NOAA Teacher at Sea
Carmen Andrews Aboard R/V Savannah July 7 – July 18, 2012
Mission: SEFIS Reef Fish Survey Geographical Location: Atlantic Ocean, off the coasts of Georgia and Florida Date: July 9, 2012
Location Data: Latitude: 30 ° 54.55’ N
Longitude: 80 ° 37.36’ W
Weather Data: Air Temperature: 28.5°C (approx. 84°F)
Wind Speed: 6 knots
Wind Direction: from SW
Surface Water Temperature: 28.16 °C (approx. 83°F)
Weather conditions: Sunny and fair
Science and Technology Log
Purpose of the research cruise and background information
The Research Vessel, or R/V Savannah is currently sampling several species of fish that live in the bottom or benthic habitats off the coasts of Georgia and Florida.
The coastal zone of Georgia and Florida and the Atlantic Ocean area where the R/V Savannah is currently surveying reef fish
These important reef habitats are a series of rocky areas that are referred to as hard bottom or “live” bottom areas by marine scientists. The reef area includes ledges or cliff-like formations that occur near the continental shelf of the southeast coast. They are called ‘reefs’ because of their topography – not because they are formed by large coral colonies, as in warmer waters. These zones can be envisioned as strings of rocky undersea islands that lie between softer areas of silt and sand. They are highly productive areas that are rich in marine organism diversity. Several species of snapper, grouper, sea bass, porgy, as well as moray eels, and other fish inhabit this hard benthic habitat.
Hard bottom of reef habitat, showing benthic fish — black sea bass is on left and gray trigger fish is on right side of image.
It is also home to many invertebrate species of coral, bryozoans, echinoderms, arthropods and mollusks.
Bottom-dwelling organisms, pulled up with fish traps deployed in the reef zone.
The rock material, or substrate of the sea bottom, is thought to be limestone — similar to that found in most of Florida. There are places where ancient rivers once flowed to a more distant ocean shoreline than now. Scientists think that these are remnants of old coastlines that are now submerged beneath the Atlantic Ocean. Researchers still have much to discover about this little known ocean region that lies so close to where so many people live and work.
The biological research of this voyage focuses primarily on two kinds of popular fish – snappers and groupers. These are generic terms for a number of species that are sought by commercial and sports fishing interests. The two varieties of fish are so popular with consumers who purchase them in supermarkets, fish markets and restaurants, that their populations may be in decline.
Red snapper in its reef habitat
At this time, all red snapper fishing is banned in the southeast Atlantic fishery because the fish populations, also known as stocks, are so low.
How the fish are collected for study
The fish are caught in wire chevron traps. Six baited traps are dropped, one by one from the stern of the R/V Savannah. The traps are laid in water depths ranging from 40 to 250 feet in designated reef areas. Each trap is equipped with a high definition underwater video camera to monitor and record the comings and goings of fish around and within the traps, as well as a second camera that records the adjacent habitat.
Fish swimming in and out of a chevron fish trap
I will provide the details of the fish trapping and data capture methods in a future blog.
Who is doing the research?
When not at sea, the R/V Savannah is docked at the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography (SKIO)on Skidaway Island, south of Savannah, Georgia. The institute is part of the University of Georgia. The SKIO complex is also the headquarters of the Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary. The facility there has a small aquarium and the regional NOAA office.
The fisheries research being done on this cruise is a cooperative effort between federal and state agencies. The reef fish survey is one of several that are done annually as part of SEFIS, the Southeast Fisheries Independent Survey. The people who work to conduct this survey are located in Beaufort, North Carolina. SEFIS is part of NOAA.
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 22, 2012
Location: Latitude: 18.5472
Weather Data from the Bridge:
Air Temperature: 28.6°C (83.5°F)
Wind Speed: 9 knots (10.5 mph), Beaufort scale: 3
Wind Direction: from SE
Relative Humidity: 77%
Barometric Pressure: 1,014.80 mb
Surface Water Temperature: 28.1°C (82.6°F)
Science and Technology Log
Another aspect (much more technical) of the scientific research conducted on this cruise is the collection of acoustic data. This field is continually evolving as the detection resolution improves allowing scientists to more precisely identify fish. This has been used with more success in fisheries farther north because the schools of fish are more likely to be monospecific (a single species). However, the technique still needs improvement in warmer waters where the fish assemblages tend to be multi-specific (having a much greater variety of fish).
General idea behind an acoustic sounder being used to detect fish. (Source: www.biosonicinc.com)
This field of study is called Hydroacoustics (hydro- means water, and acoustics refers to sound). It is the science of how sound moves through water. Leonardo da Vinci noticed how sound travels through water in 1490. He noticed that, “If you cause your ship to stop and place the head of a long tube in the water and place the outer extremity to your ear, you will hear ships at a great distance from you.” (Urick, Robert J. Principles of Underwater Sound, 3rd Edition. New York. McGraw-Hill, 1983.) World War I helped promote innovation in the field, especially with the need for anti-submarine detection devices (Wood, A. B., From the Board of Invention and Research to the Royal Naval Scientific Service, Journal of the Royal Naval Scientific Service Vol 20, No 4, pp 1-100 (185-284)).
Line drawing of the NOAA ship Pisces showing the location of the center board.
The system used is a sonar beam that is split into quadrants. This instrument is used to assist in determining fish abundance and distribution. The premise is relatively simple: an echo sounder transmits a pulse of energy waves (sound), when the pulse strikes an object, it is reflected (bounced) back to the transducer. The echo sounder is then processed and sent to a video display. This is the same general process behind the recreationally available fishfinder.
