Gulls and Gannets

More news from  Chief Scientist Jerry Prezioso aboard the Bigelow on the HB1701 Winter Ecosystem Monitoring Survey (EcoMon):

Our Canadian Wildlife Service Seabird and marine mammal observer, Holly Hogan, has been steadily working through all these conditions, and has provided a brief summary of what she’s seen so far.  Here is her update:

“Here’s a little flavour of what’s been going on at the surface!

Northern Gannets have been seen on all days of the cruise so far.  As far as gulls go, there have been the usual suspects, seen regularly: Herring Gull and Great Black-backed Gull.
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Holly Hogan at her observation post on the bridge of the Henry Bigelow.  She records her observations with a voice recorder and laptop. Photo by Jerry Prezioso,  NEFSC/NOAA Fisheries

On the day we left port at Newport (February 11), there were Northern Gannets, and some of the alcids that you expect in the northern parts of the cruise: Common Murre and Atlantic Puffin.
On Feb. 12, Northern Gannets were common all day. When we were closer to shore there were Common Loons and even a Black Scoter, a seaduck normally associated with coastal waters.  Common Murres were seen again as well.
Feb. 13 was a stormy day.  Sightings on the surface would be difficult; you always miss things in these conditions.  However, there were many Northern Gannets seen, especially near the shelf edge.  There was also a Red-throated Loon seen, which is smaller and more delicate than Common Loons.
On Feb.14 there were Northern Gannets and some of the alcids as well: Two Dovekies (a tiny seabird that breeds in the high arctic) and Atlantic Puffin. Common Dolphins were also seen in small groups.
On February 15, the water was calm for the whole day – excellent observing conditions. Northern Gannets were by far the most common species seen. Common Loons were also seen regularly.  The shipping lanes to New York City were pretty quiet for seabirds.  There was one alcid species seen: One lone razorbill.  It may not have been well, as it did not try to fly or dive from the ship, the normal behavior when the ship is in close range.  There were also excellent whale sightings:  A total of three fin whales, one humpback and one minke were observed.
So far today it’s been gull and gannets.  Lots of day ahead though!”
Holly Hogan
Canadian Wildlife Service

Bongos and Valentines

Hello All,

Today, February 16, finds us finishing up the Southern New England area, sampling at the last stations located in the eastern part of this region. After sailing north and out of a strong front that hit us around the Chesapeake Bay entrance, we made excellent progress on Valentine’s Day northward up to Southern New England waters. Another front came through with 40-knot winds just as we were working our way inshore from the shelf edge late last night and early this morning.  By deploying a smaller array of just the large bongo nets, rather than the typical large and small bongo frame combination, we were able to keep working through the worst of it at two offshore stations. We are now picking up some inshore stations before turning back offshore and on out to Georges Bank, something we hope to be able to do early tomorrow.

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Large bongo frame being deployed from the Henry B. Bigelow.  Photo credit: Joe Bishop, EPA

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Large and small bongo array being deployed from the Henry B. Bigelow. Photo by Joe Bishop,  EPA

The vessel and crew continue to perform flawlessly, and there is an excellent rapport between the scientists, crew and command that is helping to make this trip much less of an ordeal despite the typical February cold and rough sea conditions. Our Third Mate Dana Mancinelli and Seabird Observer Holly Hogan went so far as to put out little Valentine cards and chocolate hearts to boost our spirits!

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One of the Valentine cards and chocolate hearts passed out to the entire crew by Third Mate Dana Mancinelli and Seabird Observer Holly Hogan. Photo by  Jerry Prezioso, NEFSC/NOAA Fisheries
This may be a challenging trip due to the weather, but it is certainly a pleasure to work with this upbeat group!
Jerry Prezioso
Chief Scientist
HB1701 Winter Ecosystem Monitoring Survey

Working in Windy Winter Weather …

The Henry Bigelow sailed from the snow covered Newport Naval Station Pier 2 on Saturday morning, February 11, at 0900 hours.  The diminishing seas from the strong blizzard winds of the day before allowed us to make our way out of Narragansett Bay to the shelf edge slope waters and southward before the next front caught up with us.  Luckily, we were able to complete eighteen stations before that happened by turning inshore to continue working as long as we could.

