in the North West Atlantic Ocean and compare that with what I know of sea life from home on the Gulf of Mexico.

Please follow me on this adventure as I post my experiences on this blog. Let me know what you think by leaving your thoughts and questions in the comment section at the bottom of every blog entry.

Sue Cullumber: A Slight Delay and Eagerly Awaiting Departure, June, 5, 2013

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Sue Cullumber
Onboard NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter
June 5–24, 2013

Mission: Ecosystem Monitoring Survey
Date: 6/5/2013
Geographical area of cruise:  The continental shelf from north of Cape Hatteras, NC, including Georges Bank and the Gulf of Maine, to the Nova Scotia Shelf

Weather Data from the Bridge:
Time: 1800 (6 pm)
Latitude/ Longitude: 41 degrees 32 N, 71 degrees 19 W
Temperature:  19.5 C or 67 F.

Science and Technology Log:

Walkway to the Gordon Gunter. Photo by Kevin Ryan.
Map of our Ecosystem Monitoring Survey.

I am currently onboard the Gordon Gunter, however we have been delayed a day due to an issue with the Automatic Steering Gear.  A part was to come in today, but the wrong part was shipped (twice) so we have to remain in port for another day.  We are currently at the Naval Station in Newport, Rhode Island and as soon as the part arrives, we will head up to the Gulf of Maine to start our Ecosystem Monitoring Survey. During the survey we will deploy our equipment and gather data at about 120 fixed stations and 25 random ones from the Gulf of Maine down to Norfolk, Virginia. At each station a Bongo Net (phytoplankton)  and/or CTD Rosette  (salinity, temperature, and density) equipment will be deployed which I will discuss in my upcoming blogs.

The de-commisioned Aircraft Carrier, Saratoga, at the Newport Naval Base. You can see the Gordon Gunter on the far right.
The diesel engines on the Gordon Gunter.

The Gordon Gunter: The NOAA ship Gordon Gunter was originally built in 1989 as the U.S. Naval Ship Relentless.  When first built it was designed to be used for ocean surveillance mainly hunting submarines. In 1993 it was transferred to NOAA and became the NOAA ship Gordon Gunter in 1998.  Because it was built for hunting submarines, it is a very quiet ship.  It runs off of four diesel generators that  power all the ship’s systems, which includes the ship’s two electrical propulsion motors and bow thruster.

The Gordon Gunter is 224 feet long with five levels above the water line. It can go at a top speed of 10 knots (about 11.5 miles per hour).  This does not sound very fast, but it is a good speed for completing scientific surveys (and hopefully avoiding getting seasick). Actually most of the trawling nets (like for phytoplankton) are dispatched at 3 knots (about 3.45 miles per hour).  The ship also has V-Sat (very small aperture transmission) satellite to provide connection to the internet and phone communications.

Gordon Gunter Mess Hall
The “Wet Lab”

The ship seems to have all the comforts of home!  There is the bridge (ship navigation), observation deck, state rooms (sleeping quarters – with a total of 35 bunks), a gym, movie room, TV room, mess hall, store, laundry area, dry lab,and wet lab.  The “dry lab” is essentially the computer lab and this is where data from the survey will be entered into the computer. The “wet lab” is the location of where the ocean samples will be processed.

Operations Officer, Mark Weekley, gives us a tour and discusses safety drills.

Today we took a tour of the ship and learned about some of the important safety drills that are required onboard. The three main drills are: Fire and Collision, Man Overboard and Abandon Ship.  Each one has it’s own set of alarms that we need to be aware of.  The day we depart (hopefully tomorrow) we will be doing one or more of these drills to make sure we are ready!

Besides the scientists onboard, there is a NOAA crew that pilots and runs the ship. The Gordon Gunter is involved in many scientific voyages along the Atlantic Coast from as far north as Nova Scotia to down south along the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean.  It’s home port is the Pascagoula Laboratory in Pascagoula, Mississippi.  Each of these expeditions has a different scientific crew, but the ship personnel usually remains the same.  This crew is essential to the smooth running of the ship and includes: Commanding Officer, Executive Officer, Operations Officer, Navigation Officer, Safety Officer, Junior Officer, Engineering personnel, Deck personnel, Stewards (meal preparation), and Electronics personnel.

The Bridge - ship operations and navigation.
The Bridge – ship operations and navigation.

 Personal Log:

My stateroom on the Gordon Gunter.