A short burst of energy is focused into a narrow beam. When this beam encounters an object such as a fish, a school of fish, plankton, or other object, some of the energy bounces back up through the water to the transducer. It is the detection of these reflections that allow scientists to determine location, size, and abundance of fish. These reflections show up on our video monitor. These measurements are combined with groundtruthed data (for example, fish collected in the field, camera images).
One of the difficulties in data interpretation is that often, the signals that appear on the computer monitor have false readings. This is a result of the sound wave bouncing multiple times. It travels to the bottom from the transducer, strikes an object, returns to the ship, bounces off the ship back toward the bottom, strikes another object, and is detected yet again.
Real-time annotated echogram at sampling site.
The Pisces is actually home to one of six multi-beam acoustic instruments in the world. Of the six in existence, NOAA has five of them. The benefit of running a multi-beam instrument is that each beam can be set to measure a different frequency (kHz), thus enabling detection of many more features (different species of fish, etc.)
Last night the crew of the Pisces carried out a task that they don’t normally perform. The Pisces was created for fisheries research projects – it focuses on collecting fish samples either by bandit reel, longline, or trawling. This particular operation was to deploy the anchor for a buoy that will be attached at a later date. When the buoy is ready to be attached, another vessel will bring it out to the site and divers will go down to the anchor to make the final attachment.
The anchor consists of a huge rebar-reinforced concrete block with a very long chain that has marker floats attached at the end. Logistically, this took some planning; the A-frame had to be raised and the anchor lifted with the Gilson winch with a 1″ spectra line (has an enormous tensile strength). The gate to the ship’s ramp was lowered and the A-frame (or as the deck hands call it, the “Tuna Tower”) repositioned so the anchor was hanging over the water. The rope holding the anchor, chain, and float was cut through, and the anchor plunged to the ocean bottom. Again, the crew made the operation go smoothly and demonstrated their ability to complete unexpectedly assigned tasks.
Today was a slow fishing day – no fish at all. Without any fish to “work up” (collect samples from), the day goes more slowly and we have more down time. With the extra time, I had a chance to interview Kevin Rademacher, the Chief Scientist on the cruise.
LU: What is your official job title and what are your job duties?
KR: I’m a Research Fisheries Biologist. I work for the Reef Fish Unit at the NOAA Fisheries Lab in Pascagoula, MS. I am the Senior Tape Reader/Reviewer, in charge of the readers that analyze the video data we collect from Reef Fish Surveys. I also help plan, organize, and run the surveys. Additionally, I participate in trawl surveys and anything else the lab needs done.
LU: When did you first become interested in the ocean and marine sciences?
KR: I guess that would have been when I was really young. There is a photo from the Panama City, Florida newspaper, two weeks after I was born with my parents pulling me in a homemade wagon along the beach! I knew in junior high school that I wanted to be a cross between Jacques Cousteau and Marlin Perkins of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom.
LU: It’s such a broad field; how did you narrow your focus down to what you’re currently doing?
KR: I got lucky and kind of fell into reading underwater videos at the initial stages of the project and fell in love with being the proverbial “fly on the wall”! It has allowed me to see the fish in their natural habitat, different color phases, behavior, etc.
LU: If you were to go into another area of ocean research, what would it be?
KR: Marine Mammal Studies. After college I trained dolphins and sea lions and put on shows with them for a local Oceanarium on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
LU: What is the biggest challenge in your job?
KR: Communicating with people and writing papers.
Ariane Frappier and Kevin Rademacher reviewing a dichotomous key in order to determine the species of a fish we caught.
LU: What do you think is the biggest issue of contention in your field?
KR: The impression that commercial fishermen have regarding the work we do to regulate the fisheries they work in.
LU: What are some effects of climate change that you’ve witnessed during your career in fisheries research?
KR: The decline of coral reefs and overfishing of some species.
LU: In what areas of marine science do you foresee a lot of career paths and job opportunities?
KR: Ecosystem management and data modelers. There has also been a decline in taxonomists over the past few decades.
LU: How would you explain your work to a layperson?
KR: I use underwater cameras to help assess populations of reef fish, especially snappers and groupers. The data collected is used to manage those fisheries.
LU: If a high school student wanted to go into your field of study/marine science in general, what kinds of courses would you recommend they take?
KR: Math, Biology, Chemistry, and any other science courses available.
LU: Do you recommend students interested in your field pursue original research as high school students or undergraduates? If so, what kind?
KR: Most definitely! Whatever they are interested in would be beneficial.
Well, only two more days left with the scientists before we pull into San Juan, Puerto Rico. We have 17 more daytime sites to sample and then this survey will be over. The scientific crew will be flying home on the 25th, and once home, their work will really begin. Back in the lab, they will be analyzing the data and reviewing the video. Some of them will be going back out on other cruises. Kevin Rademacher will be going out on another reef fish survey in the eastern Gulf of Mexico. It is currently delayed because of the potential formation of tropical storm Debby. Joey Salisbury has a couple more; he will be going on a longline cruise and then another reef fish survey, both of which will be in the Gulf of Mexico. Arian Frappier will be heading off to begin a masters program in marine systems and coastal studies at Texas A&M Corpus Christi.
After a day’s shore leave in San Juan, I’ll continue on to Mayport on the Pisces. During this time, I’ll focus on the crew members and their jobs. The cruise will definitely take on a different feel at this point, but it will give me an opportunity to explore other ocean related careers.
