Saturday, August 28, 2010

A shark by any other name, ....

Attached are photos showing three different shark species including: sandbar, hammerhead, bull. Hammerheads are easily recognized by their distinctive heads and bull sharks have a solid grey skin, but very wide thick bodies. I am pictured below with an Atlantic sharpnose shark which grow to much smaller sizes as adults compared to the sharks species listed above.

Some sharks we caught were too large to be brought on board, so they were tagged from the ship's deck. Tags need to be inserted almost anywhere on the dorsal surface of the shark except the fin or the gills. For each shark see if you can determine the shark type and gender. Click on the link below to access the video clips. Scroll down for the correct answer when you finish.
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Video #1

Video #2

Video #3

Answer: Shark / Gender

Shark #1
Hammerhead, male

Shark #2
Bull, ?

Shark #3

Sandbar, female

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Dock Rock

I sadly said farewell to the Delaware II after 10 days and six night watch shifts hauling back sharks. It was a wonderful experience, but it was nice to get off the ship. :) I think my favorite moment was watching the sun rise one morning while a small pod of spotted dolphins surfed in the ship's wake. I even saw two sets of mothers and babies playing together and thought I heard some faint clicks and chirps from them.

Something my fellow shipmates warned me about when we returned to land was dock rock, or sea legs. I did find myself swaying on the dock after disembarking from the ship. I thought that was the extent of it. However my first night on dry land my internal clock woke me up promptly at 11:45 PM for my night watch . I stumbled out of bed to visit the bathroom. I nearly fell flat on my face trying to compensate for the ship's rocking even though the floor was steady. I think it took about 5 days for the bed to stop rocking like the ship. It was really strange I'd go to bed and it was fine, but when I woke up it felt just like the bed was pitching around as if I was back at sea.

While I was on board the ship I was unable to upload videos. I have attached a couple videos below showing the crew and scientists setting and hauling back the catch.

This video shows the night watch setting of the first 1/10 of the botton longline. The video begins just after Khris, a NOAA deckhand, had released the high flyer and bouy. Arjen, a volunteer, clips a numbered sample tag to the gangion held by Ryan, a grad student volunteer. Ryan feeds the gangion over the side of the ship and passes it off to Richie, a NOAA deck hand. Richie clips the gangions to the longline approximately every 60 feet. Adrian, the chief bos'n, is running the winch feeding out the longline. If you watch carefully Richie almost loses one of the gangions. We teased him about stagefright after I stopped taping.

(Technical difficulties, video to be posted soon ... hopefully)

This video shows the night watch hauling back a catch. The vast majority of sharks were Atlantic Sharpnose, shown in this video. Richie and Khris are hauling in the line while Adrian is overseeing operations from the upper deack. Ian is collecting the numbered tags from the gangions. Lisa is collecting the gangions and reloading them into the barrels used to store them between sample locations. Ryan and Arjen are handling the sharks. Christian is recording data. There are 100 hooks and things can get pretty lively hauling back a catch with a lot of sharks. As you may notice removing the hook can be difficult. Ryan is good at it, but Arjen, much like myself find it more difficult. In fact I usually asked Christian to help me with the hook. I was very proud of the single, solitary hook I removed all by myself. :)

(Technical difficulties, video to be posted soon ... hopefully)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Shark Week!

NOAA Teacher at Sea Program Log
NOAA Teacher at Sea: Beth A Spear
NOAA Ship: Delaware II
Mission: Shark – Red Snapper Bottom Long Line Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Gulf of Mexico to North Atlantic
Date: Saturday, August 7, 2010

Weather Data from the Bridge
Time: 1400 (2:00 pm)
Position: Latitude 32 degrees 20’N, Longitude 078 degrees 57’W
Present Weather: Partly Cloudy
Visibility: 10 nautical miles
Wind Speed: Variable, light
Wave Height: 1 foot
Sea Water Temp: 30.7 degrees C
Air Temperature: Dry bulb = 27.7 degrees C; Wet bulb = 25.2 degrees C
Barometric Pressure: 1013.2 mb
Christian Jones, an NOAA employee, is admiring a sunset off the stern of the Delaware II.

Science and Technology Log
We have caught around 300 sharks so far. Most of those are Atlantic Sharpnose sharks. All shark species seen so far include Atlantic sharpnose, sandbar, tiger, nurse, blacknose, silky, bull, and hammerhead. When the shark is caught and brought on board the hook is removed; this is the most difficult part. Shark skin is so tough that the barb on the hook has to pass back through the original hole in the shark skin. If you are unable to do that a small incision is made to widen the original hole made by the hook. The data collected for each shark includes: length, weight, and gender. Some sharks are tagged before they are released. Sharks that do not survive are used for other studies.
One researcher who uses the sharks that do not survive is Dr. Ian Davenport, Xavier University of Louisiana. Dr. Davenport is studying the reproductive system of female sharks. The photograph below shows a three month old embryo collected from the uterus of a female Atlantic sharpnose shark (note the feathery gills on either side of the head). Dr. Davenport will be able to use samples collected during this survey for the classes he teaches and his research back home in Louisiana.

