NOAA Teacher at Sea Susan Dee Aboard NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow May 23 – June 7, 2018
Mission: Spring Ecosystem Monitoring Survey
Geographic Area of Cruise: Northeastern Coast U.S.
Date: May 24, 2018
Weather Data from Bridge
Sea Wave Height: 1-2 feet
Wind Speed: 12 knots°
Wind Direction: west
Air Temperature: 13.5°C
Sky: Few clouds
Science and Technology Log
Tuesday, May 22, I arrived at Newport Naval Base and boarded NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow to begin my Teacher at Sea journey by staying overnight on a docked ship. Day 1 was filled with many new experiences as we headed out to sea. The Henry B. Bigelow is part of a fleet of vessels commissioned to conduct fishery surveys. To learn more about the Henry B. Bigelow, check out this website: Henry B. Bigelow. The objective of this cruise is to access the hydrographic, planktonic and pelagic components of North East U.S. continental shelf ecosystem. The majority of the surveys we will take involve the microbiotic parts of the sea – phytoplankton, zooplankton and mesoplankton. Plankton are small microscope organisms in the oceans that are extremely important to the entire Earth ecosystem. These organisms are the foundation of the entire ocean food web. By studying their populations. scientists can get an accurate picture of the state of larger ocean organism populations.
Before leaving the dock, I met with Emily Peacock from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI) to learn how to run an Imaging Flow Cytobot instrument that uses video and flow cytometric technology to capture images of phytoplankton. The IFCB was developed by Dr Heidi Sosik and Rob Olsen (WHOI) to get a better understanding of coastal plankton communities. The IFCB runs 24 hours a day collecting sea water and continuously measuring phytoplankton abundance. Five milliliters of sea water are analyzed every 20 minutes and produces the images shown below.
The science party on board is made up of scientists from National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) part of NOAA Fisheries Division. The chief scientist, Jerry Prezioso, works out of Narragansett Lab and the lead scientist, Tamara Holzworth Davis, is from the Woods Hole Lab, both from the NOAA Northeast Fisheries Science Center. Other members of the Science Party are Seabird/Marine Mammal observers and a student from Maine Maritime Academy. The Crew and scientist group work together to coordinate sampling stations. The crew gets the ship to the site and aid the scientists in deploying instruments. The scientists collect the data and samples at each station. The Crew and scientists work together to find the best and most efficient sea route to each sampling site. Note all the stops for specimen collection on map below. There definitely has to be a plan!
Because research instrument deployment is done 24 hours a day, the NOAA Corps crew and scientists are divided into two shifts. I am on watch 1200 – 2400 hours, considered the day shift. This schedule is working good for me. I finish duty at midnight, go to sleep till 9:00 AM and rise to be back on duty at noon. Not a bad schedule. Due to clear weather and calm seas, the ship headed east out of Newport Harbor towards the continental shelf and started collecting samples at planned stops. I joined another group of scientists observing bird and marine mammal populations from the flying bridge of the ship. Humpback whales and basking sharks breached several times during the day
It has only been two days but I feel very acclimated to life at sea. I am not seasick, thanks to calm seas and the patch. Finding the way around the ship is getting easier- it is like a maze. Spotting a pod of humpback whales breaching and basking sharks was a highlight of the day. My Biology students back at May River High School scored great on End of Course Exam. Congratulations May River High School Sharks! Thinking of y’all.
It’s deja vu all over again! The WHOTS-14 buoy is stable and transmitting data, and all the in situ measurements necessary to verify the accuracy of that data have been taken. Now it’s time to go get the WHOTS-13 buoy, and bring it home.
The process of retrieving the WHOTS-13 buoy is essentially the same as deploying the WHOTS-14 buoy — except in reverse, and a lot more slimy. Take a look at the diagram of the WHOTS-13 buoy (to the left), and you’ll notice that it looks almost identical to the WHOTS-14 buoy. Aside from a few minor changes from year to year, the configuration of the buoys remains essentially the same… so the three and a half miles of stuff that went into the ocean on Thursday? The same amount has all got to come back up.
At 6:38AM HAST, a signal was sent from the ship to the acoustic releases on the WHOTS-13 buoy’s anchor. After a year under three miles of water, the mooring line is on its way back to the surface!
From the time the signal was sent to the acoustic releases on the anchor to last instrument coming back on board, recovering the WHOTS-13 buoy took 9 hours and 53 minutes.
Now that I have witnessed (and participated in, however briefly) both a buoy deployment and retrieval, one of the things that impressed me the most was how well coordinated everything was, and how smoothly everything went. Both deployment and retrieval were reviewed multiple times, from short overviews at daily briefings (an afternoon meeting involving the ship’s officers, crew and the science team) to extensive hour long “walk throughs” the day before the main event. Consequently, everyone knew exactly what they were supposed to be doing, and where and when they were supposed to be doing it — which lead to minimal discussion, confusion and (I assume) stress. Each operation ran like a well choreographed dance; even when something unexpected happened (like the glass ball exploding on deck during deployment of the WHOTS-14 buoy), since everybody knew what the next step was supposed to be, there was always space to pause and work through the problem. Communication is most definitely key!
