Northwest Fisheries Science Center

The Main Deck

Acoustic and trawl adventures in the Northeast Pacific

This portal tracks the research and sea-going activities of the Fisheries Engineering and Acoustic Technologies (FEAT) Team from NOAA¿s Northwest Fisheries Science Center.  Follow us as we use acoustics, trawling, and oceanographic sampling to learn about the Northeast Pacific Ocean.

Back deck of Bell M. Shimada
Acoustic echogram of hake
trawl catch

First time on a NOAA ship

By Ben Simpson, Sandy Parker-Stetter
January 18, 2016

Being at sea aboard the NOAA Ship Bell M. Shimada is an incredible experience for a seasoned scientist, but what is it like for someone out for the first time? Ben Simpson, a sophomore at Highline College in WA, was recruited by Dr Vera Trainer (NWFSC) to assist with Harmful Algal Bloom (HABs) sampling. I asked Ben about his experiences and first impressions. (Sandy)

First time at sea, in winter, aboard a research vessel

Chemistry lab on the NOAA Ship Bell M. Shimada, where the HABs sampling is done (Photo credit Anthony Odell, University of Washington)

When asked to describe my at-sea experience so far, several words came to mind: exhilarating, engrossing, inspiring, rewarding, validating (in reference to my studies as a Biology major, where my research experience internship is studying the domoic acid/Pseudo-nitzschia system). The chance to take a break from classes to work on a project relevant to my studies is one that not many people have so early in their schooling.

Sampling HABs down the West Coast, under the guidance of Anthony Odell (University of Washington), is my first real experience with large scale data collection. In a short seven days, I have had invaluable practice multitasking efficiently, managing changing conditions/circumstances, as well as working with a crew of intelligent and driven scientists, experience that will undoubtedly serve me well in my goals of medical school and becoming a physician.

The chemistry lab I am working in is a dream setup. I have spent the last week of night shift (1800 to 0600) listening to music and filtering water to acquire data on the residual effects of the largest harmful algal bloom we've seen in decades (during an El Niño year no less!). Small hiccups in the filtration rig have cultivated my inner MacGyver. The Shimada’s Survey Technicians are always on the ball ensuring our equipment is working at peak capacity, and their CTD piloting has been crucial to the sampling process.

I overestimated my sea legs on day 2, thinking that I no longer needed the seasickness patch I had been wearing. Unfortunately, this was a few hours prior to our night of 70 knot winds and >25’ swells – but fortunately, my body equilibrated after only one rough night, and I can honestly say I have enjoyed bouncing around on our journey to San Francisco since then. When things have slowed down, it has been great hanging out with the nighttime wet lab crew (Pete, Aaron and Nick), and I’ve gotten a couple good tours of the bridge from the junior officers Phil and Niki.

I hope that this is not the last survey I find myself aboard. If things keep going this way, I might have to reconsider med school!

Ben Simpson

Tagged: Winter hake survey

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