I am getting to learn my way around the ship and am all moved into my stateroom. I was really surprised at how large it is!  I have a roommate – Kat, a graduate student, for the first leg of the trip and then Sarah, an intern, for our second leg.  We will make a stop in Woods Hole, Massachusetts on June 16th to drop a few people off and welcome aboard some new ones.  So far I have met several marine and bird scientists, a college volunteer, graduate student, and college intern. The science and NOAA crew are all very friendly and welcoming, but it is hard to sit here in port and am really looking forward to heading out to sea and learning all the science that I can share with my students.

Sunset outside the Gordon Gunter – waiting to leave port.

Did you know?  NOAA has its beginnings in as far back as 1807, when the Survey of the Coast was started as the nation’s first scientific agency.

Angela Greene: “The Tale of My Whale” May 9, 2013

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Angela Greene
Aboard NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter
April 29-May 11, 2013

Mission: Northern Right Whale Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise: Atlantic Ocean out of Woods Hole, MA
Date: May 9, 2013

Weather Data from the Bridge: Air Temperature- 12°C, Sea Temperature- 8.96°C, Wind Speed- 11.61 knots, Relative Humidity- 95%, Barometric Pressure- 1014.79mb.

Science and Technology Log:
Wednesday was beautiful.  The air was cold, the skies were blue, and the sea was calm.  Most importantly:  no fog.  Sei whales seemed to be popping up everywhere.  Then I saw it.  The classic “V” shaped blow, a North Atlantic Right Whale.  Not our first one of the trip, but the first in a few days.

The classic “V” shaped blow of the North Atlantic Right Whale. Photo: NOAA/NEFSC Peter Duley,
collected under MMPA research permit number 775-1875

I sighted the blow at about 345° off the bow of the ship, and she was swimming toward us.  The frenzy began.  Our chief scientist, Allison Henry, grabbed the Canon Digital Camera with the 500 mm fixed zoom lens, and began capturing images of the right whale.  Remarkably, yet unofficially, she could identify the whale through the lens of the camera.  It was a female named Columbine.  She was not alone.  Columbine had a calf with her!

Side Blow
Side view of blow shot by me! Under NOAA Fisheries Permit # 775-1875

The calf swam very close to its mother and seemed to be rolling over on its back, flapping its flippers in the air.  The whales don’t seem to be bothered by our large ship being near them.

The small boats were not launched in pursuit of Columbine for two reasons.  Allison knew that both animals had already been biopsy sampled, so no need to repeat that process.  Also, it is not wise to tag and follow a whale that is raising a calf.

North Atlantic Right Whale (Columbine’s calf) Photo Credit- Allison Henry taken under NOAA fisheries permit # 775-1875
North Atlantic Right Whale (Columbine’s calf) Photo Credit- Allison Henry taken under NOAA fisheries permit # 775-1875

Allison contributes photos collected in the field to the North Atlantic Right Catalogue that is maintained by The New England Aquarium.  The aquarium maintains a searchable public database of right whale photos, sightings, and body descriptions.  There is also a quick whale identification activity to practice photo identification of right whales.

I was dazzled by the flips and turns of Columbine’s calf.  Giving a whale an official name is a complicated process that is the responsibility of The New England Aquarium and the North Atlantic Right Whale Consortium.  However, I would like to unofficially name this baby “Arrow”.

North Atlantic Right Whale calf Photo Credit- Allison Henry taken under NOAA fisheries permit # 775-1875

Personal Log:  This is my final blog post as a 2013 NOAA Teacher at Sea.  I have learned a tremendous amount about marine mammals, but probably my most valuable lesson I have gained from this trip, a lesson I want to take back to my students, is about the nature of biological fieldwork.

I have learned that no two jobs are the same.  Biological fieldwork is as different as the organisms being studied or sampled.  I have put in some time looking at the way field biologist work, and each job has its own set of unique challenges and protocols.  The process of sampling North Atlantic Right Whales in a vast ocean couldn’t be further from the process of surveying Lake Erie Water Snakes, identifying tree species in an upland forest, trudging through fast moving rivers for Hellbender salamanders, rummaging through scat to identify elk, moose, and pronghorn, or scaling walls at night for arachnids.  I find it fascinating to look at the many faces of fieldwork.