The other thing that really made an impression was how much emphasis was placed on taking breaks and drinking enough water. It was hot, humid and sunny during both deployment and recovery, and since Hi’ialakai had to be pointed directly into the wind during the operations, there was virtually no wind on the working deck at all. I’ve always thought as the ocean as a place you go to cool off, but, at least for these few days, it’s been anything but! With apologies to Coleridge: “Water, water, everywhere, nor any place to swim!”
The most difficult part of Thursday’s buoy deployment was making sure the anchor was dropped on target. Throughout the day, shifting winds and currents kept pushing the ship away from the anchor’s target location. There was constant communication between the ship’s crew and the science team, correcting for this, but while everyone thought we were close when the anchor was dropped, nobody knew for sure until the anchor’s actual location had been surveyed.
To survey the anchor site, the ship “pinged” (sent a signal to) the acoustic releases on the buoy’s mooring line from three separate locations around the area where the anchor was dropped. This determines the distance from the ship to the anchor — or, more accurately, the distance from the ship to the acoustic releases. When all three distances are plotted (see the map above), the exact location of the buoy’s anchor can be determined. Success! The buoy’s anchor is 177.7 meters away from the target location — closer to the intended target than any other WHOTS deployment has gotten.
After deployment on Thursday, and all day Friday, the Hi’ialakai stayed “on station” about a quarter of a nautical mile downwind of the WHOTS-14 buoy, in order to verify that the instruments on the buoy were making accurate measurements. Because both meteorological and oceanographic measurements are being made, the buoy’s data must be verified by two different methods.
Weather data from the buoy (air temperature, relative humidity, wind speed, etc.) is verified using measurements from the Hi’ialakai’s own weather station and a separate set of instruments from NOAA’s Environmental Sciences Research Laboratory. This process is relatively simple, only requiring a few quick mouse clicks (to download the data), a flashdrive (to transfer the data), and a “please” and “thank you”.
Salinity, temperature and depth measurements (from the MicroCats on the mooring line), on the other hand, are much more difficult to verify. In order to get the necessary “in situ” oceanographic data (from measurements made close to the buoy), the water must be sampled directly. This is done buy doing something called a CTD cast — in this case, a specific type called a yo-yo.
The contraption in the picture to the left is called a rosette. It consists of a PCV pipe frame, several grey sampling bottles around the outside of the frame, and multiple sets of instruments in the center (one primary and one backup) for each measurement being made.
The rosette is hooked to a stainless steel cable, hoisted over the side of the ship, and lowered into the water. Cable is cast (run out) until the rosette reaches a certain depth — which can be anything, really, depending on what measurements need to be made. For most of the verification measurements, this depth has been 250 meters. Then, the rosette is hauled up to the surface. And lowered back down. And raised up to the surface. And lowered back down. It’s easy to see why it’s called a yo-yo! (CDT casts that go deeper — thousands of meters instead of hundreds — only go down and up once.)
For the verification process, the rosette is raised and lowered five times, with the instruments continuously measuring temperature, salinity and depth. On the final trip back to the surface, the sampling bottles are closed remotely, one at a time, at specific depths, by a computer in the ship’s lab. (The sampling depths are determined during the cast, by identifying points of interest in the data. Typically, water is sampled at the lowest point of the cast and five meters below the surface, as well as where the salinity and oxygen content of the water is at its lowest.) Then, the rosette is hauled back on board, and water from the sampling bottles is emptied into smaller glass bottles, to be taken back to shore and more closely analyzed.
On this research cruise, the yo-yos are being done by scientists and student researchers from the University of Hawaii, who routinely work at the ALOHA site (where the WHOTS buoys are anchored). The yoyos are done at regular intervals throughout the day, with the first cast beginning at about 6AM HAST and the final one wrapping up at about midnight.
After the final yo-yo was complete at the WHOTS-14 buoy early Saturday morning, the Hi’ialakai traveled to the WHOTS-13 buoy. Today and tomorrow (Sunday), more in situ meteorological and oceanographic verification measurements will be made at the WHOTS-13 site. All of this — the meteorological measurements, the yo-yos, the days rocking back and forth on the ocean swell — must happen in order to make sure that the data being recorded is consistent from one buoy to the next. If this is the case, then it’s a good bet that any trends or changes in the data are real — caused by the environmental conditions — rather than differences in the instruments themselves.
