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Archive for R/V Oceanus

By Tracy Crews

On the OceanusThe R/V Oceanus is a 177-foot research vessel owned by the National Science Foundation and run by Oregon State University. She can carry a crew of 24 which consists of 11 crew members of the ship and 13 members of the science party. The science party on the recent STEM research cruise was composed of two high school students, three high school teachers, two community college students, two graduate students, and four OSU researchers. Most of these cruise participants were complete strangers to one another prior to boarding the ship.

What is it like to be part of a science party at sea?

Analyzing samplesAlthough we are at sea to conduct marine science, each cruise is a social science experiment in and of itself. When a group of individuals with diverse backgrounds are living and working together in a confined space, they quickly learn how to get along and what skill sets each bring to the table. During this cruise, it was amazing to see how quickly friendships formed, how everyone encouraged and supported one another, and how the team functioned like a well-oiled machine to deploy and retrieve equipment, collect data, and troubleshoot problems.

preparing the droneBelow are a few thoughts about the relationships formed on this cruise. It was written by Oregon Coast Community College student Jason Miranda, a recent graduate of the Drone Academy at Career Tech High School in Lincoln City, and the official drone operator for this cruise.

Aboard the Oceanus is one trip I will never forget. The memories started when I first boarded the ship and met the people I would spend the next six days with. It was an awkward experience, meeting new people, but as time passed these people became close friends. We all worked, ate, and relaxed as a team.

 

It was an amazing experience to see all the sights I saw, like a pod of dolphins, two killer whales, countless humpbacks, and the beautiful views of downtown Portland. It would not have been the same without any of them aboard this ship. As we all started to leave I felt sad because I knew I would not be able to see many of them ever again, but I guess that’s what makes our memories together so special.

working on deckThe R/V Oceanus is back in Newport, and the teachers and students who participated in the cruise are back to their normal lives on land (although at least one participant reports that it feels like the floor is still rocking). Many thanks to all who participated and to to those who made this STEM experience possible!

 

 

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Tracy Crews is the Marine Education Program Manager for Oregon Sea Grant, the Student STEM Experiences Coordinator for the Oregon Coast STEM Hub, and the Principal Investigator for the STEM research cruise which took place last week on the R/V Oceanus.

This cruise was funded by Oregon Legislative funds with additional support from Oregon Sea Grant and Oregon State University.

 

under: R/V Oceanus, Student Experiences
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By Sara Pursel
Science Teacher at Taft High School in Lincoln City, OR

This post is part of a series about the 2018 STEM research cruise taking place this week on board the R/V Oceanus. Other posts in this series include a report from PI Tracy Crews on Day One and Day Three, and a post from high school student Alishia Keller from Day Two.

Drone footage captures data about whales

Wednesday was our fourth and final day conducting the research portion of the Oceanus STEM cruise. We began in the morning off the coast of Washington, surveying for marine mammals as both the wind and weather were cooperating for visibility. The goal of the day was to get additional drone footage of the Humpback whales as they surfaced. Fairly early in the day we encountered a group of at least five individual whales and were able to successfully complete two drone flights to obtain footage of the animals. Our drone operator recently graduated from the Drone Academy at Career Tech High School with his pilot’s license and has been collaborating with the chief scientist onboard, Dr. Leigh Torres, to capture overflight video of whale for photogrammetry analysis, which helps assess body condition or overall health.

During one early whale sighting, we also had a solitary sea lion and a sea turtle right in front of the bow of the ship. The sea bird activity picked up as well, demonstrating how cold Pacific Northwest waters provide a favorable habitat for many types of marine animals.

Before lunch we conducted another plankton tow in order to obtain some samples to help with the education outreach effort that will be happening once we dock in Portland. While we didn’t catch as much in volume compared with the night tows, one of the students on board did attach a camera to view the organisms entering the tow net. The tow brought up a jelly with a bell size of approximately 18 cm (7 inches) in diameter as well as more krill, copepods (tiny crustaceans), a ctenophore (comb jelly), amphipods (more tiny crustaceans), a siphonophore (also related to jellies), and several other species. The video footage of the tow captured the jelly, ctenophore, and many other interesting images, including the flow meter stopping and starting as the ship moved over the ocean swells.

Sampling planktonAs we made our way south towards Oregon waters, three Orcas (killer whales) crossed our path and we diverted our trip to observe the animals for a while. I was working on this blog post when the boat stopped suddenly and several of us raced outside after putting on our PFDs (personal flotation devices – safety first) to get a glimpse of the animals. The head marine mammal researcher identified one adult male and hypothesized the other two were possibly juvenile males given their size. Most of the rest of the day was spent cleaning up, sharing files of data, pictures, and videos, and preparing for the next two days in Portland.