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NOAA Fisheries Survey Vessel Henry B. Bigelow at Pier 2 of the Newport Naval Station.  Photo by Jerry Prezioso,  NEFSC/NOAA Fisheries

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Snow covered Rose Island Lighthouse seen from the Henry B. Bigelow on our departure.  Photo by Joe Bishop,  EPA

We are now off the coast of Virginia and slowly getting back to work as the 40-knot winds we experienced last night come down.  Our plan is to steam slowly offshore from the entrance to Chesapeake Bay as diminishing winds and seas  enable us to start back north, pick up two missed stations and then continue on to sample at our offshore stations.

This cruise was originally scheduled to start on Friday, February 9, but the blizzard that struck Rhode Island disrupted the travel plans of scientists joining us from the University New Hampshire and the Canadian Wildlife Service in Newfoundland.  We are attempting to make the best use of our remaining time by eliminating the southernmost part of the cruise track off of Cape Hatteras, giving us a chance to get to more northern areas like Georges Bank and the Gulf of Maine at the end of the survey.

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Deckhands Todd Wilson (left) and Frank Forbell prepare to launch Niskin Bottle and CTD Rosette.  Photo by Joe Bishop,  EPA

The plankton catches have been light and dominated at most stations by copepods and chaetognaths (arrow worms); pretty typical for this time of year.  There were some salps in a couple of tows, which I was surprised to see, and one tow had a considerable amount of diatoms which were caught in the 165 micron mesh nets of our small bongos, but easily passed through the 333 micron mesh nets of the large bongos.   Images from the Imaging FlowCytoBot showed them to be pillbox shaped diatoms, like the genus Coscinodiscus.  Since we have been close to shore for much of this cruise, the three shallow water rosette casts we have made have shown temperatures and salinities to be very well mixed in the water column.

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Survey Tech Stefanie Stabile and volunteer Joe Bishop drawing water from the Rosette Niskin bottles.  Photo by Jerry Prezioso,  NEFSC/NOAA Fisheries

All equipment and the ship are fully functional, and people are in good spirits.  We just need some breaks in the weather now to make this a productive trip!

Jerry Prezioso
Chief Scientist
HB 1701  Winter Ecosystem Monitoring Survey (EcoMon)

Small Science Staff, Lots to Accomplish

The NOAA vessel Pisces set sail from a busy Davisville, Rhode Island pier on Tuesday (Oct. 18) morning at 1030, flanked by a fleet of imported vehicles newly unloaded from two huge car carrying vessels docked nearby.

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Two huge car carriers unload a fleet of imported cars onto the pier they share with the Pisces in Davisville, Rhode Island. Photo by Jerry Prezioso, NEFSC/NOAA Fisheries

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NOAA vessel Pisces, docked in Davisville, RI, flanked by freshly unloaded cars. Photo by Jerry Prezioso, NEFSC/NOAA Fisheries

Our first task of the day was to undertake a calibration of the EK60 acoustic system on board, which was carried out by Mike Jech and his team while we anchored in the lower part of Narragansett Bay. The process took six hours and involved moving a tungsten carbide sphere under the hull and measuring the acoustic returns from the system.

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Joe Godlewski and Jennifer Johnson monitoring acoustic returns from EK60 calibration aboard the Pisces. Photo by Jerry Prezioso, NEFSC/NOAA Fisheries

The sphere got hung up at one point but the team was able to free it and get it back to continue the process, until it was finally completed at 1830 hours. By 1900 the team members, Mike Jech, Joe Godlewski and Jennifer Johnson, and all their gear were ferried ashore in a rigid hull inflatable launch to the Newport Naval Station located across the bay from our anchorage.

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Joe Godlewski prepares the calibration team gear to leave the Pisces. Photo by Jerry Prezioso, NEFSC/NOAA Fisheries

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Mike Jech and his calibration team departing the Pisces via the ship’s launch. Photo by Jerry Prezioso, NEFSC/NOAA Fisheries

After the return of the launch we proceeded out of the bay to start the southern leg of our survey. Our mission is to continue the core monitoring program of gathering data on hydrographic and biological parameters of continental shelf waters, by means of electronic sensors, plankton tows and water casts. Unlike previous missions we have a very small scientific staff on this trip, with just two people on each 12 hour watch, but all our routine sampling will be carried out, including plankton sampling, dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) sampling to track ocean acidity, and chlorophyll and nutrient measurements.

We also have an Imaging FlowCytoBot unit from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution on board to photograph dinoflagellates, diatoms and marine protozoa that are picked up by the scientific seawater system of the vessel. The only difference from past surveys is that we have no outside researchers joining us. Even the Canadian Wildlife Service, which normally sends an observer to monitor seabirds and marine mammals, was unable to place someone on-board until the northern leg of this survey.