Most of the science team’s time is divided between the Hi’ialakai’s deck and the labs (there are two; one wet, and one dry).The wet lab contains stainless steel sinks, countertops, and an industrial freezer; on research cruises that focus on marine biology, samples can be stored there. Since the only samples being collected on this cruise are water, which don’t need to be frozen, the freezer was turned off before we left port, and turned into additional storage space.The dry lab (shown in the picture above) is essentially open office space, in use nearly 24 hours a day. The labs, like most living areas on the ship, are quite well air conditioned. It may be hot and humid outside, but inside, hoodies and hot coffee are both at a premium!
Did You Know?
The acronym “CTD” stands for conductivity, temperature and depth. But the MicroCats on the buoy mooring lines and the CTD casts are supposed to measure salinity, temperature and depth… so where does conductivity come in? It turns out that the salinity of the water can’t be measured directly — but conductivity of the water can.
When salt is dissolved into water, it breaks into ions, which have positive and negative charges. In order to determine salinity, an instrument measuring conductivity will pass a small electrical current between two electrodes (conductors), and the voltage on either side of the electrodes is measured. Ions facilitate the flow of the electrical current through the water. Therefore conductivity, with the temperature of the water taken into account, can be used to determine the salinity.
Mission: Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) Hawaii Ocean Time-series Station deployment (WHOTS-14)
Geographic Area of Cruise: Hawaii, Pacific Ocean
Date: Monday 24 July 2017
Weather Data from the Bridge:
Latitude & Longitude: 21o22’N, 157o57’ W. Ship speed: 0 knots. Air temperature: 82oF. Humidity: 74%.Wind speed: 8 knots. Wind direction: East-South-East. Sky cover: Broken.
Science and Technology Log:
One of the first things you learn to do as a teacher is to plan for things to go wrong. When you put a lesson together, you try to identify potential problem areas, and then try to figure out how you could address those problems when they do arise, or try to avoid them altogether. One of the next things that you learn is that the biggest problem is invariably going to be something you never anticipated being a problem at all. Deploying a research buoy, it turns out, works essentially the same way.
WHOTS stations are massive, self-contained buoys, designed to stay at sea for up to eighteen months, collecting data the entire time. There are redundant systems on top of redundant systems. Multiple meteorological instruments, measuring exactly the same thing, sprout from the buoy’s tower like misshapen mushrooms. If one instrument fails, there is always another — to ensure that, no matter what, the data is collected. And surrounding it all, like the spines of a porcupine, is the bird wire.
Anything that floats on the ocean winds can be a perch for birds, and the WHOTS buoys are no exception. I’ve been told that after a year at sea, the buoy is absolutely disgusting. I’ve seen some of the mess New York City pigeons can create, and I’m willing to bet that what I’m imagining cannot even come close. I’ll find out for myself later this week, when we retrieve the WHOTS buoy that was deployed last year!
Ick factor aside, birds (and their waste products) pose a real danger to the instruments on the buoy’s tower. If something is pecked or perched on or — use your imagination — otherwise damaged, the instruments may record corrupted data, or no data at all. Which is why there are redundant systems, and why Monday morning was spent making the buoy look like a porcupine. But wait! There’s more! It turns out all bird wire is not created equal. All of the spikes are made of stainless steel, but the spikes can be mounted on different things. Bird wire with a stainless steel base is more effective at repelling birds (because the spikes are closer together)… but the spikes have to be welded into the base, which magnetizes the bird wire. And if this wire is placed the instruments, it can affect their internal compasses and, in turn affect the data the bird wire is intended to protect! Bird wire with a plastic base is less effective (because the spikes are further apart), but much safer for the buoy’s instruments.
Cayenne Pepper, Copper and Things Covered in Tape
The tower of the WHOTS buoy isn’t the only thing that is absolutely disgusting after spending a year at sea. Everything that spends the year below the surface of the ocean (which will be described in a post later this week) comes back absolutely disgusting, too. And it’s not as though it can all just be thrown away. Of particular importance are the instruments attached under the buoy and about every 10 meters (down to 150 meters) along the buoy’s mooring line. All of these instruments must be returned to the manufacturer for calibration (to make sure they were working properly). But there’s a catch — they must be returned clean! Which means that everything that has been growing on them while they’ve been under water must be scrubbed, scraped or peeled off. To make the job easier, the search is always on for ways to keep things from growing on the instruments in the first place. This is called antifouling.
One antifouling method is painting. There are specialized antifouling paints available, but they can be toxic. So the paint that covers the exterior of the buoy contains cayenne pepper (!), which has proven to be as effective as specialized paint, but is much safer. Another antifouling method used on many of the instruments under the buoy involves replacing some stainless steel components with specially made copper ones, as copper also naturally impedes growth. And a third method that’s very popular is simply to cover the instruments with a layer of electrical tape, which can just be peeled off — no scrubbing or scraping involved!
