NOAA Teacher at Sea Kaitlin Baird Aboard NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow September 4 – 20, 2012
Mission: Autumn Bottom Trawl Survey with NOAA’s North East Fisheries Science Center Geographical Area: Atlantic Ocean steaming to south New Jersey coast Date: September 8th
Location Data: Latitude: 38° 44.58’ N
Longitude: 73 ° 39.30’ W
Weather Data: Air Temperature: 23.2°C (approx. 74°F)
Wind Speed: 5.05 kts
Wind Direction: from N
Surface Water Temperature: 25.29 °C (approx. 78°F)
Weather conditions: Sunny and fair
Science and Technology Log
Other than testing out the FSCS today and learning the ropes, I also learned about another type of tow we are doing on this cruise. When looking at fish stock assessment it is also important to look at the base of the food chain, you guessed it, plankton. Today we were specifically targeting zooplankton, microscopic animal drifters in the ocean that are an important food source for many of the fish and other invertebrates that we are surveying.
When I saw the nets go in, they looked a bit different than those on the R/V HSBC Atlantic Explorer, and I learned a new term, BONGO net. This is the tandem net which we are using to tow for zooplankton at set locations while we are en route. Unlike the trawl net we tow these on the side of the ship verses the back so there is no interference by the wake made by the ship as it moves through the water. If you imagine a giant windsock with a plastic catchment at the end, this is what these nets look like. The pressure of the water moving through the net forces anything heavy to the “cod end” of the net and sieves the water out of the mesh that makes up the net.
The depth of the net tow is dependent upon bottom depth and protocol at each site, but they normally try to tow pretty close to the bottom (=/- 10 m). A separate, Conductivity, Temperature and Depth (CTD) recorder is also deployed with the nets to understand more about the ocean chemistry at set locations. There is such a variability when towing for plankton (as it can be quite patchy) that having the two nets gives you more opportunity to capture the diversity of life that is out there. The nets are also two different mesh sizes so that they can catch zooplankton in different size classes.
Bongo Nets being deployed to 60 feet
It was great to get fishing today off of the coast of Maryland. We were all ready to sort anything that came down the conveyer belt. The species get sorted and then brought to the FSCS stations. Here they are measured along with anything else that needs to be done to them. I helped to get otoliths prepared and input data on gut contents, condition and sex.
Kaitlin in the wetlab with left eye and right eye flounder
One of the things I noticed were a lot of flounders, both left eye and right eye. That’s right folks, flounder usually start with one eye on each side of their heads and then eventually (species dependent) it migrates as they mature so that they sit on the bottom with both eyes on top of their heads. Depending on which way they migrate they are designated as “left eye” or “right eye” as you can see in the photos below. Did you know? These eyes can move independently of each other, pretty cool stuff!
Right Eye Flounder (Top) Witch Flounder Left Eye Flounder (bottom) Four spot Flounder
Stay tuned for more critters! Here is just a shortlist of some that we saw today!
Gulf stream flounder
Four spot flounder
Armored sea robin
LOTS of Squid
It is no small feat to conduct a research survey for NOAA. It takes many individuals with many different strengths to ensure a safe and successful cruise. From the captain of the ship who is responsible for the safety of the ship and the crew, to the stewards who ensure the crew is well fed and well kept, every crew member is important.
I interviewed many of the crew members to get a better idea of what their jobs entail and what they had to do to become qualified for their jobs. I complied all of the interviews into a video to introduce you to some of the Oregon II’s crew.
Safety Aboard the Oregon II
While out at sea, safety is a critical issue. Just as schools have fire and tornado drills, ships have drills of their own. All crew members have a role to fulfill during each drill. Emergency billets (assigned jobs during emergencies) are posted for each cruise in multiple locations on the ship.
Abandon Ship Billets
Fire on a ship is a very critical situation. Because of this, fire drills are performed frequently to ensure all crew recognize the alarm, listen to important directions from the captain, and muster to their assigned stations. (To muster means to report and assemble together.) One long blast of the ship’s whistle signals a fire. (Think of someone yelling “Firrreee!!!”) Each crew member is assigned to a location to perform a specific duty. When the fire whistle is blown, some crew members are in charge of donning fire fighting suits and equipment, while others are in charge of making sure all crew have mustered to their stations.
Donning My Immersion Suit
Another drill performed on the ship is the abandon ship drill. This drill is performed so that crew will be prepared in the unlikely event that the they need to evacuate the ship. Seven short blasts of the ship’s whistle followed by one long blast signals to the crew to abandon ship. Crew members must report to their staterooms to gather their PFDs (personal flotation devices), their immersion suits, hats, long-sleeved shirts, and pants. Once all emergency equipment is gathered, all crew meets on the deck at the bow of the ship to don their shirts, pants, hats, immersion suits, and PFDs. All of this gear is important for survival in the open ocean because it will keep you warm, protected, and afloat until rescue is achieved.
The last drill we perform is the man overboard drill. This drill is performed so that all crew will be ready to respond if a crew member falls overboard. If a crew member falls overboard, the ship’s whistle is blown three times (think of someone shouting “Maann Overr-boarrrd..!). If the crew member is close enough, and is not badly injured, a swimmer line can be thrown out. If the crew member is too far away from the ship or is injured, the RHIB (Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat) will be deployed and will drive out to rescue the crew member. The crew member can be secured to a rescue basket and lifted back onboard the ship.
Chris Nichols and Tim Martin performing a man overboard drill. (photo courtesy of Junie Cassone)
Man Overboard Drill
Donning my hard hat
It is important to practice allof these drills so that everyone can move quickly and efficiently to handle and resolve the problem. All drills are performed at least once during each cruise.
Daily safety aboard the Oregon II is also important. When any heavy machinery is in operation, such as large cranes, it is important that all crew in the area don safety equipment. This equipment includes a hard hat and a PFD (personal flotation device). Since cranes are operated at least once at every sampling station, this safety equipment is readily available for crew members to use
At the bow of the Oregon II (photo courtesy of Junie Cassone)
I have now returned home from my grand adventure aboard the Oregon II. It took a few days for me to recover from “stillness illness” and get my land-legs back, but it feels nice to be back home. I miss working alongside the crew of the Oregon II and made many new friends that I hope to keep in touch with. Being a Teacher at Sea has been an experience of a lifetime. I learned so much about life at sea and studies in marine science. About half way through the cruise I had started to believe this was my full-time job! I am eager to share this experience with students and staff alike. I hope to spark new passions in students and excitement in staff to explore this opportunity from NOAA.
I want to thank all of the crew of the Oregon II for being so welcoming and including me as another crew member aboard the ship. I also want to thank the NOAA Teacher at Sea Program for offering me such a wonderful opportunity. I hope to be part of future opportunities offered by this program.
The trawling net is used to collect groundfish samples. It is deployed from the stern of the ship and towed for 30 minutes. The net is towed back in and brought onboard to be emptied. During this process it is important that everyone at the stern of the ship is wearing a hard hat and a personal flotation device in the unlikely event that something goes wrong. Once the net is lifted over the side of the ship and brought on deck, it is untied and emptied into large baskets.
Hauling the trawling net back onboard.
The baskets are weighed before they are brought inside and emptied onto a large conveyor belt. The fish are spread out on the belt so they are easier to sort. The fish are sorted into individual baskets by species. Once all of the fish are sorted, we count them and find their total weight. We then work through each basket and measure, weigh, and identify the sex of each specimen. Once we are done measuring the fish, some are bagged, labeled and frozen for scientists to examine back at their labs. The rest of the fish are thrown back into the ocean.