Marine education has been a passion of mine since I was a kid, and this experience has given me a new perspective and appreciation of what researchers do to gather data. While on the ship I have been sharing brief stories and a few pictures and videos with my students back home and have had a chance to answer some of their questions regarding equipment and marine life. I’ve learned so much on this research cruise that I can share with my students for years to come, and I will be able to connect them with researchers and opportunities in the future thanks to my time here.

Orcas

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Sara Pursel teaches science at Lincoln County School District’s Taft High School in Lincoln City, Oregon. She holds a Bachelors of Science degree in Biology with Chemistry minor, and a Masters of Education degree. In addition to joining this STEM research cruise, Sara has participated Oregon Coast STEM Hub professional development trainings and has checked out materials from the STEM Hub resource trailer.

under: Professional Development, R/V Oceanus
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By Tracy Crews

This post is part of a series about the 2018 STEM research cruise taking place this week on board the R/V Oceanus. Other posts in this series include Tracy’s report from Day One, and a post from high school student Alishia Keller from Day Two.

Pacific white-sided dolphins

Pacific white-sided dolphins

We started out our research cruise off the Oregon Coast, but as the wind increased down south impacting visibility, we tried our best to outrun it by heading north, into the waters off of Washington. We started out the day over Gray’s Canyon, surrounded by thick fog, wondering if we had traded one weather problem for another. But as the sun rose higher in the sky it burned off the fog and we were able to resume our survey tracks, zig-zagging back and forth from the shallower edge of the canyon, through the deeper water, then back to the other side again. Our quest today was to find those large, elusive whales known to prefer deep water, like sperm whales, beaked whales, and blues.

It wasn’t long before we saw a large pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins, estimated to be 230 in number by our two marine mammal researchers. Soon the dolphins surrounded the boat, darting out of wave crests, performing acrobatics and dancing in the wake of the vessel. The speed and agility they displayed was truly astounding. But as much as we enjoyed their antics, it was time to resume our search for their larger relatives.

Sperm whale fluke

Soon thereafter, as we made our way into deeper water, a solitary sperm whale was spotted. Everyone was excited to see such a rare sight but it wouldn’t last for long. Immortalized in books like Moby Dick, these large, toothed whales are impressive divers and once submerged can stay down for 45 minutes or more. Unsure when or where it would resurface, we continued along our survey transect.

As we moved back into shallower waters, we began to see more of the humpback whales that we have become so familiar with over the last few days. Most were traveling in small, close-knit groups, synchronized as they moved through the water. Others could be seen diving together then “logging” at the surface, floating to conserve energy and recover before diving once again.

deploying CTD

More oceanographic surveying

As the day wound down and wind picked up, we shifted gears to conduct some more CTDs (oceanographic surveys) and decided to conduct another nighttime plankton tow to compare to what was caught the previous night in the Astoria Canyon, off the Columbia River. As we gathered outside on the back deck to watch the sun sink below the horizon, one of the teachers pulled out his guitar and harmonica and we were presented with one last amazing gift, something mariners often wait a lifetime to see- a green flash.

Sunset Day Three

Waiting for the green flash

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Tracy Crews is the Marine Education Program Manager for Oregon Sea Grant, the Student STEM Experiences Coordinator for the Oregon Coast STEM Hub, and the Principal Investigator for the STEM research cruise taking place this week on the R/V Oceanus.

This cruise is funded by Oregon Legislative funds with additional support from Oregon Sea Grant and Oregon State University. Track the R/V Oceanus at marinetraffic.com, and see more photos of this expedition on the Oregon Coast STEM Hub Facebook page.

 

 

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By Alishia Keller
Bandon High School ’19

This post is part of a series about the 2018 STEM research cruise taking place this week on board the R/V Oceanus. For an introduction to the cruise, read yesterday’s post by the cruise’s Principal Investigator Tracy Crews. Today’s post is from a student’s perspective:

humpback whale flukeToday was the first full day at sea. Though much of the group spent yesterday in their bunks with seasickness, they all were present for today’s activities.

We woke and gathered in the dining area for breakfast before heading up to the flying bridge to observe marine mammals. There were patches of bait balls (groups of small fish) followed by flocks of gulls. Though we saw a few individual humpback whales, they were typically seen in pods of three or four.

making marine mammal observations from the ship's deckDuring our whale observations, we witnessed a whale lunge feeding. This is when a whale lunges out of the water, exposing its enlarged buccal cavity which expands like an accordion to accommodate a large amount of water and the krill on which it feeds.

