ARMADA logo ARMADA Project -- Research and Mentoring Experiences for Teachers National Science Foundation logo


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 6

What is the weather like?
Today (Wednesday) the sky was clear with a few clouds, but it was extremely windy. The mammal observers are off effort today because the winds caused 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. Tomorrow the weather forecast is for gale force winds. We may be in for some rough sailing!

Would you do this adventure again?
Definitely! This has been an amazing voyage! As a science teacher, I enjoyed learning about the animals and how marine mammal studies are conducted. As a nature lover, it is cool to see all of the different species of cetaceans in the wild.

Did you catch any fish?
Today I almost caught an albacore tuna. It had to weigh about 15 pounds! We were not using fishing rods; we were trolling off the ship's stern. So basically, we toss lines off the back of the ship and wait for the fish to strike them. My line had a hit, so I pulled the line (with help from a crew member) until the fish was up against the ship. Right when we were about to pull him on board, it slipped off the hook and got away. The crew and some of the scientists fish on a daily basis. Today, someone caught a 40 pound albacore. They have caught over fifty the entire trip. Many times, the fish are prepared the same day. Fresh albacore tuna is delicious!

What are some of the tests you ran?
All the scientists are collecting data of some sort. My August 25, 2005 journal entry talks about the sampling being done by the oceanographers (CTD, bongo nets, sonobuoys, and hydrophones).

What type of ship are you on?
The David Starr Jordan is a NOAA fisheries ship. It is a class 4 ship, and the class is determined by the ship's size, the horsepower of the engines, and the number of officers needed. The Jordan is 170 feet long and 35 feet wide. Two 534 horsepower engines power the ship. There are four officers on board.

What kind of food did you eat on the ship?
There are two cooks on board. The meals have been great. We eat three meals a day. Breakfast can be ordered from a menu, or we can eat cereal, bagels, toast, etc. Lunch and dinner are set up buffet style. There are usually two entrees to choose from each meal. There is also plenty to eat in between meals (salads, snacks, ice cream, etc.). One day we had lobster tail for dinner! Another night we had a BBQ on the aft deck. We definitely don't go hungry!

How many people are on the trip with you?
There are 30 people on board: 13 scientists (counting me) and 17 crew members.

What animals did you see?
Dolphins: short-beaked common dolphins, Risso's dolphins, striped dolphins
Whales: killer whales, blue whales, humpback whales, fin whales, sperm whales, beaked whales
Porpoises: Dall's porpoises, harbor porpoises
Pinnipeds: Sea lions
I think I named them all! Go to the CSCAPE website and read the weekly reports for this leg.

Has everything been going as planned?
The scientists are pleased with the number of sightings and the data they have collected. The bad weather days are disappointing, however, they are to be expected when working at sea.

Is this your first time on a ship like this?
This is my first time on a scientific research vessel. One of my hobbies is scuba diving, so I have spent many days at sea, but that usually did not involve sleeping at sea. However about twenty years ago, I went on a 10-day pleasure cruise in the Caribbean, but this is much different.

Did you personally discover anything?
I discovered a great deal about this ecosystem and the organisms that inhabit it. I am very fortunate to be working alongside scientists in the field.

Are there any icebergs?
Definitely not here in the study area, and I think the only icebergs to be found in the Pacific Ocean are up in Alaska near areas where glaciers flow into the sea.

What kinds of whales did you seen?
killer whales, blue whales, humpback whales, fin whales, sperm whales, beaked whales;
Blue whales are the largest animals on the Earth!

What is the purpose of this research?
This CSCAPE project has three main objectives. The primary objective is to find out what cetaceans are off the west coast and how many of them are there. See my journal entry for September 4th or check our CSCAPE's website for more details.

Have you seen any frogs or beavers?
As they are fresh water species, it is not likely I will encounter them on this study!

How big is the ship?
170 feet long

How did you get picked for this research?
I had to apply to the University of Rhode Island's ARMADA Project. This program matches teachers with scientists, so teachers learn how scientists work in the field. The application process required me to answer questions and write several essays. I also had to send in my resume. It may have helped that I have done other scientific expeditions, but I don't know for sure exactly why I got selected. I am just very thankful that I was chosen!

Have you seen any animals you've never seen before?
Most of the whales I am seeing is for the first time. On this expedition, I have seen humpback whales, killer whales blue whales, fin whales, sperm whales, Baird's beaked whale, and three or four species of dolphins. We have also seen a giant squid (about 7-8 feet in length), a Mola mola (sunfish), albacore tuna (while fishing), a thresher shark and trillions of Velella velella (a really cool looking jellyfish).

Have you been on any other expeditions?
Yes, I have been on a few scientific expeditions. I have studied caterpillars in Costa Rica, forest birds in Ecuador in South America, and moose and wolves on Isle Royale in Lake Superior. I look forward to doing many more research trips. I enjoy learning about science and then teaching it to you!