Throughout the day, refrigerated trucks pulled up on the dock next to the Hi’ialakai. They were not full of delicate scientific instrumentation, but something just as vitally important to the cruise — food! The same crane that had been used to hoist instruments on board was also used to carry pallets of food from the dock to the deck of the ship. Then it was passed from hand to hand (by members of the ship’s crew, the science team, the ship’s officers, and the Teacher at Sea) all the way down to the galley’s refrigerators and freezers. The ice cream was handled with particular care — no surprise there!
Did You Know?
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution’s acronym — WHOI — has a pronunciation! You can say it like “hooey”. Or “whoo-ey!” It means the same thing either way!
Mission: WHOI Hawaii Ocean Timeseries Station (WHOTS)
Geographical Area of Cruise: Pacific Ocean, north of Hawaii
Date: June 28th, 2016
Weather Data from the Bridge (June 28th at 2pm)
Wind Speed: 12 knots
Temperature: 26.2 C
Barometric Pressure: 1016.3 mb
Science and Technology Log
The Aloha Station is about 100 miles north of Oahu, Hawaii and was selected because of its closeness to port but distance from land influences (temperature, precipitation etc). The goal is to select a site that represents the north Pacific, where data can be collected on the interactions between the ocean and the atmosphere. Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Hawaii Ocean Time Series (WHOTS) has used this site for research since 2004. You can find real time surface and meteorological data and archived data at the WHOTS website.
We are stationed in the vicinity of mooring 12 and 13 in the Aloha Station to begin intercomparison testing. CTD (conductivity/temperature/depth) casts are conducted on a regular schedule. This data will help align the data from mooring 12 to mooring 13. If CTDs don’t match up between the two moorings then efforts will be made to determine why.
Mooring 13 is being inspected to make sure sensors are working. Photographs have been taken to determine measurement height of the instruments and where the water line is.
When I was aboard the Oscar Dyson, there were multiple studies going on besides the Walleye Pollock survey. The same is true on the Hi’ialakai. The focus is on the mooring deployment and recovery but there are a professor and graduate student from North Carolina State University who are investigating aerosol fluxes.
Professor Nicholas Meskhidze earned his first Physics degree from Tbilisi State University (Georgia). He completed his PhD at Georgia Institute of Technology (USA). He is now an Associate Professor at NC State University Department of Marine Earth and Atmospheric Sciences.
Meskhidze’s study on this cruise is looking at sea spray aerosol abundance in marine boundary layer and quantifying their flux values. Sea spray is formed from breaking waves. Sea spray analysis begins by collecting the aerosol. Using electrical current, particles of a given size (for example 100 nanometer (nm)) are selected for. This size represents the typical size of environmental climatically important particles (70-124 nm). The next step is to remove all other particles typically found in the marine boundary layer, such as ammonium sulfate, black carbon, mineral dust and any organics. The remaining particles are sea salt.
Meskhidze is looking at the fluxes of the salt aerosols. Sea salt aerosols are interesting. If a salt aerosol is placed in 80% humidity, it doubles in size. But then placed in 90% humidity, it quadruples in size. Due to their unique properties, sea salt aerosols can have considerable effect on atmospheric turbidity and cloud properties.
Aerosols are key components of our climate but little is known about them. Climate models are used to predict future climatic change, but how can one do this without understanding a key component (aerosols)?
The galley (ship’s kitchen) is a happening place three times a day. The stewards are responsible for feeding 30-40 people.
Chief Steward Gary Allen is permanently assigned to the Hi’ialakai. He has worked for NOAA for 42 years and he has stories to tell. He grew up in Tallahassee, Florida and his early work was at his father’s BBQ stand. He attended Southern University on a football scholarship and majored in food nutrition. After an injury, he finished school at Florida A & M. He worked for a few years in the hotel food industry, working his way up to executive chef. Eventually he was offered the sous chef job at Brennan’s in New Orleans. He turned it down to go to sea.
In 1971, he sailed for the first time with NOAA. The chief steward was a very good mentor and Gary decided to make cooking at sea his career. He took a little hiatus but was back with NOAA in 1975, where he would spend 18 years aboard the Discoverer and would become chief steward in 1984. He would sail on several other ships before finding his way to the Hi’ialakai in 2004.
In the 42 years at sea, Gary has seen many changes. Early in his career, he would only be able to call home from ports perhaps every 30 days. Now communication allows us to stay in contact more. He is married to his wife of 43 years and they raised 3 daughters in Seattle.
I asked him what he enjoys the most about being at sea. He has loved seeing new places that others don’t get to see. He has been everywhere, the arctic to Antarctica. He enjoys the serenity of being at sea. He loves cooking for all the great people he meets.
I met Ava Speights aboard the Oscar Dyson in 2013 when she was the chief steward and I was participating in the walleye pollock survey as a Teacher at Sea. She has been with NOAA for 10 years.