Seeing consistent whale activity led us to deploy the CTD to collect oceanographic data, and a plankton tow to observe the abundance of food available.  Afterwards, we continued to observe the humpback whales. Though we saw many whales, not many flukes were visible, which made it difficult to photograph and identify the individual whales.

getting ready to deploy the CTD with styrofoam cups attached

Styrofoam cups ready for deployment

Right before lunch we gave up due to increasing winds which made observations difficult, so we headed North to Astoria Canyon off the Columbia River to conduct a series of CTDs. During the deepest deployment, we attached bags of Styrofoam cups decorated by our group, as well as students from some of their classrooms. The cups were sent to over 700 meters depth causing them to shrink to half their original size due to the high pressure.

styrofoam cups after their trip to the deep ocean

Styrofoam cups after their trip to the deep ocean

After recovering the CTD and cups, our group gathered to eat ice cream and enjoy the magnificent sunset in the West, mirrored by the full red moon to the East. Our last research effort for the night was another plankton tow which yielded more krill, lantern fish, a baby octopus, and many other cool critters.

full moon at sunset

Ice cream on deck

sunset

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Alishia Keller is a senior at Bandon High School in Coos County, Oregon. After high school she plans to go to college to study ecology and sustainability.

under: R/V Oceanus, Student Experiences
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By Tracy Crews

Surveying the horizon for marine mammals and seabirds

Surveying the horizon for marine mammals and seabirds

This weekend, a science party of 13 researchers, students, and teachers gathered aboard Oregon State University’s research vessel, the Oceanus, to begin a four-day research cruise aimed at providing mentoring and career connections at sea. The team mission is to conduct marine mammal and sea bird surveys and correlate sightings with oceanographic data and prey distribution. Participants in this cruise include high school teachers and students from Bandon High School, Taft High School in Lincoln City, and Warrenton High School, as well as college students from Southwestern Oregon Community College, Oregon Coast Community College and Oregon State University.

Deploying the CTD

Deploying the CTD

While adapting to life at sea, these teachers and students are learning to handle lines and deploy oceanographic equipment, how to identify marine mammals, seabirds, and plankton. They aren’t just observers but active participants in the science party, operating critical equipment, including hydraulics and data collection systems.

The first day we experienced sunshine and many successes.  Participants mastered their seasickness, and went on to deploy and retrieve plankton nets and CTDs. The abundance and types of plankton (small floating plants and animals) captured in the fine-mesh nets, and the physical parameters of conductivity (salinity), temperature, and depth measured by the CTDs will help researchers characterize the water column.

In addition, we surveyed over a dozen humpback whales and numerous porpoises, and used a drone to capture video footage of a humpback whale from above. The video data will help researchers from OSU’s Marine Mammal Institute assess the whale’s body condition, an indicator of overall health.

Life on the water is often exhausting, and after a 14 hour day, we are all ready for some much needed sleep. Laying in our bunks as we are rocked to sleep, we dream of what tomorrow will bring.

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Tracy Crews is the Marine Education Program Manager for Oregon Sea Grant, the Student STEM Experiences Coordinator for the Oregon Coast STEM Hub, and the Principal Investigator for the STEM research cruise taking place this week on the R/V Oceanus.

This cruise is funded by Oregon Legislative funds with additional support from Oregon Sea Grant and Oregon State University. Track the R/V Oceanus at marinetraffic.com, and see more photos of this expedition on the Oregon Coast STEM Hub Facebook page.

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Day Three on the R/V Oceanus

Posted by: | September 16, 2016 | No Comment |

By Tracy Crews14322520_10154620897918825_6368728729391639749_n

Internet access from the R/V Oceanus has been inconsistent, but education PI Tracy Crews has been able to send in some photos and observations via social media. Here are some of her observations, sprinkled with links to other blogs from other participants:

Our last day out at sea started with deploying the CTD in the Astoria Canyon in the dark. Our marine mammal surveys got off to a slow start but we were seeing a lot of jellyfish, juvenile sunfish, seabirds, and even some tuna. All of a sudden on the horizon emerged a large pod of Pacific white-sided Dolphins (40+) that started riding the bow of the research vessel. Before they had even departed, a large pod (30+) of finless Northern right whale Dolphins joined them. What a sight to behold!

