Maria Madrigal: Meet the Scientists: April 1, 2012

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Maria Madrigal

NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette

April 2-18, 2012

Mission: Comparison of Fishery Independent Sampling Methods

Geographical area of cruise: Tutuila, American Samoa

Science & Technology Log: April 4, 2012

What do you picture when you think of a scientist? Do you imagine a lone individual working in a sterile laboratory,  dressed in a crisp white lab coat? The team of scientists involved in this project are far from that image. What does it take to be a scientist when your laboratory is beneath the ocean waves? Here are some brief bios of the scientists working on the comparative sampling method project to assess the populations of the shallow and deepwater coral reef fishes.

Meet the AUV Scientists

Meet the AUV Team! You’ll notice there is an animal next to each scientist. Each team member was asked to provide an animal that is part of the coral reef ecosystem that best represents who they are or how they contribute to the team.


Rock Mover Wrasse
Rock Mover Wrasse

Coral Reef Representative:

It is solitary and lives in semi exposed reef flats or lagoons. As juveniles, they resemble drifting pieces of algae not only in appearance but also in movement. Adults are wary and will dive into the sand if pursued. They have strong powerful jaws that allow them to turn over rocks in search of prey. Ben described them as little engineers that move and build things. Essentially, they get things done much like a chief scientist must do to successfully complete his/her mission.

Organization: Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center (PIFSC)

 Job Title: Research Fisheries Biologist

 Education: Bachelor of Arts in Marine Ecology & Photography from Hampshire College, Master of Science in Coral Reef Ecology from University of Hawaii at Manoa, PhD in Ecology & Zoogeography of Large Bodied Fishes from University of Hawaii at Manoa.

 Main Duties on this project: Experiment design and coordination of logistics and field operations in conjunction with Co-Chief Scientist.

When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up? Explorer like Jacques Cousteau

If I only knew then what I know now, I would tell myself…Experience new cultures. Start traveling internationally at an earlier age.

Favorite thing about his job: Going to sea. Exploring new places. Coming up with interesting questions and figuring out the answers.



Coral Reef Representative:

John likes the octopus because it is versatile, clever, and always seems to have a Plan B and Plan C. If you catch one it will wriggle like crazy. If that doesn’t work, it’ll start crawling across your face or squirt ink and swim away. If you put a fish in an aquarium it stays. An octopus will crawl out. Ok… so maybe that’s not necessarily the smartest thing under the circumstances, but John admires the attitude.

Organization: Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research (JIMAR)

Job Title: Benthic Habitat Characterization Ecologist

Education: Bachelor of Science in Geology from Tulane University, Master of Science in Biological Oceanography from University of Hawaii, PhD in Coastal Geology from University of Hawaii.

Main Duties on this project: Helps with any tasks on deck including the launching and retrieval of the AUV. He is also part of the decision making process in setting mission priorities.

When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up? Spy or Archeologist

If I only knew then what I know now, I would tell myself…Pursue what you are most passionate about and worry less on whether you can get a job doing it later.

Favorite thing about his job: He likes the trips, the diving and the people. One of his favorite projects involved researching more technical SCUBA diving techniques to be able to do deeper dives.


Yellow Boxfish
Yellow Boxfish

Coral Reef Representative:

Boxfishes do not have scales but rather have fused bony plates that give them their box-like appearance. They are slow swimmers and hover around the coral reef which gives them a “quirky” appearance which is how Liz describes herself. When it comes to science, being “quirky” or different is a good characteristic to possess. Scientists need to be able to think or see things differently. Quirkiness is ingenuity at its best.

Organization: Northwest Fisheries Science Center (NWFSC)

Job Title: Senior Scientist/Supervisory Research Fish Biologist

Education: Bachelor of Science in Biological Sciences from University of California at Irvine, Master of Science in Fisheries Biology from University of Alaska at Fairbanks, PhD in Marine Biology from Scripps Institution of Oceanography

Main Duties on this project: She originally created the  AUV team for the NWFSC. Currently, the NWFSC and the PIFSC jointly operate the AUV and support each other’s research missions.

