Hearther Haberman in the News!

Heather Haberman in her "Gumby Suit" aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II

Heather Haberman in her "Gumby Suit" aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II

Heather Haberman is named a 2011 Siemens STEM Institute Fellow!

Recently NOAA Teacher at Sea Heather Haberman was interviewed about her cruise.

Read this article in the Star Herald about Heather’s cruise.

Read this article on kgwn.tv about Heather’s cruise

Heather Haberman: Gulf Water Health, July 12, 2011 (post #4)

  • NOAA Teacher at Sea
    Heather Haberman

    Onboard NOAA Ship Oregon II
    July 5 — 17, 2011

Mission:  Groundfish Survey
Geographical Location:  Northern Gulf of Mexico
Date:  Tuesday, July 11, 2011

Weather Data from  NOAA Ship Tracker
Air Temperature: 29.5 C   (85.1 F)
Water Temperature: 29.8 C  (85.6 F)
Relative Humidity: 76%
Wind Speed: 2.09 knots

Preface:  Scroll down the page if you would like to read my blog in chronological order.  If you have any questions leave them for me at the end of the post.

Question of the Day:  Are you seeing any oil rigs on your trip?

Answer:   There are so many oil rigs out here in the Gulf of Mexico that I can’t recall a time when I couldn’t see one.  Some are small and some are enormous.  I never realized that there were so many different engineering designs for oil rigs.  At night they are all lit up and it looks like a city in the sea out here.  All of the bright lights do pose some problems for migrating birds especially during bad weather when the are attracted to the lights.  The birds will often circle the lights to exhaustion or hit the structure so hard that it kills them.

Science and Technology Log

Topic of the Day:  How do researchers determine the health of the Gulf waters?

Science and Technology log:

You wake up in the morning and you don’t feel well.  What do you do?  Some people may stick a thermometer in their mouth to see if they have a fever.  Body temperature is a good indicator of illness or infection.  If you still don’t feel well after a few days you could visit a doctor who may check your eyes, ears, throat, blood pressure, etc.   Doctors can often figure out what’s making you sick by using certain tools and running tests.  Researchers do the same thing with the ocean.  In order to see how “healthy” the ocean is, measurements need to be taken.  Can you tell which trawl was from healthy water and which was from “sick” water?

0.5 kg (1.1 lbs) is all we got from this 30 minute trawl

Over 500 kg (1,100 lbs) of fish were collected in this 30 minute trawl.

Why aren’t we seeing a lot of marine life in certain parts of the Gulf of Mexico?  You don’t have to be a doctor to answer this question, but you do have to have some scientific tools to diagnose the problem.

On the Oregon II, a device called a CTD is used to take measurements such as conductivity (salinity), temperature, chlorophyll concentration, and dissolved oxygen (DO).  These water quality measurements let researches know what’s happening in the water just like a doctor would look at your test results to gage your health status.  Sometimes a doctor may need to do a second test just to confirm the results.  NOAA’s fisheries biologists do the same thing with their water quality assessments.  Winkler titrations and a hand-held Hack Dissolved Oxygen meter are used to confirm the dissolved oxygen readings from the CTD.  Scientists need to make sure the data they collect is accurate and the more tests they perform the better their data will be.

This large piece of equipment is a CTD sensor. The top portion of the machine contains three gray vertical cylinders which are used to collect water samples. Under the machine are sensors that test the water quality while it is submerged. Here I am washing out the sensors once it was brought back on board from a test.

When comparing data from this device to our trawl samples, it’s obvious that water with low levels of dissolved oxygen can not support much life.

Dissolved Oxygen: Marine animals need oxygen to survive just like land animals do.  The main difference is that most marine animals have gills which are able to diffuse oxygen molecules from the water directly into their blood.  Diffusion is the process of a molecule moving from an area of high concentration to low concentration.

Have you ever sprayed air freshener and noticed how the smell moves from where you sprayed it (high concentration) throughout the entire room (low concentration) until the smell is equally distributed throughout the room (equilibrium)?  That’s how diffusion works.

It’s very important to understand that the amount of dissolved oxygen MUST be higher in the water then inside of the animal’s body or diffusion of oxygen into the blood won’t take place.  This means the animals will either have to move or die.  This is what’s happening in the “Dead Zone” in the Gulf of Mexico.

