Dodging Hurricanes and Shrinking Mannequin Heads for Science!

The Fisheries Survey Vessel Gordon Gunter departed from the NOAA Marine Operations Center in Norfolk, Virginia on Columbus Day, Monday October 12, 2015 to begin the Fall Ecosystem Monitoring Survey. Originally scheduled to start nearly a week earlier, the cruise has been cut back on time due to Hurricane Joaquin’s impact on the southern portion of the survey area.  We are now working our way northward along the continental shelf off the coast of New Jersey.

Turtle tag mounted on Niskin bottle rosette frame. Photo by Jerry Prezioso, NOAA

Turtle tag mounted on Niskin bottle rosette frame. Photo by Jerry Prezioso, NOAA

Now on our third day of the cruise at the time of this writing, we have completed 19 stations, using Bongo nets and a CTD Niskin bottle rosette to collect plankton, water and nutrient samples, plus hydrographic data.  In addition to sampling for the Northeast Fisheries Science Center we are also recording images of phytoplankton from our scientific seawater system, using an Imaging FlowCytoBot unit from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, and collecting stable isotope water samples for Princeton University, and nutrient samples for the University of Maine.

Styrofoam mannequin head decorated by Prout High School Oceanography students. Photo by Jerry Prezioso, NOAA

Styrofoam mannequin head decorated by Prout High School oceanography students. Photo by Jerry Prezioso, NOAA

We have an observer from the Canadian Wildlife Service to monitor seabirds along our route, and we are testing a turtle tracking tag for the Protected Species Branch by submerging it on our Niskin bottle rosette.  Also on the rosette is a styrofoam mannequin head, creatively decorated by oceanography students from Prout High School in Narragansett, RI to demonstrate the effects of water pressure compressing it at depth.

 Styrofoam mannequin head in yellow mesh bag mounted under the Niskin bottle array. Photo by Jerry Prezioso, NOAA

Styrofoam mannequin head in yellow mesh bag mounted under the Niskin bottle array. Photo by Jerry Prezioso, NOAA

Plankton catches have been light, with many stations having salps in them, and one station near the shelf edge off the coast of Virginia had a large number of fish eggs in it.  Our seabird observer, Jeannine Winkel, has recorded greater shearwaters and a flock of pelicans along the southern portion of our route.  She also spotted a couple of sea turtles, possibly loggerheads and a pod of spinner dolphins.

Our weather is currently warm and sunny, with light winds and fairly calm seas so we are working our way to the outer shelf off the coast of New Jersey  prior to moving on to the southern New England area of our survey.

Jerry Prezioso   chief scientist for the Fall Ecosystem Monitoring
Survey, GU 1506.

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