Alex & Reggie emptying the net into baskets.
We found many different species of vertebrates and invertebrates (fish with a spine, and those without a spine). Here are some of the fish we found:
It is important to document the length and weight of each fish collected in a trawl. We used special measuring boards and scales to collect this data. There are two boards, each is connected to one computer. When we measure the fish, we use a magnetic wand. When it touches the board, it sends a signal to the computer which records the length of the fish. Fish are measure at one of three lengths: fork length, standard length, and total length. Once the fish are measured, they are placed on a scale to be weighed. The scale is also connected to the computer and records the weight of the fish.
Fork length is measured from the inside of the tail of the fish.
Standard length is measure from the base of the tail of the fish.
Total length is measured from the tip of tail of the fish.
Day 12 – July 16th
Today is my last day at sea before we dock in Pascagoula,Mississippi. It has been quite a journey and I can’t believe it is already over. Though the work was hard and hot (and many times smelly), it was an amazing experience and I hope to one day have the opportunity to experience it again! I have met many wonderful people and hope to keep in touch with them! I have learned so much about our oceans and the life within them. I hope that my blogs have given you a glimpse into what life onboard the Oregon II is like and I hope that you have learned something about the work that takes place on the open seas.
Map of our Survey
Although this is my last day on the Oregon II, keep an eye out for one final blog. There will be interviews with the crew of the Oregon II, what their job is, why they chose this line of work, the steps they took to become a crew member of the Oregon II, and words of advice for students everywhere!
The Neuston net is the first net to be deployed at sampling stations. This net has a wide rectangular opening that skims the surface of the water to collect surface dwelling organisms. Before the net is deployed, a cylindrical cod end is attached to the bottom of the net. The cod end has many holes that are covered by a screen. The screen allows water to flow through, but the organisms to get caught. We usually deploy the neuston net for 10 minutes, but sometimes we only deploy it for 5 minutes, depending on the amount of sargassum that is collected inside the net.
Filefish collected from sargassum.
Sargassum is a type of seaweed that floats at the surface of the water, almost like little islands. Sargassum provides an important habitat for many marine animals in the open ocean. We frequently find small filefish, jacks, and flying fish, as well as juvenile puffer fish, crabs, and shrimp. Young sea turtles also use the sargassum as a hiding place from larger predators, though we have not found any during this trip.
When sargassum makes its way into our Neuston net, we collect all of it into large buckets. We have to rinse all of the sargassum off into large buckets to make sure that we collect all of the creatures living inside of it. We do this because we want to get the most accurate sampling of the population of living organisms in the sampling area. Depending on how much sargassum is collected in the Neuston net, the collection process can anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour!
Rinsing a sample into a sieve.
Once the sample has been rinsed into buckets, the buckets are poured into sieves. The sieves have screens that allow the water to flow through, but not the organisms we want to save. Once the buckets have been poured into the sieves, rinsed, and poured out again (to make sure nothing stuck to the inside of the bucket), we use alcohol to rinse the sieves into funnels that channel the sample into quart-sized jars. Once the entire sample has been rinsed into a jar, we fill the jar with alcohol, place a label inside the jar to record the location the sample came from, stick a similar label on the lid, and place the jar in a box back in our chem lab. The samples are analyzed later at a lab once the survey is over.
The Bongo Nets
Bongo nets being deployed.
Bongo nets are similar to the neuston net, but there are some differences. The bongo nets have cod ends like the neuston, but they have two cod ends because there are two separate nets, where the neuston has only one. The holes of the bongo cod ends are covered by screens that have smaller openings than the neuston cod ends so that they can collect smaller organisms. The main purpose of the bongo nets is to collect plankton samples. We cannot collect plankton easily using the neuston net because the openings in the screen on the cod end are larger.
Bongo Nets and Cod Ends
Relaying Flow Meter Numbers to the Lab
Before the bongo nets are deployed, we have to report the numbers on the flow meters from the left bongo net and the right bongo net. The numbers on the flow meters are used to determine the amount of water that passed through the nets during deployment. Depending on how deep the water is determines how much water passes through the nets. After the nets are deployed, a sensor sends a message back to the lab to determine their depth. The person back in the lab monitors the depth and makes sure that the nets go as far down as possible, but do not make contact with the ocean floor. If the nets were to make contact with the ocean floor there is a good possibility that they could be damaged, which is why it’s so important to closely monitor the depth of the bongo nets. After the nets are brought back up on deck, the numbers are reported back to the lab where they subtract the first number of each flow meter (left bongo net and right bongo net) from the final number from each bongo. The difference is then divided by the length of time the net was deployed in the water.
Flow Meter Numbers
Bongo Net Sample
Day 8 – July 12th
Calm waters as the sun sets over the Gulf of Mexico.
Today was a VERY slow day. We only had four sampling stations, and of those only one was a trawl station. I was able to work a bit more on my blogs today, and start working on some cool lesson plans to bring back to school with me this fall. We also managed to watch a couple movies and raid the ice cream freezer during our down time. The seas were exceptionally calm tonight, almost as smooth as glass. It was very calming and serene, almost surreal! I made sure to take several pictures before the sun had set. The waters were smooth for the rest of the night which made for easy sleeping..
Day 9 – July 13th
Trawling was the focus of today. We had 4 trawls plus a couple neuston and bongo net sampling stations, so it was quite the busy day! We saw quite a number of new species that we hadn’t seen in previous trawls so I made sure to photograph those to share with my students later. At one of our sampling stations, we collected almost 6 5-gallon buckets worth of sargassum in our neuston net. It took us quite a bit of time to rinse it all down and collect the samples into preservation jars. It took three, quart-sized jars to hold all of the sample we collected!
Day 10 – July 14th
I found out this was our last day of sampling before we make our way back to Pascagoula. We mostly had trawls today, so we got to examine lots of critters. We had lots of down time because one of our runs to a sampling station was almost four and a half hours long! I spent that time working on my blog, and taking a much needed nap to catch up on my sleep! We had a really pretty sunset right before a thunderstorm that delayed one of our trawls. We worked right up until the next team came onto their shift and took over cleaning up from our trawl.
Day 11 – July 15th
All of our sampling was completed over the night, but I was able to work on the last neuston/bongo sampling when I went onto my shift. After all of the sampling was done, it was time to start scrubbing everything down to get it back into ship shape! The wet lab, dry lab, neuston net, bongo nets, and the stern were all hosed down, power-washed, scrubbed, bleached, and Windex-ed until everything smelled clean again. It took us most of the afternoon, but when it was done, we were done! The rest of our time on the Oregon II was left for unwinding and relaxing. After a lunch of king crab legs and a Thanksgiving-like dinner, my stomach was happy and satisfied (but not until after an ice cream sandwich of course!) Movies filled the remainder of the afternoon and evening, until I was ready for bed.
Weather Details from Bridge: (at 19:45 GMT)
Air Temperature: 29.90 ◦C
Water Temperature: 29.40 ◦C
Relative Humidity: 64%
Wind Speed: 3.56 kts
Barometric Pressure: 1,014.90 mb
Science and Technology Log
Deploying the CTD
This device is the first to be deployed at every sampling station. CTD stands for *Conductivity *Temperature *Depth. The salinity (the amount of salt in the water) is measured by looking at the conductivity. Salt has ions. Ions are like little electrical charges that are either positively charged or negatively charged. By measuring how many electrical charges (ionic charges) there are in the salt, we can measure how conductive the water is which will also tell us how much salt is in the water. This data is measured by the CTD and is transmitted by an electrical pulse. The depth is measured by the amount of pressure being pressed upon the device as it is lowered into the water. The temperature is measured by a temperature gauge. All of the data collection devices are attached to a large metal rosette wheel.
