Teacher at Sea

Congratulations to Women In Natural Sciences Program Coordinator Kimberly Godfrey, who was selected to participate in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Teacher at Sea program! The program provides teachers hands-on research experience at sea, giving them unique insight into oceanographic, hydrographic and fisheries research by facilitating partnerships between educators and world-renowned NOAA scientists.

Godfrey is currently finishing up her time on a fisheries research cruise, which conducts biological and physical surveys to ensure sustainable fisheries and healthy marine habitats. She was aboard NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker while scientists conducted a Rockfish Recruitment and Ecosystem Assessment. You can learn more about this important scientific work by clicking here. She blogged about her experience at sea, and we are sharing excerpts from her posts below! 

May 31, 2018

WINS is a science enrichment, after-school program for high school girls in public and charter schools in Philadelphia. Our goal is to provide opportunities for exposure to the natural sciences in ways the students cannot find in the classroom. Our long-term goal is that they take what they learn and turn it into a career. Most of our participants have had little to no real-world, hands-on science in the classroom, and they share many first-time experiences with the WINS staff and other participants.

2018 graduating seniors of the WINS program at the Academy of Natural SciencesThat’s my favorite part of being a WINS girl. I can share my experiences and my knowledge with them. I have a degree in Marine Biology and had the opportunity to participate in marine mammal research for 2 years. I taught about environmental science and wildlife conservation for 10 years prior to working at the Academy.  And, something that is important to me: I am a Philadelphia native who, like these young ladies,  knew little about my urban ecosystem while growing up in the city. […] It wasn’t until I returned from college that I began to explore the world right under my nose. Now I help them explore the wildlife in their backyard, and then push them to branch out of the city, the state, and even across the globe.

Quite a few of our girls wish to explore Marine Science as a career, so my plan is to absorb everything I can and bring it back to them. I want them to know the importance of this research, and that this career is truly an option for any one of them. One day, I would love to see a WINS girl aboard a NOAA research vessel, dedicating her career to the understanding and stewardship of the environment. That’s what NOAA’s mission is all about!

June 5, 2018

Academt WINS Coordinator Kimberly GodfreyAs of June 2nd, we have been out to sea. I’ve been assigned to night shift, which means I will be working a lot on sorting the overnight hauls. However, the weather leaving the bay on the first night was rough, so we sailed south to find calmer waters. I didn’t mind so much because as soon as we passed the Golden Gate Bridge, I got to see something I wanted to see my whole life, humpback whales! It was worth the wait.

June 6, 2018

Our first official night on the Job was Sunday, June 4th. My shift is technically 6:00 pm to 6:00 am, but we could not begin trawling until the evening when skies were dark. If fish can see the net, they can avoid it. The method we use to catch fish is a midwater trawl, also known as a pelagic trawl. It’s called a modified Cobb midwater trawl net. It has a cod end, the narrow end of a tapered trawl net where the catch is collected during the trawl.

Before we lower the net, the water around the ship must be clear of marine mammals. Thirty minutes prior to each trawl, someone stands the marine mammal watch on the bridge. Once the net is deployed, someone must be watching for marine mammals outside the entire time. If any marine mammals are spotted (this includes dolphins, porpoises, seals, and sea lions), we report it to the officer on the bridge. The rule is that if we spot a marine mammal, the net must be hauled back in and we sail a mile away from the sighting. Marine mammals are protected and we do not want any caught in the net.

When the net is in the water, we trawl for 15 minutes at 30 m deep. Optimal speed is about 2 knots, but that is weather dependent. During this time, our deck crew, and Survey Technician monitor each step of the haul, reporting back to the officer on the bridge. As they haul the net in, the deck hands and Survey Technician work together to make sure the catch goes into the bins for sorting.

As of today, I officially completed 3 shifts on the job, which included 12 trawls in total. It seems that each catch was dominated by 1 or 2 species. There were other species present, but we had to sort through the catch to find them.

We had a catch that was loaded with anchovies, another with krill, and one full of pelagic red crabs. I find this to be one of the most interesting parts of the work, anticipating what we will find. There are many variables that can impact the productivity of an ecosystem, and therefore can determine what we find. Things like salinity, sea surface temperatures, upwelling, proximity to land or open ocean, and human impact, can all influence an ecosystem.

So, what do we do with our catches once we have them? We count them, and there is a method to the count. Depending on the size of the catch, we may measure out 1,000 ml, 2,000 ml, or 5,000 ml. We start with that first bucket and count every individual (species like krill or salps are measured by volume). The numbers are reported to Keith Sakuma, our chief scientist, and recorded in a handwritten data sheet, then transferred to an excel document. After the first bucket, we may focus on sorting for all other species except the predominant species. For example, for our large anchovy catch, we sorted through approximately 60 liters of fish. We didn’t count every single anchovy, but based on our primary count, we can use the total volume to estimate. However, we sort through looking for all other species and record the findings.

Sorting Fish Aboard NOAA Ship Reuben LaskerWe will record each species we find, and then we have a list of specified species that need to be measured.  We take the first twenty specimens of each so we have a record of the average size fish caught in that specific location and time. We focus on measuring the species of fish that have the most ecological and economic importance. These are the prey and those that are consumed by us. Therefore, they are also likely to suffer from human impact. Learning about these species are important to the understanding of what makes them successful, and how to mitigate the things that negatively impact their productivity.

So far this is our routine. Tonight, we had a break from trawling as we transit up to Davenport, just North of Santa Cruz.  The current conditions are not favorable for trawling, so we will get back to work tomorrow evening.

More blog posts and images from Godfrey’s trip are available online.

One comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.