Ryan Ford is another researcher onboard the Delaware II. Ryan is a graduate student from the University of North Florida studying the diet of blacknose sharks with Dr. James Gelsleichter. While volunteering on this NOAA cruise Ryan was able to collect information for his thesis project. Unfortunately we have not seen many blacknose sharks so far. The photo below shows Ryan (on the right) collecting a muscle biopsy just below the dorsal fin from a blacknose shark.

The Atlantic sharpnose is relatively easy to handle. You grasp the shark right behind the jaws and in front of the gills. It is very important to be careful of the gills so the shark can be released live. If the shark is very active you can control the animal with your other hand near the tail. I am collecting the weight for an Atlantic sharpnose in the photo below.

Personal Log
I was finally brave enough to handle the sharks myself on my third watch. As I grabbed a shark, calmly laid it out to collect data, and called out the data, it was hard to believe I was actually doing this. Too cool!!! I have to admit after throwing each shark back I took the time to watch them swim off safely. I couldn’t help but compare grabbing the shark to picking my cat up by the scruff of the neck.
On Friday I woke to a little rougher sea and felt a little bit funny. I kept drinking water, took some ginger pills, and stayed out in the fresh air. I began to feel better by the time the sun rose. I think I was more dehydrated than sea sick. On Saturday we had a fire drill, an abandon ship drill, and a man (the captain) overboard drill. It was not fun wriggling into the survival suits after a 12 hour work shift.

I also got a quick lesson from Richie, one of the deck crew, on splicing lines together. It was similar to braiding hair, just a little more complicated. When they sent out the high flyer with my spliced line I was really worried. Thankfully everything held together, so far at least!

When I started this cruise I really didn’t know what to expect. I was worried that I would just be in the way or get my finger chewed off by a shark. However I feel great knowing I contributed, at least in a small way to this long-term study. The science and procedures aren’t terribly complicated or inaccessible. This is what I want my students to understand about science. Science can be difficult and confusing, but it’s also fun, exciting, and anyone can do it.

Question of the Day
Do you know how to determine the gender of a shark?
Shark gender is determined by the presence (males) or absence (females) of claspers used during mating. The photographs below illustrate the difference between gender for the Atlantic sharpnose shark. The arrows in the top photo below are pointing to the claspers found only on male sharks. The claspers are absent on females as seen in the last photo below.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Night Watch

NOAA Teacher at Sea Program Log
NOAA Teacher at Sea: Beth A Spear
NOAA Ship: Delaware II
Mission: Shark – Red Snapper Bottom Long Line Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Gulf of Mexico to North Atlantic
Date: Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Weather Data from the Bridge
Time: 0200 (2:00 am)
Position: Latitude 29 degrees 28’N, Longitude 080 degrees 21’W
Present Weather: Partly Cloudy
Visibility: 10 nautical miles
Wind Speed: 8 knots
Wave Height: 1 foot
Sea Water Temp: 30.2 degrees C
Air Temperature: Dry bulb = 28.2 degrees C; Wet bulb = 26.0 degrees C
Barometric Pressure: 1016.8 mb
Photo below is taken off the stern off the NOAA Delaware II

Science and Technology Log
This NOAA cruise was conducted for Red Snapper and sharks. Sampling is conducted along the continental shelf with a bottom longline. The longline consists of a mainline that is about 1 nautical mile or 6000 feet. Gangions are clamped to the main line approximately every 60 feet. The gangions have a clamp at one end and a hook baited with Atlantic Mackerel at the other end. The mainline is weighted at both ends and in the middle to keep it near the bottom. The line is set at depths ranging from 5 - 30 fathoms or 30 - 100 fathoms. The long term objective of the study is to estimate abundance of certain fish species. (mention annual survey, temporal patterns) Some short term objectives include sampling for genetic studies and tagging to study movement, age, and growth. Species studied usually include red snapper, tile fish, grouper, and various sharks.
Photo below is of the longline being sent out.