NOAA Teacher at Sea Carmen Andrews Aboard R/V Savannah July 6 – 18, 2012
Happy Summer Solstice Day! I am Carmen Andrews. I work as a science specialist at Six to Six Interdistrict Magnet School in Bridgeport, CT. I have just finished my 5th year at this school. I create science curriculum for grades pre-K through 8. I also teach many classes to help teachers improve their understanding of science concepts and inquiry methods.
Six to Six Interdistrict Magnet School, Bridgeport, CT
Our school has a unique academic program that incorporates partnerships with the Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk, CT and the Eli Whitney Museum in Hamden, CT. Our students visit many other places, including the Yale Peabody Museum and Yale Leitner Family Planetarium and Observatory in New Haven. We also allow our students to remotely operate the Gold Apple Valley Radio Telescope in California. My favorite places to teach classes are the unspoiled outdoor sites in Connecticut where we take our students for field studies.
6th Graders Counting Intertidal Organisms Using a Quadrat
I love research!
One of my passions as an educator is creating opportunities for students to investigate real world problems using science inquiry. This year my 6th and 7th graders took on a big environmental research project. They were asked to research bioremediation and to develop a creative solution to a major problem in their community — toxic oil spills. The work was funded by a NSTA/Toyota Tapestry Grant award, which enabled us to find out about blue and gray oyster mushrooms’ ability to metabolize oil spills in soil. Our project is called Going Green in Brownfields: A New Diet for Mushrooms. You can see our blog here: mushroomdiet.info
A 7th Grader Massing Blue Oyster Mushrooms Grown in Motor Oil
My Teacher at Sea Adventure
TheNOAA Teacher at Sea program was created to provide teachers with experiences in science research. We share our knowledge with our school communities using blogs, teaching and writing articles when we return from our Teacher at Sea assignment. I am very excited to learn about the work of NOAA in monitoring fisheries in U.S. coastal waters. I am eager to share this scientific research with students. I also want to expose students to the variety of maritime and marine science careers that they can consider pursuing in later life.
I will be departing on the R/V Savannah in about 2 weeks to participate in a reef fish survey. The next time I write, I will most likely be somewhere near Skidaway Island, GA. My target audience for my blogs while I am at sea, are students, colleagues and friends of all ages. Please feel free to post your comments and questions about this important science research.
NOAA Teacher at Sea Kristy Weaver Aboard The R/V Savannah May 23 – June 1, 2012
Mission: Reef Fish Survey Location: 44 miles off the coast of Jacksonville, FL Date: May 30, 2012
Current Weather: 80 degrees and sunny
Science and Technology Log
Today is our last full day at sea. We have caught about 2,000 fish in the past week! A lot of them were thrown back into the water because we only need to keep a fraction of them for the reef fish survey. The fish that we keep are studied by the scientists for a few reasons.
First, every fish we catch is measured and weighed.
David, a fisheries biologist, measures every fish that we catch
Then we have a sheet that tells us which fish we “keep” and which fish we “toss” back into the ocean.
Stephen writes down the length of every fish as David calls out the numbers
After Stephen writes down the length he uses this paper to tell David to keep the fish or toss it back into the ocean
Every fish that we keep gets its own ID number and envelope.
After it gets dark we stop fishing and go inside to the lab to collect information about the fish we caught that day. Every single fish that we keep gets its own ID number, and gets weighed and measured again. We write everything down. These notes are data.
Here I am writing down the length and weight of each fish as Stephen weighs and measures them
When you make observations using your senses you are collecting data too! Can you think of a time you collected data or made an observation like a scientist?
After we record the length and weight I give Stephen the envelope and the other scientists come get the fish.
Passing Stephen the envelope for the fish he just measured and weighed
Scientists Jennifer and David take parts of the fish that they will study under a microscope later
Once all of the information is brought back to the scientists at the lab, they look at different parts of the fish using a microscope. This will tell the scientists three main things…
1) Is the fish a male (boy) or a female (girl)?
2)How old is the fish?
3) Are these fish from all different families, or are they all related to each other?
Once the scientists answer these questions, they can decide if its okay for people to go fishing for certain types of fish, or if too many fish are being taken out of the ocean and need to be protected. Right now fisheries are not allowed to take Red Snapper out of the Atlantic Ocean. That fish is a very important part of our survey.
Special thanks to Captain Raymond and the crew and of the R/V Savannah and to Zeb, the chief scientist, and his team of scientists for a great experience!
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
Marian Wagner Aboard R/V Savannah August 16 — 26, 2011
Mission: Reef Fish Survey Geographical Area: Atlantic Ocean (Off the Georgia and Florida Coasts) Date: August 12, 2011
Naturalizing at my home beach in Seattle, Golden Gardens
I’m off to live the life of a NOAA research scientist aboard the Research Vessel (R/V) Savannah! Our work is part of a population monitoring mission (estimating number of fish in population), doing fishery-independent sampling of reef fishes in the Atlantic off the coasts of Georgia and Florida. See “terms defined” below to learn more.
Preparing to work with and make the most of my time with a team of scientists as a NOAATeacher at Sea (TAS) participant means I have a lot to learn in a short amount of time! This morning, I leave Seattle, and tonight I arrive in Savannah, GA. I can’t believe this day has finally arrived!