The frame is lowered into the water using a thick cable that is attached to a J-Frame (a large yellow arm that can be raised and lowered.) The cable runs through a pulley attached to the J-Frame to make sure the deployment of the CTD runs smoothly.
The CTD also measures dissolved oxygen levels (the amount of oxygen in the water). There is also a fluorometer which measures the amount of chlorophyll (phytoplankton activity) in the water.
As soon as the CTD is released into the water it begins collecting data. Data is collected continuously as it is lowered toward the ocean bottom. The data is sent through a very thin wire that transmits the data to one of the computers in the dry lab where it is documented for later analysis.
Here I am collecting water samples from the CTD.
The CTD has three water collection Niskin bottles (large grey cylinders). Niskins are named after Shale Niskin who developed this bottle. Water collections using the Niskins are controlled by a computer in the dry lab. One click on a computer and the CTD will automatically snap shut the bottles. Older versions that were not controlled by computers had heavy metal messengers that were lowered down a string toward the collection bottle. When the messenger reached the top of the bottle, it would hit a trigger and snap the bottle shut.
Water collection does not occur at every sampling station, but when it is planned, the water is collected at the bottom. This is because we are focusing on the bottom of the ocean during this survey. We want to test the water at this depth to better understand the environment in which the organisms we are collecting live in and make predictions as to how human and nonhuman influences may harm this benthic (bottom) community. The water can be used for several different tests, but we use it to test the dissolved oxygen levels of the water.
Measuring dissolved oxygen levels is important because if it is extremely low — called “hypoxia” (2 mg/L or lower) — animals fail to survive. If dissolved oxygen is not present (0 mg/L) it is called “anoxia”. Hypoxic or anoxic areas are frequently referred to as “dead zones”.
Digitally measuring dissolved oxygen levels
Although the CTD has a digital device that measures the dissolved oxygen (DO) levels, we manually test the water for DO once a day to make sure that the CTD is calibrated correctly and that there are no malfunctions that need to be fixed. There are two different ways we manually test the water. One is by using a hand-held dissolved oxygen meter. This meter digitally calculates the dissolved oxygen levels. We lower this meter directly into one of the Niskins.
We also collect water samples from each of the three Niskins in glass beakers. We use these samples to run what’s called a Winkler’s tritration test. This is a chemical-based test that tells us how much dissolved oxygen is in the water.It is important to run so many different tests because if we only used one method, we couldn’t know if it was accurate or not. By running three different tests, we can compare the results from all three. If the result from one test comes up differently than the others, we know that test was not accurate but the other two tests were.
After the CTD is brought back up on deck, it is important to rinse it off with fresh water. This is because the salt from the ocean can damage the equipment and corrode (eat away at) the metal. Once a day we also run Triton-X (a type of soap) through the hoses of the CTD to keep the sensors clean and salt-free.
Day 5 – July 9th
Today was a bit slower because our sampling sites were father apart than they were on previous days. We continued collecting and preserving plankton, but trawling is the most exciting because you get to see so many different species. We conducted only one trawl today and it was a very small catch. It didn’t take long to collect all of the data we needed before we were back to waiting for our next plankton collection site. We had some interesting fish in our trawl including a small bat fish, a couple of starfish, several sea urchins, and a honeycomb moray eel. The highlight of my shift was during our last plankton trawling. It was around 21:00 (or 9:00 pm) so it was pitch black out with the only light coming from the ship and the stars. We started seeing a lot of flying fish jumping out of the water. We soon realized it was because a pod of spotted dolphin had found them. It was fun watching them jump and fly though the water to catch the fish. The group also had a couple young dolphins that stuck close to their mothers. I’d seen dolphins before, mostly in captivity or ones too far away from a boat to see clearly, so it was really neat to see them so close up!
Day 6 – July 10th
Today started out great. I woke up to get ready for my shift by heading down to the mess for lunch. It was one of my favorite meals – Mexican! When I read about other teacher’s experiences on NOAA ships and how great the food was I now understand what they were talking about! There is so much yummy food at all of the meals that it is frequently hard to decide what NOT to eat! And there is so much food available at each meal that you’ll never go hungry! I always end up walking away stuffed!
The weather was great up until the sun set. We were stuck in quite the thunderstorm. When there are storms with lightning in the area, no one is allowed out on deck for safety reasons.
We had to postpone a couple of our sampling stations until the storm passed over us, so we tried our best to keep ourselves occupied until the storm passed. Our internet went down for length of time, so we were left with books, movies, or just some relaxation time.
By the time the storm had passed, we had only one sampling station to complete before it was time for the next watch team to switch in.
Day 7 – July 11th
Storms on the horizon
The first thing I noticed today was the panoramic view of large cumulus and cumulonimbus clouds – those are the clouds that produce thunderstorms. We managed to steer clear of them, but they certainly made some pretty skies.
We had a couple trawling stations which was great because it is always fun to discover and examine more species. While the trawls were small, we had some cool finds including a frogfish, a butterfly fish, and a black-nose shark.
Holding a frogfish
Holding a black-nose shark
A highlight from today was the full rainbow that graced our skies after dinner. I can’t recall ever seeing a full rainbow before so it was really cool to see one!
Rainbow across the bow of the Oregon II
Did You Know?
Our CTD weighs about 200 pounds. On its current settings it can be deployed to a depth of up to 5,000 meters, but if we adjusted the settings it could go as far down as 10,000 meters! With all of the attachments and the steel cage, our CTD costs roughly around $100,000 to purchase. That’s why we have to handle it with care!
I know many of you may have never been on a ship before and are probably curious to know what it is like to be aboard the Oregon II. I’m going to take you on a little virtual tour, but first you will need to know some common terms that are used to refer to certain areas on the ship.
What It Means
The front of the ship.
The back of the ship.
The right side of the ship when facing the bow.
The left side of the ship when facing the bow.
The direction towards the bow of the ship.
The direction towards the stern of the ship.
The location of the command center for the ship.
The dining area.
Where crew members sleep.
At the bow of the ship is where most of the scientific collection equipment is deployed/released. The CTD (conductivity, temperature, depth), the neuston net, and the bongo nets. (I will talk about each one of these in upcoming blogs.) There are several large cranes that help lift these up off the deck and swing them over the edge of the ship to be released into the water. When you are at the bow and the cranes are running, it is very important to keep yourself safe. Everyone who is at the bow when the cranes are operating is required to wear a hard hat and a PFD (personal floatation device). You never know if a cable will snap or the wind will swing the equipment towards you. There is a sensor on the PFD that is activated when large amounts of saltwater touches it, like if you were to fall overboard. Once salt water touches the sensor, the PFD will inflate and keep you afloat until you can be rescued.
Oregon II Bow
At the stern is where the samples from the neuston cod end and the bongo cod ends are collected and preserved in jars for scientists to examine at a lab. This is also where the large trawling net is deployed. The scientists spend most of their time at this part of the ship.
Stern of the Oregon II
What Makes the Ship Sail?
The bridge is where the officers of the Oregon II work. It is located toward the bow of the ship. The bridge has all of the navigation tools necessary to steer the ship to the next sampling station. There is also a lot of weather equipment that is monitored and recorded throughout the day. The bridge is where you’ll find the best views of the ocean because it is almost completely surrounded by windows and it’s higher than any other room on the ship.