When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up? Nancy Drew

If I only knew then what I know now, I would tell myself… Aim higher. She realized she had low expectations for herself. She also would say to take a step back and take the time to explore what you are passionate about doing in life. Allow yourself the latitude to investigate what that passion is even if it slows you down for a little bit. You’ll find your pathway.

Favorite thing about her job: Going out to sea.


Chromodoris fidelis

Coral Reef Representative:

Nudibranchs are some of the most beautiful molluscs. Their bright coloration actually serves as a warning to its predators that they are toxic or distasteful. They lead secretive lives under and amongst the coral reefs. Jeremy likes that they are not the most common thing that people will look for in a coral reef. They are like diamonds in the rough. This relates to the hidden mastery that comes when writing the “script” (the driving instructions written in code) for the AUV.

Organization: Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research (JIMAR)

Job Title: Mapping Specialist

Education: Bachelor of Science in Agriculture from Cornell University with a double minor in Computer Science and Life Sciences

Main Duties on this project: Write the scripts to process the AUV data.

When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up? Marine Biologist

If I only knew then what I know now, I would tell myself…Computer Science is the way to go.

Favorite thing about his job: He is constantly learning.


Black Triggerfish
Black Triggerfish

Coral Reef Representative:

Trigger fish get their name from their ability to lock their dorsal spine into position and “trigger” an adjacent spine. They have strong powerful jaws that allow them to squirt jets of water at sea urchins. They work tenaciously until they flip the sea urchin and expose its softer side. This tenacity reflects Erica’s work ethic. They also show parental care which demonstrates Erica’s caring nature as she has made me feel welcome right from the start of this journey.

Organization: Northwest Fisheries Science Center (NWFSC)

Job Title: Research Fisheries Biologist

Education: Bachelor of Science in Marine Biology from Auburn University, Master of Science in Marine Resource Management with a focus on Commercial Fisheries from Oregon State University.

Main Duties on this project: To run and maintain vehicle.

When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up? Dolphin Trainer at Sea World

If I only knew then what I know now, I would tell myself…Keep doing what you want to do. You can make a career with what you like. You don’t have to sit at a desk. There are lots of jobs that have outside components.

Favorite thing about her job: There is always something new everyday; different places and animals. You never know what may be coming up next.



Coral Reef Representative:

Curt chose the cuttlefish because he has always been impressed by their cryptic ability and voracious appetite. Its prey is paralyzed by poisonous saliva or crushed by the strong beak. Cuttlefish along with the other familiar cephalopods like the squid and octopus (head-footed molluscs) are believed to be the smartest invertebrates. It has a large brain that can process lots of information that aids in its speedy escape response and predatory tactics. Just like the cuttlefish, Curt has the ability to interpret plenty of data collected by the AUV.

Organization: Northwest Fisheries Science Center (NWFSC)

Job Title: Information Technology Specialist

Education: Bachelor of Science in Biology from Arizona State University, Master of Science in Marine Resource Management from Oregon State University and double minor in Fisheries & Wildlife and Earth Information Science & Technology (GIS)

Main Duties on this project: Technical support for the AUV

When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up? Fighter Pilot

If I only knew then what I know now, I would tell myself…Travel more

Favorite thing about his job: The variety and diversity of the projects that are assigned to him.


Yellowfin Tuna
Yellowfin Tuna

Coral Reef Representative:

Its body is designed for speed. It is a schooling fish and is frequently seen with other species of fish but also associates with dolphins. Allen’s father, Bell Shimada, made a distinctive mark in the study of Pacific tropical tuna stocks.  Allen chose the Tuna because he likes looking at the bigger picture. It is something he must do as his work is to represent and work with all six fisheries science centers.

Organization: NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service

Job Title: Fisheries Biologist (Management)

Education: Bachelor of Science in Biology from Northwestern University, Bachelor of Science in Fisheries from University of Washington, Master of Science in Marine Policy from University of Washington.

Main Duties on this project: Observational. He helps all six fisheries science centers get the resources they need to conduct their projects.