Me and Allison
Me and my chief scientist, Allison Henry Photo Credit- Sarah Fortune

There is, however, one common characteristic among my collection of field biologists that I have noticed.  It’s an unusual sense of drive about the work.  You can see it in their eyes when they’re on the job.  No matter what the conditions, the fieldwork must get done, the sample must get collected, the photo must be shot, and the data must be recorded.  It’s a maniacal quest for answers.  It’s passion.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank so many people!  Thank you Allison Henry, my chief scientist, for all the lessons, the laughs, and the whales!  Thank you to all the NOAA scientists on board, Dave, Jen, Beth, Samara and Eric.  Thank you to all the WHOI scientists on board, Mark, Nadine, Lauren, Sarah, and Chris.  Thank you to the NOAA Corps officers, the Captain and Crew aboard the NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter.  Thank you to everyone in the NOAA Teacher at Sea office.  Also I would like to thank all my blog followers, especially my Tecumseh Middle School 8th graders, and my family!  I will be home soon with another adventure under my belt!

The end of my time on the NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter, Teacher at Sea 2013- Photo Credit Dave Morin

Angela Greene: “I’ll have 3000 Big Macs, please.” May 7, 2013

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Angela Greene
Aboard NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter
April 29-May 11, 2013

Mission: Northern Right Whale Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise: Atlantic Ocean out of Woods Hole, MA
Date: May 7, 2013

Weather Data from the Bridge: Air Temperature – 12.20°C or 54°F, Sea Temperature 10.16°C or 50°F, Wind Speed- 9.24 kts, Relative Humidity 94%, Barometric Pressure- 1021.05 mb.

Science and Technology Log: Whale work can be intense and exciting, or slow and frustrating. A good day at work is when the weather cooperates the same time the whales cooperate. So far no one is playing nice. Fog has been the enemy for the last two days, making flying-bridge operations nearly impossible. Unless a whale swims up to our ship and jumps in for lunch, we aren’t going to be able to see it. Our watch efforts get moved to the bridge where the ship is controlled, and while it’s a good time chatting with the NOAA Corps officers, I’d rather be sighting whales.

The fog comes
on little cat feet.
It sits looking over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.
Carl Sandburg

For me however, this ship is like a small university on the sea with free tuition.  Everyone here knows much more than I do about science, so days like these are spent asking questions.  I wanted to focus this blog post on a question that came from my Tecumseh Middle School eighth grade students.  They have been following my blog and following the NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter using the NOAA Ship Tracker.  The ship tracker can be used to locate any ship in the NOAA fleet on its current cruise or in the last twelve months.  Current weather data from the ship can also be displayed.

Ship Tracker
The current cruise of the NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter. Screen shot courtesy of NOAA Ship Tracker

My students noticed that our ship was staying near the continental shelf, or Georges Bank, and wanted to know if it would be a better idea to look for whales in deeper ocean.  I turned to Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute scientist onboard, Dr. Mark Baumgartner (yet another superhero), for answers.  He basically told me, the whales go where the food is most abundant.

Georges Bank
Georges Bank is a shallow off shore plateau. During the ice age it was above water. Image credit- NOAA

North Atlantic Right Whales eat a zooplankton named Calanus finmarchicus or just Calanus.  This tiny crustacean is packed with lots of calories in an internal structure called a lipid sac.  In order to grow and develop a hearty lipid sac, the Calanus require lots of phytoplankton.  In order to be a yummy and nutritious treat for the Calanus, the phytoplankton need nutrients in the form of nitrogen and phosphorous, water, and sunlight.  Nutrients and water are abundant for the phytoplankton, but in order to get the needed sunlight for photosynthesis, the phytoplankton must be as close to sunlight as possible.

Northern Right Whale food- Calanus finmarchicus The lipid sac is clearly visible. Photo credit- C.B. Miller/K. Tande NOAA

Simply put the food chain links together like this:  sunlight (source of energy), phytoplankton (producer), Calanus (primary consumer), and right whale (secondary consumer).  The topography of the ocean near Georges Bank and the weather over the North Atlantic provide two things for this simple food chain: upwelling and wind.