At the Helm
This room is where all of the maps are stored. While there are more technologically advanced methods used for navigation on the ship located in the bridge, it is important to have physical maps on hand to refer to, especially if the instruments stop working for any reason.
Before we untied our ship from the dock I received a full tour of the engine room. This is where the heart of the ship is. Everything in the engine room powers the ship. Our water is even purified down here using reverse osmosis (passing water through a membrane to filter the water). Because of this machine, we can filter salt water into fresh water to use on the ship.
Reverse Osmosis Machine
It was great to venture down to the engine room before we set sail because I was told that it can get up to 110 degrees when the engines are running! It is a large space, but it feels small because of the large equipment. There are two of everything, which is especially important if something needs repair. Below is a picture of the two engines. The other is a picture of one of the generators.
Living on a Ship Stateroom
My stateroom is compact, but its main purpose is for sleeping so size isn’t really an issue. There is a bunk bed, a sink with a mirror, latching drawers for clothes, and a hide-away desk. There is also a compact tv that is attached to the bottom of the top bunk and folds up when it is not in use. I only use the room to sleep and get ready for my shift because my bunkmate works the opposite watch shift as mine (midnight to noon), and I want to be the least disruptive as possible. After 12 hours shifts, sleep is really needed and helps reenergize you in time for the next watch.
The head is the same as a bathroom. On the Oregon II there are private and communal heads. The private heads are for the officers and are typically connected to their staterooms. The communal heads are open for any crew member to use. There are also communal showers for the crew to use. All of the toilets use salt water that is pumped onboard. The reason fresh water is not used is because it is a precious source on the ship and is not readily available from the ship’s surroundings. The sinks, showers, drinking fountains, and ice machines all use fresh water. Fresh water on the ship should never be wasted. Water for the sinks is timed so that there will never be a faucet that is accidentally left on. Showers are to be kept to a maximum of 10 minutes, though it is encouraged that they be even shorter.
Galley and Mess Hall
This is one of my favorite places. The galley is where our ship’s cooks prepare all of the wonderful food for the crew. The mess hall is where we all eat during meal times. During meal times it can be quite crowded in the mess hall as there are only 12 available seats and over 30 crew members onboard who are ready to eat. There is an “eat it and beat it” policy to help ensure that everyone who comes down to eat will be able to find a spot. Despite this, it is still a great way to converse with the crew and talk about events from the day before giving up your set to another hungry crew member.
This is the place where crew members who have some down time can gather and socialize, though down time can be rare. There is satellite tv, a couple of computers, and hundreds of movies to choose from. Some available movies haven’t even been released onto DVD for the common household yet, but they are available to the military. They do this because not everyone has access to current movies when they are away from home for extended periods of time. All of the DVDs are encrypted and can ONLY work on the machines aboard the ship. I was excited to find a copy of The Hunger Games and I plan on trying to watch it before my trip is over.
Labs on the Oregon II
The Wet Lab
The Wet Lab is where all of the samples from the groundfish trawls are sorted, counted, measured, weighed, and sexed (gender identified). Buckets filled with animals from the nets are dumped onto a large conveyor belt and spread out to make sorting the different species out into individual baskets easier. Everything in the wet lab can get wet except the sensors connected to the machines. We need to be cautious around the sensors when we are cleaning up after a sampling so as not to get water in them.
The Dry Lab
The Dry Lab is where all of the computers are located that record all of the data from the samplings. As the name of this lab states, everything in it is dry. Water should never come into contact with the equipment in here because it can seriously damage it. In between samplings, this is typically where the scientists gather to wait for arrival at the next sampling station.
The Chem Lab
This is where all of the plankton samples are stored. It is also where water samples taken from the CTD are tested for dissolved oxygen (DO). The CTD does have its own DO sensor, but it is always best to test something more than once to ensure you are collecting accurate data.
Day 1 – July 5th
I arrived in Gulfport/Biloxi, Mississippi late in the afternoon of July 5th. The chief scientist, Brittany Palm, met me at the airport and drove me over to the Port of Pascagoula where the Oregon II was docked. We met up with two college volunteers, Kayla and Andrew, and got a quick tour of the ship (the air conditioning was out!) before we headed over to a wonderful local barbecue restaurant. We returned after dark and were welcomed with a fixed AC! I unpacked my belongs into my latched drawers and made up my bunk bed up so that everything would be in place when I was ready to hit the sack. It took a couple of nights for me to get use to the sounds of the ship, but now I hardly notice them.
Day 2 – July 6th
When I woke up the next morning, I decided to venture out into downtown Pascagoula which was only a 5 minute walk away from the ship. It is a quaint area with little shops and restaurants. I met up with the two volunteers and we picked a business that had the best of both worlds, a restaurant and a shop, to have a wonderful breakfast. We had to be back on the ship by 12:30 for a welcome meeting, but we took some time to snap a few pictures of our floating home for the next 12 days. We were underway shortly after 2 pm (1400 hours in military time). It was fun to watch our ship depart from the dock and enjoy the light breeze. It wasn’t long until we had another meeting, this time with the deck crew. We learned about the safety rules of working on deck and discussed its importance. The rest of the afternoon was spent relaxing and getting my sea legs. The gentle rocking does require you to step carefully, especially when you have to step through the water tight doors!
Day 3 – July 7th
Our first day out at sea was slow to start. We didn’t reach our first sampling station until early in the morning on the 7th, even though we left the Oregon II’s port in Pascagoula mid-afternoon on the 6th. I was sound asleep when we arrived because my shift runs noon to midnight every day, so my first sampling experience didn’t happen until almost 24 hours after we set sail. This was nice because it gave me time to explore the ship and meet some of the crew.
Right after lunch I got to jump right in and help finish bagging, labeling, and cleaning up the wet lab for the team that was just finishing up their shift. After we had finished it was time to conduct my first plankton sampling. We went out on deck at the bow of the ship to prepare the CTD (conductivity, temperature, depth) device for deployment/release. After the CTD was released and brought back on deck, we deployed the neuston net to collect species samples from that same station. (I’ll explain the importance of this type of net in a later blog.) Once the collection time was complete, the neuston net was brought back on deck where we detached the cod end and placed it into a large bucket. Cod ends are plastic cylindrical attachments with screened holes to let water run through but keep living things inside during collection. The neuston cod end’s screens have 0.947mm sized openings. We then deployed the bongo nets to collect samples of even smaller species like plankton. (I will describe the purpose of the bongo nets in a later blog.) When the nets were brought back on deck, we detached the cod ends from the two bongo nets and placed those into buckets as well. The screens on the cod ends for the bongo net are even smaller than the neuston’s at only 0.333mm. When all of the nets were rinsed to make sure nothing was still stuck to the inside of the nets, we brought the buckets back to the stern of the ship to further rinse the samples and place them into jars for further examination by scientists.
Day 4 – July 8th
Holding a blowfish collected from a trawling
Today was a lot of fun because I completed my first groundfish trawl. The net for this trawl is located at the stern of the ship. When the net was brought back up on deck, it was emptied into a large box. There was quite the commotion when the fish were emptied out of the net. Not only were the fish flopping around like crazy and splattering water everywhere, their scales flew everywhere and it looked like shiny confetti! Anyone who was in a 6 foot radius was bound to be covered in scales. By the end of the day I thought I was part mermaid with the amount of scales that had stuck to me!
There were so many fish in one of our trawls that we had to use large shovels to place the fish into more manageable sized baskets. The baskets were brought inside the wet lab to be sorted, weighed, measured, and labeled.
