A little bit of everything

At noon on Tuesday, August 7, 2012 the Henry Bigelow left Pier 2 at the Naval Station in Newport, RI to start what is to be the last of a joint series of cruises between the Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC), NASA and Old Dominion University (ODU), under the Climate Variability on the East Coast Program (CliVEC).

Upon departure from the Newport Naval Station, the FSV Henry Bigelow passes the Coast Guard buoy tenders on Pier 2. (Photo by Jerry Prezioso, NEFSC/NOAA)

Working together, these three institutions have a number of diverse missions with a common goal: a better understanding of the biology and hydrography of the northeast continental shelf waters of the US, from Cape Hatteras to Georges Bank and the Gulf of Maine.  Over the course of the eighteen-day cruise, the NEFSC will conduct over 130 plankton tows using a variety of bongo plankton nets and an Isaacs-Kidd Midwater Trawl to look for larval fish and study zooplankton distribution and abundance.

Scientists from NASA and ODU at work in the Henry Bigelow‘s chemistry lab space. (Photo by Jerry Prezioso, NEFSC/NOAA)

Working together, the NEFSC, NASA & ODU scientists will conduct over forty vertical water casts using a Niskin bottle rosette sampler armed with a suite of electronic sensors to get water column profiles of temperature and salinity as well as light, chlorophyll and oxygen levels.  Water samples taken at various depths will be filtered and analyzed for particulate organic matter, dissolved inorganic carbon, total alkalinity and nutrients, while the ODU contingent will use some of the collected water to conduct primary productivity experiments. Even the surface water that the ship sails through will be analyzed with a variety of instruments to measure additional parameters, such as near-surface carbon dioxide levels for example, using the vessel’s flow-through seawater system.

Carbon dioxide and nitrate measuring unit analyzing seawater from the Bigelow‘s Flow Through Seawater System. (Photo by Jerry Prezioso, NEFSC/NOAA)

In addition to all this sampling, we also have three researchers from Northeastern University, Cornell University and the City University of New York to observe and record marine mammals and birds sighted while the ship transits between stations.  This is definitely a well-staffed, multi-objective cruise!

Now, on a sunny, calm Thursday morning, the Henry Bigelow is steadily working its way south about 70 miles off the coast of New Jersey.  Plankton catches yesterday were dominated by hyperiid amphipods, small crustaceans less than one centimeter long with huge compound eyes that cover their heads.  There were a couple of small, unidentified fish larvae in two of the plankton samples taken last night, south and well offshore of the New York Bight.  There has been very little gelatinous zooplankton, which has made collecting and preserving the samples much easier!

All systems on the boat are working well.  We have three separate winches on board, one each for bongo net sampling, vertical rosette water casts and Isaacs-Kidd midwater trawls.  The midwater trawling is done off the stern of this vessel, while all other sampling takes place off the starboard side.  Despite the large size of the Henry Bigelow, our NASA and ODU colleagues have managed to cover every available counter top in the lab areas with their filtering apparatus setups and other paraphernalia, much as they did when we last sailed together aboard the much smaller Delaware II!  Some things never change!  There is definitely enough room for all of us to carry on comfortably however, and I’m impressed by the way everyone has been working together to pitch in when extra hands are needed.

That’s all the news from the Henry Bigelow today.  I’ll follow with more updates in the days to come, and try to highlight some of the interesting work being carried out.

Jerry Prezioso
Chief Scientist
HB 12-05 Ecomon/CliVEC Survey

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