Upwelling is a phenomenon that occurs in ocean waters when wind and a continental structure circulate water, allowing the cold nutrient rich water on the bottom to replace water on the top.  The phytoplankton at the bottom essentially get a free ride to the top of the ocean where they are able perform photosynthesis.  The Calanus can feed on the nutrient rich phytoplankton, and the whales can feed on the Calanus.  This cycling allows the whales to feed close to the surface, where they need to be in order to breathe.  If a whale has to dive deep for food, energy is wasted on the dive.  It is more efficient to be able to get a good meal as close to the surface as possible.

big mac
Right Whales need the caloric equivalent of 3000 Big Macs per day. I’m lovin it! Image credit- MacDonalds

According to Dr. Baumgartner, a Northern Right Whale needs to eat 1-2 billion Calanus per day.  This amount of zooplankton has the same weight as a wet Volkswagen beetle, and is the caloric equivalent of eating 3000 Big Macs per day.  So there you have it, TMS 8th graders.  The whales go where the food is…

Dr. Mark
Me with Dr. Mark Baumgartner
Photo Credit-Eric Matzen

Personal Log:  Still holding out for “The Big Day”, the day we can take the small boats out again.  If it doesn’t happen, I will be happy for the experience I had on the Gordon Gunter.  Sure would be awesome, though…

Angela Greene: “And So the Love Story Begins… “ April 25, 2013

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Angela Greene
(Almost) Aboard NOAA Ship Gordon GunterApril 29-May 11, 2013
Mission:  Northern Right Whale Survey

Geographical Area of Cruise:  Atlantic Ocean out of Woods Hole, MA
Date:  April 24, 2013


Personal Log:

I am quite certain I am about to fall in love with a whale, as I embark upon a journey that will surely change me forever.  My name is Angela Greene, and I have had the honor of teaching middle school in the Tecumseh Local School District for the last twenty-five years!

Tecumseh Middle School: “Home of My 8th Grade Scientists!”

I care deeply about my students, and I am committed to providing them with amazing science experiences in my classroom!  I love my job, my students, and learning.  I am a NOAA Teacher at Sea!

I applied for the NOAA Teacher at Sea program because I believe the best way to develop myself, as a professional educator is to seek out field experiences that will enable me to work side by side with leaders in the scientific community.  I can’t think of a better way to efficiently expose my students to careers in the field of science as well as the scientific issues that will directly affect their lives than to “walk in the shoes” of highly trained scientists.

Kristin and Me
“Walking in the Shoes of a Scientist”: Me with Dr. Kristin Stanford, Lake Erie Water Snake Recovery Plan Coordinator

The purpose of this blog is to tell my family, students, friends, and colleagues a story, a love story, if you will.  I hope to share my love of teaching, my love of wildlife, and my insatiable love for learning.

In only a few hours, I will fly to Boston, Massachusetts, take a bus to Woods Hole, and board the NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter.  The ship will take me, as well as a group of ocean scientists, into the Northern Atlantic to search for the critically endangered Northern Right Whale.

Gordon Gunter
NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter (photo credit NOAA)

At this point, I know very little about this mammal, so I enlisted the help of my 8th grade scientists using a technique I called “Teach Your Teacher”.  Together, we brainstormed a list of questions about Right Whales, the Gordon Gunter, and marine research.  Each student selected a topic, complied a summary of their findings and wrote me a quick “good bye” note.  I collected the pages and promised not to read them until I was on the bus to Woods Hole.

Whale Biopsy
Tecumseh 8th Grader Researching Whale Biopsy

I also wanted my students to have an understanding of the actual size of Northern Right Whales and other North Atlantic Whale species.  We celebrated our new learning and my incredible opportunity to sail with NOAA by having “Tecumseh Middle School Whale Day”.  For one day the concrete campus of our school became ocean habitats to student-created “chalk whales”.  We calculated the actual size of four whale species using the scaled measurements of sketches found in our research.  This data enabled us to create over forty whales using sidewalk chalk!  We were amazed at the size of our whales, and the chalk models enabled us to compare the external anatomy among the species.  Our local news channel, WDTN, stopped by to film us for the evening news!  We determined that 14 middle school students could fit head to toe along the length of a fin whale.  We had a terrific day!

My preparation time is coming to an end.  I need to finish packing, say my goodbyes to my family and dogs, and focus on the journey that’s about to begin.  One of the most important lessons a teacher can learn from rare field experience opportunities is that this time will quickly end.  I promise to enjoy every second while I am falling in love with a brand new world.

14 in Fin
Fourteen Tecumseh Students Fit Head to Toe in a Chalk Fin Whale
Northern Right Whale (Photo Credit NOAA)