The coolest animals I saw today were sea urchins, a sharpnose shark, and a blowfish. It was also fun to observe the different crab species, so long as I kept my fingers away from their claws!
Question of the Day
There is only one right answer to this question. ? You’ll be able to find it at one of the links I placed in my blog. Can you find the answer?
NOAA Teacher at Sea Alexandra Keenan Onboard NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow June 18 – June 29, 2012
Mission: Cetacean Biology Geographical area of the cruise: Gulf of Maine
Date: June 23, 2012
Weather Data from the Bridge: Air temperature: 14.4° C
Sea temperature: 13.3° C
Wind speed: 10.5 knots
Wind direction: from the SW
Science and Technology Log:
Whales are social creatures with a remarkable ability to communicate with one another over long distances using sounds. Male humpback whales, for example, can sing for days on end over mating grounds to attract the ladies, or over feeding grounds such as the ones on Georges Bank (where we are!) The acoustic behavior of sperm whales may even provide for distinct cultures within the species.
Given these vocalizations, it is possible to monitor the distribution and behavior of acoustically active marine animals using special recording units called “marine autonomous recording units” (MARUs). For the past few days, we have been zig-zagging and loopty-looping around Georges Bank to retrieve several of these MARUs (track our ship’s course here).
MARUs are little buoys designed to sit on the ocean floor and record all sounds within a certain range of frequencies. The MARUs we retrieved during this cruise have been on Georges Bank since the March cruise on the Delaware II (see Chief Scientist Allison Henry’s blog post).
Bioacoustician Denise Risch sends a signal to the MARU.
2. The buoy can then respond with another acoustic signal, “Yup!”
Research analyst Genevieve Davis and intern Julia Luthringer listen for a response from the MARU.
3. Upon hearing confirmation that the buoy is indeed in the area, the bioacoustician can send another signal to the buoy telling it to burn the wire anchoring it to the sandbags on the ocean floor.
4. The buoy is free! It floats to the sea surface and is retrieved from the side of the ship.
Denise Risch, Genevieve Davis, and Julia Luthringer wait for the ship to approach the MARU (small yellow dot in ocean).
5. Data is retrieved from flash memory on the buoy for further analysis.
MARU ready for data retrieval.
What will these MARUs be able to tell bioacousticians (scientists that study sounds produced by living organisms)?
Lots! Using passive acoustic monitoring (recording the sounds that marine mammals make), scientists can study the distribution of acoustically active mammals and can couple distribution data with environmental measurements of the area to identify relationships between conditions on the ocean and acoustic activity. Scientists can also distinguish whale species based on their sounds, so certain species of whale can be monitored.
Physics break: Why do you think whales have evolved to use sound rather than sight or smell to communicate underwater?
I have been amazed by the amount of maintenance being done while we are underway. Even with a relatively new ship like the Bigelow, there is always something to be done, whether it be grinding away at the deck for subsequent repainting or fixing a malfunctioning pump.
Deck crew member Tony repaints the deck after grinding off the old paint while we are underway.
We spend most of our days out on the fly bridge watching for whales, and mostly we see whales.
Equipment used for watching for whales from the flybridge.
However, once in a while a shark, turtle, or mola mola floats by. I really get a kick out of the mola molas. They look like they could be the subject of a Pokemon trading card– a big flat fish head with fins sticking out. They eat jelly fish and have few natural predators. Adults weigh an average of 2200 lbs!
The other-worldly mola mola.
A short video of one in action below:
Mola mola in action
Finally, I wanted to introduce everyone on the science team for this cruise:
From left to right: Me, Scientist Pete Duley, Bioacoustician Denise Risch, Chief Scientist Allison Henry, Scientist Jen Gatzke, Research Analyst Genevieve Davis, and Intern Julia Luthringer (photo courtesy CO Zegowitz)
Welcome everyone to my first Teacher at Sea blog post! I am very honored to have been given this wonderful opportunity and am looking forward to this fast approaching experience!
As many of you may already know I am a K-5 gifted and talented teacher for the Expanded Learning Program (ELP) in Waterloo, Iowa and will be going into my third year of teaching this fall. I actually teach at two separate schools in my district, Lowell Elementary and Kingsley Elementary. It is awesome to work with such wonderful staffs and students at both buildings and be a part of both communities!
A picture one of my students took of me.
I love my job and the daily excitement it brings! I love presenting my students with challenges that require them to think in ways they may not have been asked to think before. My favorite part of teaching is watching my students learn and grow each day, and I am always in awe of who they’ve become by the end of the school year. I have always had a passion for supporting the needs of gifted and talented students and am thrilled to be in a position where I am able to do that every day.
Just as it is important for students to learn and grow each day, it is also important that teachers do the same. I am currently working on my Master’s degree at the University of Northern Iowa and will complete my course work next May. I have started preliminary work on my thesis and plan on receiving my degree, Education of the Gifted, in the fall of 2013. It is exciting, challenging work and has reinforced the importance of time management and working toward one’s goals. I always encourage my students to follow their passions and I hope I have set a good example. Overall, it has been a very rewarding experience.
Here is a picture of me at age 4 fishing on the Kenai River in Alaska.
Besides gifted and talented education, I have many other passions. Growing up in a military family I was able to see and do things that many have yet to experience. Before I lived in Iowa, I lived in Colorado, Mississippi, and Alaska. (In Mississippi I lived in Biloxi which is VERY close to where I will be starting my Teacher at Sea adventure!) I spent a lot of time outdoors. Hiking, mountain climbing, camping, fishing, and whitewater rafting were many of the things I enjoyed while living in Colorado and Alaska.
View from the top of Eagle Peak in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains of Colorado
I knew from a young age that I was passionate about science. I loved exploring, experimenting, and questioning the “hows” and “whys” of everything around me. My excitement for science continued into college where most of my elective classes were science related. Biology, chemistry, and geology were my favorites. When I took my first geology class I was enthralled by our world’s natural history and how we can “dig up the past”.
After taking a course specific to Iowa geology, I have now learned that geology is exciting everywhere, not just in Colorado. My students can attest to my passion in geology as my room is littered with all of my quarry findings!
Geology ROCKS! – At a local Iowa quarry.
Within the realm of geology is the important connection to our world’s oceans. Many people may think that geology is what we can see on the surface: rocks, mountains, valleys. However, it is important to remember that even at the depths of our oceans, geological activity takes place.
SCUBA diving in Alexander Springs, Florida.
My passion for our world’s oceans began shortly after my first experience snorkeling off the coast of Key West, Florida. After viewing the ocean through a pair of goggles, I was transported into a new and exciting world. Swimming alongside angelfish, parrotfish, barracuda, and sharks was beyond my imagination.
It wasn’t long after my snorkeling adventure on Dry Rocks Reef that I started the certification process to become an Open Water SCUBA diver. While I won’t be able to SCUBA dive during my Teacher at Sea adventure, I will still be able to explore life from the depths of the Gulf of Mexico aboard the Oregon II which will be just as exciting!
My Teacher at Sea Adventure
The mission I will be supporting this summer is the SEAMAP Summer Groundfish Survey. SEAMAP stands for Southeast Area Monitoring and Assessment Program. The SEAMAP-Gulf of Mexico survey has been conducted since 1981.
The NOAA Ship Oregon II conducts a groundfish survey twice each year, once in the summer and again in the fall. Samples are gathered at randomly chosen stations and brought back up to the ship for examination to determine the abundance, distribution, and health of the fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico. The NOAA Ship Oregon II is stationed out of Pascagoula, Mississippi which is where I will begin my journey.