I teach 3rd and 4th grade at Salmon Bay School in Seattle Public Schools, and students and families will tell you teaching SCIENCE! is my passion. Central to my passion in teaching science is the importance of teaching students and teachers that we must better understand and protect the earth’s resources with which we are interdependent, and develop a more responsible and sustainable relationship with how we use these resources. The fundamental goal of all my various ways of incorporating this NOAA research experience into my teaching will be to help students and teachers understand the ocean better and our relationships with it, and use this knowledge to protect the world’s oceans.
I have never had first-hand experience in conducting field research (outside of research with children for educational purposes), and I believe it is especially essential in the leadership roles I have come to serve in science education that I have this foundational knowledge first-hand of HOW research is conducted in the field. I look forward to getting my hands dirty! (salty?)
A few days ago I received word that I have passed all my requirements to be endorsed to teach 6-12 grade biology and this experience will stretch me beyond coursework and provide a true field research experience, especially essential if I decide to use my biology endorsement to teach middle school or high school level biology, where I will draw upon this research experience in many valuable ways, especially by sharing methods of conducting research and by exposing students to the career options of working as a field scientist.
My 3rd and 4th graders (and my alumni too, I hope!) are sure to hear extensively about this field science research experience that I am about to dive into! Time to dress for the airport!
Fishery-independent sampling means data are collected separately from the landings of any commercial fisheries, and thus can be separated from economic factors that would compromise population trends based on how many fish are caught in a year (e.g., price of fish or fuel). So fishery-independent data are the closest we can come to a census, and are some of the most reliable data fed in to a “stock assessment”. The data we collect will have direct implications for stock assessment of these fish and ecosystem-based management of southeast U.S. marine fisheries. Here’s a link to more information on the work we are doing.
Seattle-ites: For more information, here’s a link to Federal stock assessment work in the Seattle area, perhaps more helpful because you might recognize your local species and habitats.
NOAA Teacher At Sea: Elizabeth Warren Aboard NOAA Ship Pisces
Mission: Reef Fish Surveys Geographical Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico Date: July, 15 2010
A case of the Upy-Downy’s
By breakfast on the last day we had already spotted land.
Crew of the Pisces
I went up to the flying deck and could not have been more disappointed to see the Mississippi Coast. I couldn’t believe how quickly my trip went by. I learned a lot!
Scientists on my cruise
The crew of the Pisces and the NOAA scientists were some of the nicest (even with all the teasing) people I have ever met. I’m so grateful that I was able to have this experience. I said goodbye to as many of the crew I could find, many take off as soon as they get into port or go to sleep, and each one told me I should come back again. I would love to! I’ve already asked and plan on applying again for next year.
Now, I’m home in Seattle, Washington. . As I was flying in, I was greeted by one of the reasons I live on the West Coast.
As a result of having been aboard a ship, I have a case of the upy-downy’s (getting my land legs back). The world keeps moving like I’m still on board the ship. The upy downy’s are also affecting my mood. I’m happy to be home, sleep in a real bed, see my family and my neph-puppy but I’m also sad that my adventure is over. I can’t wait to get back in the classroom and share all that I have learned with my students!
Thank you for reading my blog and again thank you to NOAA and the Pisces!
NOAA Teacher at Sea Anne Marie Wotkyns Onboard NOAA Ship Pisces July 7 – 13, 2010
NOAA Teacher at Sea: Anne Marie Wotkyns NOAA Ship Pisces Mission: Reef Fish Survey Geographic Area: Gulf of Mexico Date: Saturday July 10, Sunday, July 11, 2010 Latitude: Saturday 27⁰54.8057 N Sunday 27⁰51.098 N Longitude: Saturday 093⁰18.2990 W Sunday 093⁰04.100 W
Weather Data from the Bridge
Air Temperature: Saturday 30.3⁰C Sunday 30.4⁰C Water Temperature: Saturday 30.5⁰C Sunday 30.35⁰C Wind: Saturday 2.55 knots Sunday 1 knot Other Weather Features:
Saturday 62% humidity, cloud cover 20% Sunday 67% humidity, cloud cover 35%
Saturday Swell Height .2 meter Sunday .4 meter
Saturday Wave Height .05 meter Sunday .25meter
Science and Technology Log
Temperature Depth Recorder
Temperature Depth Recorder
There are several types of sensing equipment we have been using on this cruise. Each time we drop the camera array at a site attached to the array is a little device called a Temperature Depth Recorder or a TDR. As the camera array sinks to the bottom, the TDR records the temperature and depth. When the camera array is brought back on board the ship one of the scientists, or one of us teachers, unclips it and brings it into the lab. To get the information off you hit it once with a magnet that communicates with the chip inside telling it you want to download the information. Then you place a stylus on the device and it downloads the information to the computer. The data is saved under the name of the site and then the information is entered into a spreadsheet that converts the information from the psi(pounds per square inch) to meters of depth. To clear the TDR you hit it four times with the magnet and when it flashes red it is clear! Liz and I learned to do this the first day we did stations and we usually took turns entering the information. This was done 8 times on Saturday and 7 times on Sunday.
At every station, a CTD is also dropped into the water. A CTD (Conductivity Temperature Recorder) gives a hydrographic profile of the water column. The CTD is attached to the bottom of a rosette or carousel that also contains water sampling bottles. Attached to the rosette is a conductive wire that sends information to the lab. Mike, the survey technician, comes into the lab after every camera array is dropped and runs the CTD process. The CTD is placed in the water and allowed to acclimate for 3 minutes before they begin taking readings. The CTD is dropped to the bottom of the seafloor and then raised again. Mike monitors this from the dry lab. Once a week he uses the water bottles to take water samples. To take a sample he uses a remote from inside the dry lab to trigger the bottles at a given depth to close them. The CTD can also be programmed to close different bottles at different depths. It was very interesting to watch the EK60 echo sounder screen as the CTD lowered and raised.