When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up? Marine Biologist

If I only knew then what I know now, I would tell myself…Go straight to University of Washington and begin with fisheries

Favorite thing about his job: Going out to sea.

Cathrine Fox: Issue Thirteen: Walleye Pollock Status Page

JULY 24 – AUGUST 14, 2011

Personal Log:
I have not always had the best morals when it came to eating seafood. I discovered the joys of sushi in San Francisco after I graduated college. There was one place that I would frequent so often that the sushi chefs would would create something for me when I walked through the door. I later learned from Ruth Reichl in her book Garlic and Sapphires that the phrase I was looking for was “Omakase.” Literally: I am in your hands. In their capable hands I tried unagi (eel), hon maguro (bluefin tuna), and hamachi (yellowtail) for the first time. And I fell in love.

A few years later, a friend mentioned to me that I might want to moderate my adoration of some fish. Never one to take someone else’s word, I did my own research. I read, with growing horror, that my delicious eel farms were not sustainable, and that bluefin tuna was declining worldwide. Evidently, there were so many others that shared my love of the cool simple taste of hon maguro that we were loving these and other species to death. I know, you probably don’t want to take my word for it. Do your own research and then come back: FishWatch and SeaFoodWatch.

Back? Did you see that Yellowfin tuna are being sustainably harvested? Yes, me too. One order of hamachi sashimi, please.

What is my point with all of this? I want to show you what data are used to make these determinations about sustainability. I assure you, it is not random or haphazard. In fact, the purpose of my time in Alaska was to provide data to fisheries managers (composed of teams of fishermen, scientists, and officials) to let them make educated decisions on the health of walleye pollock populations in the Gulf of Alaska. What data do we collect? How do we know what the fish are doing, and how many there are? It isn’t an easy job… there is no Walleye Pollock Facebook Status Page that you can just check… (Cartoon citations 1, 2, and 3). You have to get dirty and do some real science.

Adventures in a Blue World, Issue 13
Adventures in a Blue World, Issue 13

Until our next adventure,


Walleye Pollock age classes.
Walleye Pollock age classes.

p.s. Although my “real job” has severely impacted the amount of time I have to cartoon, I am still working on at least two more (and up to seven, if I find a way to get a hold of a Time-Turnerlike Hermione Granger) cartoons. Thank you for being patient!

Diane Stanitski: Day 15, August 25, 2002

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Diane Stanitski

Aboard NOAA Ship Ka’imimoana

August 16-30, 2002

Day 15: Sunday, August 25, 2002

The FOO’s quote of the day (I really like this one!):

“Let your dreams run wild and free and always follow where they lead.” – N.E. Foster

Weather Log:
Here are our observations at 2200 today:
Latitude: 1°31.9’N
Longitude: 140°00.5’W
Visibility: 12 nautical miles (nm)
Wind direction: 120°
Wind speed: 12 kts
Sea wave height: 3-4′
Swell wave height: 4-5′
Sea water temperature: 27.3°C
Sea level pressure: 1011.7 mb
Cloud cover: 3/8, Cumulus

Hurricane Fausto is slightly diminishing in strength, but is still maintaining winds at 90 kts, gusting to 110 kts. It is currently located at 18°N, 125°W and is moving northwest. Another tropical depression has formed at 11.5°N, 148°W and has maximum sustained winds at 30 kts with gusts to 40 kts. It is expected to gain strength and move into the tropical storm category. We are definitely not in danger of being impacted by either storm because they require Coriolis to form or to be sustained. Coriolis is negligible at the equator so we’re safe!

