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Journals 2005/2006

Maureen Barrett
Harrington Middle School, Mt. Laurel, NJ

"Collaborative Survey of Cetaceans and the Pelagic Ecosystem (CSCAPE)"
August 21 - September 9
Journal Index:
August 21 - 22 - 23 - 24 - 25 - 26 - 27 - 28
           29 - 30 - 31/Sept 1

September 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8

Q & A: Period 1 - 2 - 3 - 6 - 8

Questions & Answers
Period 2

What is the main reason for the research?
My journal entry for 9/4/05 talks about the priorities for the CSCAPE study. There are three main objectives. Check out the entry or the CSCAPE website. However, the main objective is to survey the cetaceans off the US west coast.

Have you seen any sharks?
I have only seen a couple of sharks. One was a thresher shark, about 5-6 feet long. I heard there was a ten foot shark off the stern yesterday morning, but I missed it!

How big is the ship, what is it like?
The David Starr Jordan is 170 feet long. There are five main decks on the ship. I spend a lot of time on the 'flying bridge' which is where we do all of the marine mammal observations. I also watch the animals from the bow of the ship, especially when there are dolphins riding the bow!

How do you study the animals, what are the procedures?
Great questions. I have to refer you to my journal entry dated August 22, 2005. I explain the procedures that must be followed in order for the data to be counted. Procedures are extremely important for all experiments, and must be followed to the 't'.

How are you able to get close enough to the mammals to do biopsy sampling?
Believe it or not, sometimes the officer on the bridge can maneuver the ship right next to the whales! But sometimes, a small boat is launched from the ship. The small boat can move faster than the ship, so it is easier to catch up to the whales. I went on the small boat my third day out at sea. It was so much fun! We got so close to Baird's beaked whales it felt like we were on top of them! There were five people in the small boat including me. Three were scientists getting photos and biopsies. The other person was driving the boat.
Getting biopsies of the dolphins is pretty easy because the dolphins love to ride the bow of the ship. My August 23rd entry talks about the biopsy sampling.

What is the weather like there?
Today the sky is clear with a few clouds, but it is extremely windy. The mammal observers are off effort today because the winds are causing high seas. We are rocking and rolling as I type this email! Most of my journals talk about the weather conditions for that day. We have had about five bad weather days, but not because of rain; bad in terms of high seas. When the winds are strong, it forms whitecaps on the ocean. It is very hard to watch for cetaceans when the ocean is covered with whitecaps.

Are you having fun?
Definitely! I am a nature lover, so seeing all of these marine mammals is fantastic! Plus, everyone on board is great.

What does NOAA mean?
NOAA is a governmental organization. It stands for National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. I think there are five divisions of NOAA. This project is with the fisheries division. There is actually a NOAA weather bureau near the Burlington County Library.

How long have you been waiting to go on this trip?
I found out I was selected for the ARMADA Project in June. I have been waiting ever since!

Why are you researching these animals?
The objectives for CSCAPE are posted on their website, and I also wrote about them in my journal entry for September 4, 2005. Check them out. However, the main objective is to survey cetaceans off the US west coast.

What tools and instruments are on the boat?
The mammal observers use what are called 'big eyes' to find the cetaceans. They are huge 25 power binoculars mounted on the flying bridge of the ship. (See August 22, 2005) The oceanographers use much more in terms of equipment and instruments. I wrote about their tools on August 25th. In terms of the instruments required for the officers to sail the ship, see my entry for August 26th when I talk about the bridge and the instruments used for navigation.

Are you researching any mammal more than another?
Not really. All of the marine mammals are of interest to the team of scientists. However, there is a higher priority to photograph blue whales, humpback whales, and killer whales.

What does the pelagic ecosystem include?
Ecosystem is actually a vocabulary word in your text. Look that term up in the science book. 'Pelagic' basically refers to the upper layers of the open ocean. So put the two words together for your working definition. This ecosystem includes all of the organisms in this area (plankton, whales, fish).

How did you decide to go on this experiment?
I applied for the ARMADA Project through the University of Rhode Island. This project matches teachers with scientific expeditions. I have done quite a few scientific trips, and I really enjoyed all of them. The expeditions give me the opportunity to be the student and learn more about data collection and data analysis.

What are the National Marine Sanctuary boundaries?
The National Marine Sanctuary near San Francisco includes a buffer zone around the Farallone Islands. I am not exactly sure exactly how the boundaries are set. The sanctuary areas restrict certain or all types of fishing in order to protect certain fish species.

What is it like to study with the ARMADA project?
I am so fortunate to be a part of the ARMADA Project! This project is through the Univ. of Rhode Island. Thirteen teachers were selected this year to participate in scientific studies. I was lucky to be sent on this CSCAPE expedition because I love the ocean and all the life in it.