Data from CTD
Each morning, Chief Scientist Kevin goes through the video footage from the previous day. For each site he identifies what the bottom substrate was (“sandy flat bottom”, “coralline algal bottom”, “malacanthus mounds,” etc) and then he identifies briefly any fish that he sees. When he is doing this, he will call us over and explain how he can tell what the species is or what behavior a fish is exhibiting.
Saturday, we dropped the camera array at 8 different stations on Bright Bank sites. The two chevron fish traps brought up NO FISH! On the bandit reel we caught one fish. It was a sand tile fish, Malacanthus pulmieri, a “banana shaped” bottom dweller that lives in large rock-covered mounds. Wearing rubber gloves, I weighed and measured him quickly and then we threw him back alive. He was 494 mm (49.4 cm) long and weighed .550 kg. I’m not very comfortable touching the fish or the bait we’ve been using, so I was quite proud of myself!
That was the only fish we caught all day! Today was a little frustrating. It even got Kevin a little down!
Sunday brought our last day of work on the reef survey. The Pisces was on the north half of Geyer Bank, still off the coast of Louisiana. I was determined to fully participate in all aspects of the science, so I bravely donned my gloves and baited the bandit reel’s 10 hooks with chunks of mackerel. We were positive we would catch more fish today!
Baiting the bandit reel
The camera cage came up with some interesting “hitchhikers” aboard. One was a round sponge, about the size of a softball. At first we thought it was a rock, but when I grabbed it, it was soft and squishy. Sponges are filter feeders which draw in water through many small , incurrent pores. Food and oxygen are filtered out and then exit through one or more larger excurrent openings.
In the fish lab, Kevin found a large cymothoid isopod, a crustacean that attaches to fish using its hook-like legs and scavenges food as the fish feeds. It reminded me of a cockroach more than a “rolly-polly”, the land isopod found in our gardens.
The day continued with seven camera drops, the bandit reel deployment, and two chevron fish traps. Despite positive thinking and Liz doing her “fish dance,” both fish traps came up empty. So the 2nd bandit reel was our last chance for fish. We were excited to see the “fishing pole” part of the reel bouncing up and down. It was reeled in and here’s what we caught!
It was a great barracuda, Sphyraena barracuda, 939 mm (93.9 cm) long and weighing 3.49 kg. Joey measured and weighed it, carefully avoiding its sharp teeth. He released the large predator and our last catch quickly swam away.
An interesting souvenir I will be taking home are some fish otoliths. Otoliths are fish earbones. Bony fish lay down layers of bone on their otoliths as they age, similar to the rings on a tree. Scientists use the otoliths to determine the age of a fish. Kevin collected the otoliths from a yellowedge grouper one of the crew caught and gave one each to Liz and I. Then he helped me remove the otoliths from a red porgy – quite a messy procedure, but very rewarding to cut open the skull and see the earbones!
In tomorrow’s log, I’ll share what we learned on our tour of the engine room, and about the different job opportunities on the ship.
Two nights ago, the ship’s captain (Commanding Officer Jerry Adams) had invited Liz and I up to the bridge to help “steer” the ship. He explained that we were driving a 52 million dollar vessel with 30 lives on board, so we were feeling pretty nervous! The Pisces was moving to the next day’s work area so the bridge crew would be driving all night. I got to steer first, my hands tightly gripping the wheel Captain Jerry and Ensign Kelly Schill explained how to drive and the proper language to use. When steering, you are following a set course using a gyroscopic compass as well as a digital heading read out. You are steering the rudder by degrees. The heading is stated in single digits so 173 would be one seven three.
We were sailing at night, so all the bridge lights were kept turned off to better see the lights of other boats and oil rigs. The bridge crew even had red flashlights so they wouldn’t ruin their night vision. Liz and I both got a chance to steer the ship in circles. I even did a Williamson turn, which is done when there is a man overboard. You turn 60⁰ in one direction and then turn the other direction so you are back on your reciprocal course to pick up the person who is overboard. While I was doing this, the ETA (estimated time of arrival to our next destination) display changed from “ 6:10 am” to “NEVER.” We both laughed pretty hard about that!
The Dynamic Positioning system (similar to an automatic pilot system) is called Betty. She can talk to the crew on the bridge and is reportedly extremely polite. I find is amazing how the ship can maintain such a steady course, with the computers adjusting for the constant changes in current, wind, and other factors which affect the ship’s steering. The DP also keeps the Pisces in one place when we are at a science station. The Captain promised to show us more about the DP on our next bridge visit. Everything on the bridge is electronic. You can click a button and see how much fresh water is on board, how much fuel, which engines are working and even wake someone up! The technology is truly amazing. I keep thinking about my grandfather who sailed in the Swedish Merchant Marines in the 1930’s. What would he have thought all this?
Where has Pascy the penguin been in the last 2 days? Check out his pictures!
Pascy helps me write my log entry out on the back deck at sunset!
Safety is very important! Pascy wears his hardhat whenever he works out on the deck with equipment.
On the lookout for other ships and oil rigs!
Pascy helps with the Pisces’ navigation. He’s double checking the computer’s course.
Pascy in the captain’s chair on the bridge.
Pascy at the helm of this $52 million dollar ship!