She and a friend decided to become seamen. Ava began working in a shipyard painting ships. In 2007, she became a GVA (general vessel assistant) and was asked to sail to the Bahamas for 2 weeks as the cook. This shifted her career pathway and through NOAA cooking classes and on the job training, she has worked her way up to chief steward.
She is not assigned to a specific ship. She augments, meaning she travels between ships as needed. She works 6 months of the year, which allows her to spend time with her 2 daughters, 1 son, 2 stepdaughters and 4 grandchildren. Her husband is an engineer with NOAA. Her niece is an AB (able bodied seaman) on deck. Her son is a chief cook for Seafarer’s. And her daughter who just graduated high school will be attending Seafarer’s International Union to become a baker. Sailing must run in her family.
She loves to cook and understands that food comforts people. She likes providing that comfort. She has also enjoyed traveling the world from Africa to Belgium.
Nick is 2nd cook and this is his first cruise with NOAA. He attended cooking school in California and cooked for the Coast Guard for 6 years where he had on the job training. In 2014, he studied at the Culinary Institute of America and from there arrived on the Hi’ialakai. He also is an augmenter, so he travels from ship to ship as Ava does.
Did You Know?
The Hi’ialakai positioned mooring 13 in an area with a 6 mile radius known as the Aloha Station. Check out all of the research that takes place here at Station Aloha. There is a cabled observatory 4800 meters below the ocean surface. A hydrophone picks up on sounds and produces a seismograph. Check the results for the night the anchor was dropped.
Click here to hear whales who pass through this area in February.
Mission: WHOI Hawaii Ocean Timeseries Station (WHOTS)
Geographical Area of Cruise: Pacific Ocean, north of Hawaii
Date: June 26th, 2016
Weather Data from the Bridge
Wind Speed: 15 knots
Wind Direction: 100 degrees (slightly east southeast)
Temperature: 24.5 degrees C
Barometric Pressure: 1014.7 mb
Science and Technology Log
One of the primary objectives of this WHOTS project is to deploy WHOTS-13 mooring. This will be accomplished on our second day at sea.
The mooring site was chosen because it is far enough away from Hawaii so that it is not influenced by the landmasses. Mooring 13 will be located near mooring 12 in the North Pacific Ocean where the Northeast Trade Winds blow. Data collected from the moorings will be used to better understand the interactions between the atmosphere and the ocean. Instruments on the buoy record atmospheric conditions and instruments attached to the mooring line record oceanic conditions.
There is a lot more going on than just plopping a mooring in the sea. Chief Scientist Al Plueddemann from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and his team began in-port prep work on June 16th. This included loading, positioning and securing the scientific equipment on the ship. A meteorological system needed to be installed on the Hi’ialakai to collect data critical to the mission. And then there was the assembly of the buoy which had been shipped to Hawaii in pieces. Once assembled, the sensors on the buoy were tested.
As we left Oahu, we stopped to perform a CTD (conductivity/temperature/depth) cast. This allowed for the testing of the equipment and once water samples were collected, the calibration of the conductivity sensors occurred.
Sunday, June 26th, was the day of deployment. Beginning very early in the morning, equipment was arranged on deck to make deployment efficient as possible. And the science team mentally prepared for the day’s task.
Promptly at 7:30 am, deployment began. The first stage was to deploy the top 47 meters of the mooring with sensing instruments called microcats attached at 5 meter intervals. A microcats has a memory card and will collect temperature, conductivity and pressure data about every three minutes until the mooring is removed next year.
This portion of the mooring is then attached to the surface buoy, which is lifted by a crane and lowered overboard. More of the mooring with instruments is lowered over the stern.
The remainder of the mooring is composed of wire, nylon, 68 glass balls and an anchor. At one point, the mooring wire became damaged. To solve this problem, marine technicians and crew removed the damaged portions and replaced the section with wire from a new spool. This process delayed the completion of mooring deployment but it showed how problems can be solved even when far out at sea.
After dinner, the nylon section of the rope was deployed. Amazingly, this section is more than 2000 meters long and will be hand deployed followed by a section of 1500 m colmega line. It was dark by the time this portion was in the water. 68 glass floats were then attached and moved into the water. These floats will help in the recovery of the mooring next year. The attachment to the anchor was readied.
The anchor weighs 9300 pounds on deck and will sit at a depth of 4756 meters. That is nearly 3 miles below the ocean surface. The crane is used to lift the anchor overboard. The anchor will drop at 1.6 m/s and may take about 50 minutes to reach the bottom. As the anchor sinks, the wire, nylon and the rest of the mooring will be pulled down. Once it reaches the bottom, the mooring will be roughly vertical from the buoy to the anchor.
I sailed aboard NOAA ship Oscar Dyson in 2013 so I already had a general idea of what life aboard a ship would be. Both ships have workout areas, laundry facilities, lounges, and of course messes where we all eat. But on the Hi’ialakai, I am less likely to get lost because of the layout. A door that goes up is near a door that goes down.
