The two observers on board the Ecosystem Monitoring cruise, Marie and Mike (City University of New York), take turns standing watch from the flying bridge. They have a laptop on-site that allows them to record data as they count animals and observe their behavioral patterns. In addition to birds and mammals, they record sea turtles, predatory fishes, ocean sunfish, sharks, debris in the water, fishing vessels, and the presence of fishing gear.
Sometimes they even observe and photograph insects, like when the ship is invaded by dragonflies. When they do see animals they note their feeding activity and patterns. As we traveled northward along the New Jersey coast, they observed feeding terns to the west of the ship, probably coming from nesting locations on the shore. The day prior, they saw feeding fin whales. Unfortunately for them, we are on a schedule and did not have time to spend in the area closely observing the whales’ behavior. On the other hand, we are headed back north where we are likely to see several more species of birds and mammals, including right whales.
On a side note, we haven’t yet run into the potential problem I mentioned a few days ago– ctenophores clogging the nets. We hope that won’t happen at all, and so far so good. However, the night watch did catch enough to fill the cod-end of the net. This was at our southern most station, south of Oregon Inlet, NC. The net may not have gotten clogged, but there were enough ctenophores to fill the sieve. Alison had to spend several minutes swirling the gelatinous soup to make the sample small enough to fit into one of our sample jars.