NOAA Teacher At Sea: Elizabeth Warren Aboard NOAA Ship Pisces
Mission: Reef Fish Surveys Geographical Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico Date: July 11-12, 2010
NOAA SHIP: Pisces Mission: Reef Fish Survey Geographical area of cruise: Gulf of Mexico Date: Sunday, July 11th- Monday July 12th, 2010
Weather Data from the Bridge: Temperature: Water: 30.4 ℃ (which is 86.9℉ ) Air: 30.5 ℃ Wind: 1 knots Swell: .2 meters Location: 27. 51° N, 93.04° W Weather: Sunny, Humidity 67%, 35% cloud cover
On Sunday, Anne-Marie and I were given a tour of the Engineering spaces. The Pisces has an integrated diesel electric drive system. There are two propulsion motors on the shaft that generate 1,500 horsepower each that are electric. Chief Engineer Garret explained that it is similar to a little remote control toy boat, except of course that the Pisces is much bigger. The Pisces is 208.6 feet long, 50 feet wide (breadth), and the Captain standing in the bridge is 37 feet above the water.
There are 4 generators on board, two 16 cylinder and two 14 cylinder that runs what the Chief Engineer called the “hotel load”, keeping the lights on. Another really cool thing about the Pisces is that it was designed to be a quiet vessel because underwater noise can influence how fish behave and can limit what the scientists are able to on board, not to mention that a noisy ship is harder to sleep on. The International Council for Exploration of the Seas (ICES) established standards to improve the noise onboard research vessels and the Pisces was designed to meet those standards.
Throughout the engineering room there are giant electrical boards that are constantly kept cool by the air conditioning that is constantly running on the ship. The interesting thing about the air conditioning is that the engineering deck and the labs are kept cool using regular air conditioning methods but the staterooms and other decks are kept cool using cold water! This is also the method used to keep the two propulsion motors cool as well!
Cold Water Air Conditioning
When we entered into the belly of the ship we were given earplugs because it gets loud and really hot down in the very bottom. Garret showed us that if the bridge ever lost power that there is a secondary way to steer. The crew steers using a hydraulic steering system rather than the electrical one on the bridge. The crew uses a sound powered telephone to communicate with the bridge during any power outages (or drills).
Garret showing the hydraulic steering system
One very important piece of the engineering deck is the Freshwater system. The ship pulls in sea water and uses heat from the engine to make freshwater through distillation. They heat the sea water and catch the evaporation which is fresh water. There are two distillers on board and they can make 1,850 gallons a day.
When we were down there we witnessed Junior Engineer Steve repairing the blown diaphragm that had interfered with the system. When we are in the area that NOAA has labeled as a 95% uncertainty trajectory regarding the presence of oil, we do not take in water as it could be contaminated and damage the system. This is why the first two days and the last two of the cruise we were asked to conserve water.
Steve, Junior Engineer
Latte = happy
The tour was very exciting! We began in the galley where Garret made Anne Marie and I lattes. They were beautiful! When we went into the loud part of the deck we put on ear plugs from the ear plug dispensing unit, which I had to take a picture of. Once again I was impressed with how patient the crew can be with us, although I do think we are a source of amusement for many of them.
Going down to the bowels of the ship
When the tour ended Captain Jerry took us to the very bowels of the ship and showed us the transducer well, this is the part of the ship that keeps the water out and keeps us from sinking.
Sunday was the last day of this leg of the survey. I did the banana song today in hopes that we would find something in the fish traps, unfortunately it did not work! As the day went on I was able to help more and more. I helped throw in the chevron fish trap, baited the bandit reel, pulled the rope to let the camera array drop. On the last bandit reel though we finally got some action! We were all pretty excited even Watch-leader Joey!
When the reel came up we discovered that we had caught a barracuda on the line! He was huge! We (okay so it was Joey) rushed through all of the measuring so we could throw him back in quickly! We still had a chance to get some pictures of him though. There is a limited amount of time to get all of the camera arrays into the water during a day and we were getting pretty close to running out of time so Captain Jerry and Kevin decided to do a camera array on the “fly”. We had to be ready! As we approached the site we got the camera over the side and as soon as the signal was given we dropped it.
Flexing on the deck
As I said before we have a lot of down time in between drops. I broke out my I-pod touch and we played a bunch of games. For awhile we played Would you rather? My favorite question was: Would you rather be saved by superman or meet Winnie the Pooh? Can you guess which one I picked? Then I introduced Joey to Madlibs. I couldn’t believe he had never played. Finally, Joey and I started a battle with the Bubble Wrap game. The idea is to pop as many of the bubbles as you can within 45 seconds. It got very heated! Right now the record is 254 and I’m sad to say that Joey is the record holder. I still have some time though… it could happen.
Jerry playing a game on my ipod touch
Playing games on ipod touch
It’s a good thing Anne Marie and I had gotten a tour on Sunday because today, Monday, there was a Steering drill. We knew exactly what was going on. The Captain announced the drill and then at the end said the Teachers At Sea should head down so we could drive. The experience is completely different. You are down in the depths of the ship and there is a crew member using headphones to talk to the bridge. Instead of a steering wheel, there are two things with bubbles at the top that you push down to change the angle of the rudder. Each of the bubbles steers the ship either left or right. I have to say we did a fantastic job, especially with all of the help!