On our first day aboard, we held two safety drills. The first was the abandon ship drill. As soon as we heard 6 short and 1 long whistles, we grabbed our life jacket, survival suit and a hat. We reported to our muster stations. I am assigned to lifeboat #1 and I report the starboard side of 0-3 deck ( 2 levels up from my room). Once I arrived, a NOAA officer began taking role and told us to don the survival suit. This being my first time putting the suit on, I was excited. But that didn’t last long. Getting the legs on after taking off shoes was easy as was putting one arm in. After that, it was challenging. It was about 84 F outside. The suit is made of neoprene. And my hands were the shapes of mittens so imagine trying to zip it up. I finally was successful and suffered a bit to get a few photos. This was followed by a lesson for how to release the lifeboats. There are enough lifeboats on each side of the ship, to hold 150% of the capacity on board.
Safety is an important aspect of living aboard a NOAA ship. It is critical to practice drills just like we do at school. So when something does happen, everyone knows what to do. A long whistle signals a fire. All of the scientists report to the Dry Lab for a head count and to wait for further instruction.
I am reminded of how small our world really is. At dinner Saturday, I discovered one of the new NOAA officers was from Cottage Grove, Oregon. Cottage Grove is just a short drive south of Eugene. She had a friend of mine as her calculus teacher. Then a research associate asked me if I knew a kid, who had graduated from South Eugene High School and swam in Virginia. I did. He had not only been in my class but also swam with my oldest son on a number of relay teams growing up. Small world indeed.
Did You Know?
The Hi’ialakai was once a Navy surveillance ship (USNS Vindicator) during the Cold War. NOAA acquired it in 2001 and converted it to support oceanic research.
2016 Mission: Atlantic Scallop/Benthic Habitat Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise: Northeastern U.S. Atlantic Coast
Date: June 21, 2016
The Atlantic Sea Scallop – More Than Meets the Eye
Mission and Geographical Area:
The University of Delaware’s ship, R/V Sharp, is on a NOAA mission to assess the abundance and age distribution of the Atlantic Sea Scallop along the Eastern U.S. coast from Mid Atlantic Bight to Georges Bank. NOAA does this survey in accordance with Magnuson Stevens Act requirements.
Science and Technology:
Latitude: 41 16.296 N
Longitude: 68 49.049 W
Visibility: 5-6 nautical miles
Wind: 21.1 knots
Wave Height: 4-6 occasional 8
Water Temperature: 59 F
Air Temperature: 64 F
Sea Level Pressure: 29.9 in of Hg
Water Depth: 101 m
Sea scallops are unique from clams, molluscs and other bivalves. All of them are filter feeders, but the sea scallop filters out larger sized particles such as diatoms and large protozoans that are larger than 50 micrometers. Clams filter feed on smaller animals and particles that are too small for the scallop to retain and therefore flow right through their digestive system.
Dr. Scott Gallager is looking inside the stomachs of scallops. His hypothesis is that microplastics are traveling down to the bottom of the ocean, and if they are, the scallop will siphon them into their stomach along with their food.
Microplastics are, as the name suggests, small pieces of plastic measured in micrometers. They may enter the ocean as an object such as a plastic water bottle, but over time with the turbulence of the ocean and the sun’s ultraviolet radiation break down into smaller and smaller pieces.
Another way microplastics are entering the ocean is through the cleaning products we use. Many shampoos, detergents and toothpastes have small beads of plastic in them to add friction which aid the products cleaning potential. Untreated water, such as runoff, has the likelihood of flowing into the ocean bringing microplastics with it.
If a sea scallop ingests microplastics the same size as its food, the scallop will not be getting the nutrients it requires. Large quantities of micro plastics falling to the bottom of the ocean would obviously cause the health of scallops to deteriorate.
Another interesting story of the sea scallop is its “attachment” to the red hake. It is not a physical attachment. There appears to be a sentimental attachment between the two even though that is obviously not possible.
The red hake is a fish that starts out its life as a small juvenile without any protection. It finds a home and refuge inside a sea scallop shell. The sea scallop almost befriends the little red hake and allows it to live behind its photoreceptive eyes, next to the mantle.
Red hake minnow.
Red hake minnow found in its scallop.
The fish curls its body into the same contour shape as the scallop. The little fish can swim in at times of danger and the scallop will close its shells to protect them both. After the threat has passed the scallop opens its shells and the little red hake can swim out.
There seems to be some commensalism between the two. Commensalism is the relationship between two different species where each live together without any one feeding off of the other. They live in harmony with each other neither hurting the other. It is not known whether the fish feeds on the scallops’ parasites or if they just coexist together.
It is clear something is happening between the two, because after the red hake grows and no longer fits inside the shell, the fish will still live next to the scallop. It now will curl itself around the outside of the shell. Looking at HabCam pictures, it appears to curl around a scallop even if the scallop is no longer alive. Could it really be the same scallop it lived in as a minnow?