The reason levels of oxygen are so low in the Gulf of Mexico are due in part to human actions.  The overuse of fertilizers that are high in nitrates and phosphates are one of the major problems.  When it rains or floods, these extra nutrients wash off of our lawns and into storm drains which then drain into the rivers.  Most of the Mississippi watershed consists of agricultural land in the breadbasket of the Midwest where a lot of fertilization takes place during the spring and summer months. All of the nutrients from the rivers in the Mississippi watershed eventually empty out into the Gulf of Mexico.

Mississippi Watershed: The area of land that drains into the Mississippi River and out into the Gulf of Mexico.

These nutrients help the aquatic plants grow, just as they helped our lawns and crops grow.  Now you may be thinking “In the last blog you talked about how important aquatic plants are when it comes to oxygen production.”  Indeed they do make oxygen, but as all of these plants die and sink to the bottom of the sea, bacteria feed on (decompose) their remains and use up the available oxygen in the process.  More oxygen is consumed by these aerobic bacteria than was made by the plants which is why oxygen levels can get so low.

Hypoxia is the term used when dissolved oxygen is below 2 mg/l or 2 parts per million.  That means for every one million molecules, only two of them are oxygen molecules.  Most marine life try to avoid water that’s this low in oxygen because they will become stressed or die.  The hypoxic zone in the Gulf occurs in one of the most important commercial fishery zones in the United States during the spring and summer months.  Why during the spring and summer?  There are a couple of answers to this question.  One is because of the fertilizer runoff which I mentioned earlier.  The other has to do with water temperature.

As water temperature increases, it naturally looses it's ability to hold gas molecules like oxygen. Cooler water naturally holds more oxygen. Source: Koi Club of San Diego

This is a map of the data we have been collecting during the Groundfish Survey. Our data gets sent in everyday and the maps are updated weekly. Check back at http://www.ncddc.noaa.gov/hypoxia/products/ for a complete map of Bottom Dissolved Oxygen after July 17th 2011.

When the data collection is complete you will notice that the “dead zone” is larger than the state of New Jersey.  It is bigger this year than in previous years due to the flooding that’s occurred in the Great Plains and Midwest this spring and summer.

Salinity (salt level):  This measurement is extremely important to the fish that live in the ocean because each species has an optimal salinity level that it requires.  Remember osmosis?  Osmosis is how cells move water in or out depending upon their environment.  If a fish ends up in an environment that’s too saline (salty), the water will begin to leave the cells of the fish through osmosis and they could “dehydrate”.  If they are in water that’s too fresh, then their cells will start to fill with water and they could “bloat”.  All of this cellular work is done by the body in order to maintain homeostasis.  Homeostasis refers to the ability of a living thing to keep its body in balance with the ever-changing environment in which it lives.

Salinity also affects the levels of dissolved oxygen in the water.  The saltier the water, the lower the oxygen levels will be.  It also creates a problem with waters ability to “mix”.

Notice how the heavier salt water settles to the bottom of the sea. The red dots represent the amount of dissolved oxygen during a hypoxia event. Notice that due to a lack of water mixing, the concentration of oxygen is much lower in the saltier bottom layer of water.

Chlorophyll Concentrations:  As the last blog mentioned, chlorophyll is a green pigment that phytoplankton and other aquatic plants have.  By calculating the concentration of chlorophyll in an a region, researchers can determine how productive the area may be for fishing.  Remember that zooplankton eat phytoplankton and bigger fish eat zooplankton, which are then eaten by bigger fish. A good general rule of thumb is that if the water is clear and blue then there won’t be as much living in it as green cloudy (turbid) water. Areas of hypoxia can also be predicted if the levels of chlorophyll get too high.

Now that you know some of the basics about ocean health, try to do your part.

*   If you must use fertilizer, do so sparingly.

*  Purchase soaps and detergents that are labeled phosphate free.

*  Be sure to make sustainable choices when purchasing seafood (visit Seafood Watch)

Personal Log

Today I found out why fishermen do not like dolphins.  A pod of dolphins were following us on a trawl and when we brought up the catch there were holes in the net.  We had to dump the sample back into the sea and try again after the holes were patched.  We went back to do a second trawl in the same area and the dolphins did the same thing.  We decided to try to “outrun” the dolphins on our way to the next station.

The reason we can’t collect data on the trawls with net holes is because we won’t get an accurate representation of the actual number of species living in that area.  In science it’s very important to make sure we collect good data.