Me on the bridge
NOAA Corps Officers on the Bridge
Something to think about: For me this has been an adventure, but a lot of the people that I’ve met do this all year round. They live and work on ships 264 days a year. When they get off of work at the end of the day, they can’t really go anywhere. A lot of the time they share a room for three weeks with someone they’ve never met before. There are movies, satellite tv, internet, places to work out, and time to fish. Imagine being “lovingly incarcerated” as a class, all 32 of us on a ship for weeks on end? That would be an interesting change. What I have noticed is that everyone seems to love what they do and most have traveled all over the world with various nautical employments (Navy, Exxon, NOAA).
As an outsider, on board for a short amount of time I’m still counting my time here as a once in a lifetime, educational adventure! Although, I wouldn’t mind staying.
Me on the deck
Yesterday, I left out some rubber ducks for the crew to sign for me! Here they are with Anne Marie’s friend Pascy!
NOAA Teacher at Sea Anne Marie Wotkyns Onboard NOAA Ship Pisces July 7 – 13, 2010
NOAA Teacher at Sea: Anne Marie Wotkyns NOAA Ship Pisces Mission: Reef Fish Survey Geographic Area: Gulf of Mexico Date: Friday, July 9, 2010 Latitude: 27⁰51.20 Longitude: 91⁰48.60
Weather Data from the Bridge
Air Temperature: 29.6 ⁰ C Water Temperature: 30.5⁰C Wind: 2 knots Other Weather Features:
70% humidity, approx. 30% cloud cover Swell Height: .3 meter Wave Height: .2 meter
Science and Technology Log
Friday started bright and early as we met in the dry lab on the Pisces to plan our day. Today would be the first day of work on the SEAMAP reef fish survey, the main purpose of our cruise.
The Southeast Area Monitoring and Assessment Program (SEAMAP) is a long term survey of offshore reef fish designed to provide an index of the relative abundance of fish species associated with topographic features such as banks and ledges located on the continental shelf of the Gulf of Mexico in the area from Brownsville, Texas to the Dry Tortugas, Florida. For this cruise, the sampling occurred off the coast of Louisiana.
The SEAMAP offshore reef fish survey began in 1992. Bathymetric mapping (as was conducted yesterday on the Pisces) provided scientists with contour maps of the ocean floor, then sampling sites measuring 10 nautical miles by 10 nautical miles (“blocks”) were selected in areas with known topographic features. Within each “block”, specific sampling sites are chosen randomly.
The main equipment used in the survey are 4 camera units housed in a special metal “cage”. Each camera unit holds two black and white still cameras and a digital video camera, for a total of 8 still cameras and 4 video cameras which download images to a 1ZTB GB hard drive. The camera pod is lowered to the bottom and left for 45 minutes. The cameras record for 25 minutes of bottom time. Each night the images and videos are downloaded onto another external hard drive, then later recorded onto blue ray discs. Scientists view the video to identify and count all fish observed.
Close up of they camera array
Capturing video from camera Array
During a sampling day, some sites are randomly chosen to collect fish for measurement and sampling. One method used is a chevron fish trap, a large wire cage which is baited with squid, lowered to the bottom, and left for 60 minutes. Another collection method is the bandit reel, which deploys a vertical line strung with 10 hooks baited with mackerel pieces. This line is lowered over the side until the bottom weight touches the substrate and left for 10 minutes, then reeled back in.
When fish are caught in the chevron trap or on the bandit reel, they are identified, measured, weighed, and gender is determined. Then if the fish is a species commercially or recreationally fished, it is frozen and returned to the NOAA National Seafood Inspection Lab to be available for further analysis.
Holding a Red Snapper
Measuring a red snapper
So now that I’ve explained the science behind the reef fish survey, here’s a description of our first day assisting Chief Scientist Kevin Rademacher and Joey Salisbury, Field Party Watch Leader. Liz and I arrived in the dry lab (headquarters for the surveying and sampling activities) at 7:00 am, excited to begin working. The Pisces arrived at the first site and the camera array was lowered at 7:17 am (one hour after sunrise.) The camera “cage” was lowered using a hydraulic A-frame which extended over the starboard side of the ship. For the first “drop” we watched through windows from inside the lab, as well as on a video monitor. Then as the camera “soaked” for 45 minutes, the crew deployed a CTD (conductivity, temperature, and depth recorder.)More about the CTD in the next journal entry!
By the second site, or “station” we were outfitted with a hard hat and PFD (personal flotation device), required attire when working on deck. As the day went on, we learned to reset the cameras after each station, assist with fish collection and measurement, and enter data collected from the TDR (temperature-depth recorder) into the computer. Throughout the day, we followed a routine of
1) deploy cameras
2) deploy and retrieve CTD
3) on selected stations, move to second site and drop chevron fish trap
4) return to first site, retrieve cameras
5) on selected stations, use the bandit reel to deploy a vertical fishing line
We repeated this process for 7 stations.
No fish were caught in the chevron traps, however, fish were caught both times the bandit reel was used. Each reel station brought in a red snapper Lutjanus campechanus and a red porgy Pagrus pagrus. Liz measured and weighed the fish and Joey determined the sex of the fish. The snapper were frozen to be taken back to NOAA’s National Seafood Inspection Lab.
When there was no work to do on deck, we spent time reading fish identification books, learning about other aspects of the reef fish survey, visiting the bridge, checking in with the bird observers, and watching for dolphin or whales. On one break we took turns using a handline to fish off the side – I caught 2 blue runners, Caranx crysos and Liz caught one. We worked until approximately 7:15 pm. The cameras do not use any artificial light, so the work stopped as dusk fell. We’ll see what tomorrow’s stations bring!