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14292445_10154620897908825_1829467431939711403_n 14370105_10154621326008825_7513331746840510529_nThe researchers from OSU’s Marine Mammal Institute estimated that we saw over 400 Pacific white-sided dolphins and Northern right whale dolphins today in addition to the numerous humpback whales we encountered. Another amazing day out at sea with Oregon coastal teachers and students!

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What an amazing cruise it has been! Everyone soaked up the sun on the flying bridge as we made our way into the Columbia River where we dropped off our chief scientist and OSU graduate students before making our way to Portland where we will engage in two days of outreach activities. Our captain used a small boat to shuttle the researchers into Astoria so they can return to work tomorrow. Getting the science party and all their gear off the ship proved to be quite an ordeal involving a crane, step ladder, rope ladder and half the ship’s crew! We were sad to see them go and just a little jealous of their ride in the red rocket. We are grateful to them all for generously giving their time to share their knowledge and passion with us.

To learn more about these amazing researchers, read Ms. Almasi’s blog post “Spotlight on the Scientists

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We experienced a gorgeous evening steaming up the Columbia River towards Portland on the R/V Oceanus!

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under: Careers, Professional Development, R/V Oceanus, Student Experiences
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Day Two on the R/V Oceanus

Posted by: | September 16, 2016 | No Comment |

By Tracy Crews

cupsInternet access from the R/V Oceanus has been inconsistent, but education PI Tracy Crews has been able to send in some photos and observations via social media. Here are some of her observations, sprinkled with links to other blogs from other participants:

Day Two of our oceanographic cruise started with us once again surrounded by humpback whales feeding. In addition we have seen more seal lions and flocks of seabirds including some black footed albatross. Our teachers and students continue to shine as they deployed and retrieved another CTD (to measure Conductivity, Temperature and Depth) and collected and entered survey data into the computer on the fly bridge. Unfortunately, the weather turned overcast and chilly today forcing us all to bundle up.

Visit the GEMM lab blog to find out more about the marine mammals and birds encountered on Day Two.

Students and teachers have spent some of their downtime on the R/V Oceanus decorating styrofoam cups to send down to the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. Here are a couple of photos of the process.

decorating cups

Decorating the cups

attaching cups

The decorated cups were attached to the CTD that was about to be deployed.

Read Ms. Almasi’s blog about the science behind the styrofoam cup experiment

 

cups and scope

We used two sizes of cups. This photo shows the difference in size before (center) and after (sides) the cups were sent to the deep ocean.

Torres with cups

Dr. Leigh Torres shows what the bag of cups looked like when they returned to the surface

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The styrofoam cups made it back from their journey to deep, 1400 meters to the sea floor attached to the CTD.

The sunset was a glorious ending to a great day. Although we didn’t see as many whales today as yesterday, we did see numerous humpbacks, a couple of fin whales, some Dalls porpoises, and some Pacific white-sided dolphins, as well as some sea lions, albatross, and ocean sunfish (mola-mola). We have left the waters off Heceta Head and will be making our way towards Astoria Canyon overnight. Sweet dreams to everyone aboard and on land!

sunset from ship

sunset


Tracy Crews is the PI for the “Shipboard Experiences on the R/V Oceanus” research cruise, the Marine Education Manager for Oregon Sea Grant at Hatfield Marine Science Center, and the STEM Programs Coordinator for the Oregon Coast STEM Hub.

 

under: Careers, Professional Development, R/V Oceanus, Student Experiences
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Day One on the R/V Oceanus

Posted by: | September 15, 2016 | No Comment |

By Tracy Crews

Huge pod of humpback whales put on quite a show for us lunge feeding and breaching. What a great way to end our first day at sea.

A huge group of humpback whales put on quite a show for us lunge feeding and breaching. What a great way to end our first day at sea!

What was Day One on the R/V Oceanus like for the students, teachers, and researchers on board?

Knot tying, safety at sea, deploying and retrieving scientific instruments, interpreting data, conducting effort surveys, and photo identification of whales….

…these are just a few things that teachers and students on board OSU’s research vessel Oceanus put into practice yesterday on the first day of a three day research cruise off the Oregon coast. Before even leaving the dock, participants started their training, learning about shipboard technology and donning survival suits during safety drills. Crossing the bar, we spotted the first marine mammals of the day: a few gray whales and California sea lions. During this cruise, teachers and students will get an in depth look at how researchers identify, track, and study marine mammals in Oregon waters and beyond, and how baththymetry and oceanographic conditions influence the distribution of these animals.

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A humpback whale blows at the surface.