A pod of dolphins following our ship.

Heather Haberman: Science and Life at Sea, July 16, 2011 (post #5)

  • NOAA Teacher at Sea
    Heather Haberman

    Onboard NOAA Ship Oregon II
    July 5 — 17, 2011

Mission:  Groundfish Survey
Geographical Location:  Northern Gulf of Mexico
Date:  Saturday, July 16, 2011

Weather Data from  NOAA Ship Tracker
Air Temperature: 28.5 C   (83 F)
Water Temperature: 27.2 C  (81 F)
Relative Humidity: 82%
Wind Speed: 9.58 knots

Preface:  Scroll down the page if you would like to read my blog in chronological order.  If you have any questions leave them for me at the end of the post.

Science and Technology Log

Question of the day:  When I view your travels aboard the Oregon II on NOAA’s Ship Tracker website it looks as though you go as far as the continental shelf and then turn back towards the shore again.  Why don’t you go into the deep water?

Our groundfish survey course.

Answer:  If you were studying animals in the rainforest you would want to make sure to stay in that specific area.  You wouldn’t want to include Arctic animals in your report which are from a completely different biome.  The same goes for ocean life.  As depth, temperature, and amount of light change in the ocean so do the habitats and the animals that live in them.  On this groundfish survey we are focusing on offshore species that live in “shallow” waters up to 60 fathoms (361 feet).  If we were to go out into the deep water then our reports wouldn’t be as accurate.

Topic of the Day:  Science

What is science?  Can you come up with a good definition?  Difficult isn’t it.  There are many definitions that refer to science as the study of the natural world, systematic knowledge, etc. but something that’s often left out of the definition is that it can be used to make predictions.

We have all been conducting scientific experiments since we were old enough to formulate questions about our environment: “Will this ball bounce?”,  “Can I get it to bounce higher?”,  “Will ball #1 bounce higher than ball #2?”  The knowledge we have collected from these experiments allow us to make accurate predictions.  “I think ball #2 would be better for playing tennis than ball #1.”  Now keep in mind, the more we know about a subject, the better our predictions will be.

The more information we have the better our predictions become. Image: http://www.exploratorium.edu/baseball/bouncing_balls.html

Did you know that the ocean covers over 70% of the Earth’s surface but more than 95% of it remains unexplored.  This means we have a lot to learn if we want to accurately predict the relationships between the ocean, the atmosphere and the living things on our planet. To address these gaps in our knowledge, thousands of people working for the government, universities and private industries, are trying to collect the information we need to make the most accurate predictions possible.  Perhaps by expanding our knowledge we will be better equipped to formulate some solutions to the problems we have created in the seas such as  pollution (particularly plastics), climate change and overfishing.  These issues are drastically changing oceanic ecosystems which in turn affect the life on our planet.

The beautiful Pacific Ocean. Image: Universe Today

A new venture into deep ocean exploration. Image: ZD Net

One thing that sets science apart from other arenas is that is it based on verifiable evidence.  We are not talking about video footage of bigfoot or pictures of UFO’s here, we are talking about evidence that is easily confirmed by further examination or research.  I don’t think many people consider all of the expertise that goes into collecting this kind of scientific data–it’s not just scientists.

Not all evidence is verifiable.

Onboard the Oregon II there are engineers that make sure the ship and all its parts are functional, skilled fishermen that operate the cranes and trawling equipment, officers from the NOAA Corps that navigate and assist the captain in commanding the ship, cooks that feed a hungry crew and the scientists.  Conducting scientific research is a team effort that requires a variety of skilled personnel.

NOAA Corps member Ensign Brian Adornado with a nautical chart that's used for navigating our ships course.

Too often people underestimate the amount of time and labor that actually goes into collecting the information we have about our planet and its inhabitants.  In fact, many people dismiss scientific evidence as unimportant and trivial when in actuality it is based on the most technologically advanced methods that are available.  Scientific data, and conclusions derived from the data, are peer-reviewed (looked at by others in the field) before it is published or presented to the general public.

This is why it is so important to take heed to the reports about the changes taking place in the ocean’s waters. Without the data from NASA’s satellites in the sky,  NOAA’s ships on the sea and other sources too numerous to mention, we wouldn’t know the extent of the damage that’s being done to the ocean.