Red hake numbers increase in areas where there are larger, more mature, sea scallops present. What connects two together? Is there some chemical connection where the fish can identify the scallop it “grew up” with?
Why is the red hake red? The red hake is part of the cod family. The other fish such as the silver hake, spotted hake, white hake and haddock do not act like red hake. Red hake are the same color as the scallop. Coincidence? Maybe.
Is the red hake now protecting the scallop as it curls around it? The scallop protected the young fish for as long as it could, so now is the Red hake returning the favor? The main predator of the scallop is the starfish. A starfish would have to climb over the fish to get to the scallop. The red hake would not allow the starfish to get that far.
Is the red hake still just protecting itself? When curled around the scallop, the fish blends in with the scallops red color and is in a sense camouflaging itself from its enemies. In this sense, the scallop is still allowing the red hake to hide, but this time in plain sight.
The Atlantic sea scallop is more interesting than expected. It is curious how the scallop seems to realize how close it is to other scallops. Without having a fully functioning brain, just groupings of neural ganglia, acting as a control center for a bodily functions or movement, how can the scallop decide the best place to live? Do they move in search of a better habitat? How do they know to disperse within their area so they are relatively the same distance apart as seen on the HabCam? Is it competition for food?
Could it be their photosensitive eyes can’t tell the difference of movement of a predator to that of another scallop? They seem to be able to tell the difference between a sea fish predator and one that is not. Why are they so tolerant of the red hake? More questions than answers.
The HabCam is a wonderful tool for studying these questions and more. So little is understood about the habitats within the oceans. It has been easier to study space than to study the depths of our own planet. This is a very exciting time in oceanic research. The HabCam will reveal what has been covered with a blanket of water.
We spent a little more time at Woods Hole. Jim, the ship’s captain, hired a crew of scuba divers to scrub off the barnacles growing on the rudder. I was lucky enough to find a tour of some of the labs at Woods Hole. Scott called around to his colleagues and discovered there was a tour for teachers occurring at that moment when we arrived.
I quickly was sent on a campus bus with Ken, a man working in the communications department, also with a science degree. I think he said it was in physical geology. Everyone around here has multiple degrees and they are often opposite what you would imagine. Such diversity makes some very interesting people to chat with.
In the teacher tour was a former TAS (Teacher at Sea). She was here because she won a touring trip to Woods Hole, so we had some time to chat over lunch about our experiences. We agreed the TAS is one of the best teacher development opportunities out there for all teachers and I think we convinced a third to apply for next year.
I never got the long walk I had planned on, but a much better one learning more about Woods Hole. Ken even took me to see Alvin, the deep sea submersible that lives on the Atlantis. The Atlantis was leaving Alvin behind on its latest mission so Ken showed it to me. The navy is using it this time.
I’ve been feeling great and even got on the exercise bike. Today we will be HabCaming the entire day. It is a nice rest compared to the physical work of dredging from the last two days. Both HabCam and dredging have their benefits. Together they create a much better understanding of what’s below us.
While I’ve been writing this the wind has picked up 10 knots. The waves are 4-6 ft high with an occasional 8ft and it doesn’t look like it will let up. The HabCaming continues but it is harder to keep it level. They are considering going in early if the weather continues to get worse. I believe Tasha said we were a bit ahead of schedule so that wouldn’t be so bad for the survey. Before that happens, there is more dredging to do.
NOAA Teacher at Sea Julia Harvey NOAA Ship Hi’ialakai June 25 – July 3, 2016
Mission: Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) Hawaii Ocean Timeseries Station Thirteenth Setting
Geographical Area: Pacific Ocean North of Hawaii
My name is Julia Harvey and I currently teach biology and environmental science at South Eugene High School in Eugene, Oregon. Next year I will also be teaching AP Biology. I have been teaching for 25 years beginning on the island of Vava’u in the Kingdom of Tonga. Some of my students have now become science teachers.
Eugene is at the southern end of the Willamette Valley and just about an hour away from the Pacific Ocean. In the valley, we are closely connected to the Pacific Ocean. The salmon that swim up our McKenzie River have made their way from the Pacific. Our wet and rainy climate is the result of weather patterns that originate off shore. And when it gets to hot in the valley, we head over to cool off on the beaches of the Pacific.
In 2013, I sailed aboard the Oscar Dyson on the Gulf of Alaska out of Kodiak. I was part of the third leg of the Pollock fish survey. Pollock is the fish used to make fish sticks and imitation crab. I didn’t know until this cruise, that the Pollock fishery is the one of the largest fisheries in the world. And I had never even heard of a Pollock until I was going to be sailing on the Oscar Dyson. I worked with amazing scientists on board who kindly helped me learn the process for finding schools of fish in the water using acoustics and then how to process the catch in order to provide information about the health of the fishery.