Once my adventure begins, stop back frequently and check for new blog postings! Make sure you leave comments and questions at the bottom of my blogs, especially if it is something I can explore while still aboard the Oregon II! I will make sure to answer you back as soon as I can and maybe even include your answers in my later blogs!
NOAA Teacher at Sea Lesley Urasky Aboard the NOAA ship Pisces June 16 – June 29, 2012
Mission: SEAMAP Caribbean Reef Fish Survey Geographical area of cruise: St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands Date: June 18, 2012
Location: Latitude: 17.6568
Weather Data from the Bridge:
Air Temperature: 28.5°C (83.3°F)
Wind Speed: 17.1 knots (19.7 mph), Beaufort scale: 5
Wind Direction: from SE
Relative Humidity: 75%
Barometric Pressure: 1,014.80 mb
Surface Water Temperature:28.97 °C (84.1°F)
Science and Technology Log
Alright, so I’ve promised to talk about the fish. Throughout the science portions of the cruise, the scientists have not been catching the anticipated quantities of fish. There are several lines of thought as to why: maybe the region has experienced overfishing; possibly the sampling sites are too shallow and deeper water fish may be more likely to bite; or they might not like the bait (North Atlantic mackerel) since it is not an endemic species/prey they would normally eat.
So far, the night shift has caught more fish than the day shift that I’m on. Today, we have caught five and a half fish. The half fish was exactly that – we retrieved only the head and it looked like the rest of the body had been consumed by a barracuda! These fish were in the grouper family and the snapper family.
Coney (Cephalopholis fulvus)
Blackfin snapper (Lutjanus buccanella). This little guy was wily enough to sneak into the camera array and steal some squid out of the bait bag! The contents of his stomach – cut up squid – can be seen to the left between the forceps and his head.
Once the fish have been caught, there are several measurements that must be made. To begin, the fish is weighed to the nearest thousandth (three decimal places) of a kilogram. In order to make sure the weight of the fish is accurate, the scale must be periodically calibrated.
Then there are several length measurements that are made: standard length (SL), total length (TL) and depending on the type of fish, fork length (FL). To make these measurements, the fish is laid so that it facing toward the left and placed on a fish board. The board is simply a long plank with a tape measure running down the center. It insures that the fish is laid out flat and allows for consistent measurement.
Standard length does not measure the caudal fin, or tail. It is measured from the tip of the fish’s head and stops at the end of the last vertebra; in other words, if the fish is laying on its side, and you were to lift the tail up slightly, a crease will form at the base of the backbone. This is where the standard length measurement would end. Total length is just as it sounds – it is a measurement of the entire length (straight line) of the fish. Fork length is only measured if the type of fish caught has a forked tail. If it does, the measurement begins at the fish’s snout and ends at the v-notch in the tail.
How to measure the three types of lengths: standard, fork, and total. (Source: Australian Government: Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population, and Communities)
Red hind (Epinephelus guttatus) on the fish board being measured for standard length. Ariane’s thumb is on the crease marking the end of its backbone.
Once the physical measurements are made, the otoliths must be extracted and the fish sexed. You’re probably anxious to learn if you selected the right answer on the previous post’s poll – “What do you think an otolith is?” An otolith can be thought of as a fish’s “ear bone”. It is actually a structure composed of calcium carbonate and located within the inner ear. All vertebrates (organisms with backbones) have similar structures. They function as gravity, balance, movement, and directional indicators. Their presence helps a fish sense changes in horizontal motion and acceleration.
In order to extract the otoliths, the fish must be killed. Once the fish has been killed, the brain case is exposed and peeled back. The otoliths are in little slits located in the underside of the brain. It takes a delicate touch to remove them with a pair of forceps (tweezers) because they can easily break or slip beyond the “point of no return” (drop into the brain cavity where they cannot be extracted).
Otoliths are important scientifically because they can tell many important things about a fish’s life. Their age and growth throughout the first year of life can be determined. Otoliths record this information just like tree ring record summer/winter cycles. More complex measurements can be used to determine the date of hatch, once there are a collected series of measurements, spawning times can be calculated.
A cross-section of an otolith under a microscope. The rings are used to determine age and other life events. Source: Otolith Research Laboratory, Bedford Institute of Oceanography, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada.
Because they are composed of calcium carbonate (CaCO3), the oxygen component of the chemical compound can be used to measure stable oxygen isotopes; this is useful for reconstructing temperatures of the waters the fish has lived in. Scientists are also able to look at other trace elements and isotopes to determine various environmental factors.
Extracted otoliths. Often they are around 1 cm long, although the larger the fish, the slightly larger the otolith.
The final step we take in measurement/data collection is determining the sex and maturity of the fish. To do this, the fish is slit open just as if you were going to clean the fish to filet and eat it. The air bladder must be deflated if it isn’t already and the intestines moved out of the way. Then we begin to search for the gonads (ovaries and testes). Once the gonads are found, we know if it is female or male and the next step is to determine its stage or maturity. This is quite a process, especially since groupers can be hermaphroditic. The maturity can be classified with a series of codes:
U = undetermined
1 = immature virgin (gonads are barely visible)
2 = resting (empty gonads – in between reproductive events)
3 = enlarging/developing (eggs/sperm are beginning to be produced)
4 = running ripe (gonads are full of eggs/sperm and are ready to spawn)
5 = spent (spawning has already occurred)
Ovaries of a coney (grouper family). These are the pair of flesh colored tubular structures running down the center of the fish.
Today is my birthday, and I can’t think of a better place to spend it! What a treat to be having such an adventure in the Caribbean! This morning, we were on our first bandit reel survey of the day, and the captain came on over the radio system, announced my birthday and sang Happy Birthday to me. Unbeknownst to me, my husband, Dave, had emailed the CO of the Pisces asking him to wish me a happy birthday.
We’ve had a very successful day (compared to the past two days) and have caught many more fish – 5 1/2 to be exact. The most exciting part was that I caught two fish on my bandit reel! They were a red hind and blackfin snapper (see the photos above). What a great birthday present!
Father’s Day surf and turf dinner
My birthday fish! The blackfin snapper is on the left and the red hind on the right.
I even got a birthday kiss from the red hind!
Last night (6/17) for Father’s Day, we had an amazing dinner: filet mignon, lobster, asparagus, sweet plantains, and sweet potato pie for dessert! Since it was my birthday the following day (6/18), and one of the scientists doesn’t like lobster, I had two tails! What a treat!
Our best catch of the day came on the last bandit reel cast. Joey Salisbury (one of the scientists) caught 5 fish: 4 blackfin snapper and 1 almaco jack; while Ariane Frappier (another scientist) caught 3 – 2 blackfin and 1 almaco jack. This happened right before dinner, so we developed a pretty good assembly line system to work them up in time to eat.
Dinner was a nice Chinese meal, but between the ship beginning to travel to the South coast of St. Thomas and working on the computer, I began to feel a touch seasick (not the best feeling after a large meal!). I took a couple of meclazine (motion sickness medication) and still felt unwell (most likely because you’re supposed to take it before the motion begins). My roommate, Kelly Schill, the Operations Officer, made me go to bed (I’m in the top bunk – yikes!), gave me a plastic bag (just in case!), and some saltine crackers. After 10 hours of sleep, I felt much, much better!