Chlorophyll concentrations in the ocean. Image: NASA satellite SeaWIFS

NOAA’s Teacher at Sea program has clearly demonstrated how good science is done.  I experienced first hand the importance of random sampling, scientific classification of organisms, repeating trials to ensure the accuracy of results, team work, safety, publishing data for the public to review and always having backup equipment.  I’m looking forward to sharing these experiences with my students.  Thank you NOAA!

Personal log:

My time aboard the Oregon II is coming to an end.  We have finished up our last stations and cleaned up the workrooms.  Now its back to Pascagoula, Mississippi.  It has been a wonderful experience!  For those of you that are wondering what I did each day on the ship it was pretty routine.

9:00 AM : Go to the galley for some juice and coffee.  Hot breakfast ends at 8:00 AM but they always have cereal and fresh fruit to eat.  In the galley there are two tables that each seat six people.  At the end of each table is a small TV so we can watch the news, our anything else that happens to be on DirectTV.

This is a picture of my room. I have the bottom bunk and my roommate sleeps on the top. The curtains are very nice for privacy since we work different shifts.

There is a bathroom (head) that my roommate and I share with our two neighbors. Each room has its own entry door to the bathroom.

This is the galley where all of our meals are served. It's also stocked with lots of yummy snacks and drinks!

9:30 AM:  After some coffee, juice and conversation I head upstairs to the lounge so I can check my e-mail and work on my blog.  The lounge has some comfortable seats, a big TV, lots of 8mm movies, two computers for the fishermen, and an internet cord for laptops.  Usually David, the ornithologist (bird scientist), is here working when I arrive so we usually chat for a while.

This is the lounge.

11:00 AM:  Lunch time!  everyday the chefs make amazing food for us to eat.  They’ve served bbq ribs, prime rib, turkey, quail, crab cakes, shrimp, mahi-mahi, ham, crab legs, pork loin, steaks and lots of other amazing side dishes and desserts.  Both chefs are retired from the Navy where they were also cooks.

12:00 noon: Head to the dry lab to start my shift.  At the start of every shift Brittany, our team leader, writes down all of the stations we will be going to as well as how many miles it takes to get there.

This is the "dry lab" where we spend our time waiting for the next trawl or plankton station. In this room there are computers dedicated to navigation, depth imagery and fisheries data.

5:00 PM:  Supper time!  Back to the galley for some more excellent food!

12:00 midnight:  Night crew comes in to relieve us from our 12 hour shift.  I quietly enter my room so I don’t wake up my roommate and hit the shower.  Then it’s to the rack (my bunk bed) with some ear plugs to block out the sounds of the engine.  The slow rocking of the waves makes a person fall asleep quickly after a long day at work.

Heather Haberman: Plankton, July 9, 2011 (post #3)

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Heather Haberman

Onboard NOAA Ship Oregon II
July 5 — 17, 2011


Mission:  Groundfish Survey
Geographical Location:  Northern Gulf of Mexico
Date:  Saturday, July 09, 2011

Weather Data from  NOAA Ship Tracker
Air Temperature:  30.4 C   (86.7 F)
Water Temperature: 29.6 C   (85.3 F)
Relative Humidity: 72%
Wind Speed: 6.69 knots   (7.7 mph)

Preface:  Scroll down the page if you would like to read my blog in chronological order.  If you have any questions leave them for me at the end of the post.

Science and Technology Log

Topic of the Day:  Plankton, the most important organisms on the planet.

Say the word plankton to a class full of students and most of them will probably think of a small one-eyed cartoon character.  In actuality plankton are some of the most important organisms on our planet.  Why would I so confidently make such a bold statement?  Because without plankton, we wouldn’t be here, nor would any other organism that requires oxygen for life’s processes.

Plankton are a vital part of the carbon and oxygen cycles.  They are excellent indicators of water quality and are the base of the marine food web, providing a source of food and energy for most of the ocean’s ecosystem’s.  Most plankton are categorized as either phytoplankton or zooplankton.

Question:  Can you identify which group of plankton are the plants and which are the animals based on the prefix’s?

Simple marine food web. Image: NOAA

Phyto comes from a Greek word meaning “plant” while planktos means “to wander”.  Phytoplankton are single-celled plants which are an essential component of the marine food web.  Plants are producers meaning they use light energy from the sun, and nutrients from their surroundings, to photosynthesize and grow rather than having to eat like animals, which are consumers.   Thus producers allow “new” energy to enter into an ecosystem which is passed on through a food chain.