After the first night’s rough seas, I was thrilled to wake up to calm seas on Friday, with the crew promising even smoother seas to come. I really enjoyed the variety of work we assisted with. We were initially disappointed after the first fish trap came up empty. After waiting for an hour while the trap soaked, then donning our hard hats and PFD’s, when the empty trap emerged from the dark depths, we compared it to being “all dressed up with no place to go!” But Kevin reminded us that “The hardest thing to learn about science is that ‘0’s are numbers too!”
I am somewhat “technologically challenged” so I was happily surprised how quickly I learned to log the TDR (temperature depth recorder) data. I was also happy that I remembered much of the physical oceanography I learned years ago.
Liz and I are becoming familiar with the ship-the lab and galley are on the main deck, our cabin is on the 01 deck, other cabins are on deck 02, the bridge is the 03 deck, and above the bridge is the 04 deck. And there are decks 2, 3, and 4 below the main deck, Each deck can be accessed by indoor or outdoor ladders (not stairs!) that are much steeper than your stairs at home. The interior doors are heavy and it’s hard to remember whether to push or pull, this has been a source of much amusement for us! The hatches (doors to outside decks) are very heavy and secured with a wheel that often takes two hands and a lot of muscle to open or close. And don’t forget to step up over the approximate 13” step. There are many reasons we only wear closed-toe shoes!
After we finished with our fish survey work, Liz and I went out to the back deck with our laptops to work on our journals. Some of the crew started fishing with fishing rods off the side of the ship. Within a few minutes they had caught a small mahi-mahi and a few other fish when one of the deck hands slowly started reeling in something big. Of course, our computers were put aside so we could watch as he slowly hauled in a 55+pound greater amberjack – it was huge!!!Lots of excitement and picture taking followed! Then he caught another one – just a bit smaller! Another rod brought in a large yellowedge grouper. I have never seen such large fish! It was very exciting to watch! We thought maybe since we didn’t catch much during the day, we saved our fishing “luck” for the evening! The fishing ended around 9:00 for the night as the ship needed to start moving to tomorrow’s location. We headed up to the bridge to take the CO up on his offer to steer the ship. More on this in the next journal entry!
55 lb greater amberjack
Holding the amberjack
Even Pascy the Penguin agreed this was one big fish!
Amberjack and yellow-edge grouper
While I’ve been working with the science team, Pascy has been exploring the Pisces. Look at all the places he’s been!
This was the only thing we caught in the fish trap today!
This was the only thing we caught in the fish trap today! Pascy wants to ride on the block when they raise the large A-frame on the back deck.
In case of emergency, report to your life raft station!
NOAA Teacher At Sea: Elizabeth Warren Aboard NOAA Ship Pisces
Mission: Reef Fish Surveys Geographical Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico Date: July, 8 2010
After a day of travel I’m on the ship! I flew from Seattle in through Atlanta. I went for a walk in the Atalanta airport during my layover, when I finally sat down there were two people laughing about the oil spill. I couldn’t believe it! Of course after they had moved on I thought of all different things I could have said to them.
From Atalanta I flew into the Gulfport Airport in Biloxi. I met the other teacher at sea; Anne-Marie from Los Angeles. Anne Marie teaches 3rd and 4th grade science and language arts at a magnet school. She had spent the previous couple of weeks traveling around the south. We were met by a young marine biologist working on his Master’s degree named Travis.
At the Shed
Travis is working with NOAA and getting paid to get his Masters degree. Gotta love the sciences! He is doing research on a specific type of shark. He will be going out on a smaller vessel doing long line fishing technique. As the bottom of the scientist barrel he was sent to collect the teachers and a birder named Scott. Travis took us to a fun little outdoor BBQ place called The Shed. According to Travis, The Shed has been on the travel channel. I can understand why.. it was good and very quirky. I love listening to the people here talk with their southern accents.It’s been “darlin”, “hon”, and “ya-all” all over the place.
Signs indicating the impact of Katrina
Yesterday before the ship left Anne Marie and I went on an adventure in Pascagoula. The town was tiny! We were able to walk the entire down town in under an hour. I was trying to find a rubber ducky to bring with me on the ship so we went in every little store we could find. In one of the antique shops we met a retired teacher and her two little dogs. She told us all about the town and how Katrina impacted their lives. She told us how the water in her store had been up to her waist and how businesses can’t survive int he downtown. Everywhere we went there were signs of the impact Katrina had on this area and also the spill. In the downtown one of the shops had been taken over by BP as a claims office. People could go in and file claims due. As if the community hasn’t gone through enough.
NOAA Teacher At Sea: Elizabeth Warren Aboard NOAA Ship Pisces
Mission: Reef Fish Surveys Geographical Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico Date: July 5, 2010
I’m all packed and ready to go. It was hard to do as my practical side was at war with my fashionable side. No you do not need to bring those shoes, no you do not need to bring those earrings… basics here basics. I did decide to leave my rubber boots at home since they don’t fit in my suitcase.
I spent some time over the last couple of days reading the other blogs of the teachers who were on the first leg of the Reef Fish survey. Melinda Story’s blog was very interesting. She saw a tiger shark attack a whale carcass! Check it out on TAS’s website! I’m imagining the many creatures and sights I’m going to see along the way. After today my blog is going to change a bit to follow the TAS guidelines. I’ll say where we are, give a scientific update on what we are doing, and a personal update. I plan on posting a ton of pictures!
It’s going to be a great trip. I am so glad it is finally here!