For now we are heading south, and at the moment of this writing, are approaching the outer edge of the continental shelf about 90 miles southeast from the mouth of Narragansett Bay. Weather for the next couple of days is looking good, so we’re expecting to make good progress, having already completed four plankton tow stations, and one water sampling station.

Jerry Prezioso
Chief Scientist
PC1609 Ecosystem Monitoring Survey

Lots of small sand dollars

(NOAA Ship Pisces departed September 21, 2016 in support of the NEFSC’s benthic habitat assessment effort. The cruise is expected to end September 30.)
September 25:
The cruise has gone well so far: great crew, great ship, weather has been good, though not perfect.  All scientists (Ashok, Heather, Erick, DeMond, Delan, Jordan) are healthy and working hard.
We are looking at benthic habitat in the  Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) NY Wind Energy Area (WEA) off the south shore of Long Island along a fine grid of stations, some of which we are also mapping with multibeam lines.  As a piggyback project, we are also collecting samples for microplastic analysis, which has become an issue of considerable interest on the West Coast and in the Chesapeake.
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We had some trouble with the ME70 multibeam sonar early on.  It took 5 hours plus to turn it “on” on Thursday night…very finicky, but it has been working well since.  Learned a lot about that system from the ship’s Survey Tech.  Erick, who is standing the sonar watches with her, is learning even more. Physical sampling has been going well and yielded some surprises.  We have been hitting some sea scallops in the south, which I expected, and have been mapping that same location to provide us with some characterization of sea scallop habitat.  Based on Observer Data, we don’t expect to see them in the northwest part of the WEA.
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We’re getting spotted hake and little skates in almost every trawl (no surprise), and we’ve seen some scup, fluke, windowpane and Gulf Stream flounders, rock crabs and one monkfish. Clyde: lots of sand shrimp everywhere, mostly juveniles.
The big surprise has been overwhelming catches of sand dollars…more like sand dimes: very small, probably newly settled.   We expected to see some, but not in such huge quantities.  However, they are patchy…not at all stations.
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The Manta neuston net (first time we’ve used it) is working well.  It catches for microplastics have yielded a lot of jellyfish, salps, comb jellies, pelagic isopods and some juvenile fish.  These samples will have to be reduced to extract microplastic particles for analysis. Sediment subsamples are also being taken for microplastics from the grabs we are taking for sediment grain size analysis.
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More to come soon!
Vince Guida
Chief Scientist
PC 16-06
NEFSC Benthic Habitat Assessments of Northeast Outer Continental Shelf Ecosystems

A Record Day!

Summary of report on Leg II (July 18 – August 5) of the AMAPPS survey:
During Leg 2 on July 21st of the AMAPPS survey the scientific party encountered the most animals ever in a single day for this survey. Early morning sightings started with a flurry of sperm whales near Oceanographer Canyon. That level of sighting lasted most of the day as the vessel traveled east in good conditions, although the species composition changed. In the afternoon in the shallows (100-200m) between
Oceanographer and Lydonia Canyons the crew encountered a sighting
bonanza: some 2500 common dolphins, 120 fin whales, 50 humpback whales,
60 Risso’s dolphins, 70 pilot whales, 80 bottlenose dolphins, 100 striped dolphins, with a few beaked whales and ocean sunfish when the ship was in
the deeper waters.

Bad weather ahead on leg III

August 10, 2016:

The 3rd leg of the AMAPPS abundance survey on the Henry Bigelow began today, as we departed the WHOI dock around 10:00am.  The day got off to a rocky start since one of our science crew had to get off the ship at the last minute; she had been sick the past few days and unfortunately was not able to sail with us.  Her departure dampened spirits as we left the dock, but it couldn’t be helped.

We hit the ground running today, arriving at our first survey area at 1:00pm, west of Nantucket.  Since most of the transect lines in that area had been covered on the previous leg, we only had about 4 hours of surveying left to do before heading offshore. Unfortunately, the weather was not as cooperative as I had hoped, and after a couple of hours, we had to break off effort due to rain and sea state.   We’re heading out to the shelf break now, with the plan to start tomorrow morning just south of the Great South Channel. The weather looks rough for the next few days, but we’ll make the most of it!

Cheers,

Danielle Cholewiak & the Bigelow team