Because phytoplankton photosynthesize, they also play an important role in regulating the amount of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere while providing oxygen for us to breathe.  Scientists believe that the oceans currently absorb between 30%-50% of the carbon dioxide that enters into our atmosphere.

Did you know:  It is estimated that marine plants, including phytoplankton, are responsible for 70-80% of the oxygen we have in our atmosphere.  Land plants are only responsible for 20-30%.

Diatoms are one of the most common forms of phytoplankton. Photo: NOAA

Question:  Since phytoplankton rely on sun and nutrients for their energy, where would you expect to find them in greater concentrations, near the coast or far out at sea?

Red and orange indicate high concentrations of phyoplankton. Concentrations decrease as you go down the color spectrum. Image from NASA's SeaWiFS mission

Notice the greatest concentration of phytoplankton occur near coastal areas.  This is because they rely on nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus for their survival.  These nutrients are transferred to the sea as rains wash them from our land into the rivers and the rivers empty the nutrients into the sea.  We’ll address the problems this is causing in my next blog.

Did you know:  The ocean is salty because over millions of years rains and rivers have washed over the rocks, which contain sodium chloride (salt), and carried it to the sea.

It is easy to identify water that’s rich in phytoplankton and nutrients because the water is green due to the chlorophyll pigment plankton contain.  The further away from the nutrient source you get, the bluer the water becomes because of the decrease in the phytoplankton population.

This tool is called a Forel/Ule scale. It is used to obtain an approximate measurement of surface water color. This helps researchers determine the abundance of life in the water.

Let’s go up a step in the marine food web and talk about zooplankton.  Zoo is Greek for animal.  Most zooplankton are grazers that depend on phytoplankton as a food source.  I’ve learned that larval marine life such as fish, invertebrates and crustaceans are classified as zooplankton until they start to get their adult coloration.  After hatching from their eggs marine larva are clear and “jelly like” which is an adaptation that helps them avoid being eaten by predators.  Camouflage is their only line of defense in this stage of development.

A zooplankton sample we collected aboard the Oregon II using a neuston net. Notice the small juvenile fish and all of the clear "jelly like" larva.

When plankton samples are collected two different methods are used.  One method uses a neuston net which skims the surface of the water for 10 minutes.  See the video below to watch a sample being collected.

I am securing the neuston net to the metal frame by lacing it with a line (rope for all of you land lovers)..

The second method is using the bongo nets which are deployed at a 45 degree angle until they are a meter shy of the ocean floor, then they are brought back up.  This method collects samples from the vertical water column rather than just the surface.  The samples we collect with the bongo net look much different from the samples we collect with the neuston net.  Bongo samples are filled with more larva and less juveniles.

Bongo nets getting ready to be lowered into the water column. They are called bongo nets because they resemble bongos. Photo: SEFSC

Plankton surveys are done in an effort to learn more about the abundance and location of the early life stages of fish and invertebrates.  All of the samples we collect are preserved at sea and are then sent to the Sea Fisheries Institute in Poland.  This is where all of the identification of fish larva and other zooplankton takes place.  This information is then used by researchers to study things such as environmental quality requirements for larva, mortality rates, population trends, development rates and larval diets.

On the right is the "cod end", or plankton collection chamber, which attaches to the end of the nets. We then sieve the contents of the cod end and funnel it into a jar along with some preservative.

Personal Log:

My last log mentioned bycatch as one of the bad things about bottom trawling.  Another problem associated with bottom trawling is the destruction of habitats as the net and “doors” sweep along the ocean floor.  So far we have had two nets tear as a result of this collection method.  It’s a good thing they keep ten extra nets onboard as back ups!

Here are some of the extra nets that are kept on deck.

Aside from the nets tearing off there has also been a problem with the wire that deploys the net.  It has been twisting which prevents the “doors” from opening the net wide enough for a good sample collection.  The crew has tried extending all of the wire off of the reel in an effort to untwist it.  It seems to be working well, but we still need to keep a close eye on it.

I have also had the opportunity to be the hottest I have ever been in my entire life.  We had an abandon ship drill where everyone had to get into their immersion suits.  Picture yourself in the Gulf of Mexico, standing on a black deck, in the middle of the day, in July, while putting on a full body jump suit made of neoprene.  Hopefully we won’t have to use them at any point during the cruise.