Science and Technology Log:

This has been my favorite day of the trip so far! I awoke hurriedly at 5:50 AM and ran outside with my hard hat and life jacket. We were taking the RHIB (once again, the rigid inflatable boat) out to retrieve our first buoy. Earl, Dave, Paul, Doug and I rode toward a gorgeous sunrise, removed sensors from the buoy, and then hooked it to a line to drag it in toward the ship. What an amazing morning! It all started there. As soon as the buoy was lifted onto the dock Nadia and I began removing barnacles from the bottom of the frame. The barnacles were still alive with their legs appearing and disappearing within their hard shell. They stick to the mast, buoy, and inner flotation device in clumps. At this point, I am filthy, smelly and loving every second. The barnacles are full of sea water which occasionally bursts and runs down your arms as you work over your head. I’m sure I’ll smell like fish for the rest of the day. The retrieved buoy was then power washed to remove the salt water, algae, and remaining barnacles parts, and to prepare it to be deployed again later during the trip.

I then helped pull in the 4300 meters of nilspin and nylon cable by taking over one of the spools where I turned it around and around as the cable draped over the top. Fun, and tiring! Just as we finished with the last spool, Doug, the XO, decided to fish off the back of the ship. You should have seen the amazing fish swimming all around the fantail of the boat… mahi mahi, and every beautifully colored huge fish that you can imagine! A blow hole was spotted by the FOO earlier, sure signs of a whale nearby. I also saw a huge fish jump out of the water, but couldn’t identify it. The fish all hang out around the buoy because of the barnacles (food) and the shadow created by the buoy, thus creating a small ecosystem in the middle of the Pacific. Suddenly, Doug caught something! He had to keep reeling in the line until he pulled a wahoo on board (ono in Hawaiian, meaning sweet). It had unbelievable colors of green and blue and was shiny with stripes. It had a cigar-shaped body, pointed head, and triangular teeth, with a long dorsal fin separated into 9 segments. Nemo brought it into the shade, pierced its neck, and then returned to the fantail where he caught two beautiful yellowfin tuna – WOW! They were shaped like a football, were beautifully iridescent with yellow, gold and blue across their bodies and fins tinged with yellow. The fins were very long. We feasted on sushimi tonight at dinner, raw tuna fillets with wasabi and soy sauce – scrumptious! We also had baked ono (wahoo) with spices. YUM! Thanks, Doug and Nemo!

We then all worked to prepare the nilspin (cable closest to the buoy) for the next buoy deployment by placing fairings on the cable. Fairings are plastic sleeves that are rectangular and slide onto the cable to provide more friction with the water. This alleviates great movement of the cable that usually happens due to strong ocean currents at this latitude. We are so close to the equator that the equatorial countercurrent makes a huge difference in the movement of the subsurface line. It was like an assembly line with me lifting each fairing out of a garbage can, handing each one to Dave who opened it and slide it onto the cable. Then, Paul used a mallet to secure it on the line while Jon held the cable in place so it didn’t drift off the boat. We must have placed hundreds of them on the line while it was being pulled out to sea by the new buoy that we just deployed (see photo log for pictures of the buoy retrieval and deployment). In the end, it took about 3 hours for the nearly 5000 meters of nilspin cable and nylon cable to be unrolled and pulled by the buoy out to sea. The buoy was floating about 4 km away from the ship by the time the cable was unraveled. You could just see it on the horizon. The crew then dropped two massive anchors (old railcar wheels) into the sea, which sunk and pulled the cable down while pulling the buoy into place above. The entire procedure is a real sight to see because of the crew’s efficiency…truly impressive.

Before dinner, John and I sat down and completed the script for tomorrow’s broadcast, however, things might change because we will be starting the science on board at the same time our broadcast is supposed to air live (9:00 AM ship time). We may have to change the show’s schedule if something exciting is happening on the ship that might be of interest to all of you. Flexibility is key to it all, I’m told.

Personal Log:

After a workout, shower, and dinner, John shot some footage of me on the bridge deck summarizing my experiences thus far, and describing what’s yet to come during this next week. The sunset was outstanding again. There were many clouds and they created these streaming rays of bright yellow light from the setting sun down to the Pacific. I could easily watch this every night.

I’m going to finish my logs and head straight to bed. This was truly the most outstanding 24 hours of the entire trip. I am so lucky to be here and can’t believe that we’re heading to the equator tomorrow!

Question of the day: 

What does TAO stand for and what is the goal of the project?

My favorite day of the trip so far…