Personal Log
Yesterday I began my night watch duties. Getting up at midnight is pretty tough especially when my normal bedtime is around 11:00 PM. One benefit however is the cooler early morning hours. We have about 4 -5 hot sunny hours before the night watch ends at noon. There is some down time while steaming to the next line. But when we are busy it can get crazy, especially working around animals with teeth that like to flip around. NOAA is very safety conscious and we all wear personal flotation devices (PFDs), safety glasses, and hard hats. The first night we had the mainline snap while hauling in the catch. No one was hurt, but that’s what the safety gear is for. It’ll be a good reminder for my students to wear their safety gear during labs.
Animals Seen So Far
Blue fish
Brittle star (see photo below)
Mahi Mahi
Flying fish
Scalloped hammerhead shark
Atlantic sharpnose shark
Blacknose shark
Sandbar shark

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Gumby suits for safety

NOAA Teacher at Sea Program Log

NOAA Teacher at Sea: Beth A Spear
NOAA Ship: Delaware II
Mission: Shark - Red Snapper Bottom Long Line Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Gulf of Mexico to North Atlantic
Date: Saturday, July 31, 2010
Weather Data from the Bridge
Time: 1000 (10:00 am)
Position: Latitude 27 degrees 51’N, Longitude 086 degrees 01’W
Present Weather: Partly Cloudy
Visibility: 11 nautical miles
Wind Speed: 5 knots
Wave Height: 1-2 feet
Sea Water Temp: 31.1 degrees C
Air Temperature: Dry bulb = 30.4 degrees C; Wet bulb = 27.8 degrees C
Barometric Pressure: 1012.8 mb
Science and Technology Log
The first day aboard ship started with a ship orientation meeting presented by the acting executive officer (XO) LT Fionna Matheson. During the meeting the XO covered many shipboard concerns especially safety. LT Matheson suggested you always use one hand for the ship and one hand for you to avoid accidents. We also had some drills in the afternoon. LT Matheson had some really useful ways to remember the signals for drills. Fire is one long whistle, just like someone yelling fire in one long shout. The abandon ship signal is at least six short blasts then one prolonged blast, like yelling get-the-heck-off-the-ship-nooooow. During the abandon ship drill we had to put on survival suits, called “Gumby” suits by the crew. They were hot and very awkward.
Personal Log
We have about four days to steam to the location we will begin fishing. I am using these days to get myself adjusted to the night watch hours, midnight to noon. I am trying to tell myself it’s a good thing because I’ll be working during the cooler evening and morning hours, still hot is hot! The staterooms are quite cramped, it is a good thing I am not claustrophobic. I am still learning names of crew and the other scientists. There is a mix of NOAA volunteers, students, and professors. The food has been excellent, but I’m trying not to overindulge since there is not much activity during these first four days. The ship has a large selection of current movies loaned by the US Navy which I am taking advantage of during our downtime.
New Terms – Shipboard Terminology
Bulkheads = walls.
Ladderwells = stairs or stairwells.
Passageways = hallways.
Deck = floor.
Bow= front of ship.
Stern = back of the ship.
Port = left side of ship while facing bow, remember this because port is a shorter word than starboard or right, ship lights are red on this side.
Starboard = right side of ship while facing bow, remember this because starboard is a longer word than port or left, ship lights are green on this side.
Aft = direction meaning toward the stern (rear) of the ship
Fore = direction meaning toward the bow (front) of the ship

(figure ref. )

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

NOAA Resources

Upon acceptance into the NOAA Teacher at Sea (TAS) program I was sent some resources. My school was kind enough to let me use a video camera for my Teacher at Sea experience. The attached video clip briefly shows the resources sent to me.

By this time tomorrow I will be well on my way to Gulfport, MS and then to my ship the Delaware II at the Pascagoula Port. Thanks to fellow TAS Mechelle Shoemake for suggestions on how to find my ship. The next time I post to this blog it will hopefully be from the Delaware II!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Teacher at Sea's Log, Stardate 2010.07.22

While onboard ship I am required to record a log every 2-3 days, much like Captain Kirk himself! Unlike Capt. Kirk my logs must be approved by the ship's chief scientist, and then the executive officer. They will be checking my logs for accuracy and safety reasons. The format I have to use for my log is shown below.

NOAA Teacher at Sea Program Log

NOAA Teacher at Sea: Beth A Spear

NOAA Ship: Delaware II

Mission: Bottom Longline Survey

Geographical area of cruise: Gulf of Mexico to North Atlantic

Date: (e.g. Saturday, June 23, 2007)

Weather Data from the Bridge
Obtain recorded weather data from the ship's bridge.

Science and Technology Log
In this section discuss the science, technology, and/or career aspects of the mission.

Personal Log
Discuss the aspects of your mission not covered in the science portion of your log.

Additional Section Names (all optional—you may customize this):
“Question of the Day”
“New Term/Phrase/Word”
“Something to Think About”
“Challenge Yourself’
“Did You Know?”
“Animals Seen Today”