Heather Haberman: Groundfish Surveying, July 7, 2011 (post #2)

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Heather Haberman

Onboard NOAA Ship Oregon II
July 5 — 17, 2011 


Mission: Groundfish Survey
Geographical Location: Northern Gulf of Mexico
Date: Thursday, July 07, 2011

Weather Data from  NOAA Ship Tracker
Air Temperature:  29.2 C      (84.6 F)
Water Temperature:  29.3 C    (84.7 F)
Relative Humidity:  72%
Wind Speed:  2.64 knots

Preface:  There is a lot of science going on aboard the Oregon II, so to eliminate information overload, each blog I post will focus on one scientific aspect of our mission.  By the end of the voyage you should have a good idea of the research that goes into keeping our oceans healthy.

In case you’re new to blogging, underlined words in the text are hyperlinked to sites with more specific information.

Science and Technology Log

Topic of the day:  Groundfish Surveying

To collect samples of marine life in the northern Gulf of Mexico, NOAA Ship  Oregon II is equipped with a 42-foot standard shrimp trawling net.  NOAA’s skilled fishermen deploy the net over the side of the ship at randomly selected SEAMAP (Southeast Area Monitoring and Assessment Program) stations using an outrigger.  The net is left in the water for 30 minutes as the boat travels at 2.5 to 3 knots (1 knot = 1.15 mph).

Shrimp trawl net attached to an outrigger. Notice the large wooden “doors” that help spread the net as it is lowered into the water.

Bottom trawling is a good method for collecting a random sample of the biodiversity in the sea because it is nonselective and harvests everything in its path.  This is excellent for scientific studies but poses great problems for marine ecosystems when it is used in the commercial fishing industry.

One problem associated with bottom trawling is the amount of bycatch it produces.  The term bycatch refers to the “undesirable” fish, invertebrates, crustaceans, sea turtles, sharks and marine mammals that are accidentally brought up to the surface in the process of catching commercially desirable species such as shrimp, cod, sole and flounder.  At times bycatch can make up as much as 90% of a fisherman’s harvest.  To address this problem, NOAA engineers have designed two devices which help prevent many animals from becoming bycatch.

Bycatch photo: NOAA

All sea turtles found in U.S. waters are listed under the Endangered Species Act and are under joint jurisdiction of NOAA Fisheries and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  In an effort to reduce the mortality rate of sea turtles, NOAA engineers have designed  Turtle Exclusion Devices (TED).  TEDs provide these air-breathing reptiles with a barred barrier which prevents them from going deep into the fishing net and guides them out of an “escape hatch” so they won’t drown.  TEDs have also proven to be useful in keeping sharks out of  bycatch.

Loggerhead sea turtle escaping a trawling net through a TED.

Another device that was introduced to the commercial fishing industry is the Bycatch Reduction Device (BRD).  BRDs create an opening in a shrimp trawl net which allows fishes with fins, and other unintended species, to escape while the target species, such as shrimp, are directed towards the end of the capture net.

Notice the location of the TED which prevents the turtle from entering into the net and the BRD that allows swimming fish to escape. Illustration provided by the University of Georgia Marine Extension Service

This is a very small catch we harvested from 77 meters (253 feet).

Once the trawl net is brought back on board the Oregon II, its contents are emptied onto the deck of the ship.  The catch is placed into baskets and each basket gets weighed for a total weight. The catch then goes to the “wet lab” for sorting.  If the yield is too large we randomly split the harvest up into a smaller subsample.

Each species is separated, counted, and logged into the computer system using their scientific names.  Once every species is identified, we measure, weigh, and sex the animals.  All of this data goes into the computer where it gets converted into an Access database spreadsheet.

My team and I sorting the catch by species.

Amy entering the scientific name of each species into the computer.

I measure while Amy works the computer. Collecting data is a team effort!

When the Oregon II ends its surveying journey, NOAA’s IT (Information Technology) department will pull the surveying data off the ship’s computers.   The compiled data is given to one of the groundfish survey biologists so it can be checked for accuracy and consistency.  The reviewed data will then be given to NOAA statisticians who pull out the important information for SEAMAP (Southeast Area Monitoring and Assessment Program) and SEDAR (Southeast Data and Review)

SEAMAP and SEDAR councils publish the information.   State agencies then have the evidence they need to make informed decisions about policies and regulations regarding the fishing industry.  Isn’t science great!  Most people don’t realize the amount of time, labor, expertise and review that goes into the decisions that are made by regulatory agencies.