As the first day of the cruise progressed and we passed over Stonewall Bank, we spotted a small pod of humpback whales. As we transmitted south, we also encountered a pod of orcas. The grande finale of the day came early sunset when a large group of humpback whales (approximately 50) was spotted near Heceta Bank. They were lunge feeding, opening their huge mouths and taking in water and, presumably, lots of food. A plankton tow confirmed the presence of krill, which is a favorite prey item for humpbacks.

When we came across a huge group of humpback whales, we decided to take a plankton tow and found it chocked with krill.

When we came across a huge group of humpback whales, we decided to take a plankton tow and found it chocked with krill.

With a final debriefing at 8:30 pm, teachers and students wandered off to their shared quarters excited but exhausted with a greater understanding of marine mammals and an appreciation for how hard researchers work. It was a great start to what we hope will be a successful experience for everyone!

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Hear from others on board about what they thought about the first day of the cruise:

R/V Oceanus Day One: Hungry, Hungry Humpbacks from the GEMM Lab – OSU graduate students Florence Sullivan and Amanda Holdman describe the day with some great photos of whales contributed by Chief Scientist Leigh Torres.

Of Whale Poop and Shearwaters – Waldport High School teacher describes what is was like to watch humpbacks lunge feed, and what she learned about the color of whale poop.

WEBCAM
What does it look like from the bow of the R/V Oceanus right now?  Visit the webcam here: http://webcam.oregonstate.edu/oceanus


Tracy Crews is the PI for the “Shipboard Experiences on the R/V Oceanus” research cruise, the Marine Education Manager for Oregon Sea Grant at Hatfield Marine Science Center, and the STEM Programs Coordinator for the Oregon Coast STEM Hub.

 

under: Careers, Professional Development, R/V Oceanus, Student Experiences

Three Oregon high school teachers are among the participants working on the R/V Oceanus this week.

This week, students and teachers from the Oregon Coast STEM Hub are joining Oregon State University scientists aboard the research vessel Oceanus to gain at-sea research experience. The project, “Building the STEM Pipeline through Oceangoing Research and Near-Peer Mentoring” is a collaborative effort that aims to enhance critical STEM skills among coastal learners.

Read the OSU press release

The R/V Oceanus departed this morning from Newport and is headed for Astoria and Portland. Tracy Crews gives this report of their departure:

We couldn’t have asked for better weather as we departed Newport on our cruise offshore to conduct marine mammal and seabird surveys and collect oceanographic data. My first cruise as PI (Principal Investigator), we have 3 high school teachers, 4 high school students, an undergraduate student and 3 graduate students working with our chief scientist from OSU’s Marine Mammal Institute. We got our first glimpse of marine mammals (sea lions and gray whales) crossing the bar and have successfully completed our first CTD. A few seasick folks but otherwise we are off to a fantastic start!

Through this blog and the Oregon Coast STEM Hub Facebook page, you can keep track of the vessel’s progress, the STEM activities taking place on board, and even occasionally hear from the participants themselves. The following teachers and students are on board, representing several different regions within the Oregon Coast STEM Hub:

Coast high school and undergraduate students on board the R/V Oceanus

Coast high school and undergraduate students boarded the R/V Oceanus this morning for a 3 day research cruise

  • Martha Kemple – teacher, Bandon High School
  • Matthew Perry – student, North Bend High School
  • Kama Almasi – teacher, Waldport High School
  • Etasha Golden – undergraduate OSU (Waldport HS grad)
  • Leland Wood – student, Newport High School
  • Natalie DeWitt – student, Newport High School
  • Josh Jannusch – teacher, Warrenton High School
  • Charlotte Watkins – student, Warrenton High School

Teacher Kama Almasi has a blog that she is using to connect back with her students at Waldport High School. Her first entry focuses on the colorful science of seasickness, but we hope no one will be collecting THAT kind of data on this trip!

RESEARCH
On their first day at sea, the students and teachers have been working with researchers and crew members to deploy and retrieve CTDs. These instruments collect conductivity, temperature and depth data to provide a profile of the water column.

FullSizeRender[9]FullSizeRender[11]WHERE IS THE R/V OCEANUS?
Track the R/V Oceanus on websites such as www.marinetraffic.com. Type in the vessel’s special number “7603617” into the search engine, and you can find out the ship’s location, travel pattern and other information.

Stay tuned and follow along to find out what this group will be doing next!

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The R/V Oceanus will be in Portland by September 16th, and will offer a variety of outreach activities for the public, teachers and students while the vessel is in port. For more information, read the OSU press release or contact OregonCoastSTEM@oregonstate.edu.

 

 

 

under: Careers, Professional Development, R/V Oceanus, Student Experiences
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