I had some time in between running bandit reels, baiting the hooks, and entering data into the computers,to interview a member of the science team that joined us at the last-minute from St. Croix. Roy Pemberton, Jr. is the Director of Fish and Wildlife for the Department of Planning and Natural Resources of the U.S. Virgin Islands. The following is a snippet of our conversation:
LU: What are your job duties as the Director of Fish and Wildlife?
RP: I manage fisheries/wildlife resources and try to educate the population on how to better manage these resources to preserve them for future generations of the U.S. Virgin Islands.
LU: When did you first become interested in oceanography?
RP: I’m not really an oceanographer, but more of a marine scientist and wildlife biologist. I got interested in this around 5-6 years old when I learned to swim and then snorkel for the first time. I really enjoyed observing the marine environment and my interest prompted me to want to see and learn more about it.
LU: It’s such a broad field, how did you narrow your focus down to what you’re currently doing?
RP: I took a marine science class in high school and I enjoyed it tremendously. It made me seek it out as a career by pursuing a degree in Marine Science at Hampton University.
LU: If you were to go into another area of ocean research, what would it be?
RP: Oceanography – Marine Spatial Planning
Roy Pemberton holding a recently caught coney.
LU: What is the biggest challenge in your job?
RP: It is a challenge to manage fisheries and wildlife resources with respect to the socioeconomic and cultural nuances of the people.
LU: What do you think is the biggest issue of contention in your field, and how do you imagine it will resolve?
RP: Fisheries and coral reef management. We need to have enough time to see if the federal management efforts work to ensure healthier ecosystems for future generations.
LU: What are some effects of climate change that you’ve witnessed in the reef systems of the U.S. Virgin Islands?
RP: Temperatures have become warmer and the prevalence of disease among corals has increased.
LU: In what areas of Marine Science do you foresee a lot of a career paths and job opportunities?
RP: Fisheries management, ecosystem management, coral reef diseases, and the study of coral reef restoration.
LU: Is there an area of Marine Science that you think is currently being overlooked, and why?
RP: Marine Science management that takes into account cultural and economic issues.
LU: What are some ideas a layperson could take from your work?
RP: One tries to balance resource protection and management with the cultural and heritage needs of the population in the territory of the U.S. Virgin Islands.
LU: If a high school student wanted to go into the fish/wildlife division of planning and natural resources, what kinds of courses would you recommend they take?
RP: Biology, Marine Science, History, Botany, and Math
LU: Do you recommend students interested in your field pursue original research as high school students or undergraduate students? If so, what kind?
RP: I would suggest they study a variety of life sciences so they can see what they want to pursue. Then they can do an internship in a particular life science they find interesting to determine if they would like to pursue it as a career.
Too many interesting people on the ship and so little time! I’m going to interview scientists as we continue on to San Juan, Puerto Rico. Once they leave, I’m continuing on to Mayport, Florida with the ship. During this time, I’ll explore other careers with NOAA.
NOAA Teacher at Sea
Aboard R/V Savannah May 23 – 31, 2012
Hello from Hillside, New Jersey! First, for any out-of-state readers, allow me to say that despite what you may have seen on “reality” television about this beautiful state, we do not all tease our hair and have VIP memberships to tanning salons. (Okay, so I may tease it a little, but only for special occasions! Yes, this is my attempt at humor; bear with me.) All kidding aside, thank you for visiting. I am excited to tell you about the NOAA Teacher at Sea Program!
Perhaps I should introduce myself before I start making corny jokes. I am Kristy Weaver and I am happy to say I have been a first grade teacher here at The A. P. Morris Early Childhood Center for the past 12 years. Our building is home to every pre-k, kindergarten, and first grade classroom in the district, and we are currently a community of 668 students.
Here is a little video trailer my class helped make to tell everyone about my trip. See if you can spot the cameo appearance from our beloved class pet, Jerry. My students had the responsibility of casting him in this role and are all super excited that Jerry will now be “famous.”
Ms. Weaver’s TAS Trailer
The purpose of the NOAA Teacher at Sea program is to provide teachers with real life experiences with scientific research and for us to then share that knowledge with the community upon our return. This will strengthen my own content knowledge and expose our students to scientific research and science careers while increasing environmental awareness. I am passionate about the pedagogy behind effective science instruction and while I hope that this experience will be shared with many classes, it will definitely be utilized to its fullest potential in my district. This opportunity already inspired an impromptu math lesson when I showed my class my ship, the R/V Savannah. In order to grasp how big the 92 foot vessel is, we used 60 inch measuring tapes and counted by fives until we got to 90 feet. Then we estimated two feet to help us get a sense of the size of the R/V Savannah.
This is my class, 92 feet down the hall! Wow! The R/V Savannah is larger than we thought!
I love being a teacher, and it is definitely where my passion lies. However, when I was a child I never felt that being a scientist was an option for me because I didn’t know where to begin. I had an innate curiosity about the water, but didn’t know that I could have built a career around it. It’s my job to make sure that my students are afforded every opportunity, know that their dreams are within their reach, and feel as if the world is at their fingertips- because it is!
How Did I Hear About Teacher at Sea?
Two years ago I attended the National Science Teachers Association Convention in Philadelphia, PA. One of the booths at the exhibition center was for NOAA‘s (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) Teacher at Sea Program. It was fascinating to talk with teachers who had gone out to sea with NOAA in the past, and I immediately knew it was something I would pursue. My whole life I had lived vicariously through scientists on various nature shows, and I was thrilled to learn that I even had the possibility to experience something like this first hand.
What the Research Says
So how is this going to help first graders? In 2011 Microsoft Corp. commissioned two national surveys with Harris Interactive for parent and student opinions on how to motivate the next generation of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) professionals.
For most, the decision to study STEM started before college.
Nearly four in five STEM college students said they decided to study STEM in high school or earlier (78 percent). One in five (21 percent) decided in middle schoolorearlier.
More than half (57 percent) of STEM college students said that before going to college, a teacher or class got them interested in STEM.
This gives me, a first grade teacher, the opportunity to plant the seed early and expose children to STEM careers before they even reach the second grade. If I can motivate just one child with this experience, or prove to them that they too should chase their dreams, then any amount of seasickness will be worthwhile.
Speaking of Motivation…Here is Mine:
Barnegat Lighthouse “Old Barney” Long Beach Island, NJ Photo by Captain Al Kuebler
I have always been fascinated by the ocean and how something could be equally tranquil and ferocious. As a child I never “sat still” and my boundless energy had me bouncing from one activity to the next with less than a heart beat in-between. Yet, even as early as three years old, I can remember sitting on my grandfather’s lap in Long Beach Island and just staring out at the water for what seemed like hours. In retrospect it may have only been 15 minutes, but regardless, just looking at the ocean had me calm, captivated, and thoroughly entertained in the silence of my own thoughts.
Feeding Sea Turtles at the Camden Aquarium
When I was young I always loved the underwater pieces in my parents’ National Geographic magazines, but it never crossed my mind that I could someday be a diver. When I grew up a little I decided that it was something I would definitely do “someday.” I finally realized that someday never comes unless you make your “someday” today. I became a certified diver three years ago, and up until this point, it is one of the best things I have ever done. As an adult, I have always watched nature shows, but never in my wildest dreams did I believe that I would someday have the opportunity to experience something like Teacher at Sea. I think this helps send an important message to my students: You should always go out and experience everything you want in life. I did a shipwreck dive to 109 feet, have fed sea turtles, swam with sharks, flew a helicopter, , and have been on a trapeze in two different countries. Yet somehow, I have a feeling that all of these things will pale in comparison to the adventure I am about to have.