Personal Log

Day crew from left to right: Chief Scientist Andre, college intern Brondum, myself, Team Leader Biologist Brittany and Biologist Amy

During our “welcome aboard” meeting I met the science team which consists of a Chief Scientist, four NOAA Fisheries Biologists, three volunteers, one college intern, one Teacher at Sea (me) and an Ornithologist (bird scientist).

I was assigned to work the day shift which runs from noon until midnight while the night shift crew works from midnight until noon.  This ship is operational 24 hours a day in order to collect as much information about the northern Gulf fisheries as possible.  The Oregon II costs around $10,000 per day to operate (salaries, supplies, equipment, etc.) so it’s important to run an efficient operation.

I am learning a lot about the importance of random sampling and confirming results to ensure accuracy.   Amy and Brittany taught me how to use the CTD device (Conductivity, Temperature and Depth), set up plankton nets as well as how to sort, weigh, identify and sex our specimens.

The food has been great, the water is gorgeous and I love the ocean!  Stay tuned for the next blog post about some of the most important critters in the sea!  Any guesses?

Species seen (other than those collected)

Birds:  Least Tern, Royal Tern, Sandwich Tern, Laughing Gull, Neotropical Cormorant, Brown Pelican, Magnificent  Frigatebird

Go to http://www.wicbirds.net for more information about the various bird species seen on this trip.

Mammals: Common bottlenose dolphin

Heather Haberman: Introduction July 1, 2011

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Heather Haberman

Onboard NOAA Ship Oregon II
July 5 — 17, 2011 


Mission: Groundfish Survey
Geographical Location: Northern Gulf of Mexico
Date: Friday, July 1, 2011

Heather Haberman

Heather Haberman, Science Teacher at Scottsbluff High School in Nebraska

Pre-cruise Personal Log: 

Allow me to introduce myself.

My name is Heather Haberman and I have been a science teacher at Scottsbluff High School in Western Nebraska for the past six years.  I LOVE being a teacher and sharing my passion for science with others.  Everyday brings a new adventure and there is rarely a dull moment.

Zoology and Environmental Science have always been my primary interests which motivated me to obtain a degree in Biology.  This degree allowed me to pursue positions such as a Research Assistant with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, an Animal Caretaker with the US Department of Agriculture, a Forest Protection Officer with the US Forest Service, as well as a Zookeeper and Education Curator for Riverside Zoo.  As an Education Curator, I realized how much fun it was to teach science so I decided to go back to college and earn my Education degree.  These real world experiences have helped me make science more fun and applicable to the lives of my students.  This is one of the reasons why I am so excited about being selected to participate in the NOAA Teacher at Sea program.

Oregon II

NOAA's research vessel the Oregon II

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is a federal agency focused on the condition of the oceans and the atmosphere.  Next week I will begin working alongside NOAA scientists on a groundfish survey in the Gulf of Mexico aboard the Oregon II.  Their primary summer objective is to determine the abundance and distribution of shrimp by depth. Other objectives include obtaining samples of commercially important fishes, such as red snapper, and crustaceans.  This data enables scientists to predict population trends which allows government officials to regulate the fishing industry in a more sustainable fashion.  It is also important to collect weather (meteorological) data and physical ocean (hydrographic) data to look for climatic trends and to assess the health of the ocean.  Plankton samples will also be collected since they play a key role in the oceanic food web and are good indicators of ecosystem change.

The Mississippi watershed drains approximately 40% of the Unites States, including Nebraska.

I am excited to be a part of this scientific research team collecting data about the health of our fisheries and oceans.  I hope that bringing back real scientific stories about research at sea will help my students from the Great Plains feel more of a connection to their watershed and the oceans of our planet.  Being over a thousand miles away from an ocean makes it easy to dismiss the fact we rely on the sea for so many of our resources, and how our actions impact the marine environment.

I will be posting updates on this blog three to four times a week.  I would like to answer as many of your questions as possible while on my mission. What would you like this sea-faring teacher to inform you about? Would you like to know about the ship; the jobs of my co-workers; marine life; ocean chemistry; my duties aboard the ship; science at sea; etc?  Leave me a message by scrolling to the bottom of the blog post and select “Leave a Comment”.  I can’t wait to hear from you.