There were other studies going on the Oscar Dyson. One involved surveying the ocean bottom and another involved counting krill.
Preparing to count krill.
I leave aboard the Hi’ialakai (easy to say after learning Tongan) in a few days. We will be at sea for 9 days, north of Hawaii. The Chief Scientist is affiliated with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute and other scientists are from University of Hawaii, NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory, and North Carolina State University. The main purpose of the study is to recover and deploy WHOTS moorings while collecting CTD (conductivity/temperature/depth) casts and data from shipboard sensors. I am especially interested to learn more about the sea spray analysis and how it relates to climatic effects.
This will be my first physical oceanography cruise. All of the studies I did aboard the Vantuna at Occidental College were biological as was the work done on the Oscar Dyson. I am excited to take my learning in a different direction.
I found it more difficult to pack for the cruise out of Hawaii then out of Alaska. This time, there is a larger range of weather that could be expected. Beginning on Oahu (shorts and tank tops) to the open ocean (steel toe boots and layers of clothes). But there are a few items that are making the trip with me again. I could not leave the Go Pro behind. I captured Dall porpoises bow surfing in 2013 as well as the processing of thousands of fish. And of course I have the anti-seasickness medication. It was wonderful to feel good the whole cruise last time. I will not be streaming videos but I will be entertained with a few books I packed.
I will be blogging several times while I am at sea and I hope you will continue to follow my journey at sea.
NOAA Teacher at Sea Dieuwertje “DJ” Kast Aboard NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow May 19 – June 3, 2015
Mission: Ecosystem Monitoring Survey
Geographical area of cruise: East Coast Date: May 25, 2015, Day 7 of Voyage
Interview with Emily Peacock
Emily Peacock is a Research Assistant with Dr. Heidi Sosik at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI). She is using imaging flow-cytometry to document the phytoplankton community structure along the NOAA Henry B. Bigelow Route.
Why is your research important?
Phytoplankton are very important to marine ecosystems and are at the bottom of the food chain. They uptake carbon dioxide (CO2) and through the process of photosynthesis make oxygen, much like the trees of the more well-known rain forests.
The purpose of our research is “to understand the processes controlling the seasonal variability of phytoplankton biomass over the inner shelf off the northeast coast of the United States. Coastal ocean ecosystems are highly productive and play important roles in the regional and global cycling of carbon and other elements but, especially for the inner shelf, the combination of physical and biological processes that regulate them are not well understood.” (WHOI 2015)
What tool do you use in your work you could not live without?
I am using an ImagingFlowCytobot (IFCB) to sample from the flow-through Scientific Seawater System.
IFCB is an imaging flow cytometer that collects 5 ml of seawater at a time and images the phytoplankton in the sample. IFCB images anywhere from 10,000 phytoplankon/sample in coastal waters to ~200 in less productive water. Emily is creating a sort of plankton database with all these images. They look fantastic, see below for sample images!
The IFCB “is a system that uses a combination of video and flow cytometric technology to both capture images of organisms for identification and measure chlorophyll fluorescence associated with each image. Images can be automatically classified with software, while the measurements of chlorophyll fluorescence make it possible to more efficiently analyze phytoplankton cells by triggering on chlorophyll-containing particles.” (WHOI ICFB 2015).
What do you enjoy about your work?
I really enjoy looking at the phytoplankton images and identifying and looking for more unusual images that we don’t see as often. I particularly enjoy seeing plankton-plankton interactions and grazing of phytoplankton.
Grazing (all photo examples are not from this research cruise but still from an IFCB):
What type of phytoplankton do you see?
I am seeing a lot of dinoflagellates in the water today (May 20th, 2015), Ceratium specifically.
The most common types of plankton I see are: diatoms, dinoflagellates, and microzooplankton like ciliates. The general size range for the phytoplankton I am looking at is 5-200 microns.
Where do you do most of your work?
“The Martha’s Vineyard Coastal Observatory (MVCO) is a leading research and engineering facility operated by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. The observatory is located at South Beach, Massachusetts and there is a tower in the ocean a mile off the south shore of Martha’s Vineyard where it provides real time and archived coastal oceanographic and meteorological data for researchers, students and the general public.” (MVCO 2015).
Most of my work with Heidi is at the Martha’s Vineyard Coastal Observatory. IFCB at MVCO has sampled phytoplankton every 20 minutes since 2006 (nearly continuously). This unique data set with high temporal resolution allows for observations not possible with monthly or weekly phytoplankton sampling.
Below is an example from the MVCO from about an hour ago at 1 PM on May 20th, 2015.
Did you know??
IFCB at Martha’s Vineyard Coastal Observatory has collected photos of nearby phytoplankton every 20 minutes since 2006 (9 years, almost continuously). With this time series, you can study changes in temporal and seasonal patterns in phytoplankton throughout the years.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.