Me at the Saltwater Marsh in Stone Harbor, NJ Photo by Myron Weaver- Hi Dad
So What’s Next?
I am getting ready to head out to sea and my students and I are so excited. The next time I write I will most likely be somewhere near Savannah, GA where I will be setting sail on the R/V Savannah for an 8 day reef fish survey. While the first grade students are my target audience for my blogs while I am at sea, I encourage people of all ages to follow me along my journey. I hope that everyone will be able to get something out of it, and that secondary teachers will be able to use this experience as a starting point for some of their lessons as well.
Please feel free to post your comments or questions, and I will do my best to bring back the information you are most curious about!
NOAA Teacher at Sea
Aboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
August 8 – 19, 2011
Mission: Atlantic Surfclam and Ocean Quahog Survey Geographical Area of Cruise: Northern Atlantic Date: Wednesday, August 10, 2011
Weather Data Time: 16:00
Location: 40°41.716N, 67°36.233W
Air temp: 20.6° C (69° F)
Water temp: 17° C (63° F)
Wind direction: West
Wind speed: 11 knots
Sea wave height: 3 feet
Sea swell: 5-6 feet
Science and Technology Log
View from the flying bridge departing Woods Hole
Our departure from Woods Hole has been delayed a number of times due to several factors. We were scheduled to leave the dock on Monday at 2pm, but due to rough seas (8ft on Georges Bank—which was where we were planning to go first) and a crane that needed to be fixed our departure was rescheduled for Tuesday at 10am. On Tuesday, the crane was fixed, but then it was discovered that the ship’s engineering alarm system was not working properly, so our departure was delayed again for a few hours. The crew worked hard to get the ship off the dock and we departed at 1:15 on Tuesday. Yay! We were on our way to Georges Bank, which was about a 15 hour “steam,” or, trip.
The purpose of the NOAA Fisheries Atlantic surfclam and ocean quahog survey is to determine and keep track of the population of both species. This particular survey is done every three years. NOAA Fisheries surveys other species too, such as ground fish (cod, haddock, pollock, fluke), sea scallops, and northern shrimp. These species are surveyed more often—usually a couple of times each year. Atlantic surfclams and ocean quahogs are surveyed less often than other fished species because they do not grow as fast as other species. In fact, the ocean quahog can live for more than 150 years, but it only reaches about 6 inches across! In comparison, the sea scallop lives for only 10 to 15 years and reaches a size of 8 inches.
There are 27 people on board this cruise. Each person is assigned a watch, or shift, so that there are people working 24 hours a day. The work never stops! Seventeen people on board are members of the crew that are responsible for the operation and navigation of the ship, machinery operation and upkeep (crane, dredge, etc.), food preparation, general maintenance, and electronics operations and repair. There are a lot of things that need to happen to make things on a research ship run smoothly in order for the scientific work to happen!
NOAA Ship Delaware II docked in Woods Hole
Twelve people on board are part of the science team, including me, who collect the samples and record the data. We are split into two watches, the noon-midnight watch and the midnight-noon watch. We sort through the material in the dredge for the clams and the quahogs. We measure and weigh them as well as document the location where they are collected. Several members of the science team are volunteers.
A swimming beach near Nobska Lighthouse
Our delayed departure has given me a lot of time to talk to crew and to explore Woods Hole—which I have really enjoyed. I have learned a lot about the responsibilities of the different members of the crew and about the maritime industry, which is something that has always interested me. I was also able to visit the Woods Hole aquarium (twice!) and attend a talk given by crew from the R/V Knorr. The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute operates the R/V Knorr and it was on this ship that the location of the wreck of the Titanic was located for the first time in 1985. Additionally, in 1977 scientists aboard this ship discovered hydrothermal vents on the ocean floor. And, lastly, I had time to go swimming in the Atlantic Ocean! The water was a bit warmer off the coast of Massachusetts than it is off the coast of Alaska…
Questions to Ponder
What is the difference between an ocean quahog and an Atlantic surfclam?
NOAA Teacher at Sea
Caitlin Thompson Aboard NOAA Ship Bell M. Shimada August 1 — 14, 2011
Mission: Pacific Hake Survey Geographical Area: Pacific Ocean, Off the U.S. West Coast Date: July 24, 2011
NOAA Ship Bell M. Shimada
This Sunday, I’m headed off to sea! The mission of my cruise is to survey Pacific hake (also called Pacific whiting) populations. Hake is a species of fish that supports a huge fishery off the West Coast. As it states on NOAA’s Fishwatch website, “The Pacific whiting (hake) fishery is one of the largest in the United States. Pacific whiting is primarily made into surimi, a minced fish product used to make imitation crab and other products. Some whiting is also sold as fillets.” I’ll leave from Newport, Oregon, and arrive two weeks later in Port Angeles, Washington. The ship, the Bell M. Shimada, belongs to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). I get to go on the Shimada because of NOAA’s program Teacher at Sea (TAS), which sends teachers aboard research vessels so that we can increase our scientific literacy and bring our new knowledge back to the classroom. I can’t wait. I’ve never even spent a night aboard a ship, so this whole journey will be new for me.
A Pacific Hake
I teach seventh and eighth grade integrated science at Floyd Light Middle School, in the David Douglas School District, in Portland, Oregon. I earned my Master’s in Education at Portland State University and my Bachelor’s of Art in Environmental Science at Mills College, in Oakland, California. In between, I taught English at a public elementary school in Curico, Chile. I love science and I love teaching. As soon as I decided to become a teacher, I made up my mind to participate in TAS, because it will help me teach my students the importance and fun of science.
At a dragon boat race
When I’m not teaching, I paddle with a dragon boat team, spend time with friends and family, and ride my bicycle. I’m always looking for new projects and new things to learn. I’m lucky to live in a city as great as Portland, where there are always interesting events going on around town.
I have a rare opportunity and a responsibility to teach others about our world. Having been selected as a NOAA Teacher at Sea, I will be sailing aboard the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) ShipPisces as a scientist. Andy David, the chief scientist on our expedition, who works for NOAA’s Fisheries Service, has assigned and will be assigning me duties. Already I’ve participated in editing press materials, setting up a blog, pre-cruise meetings, and finding groups to Skype with from the ship. On board ship some of my duties will include photographing and videotaping our activities. Yeah! My students will have lots of material from which to create projects. I will be able to teach them about public access to information and my role in that from my blogging responsibilities. Having raised service dogs, I am already familiar with many aspects of public access, but it has usually been wheelchair access to buildings. Internet access for the blind hadn’t occurred to me. Learning, always learning.
I teach grades 3-5 in a pull-out program for the gifted and talented. Last week my 3rd grade students got to Skype with Andy David and asked him questions about the purpose of our cruise, what we would find there, how we would solve problems, how the ship is powered, and so much more. The students seem very interested in sharks, dolphins, whales, and turtles. Those species aren’t exactly what we are focusing on in our study of the deep water coral, Lophelia. Andy said that we would probably see all those marine creatures. That hadn’t occurred to me; they weren’t on my radar since these species haven’t been mentioned in other blogs or information pages from this study. They will be serendipitous meetings, and, although I didn’t think it possible, my excitement level has increased. I found a great web site about Lophelia. Check it out. It has easy reading, maps, pictures, and games.
Keep checking back for more on this exciting adventure. I will post my blog entries as often as bandwidth will allow after we depart on May 31, 2011 to help you better understand about our mission and what we found. We will return June 11, 2011. Until then, I will talk about things I plan to take and why.