Funded by the NOAA Educational Partnership Program with Minority-Serving Institutions Cooperative Agreement Award #NA16SEC4810009

Daryin Medley

The survey had three components: visual observations, passive acoustic monitoring, and oceanographic sampling. The primary goal is to obtain abundance, density, and g(0) estimates for marine mammals. We ran a double platform, with two independent visual survey teams reporting to one data recorder. One platform was on the flying bridge, the other was on the anti-roll tank deck, which is just forward and 3 ft lower than the bridge deck. When high priority species were sighted, we obtained photo-ID photos and potentially attempt to collect biopsy samples as well.

For the passive acoustic component, which was one of my main responsibilities, we deployed sonobuoys to acoustically monitor for marine mammals. Most of the time we just collected data and recorded whatever species we could detect. However, when a North Pacific right whale was detected, we broke from survey and attempted to locate the animal (depending on how far it is, how often it's calling, etc). The NPRW was the highest priority species during the cruise. We also retrieved and deployed one long-term bottom mounted acoustic mooring near Barnabus Trough. Seeing NPRW are extremely rare and I had the honor of seeing four. Majority of the scientist and crew had never laid eyes on one and most of them have been working in that area for decades. Hearing the right whales was surreal for me. My mentor prepped me for what the whales sounded like and after weeks of not hearing them it was relieving to finally hear them when I did. They have a unique call, called a gunshot and it has that name because it literally sounds like a gunshot. It’s very loud and distinct and followed by a series of pulses. Even though I wasn’t on acoustics when we discovered the first right whales it was extremely cool to be trusted to record and visually document the surfacing of the whales for the NOAA PR team to use in their press release. I truly enjoyed getting as close as I did to the whales. It was a once in a life-time experience. My favorite part about acoustics was listening to the Orca’s speak. They were very entertaining and made an array of different calls especially after a meal, sometimes they got so excited they breached the water. I gained a deeper appreciation from listening to them and seeing them up close and personal.

Finally, every evening after visual ops were done, we conducted a CTD cast. Which was another one of my responsibilities. We casted a CTD every night at the depths of 0, 25, 50, 100, 250, 500, 1000, and max depth. This was the oceanography of portion of my NERTO. I learned a lot about the purpose of conducting CTDs. I learned how to identify if there was anything off with the CTDs we conducted. One cool thing we did was draw on cups, put them in a bag, and attach them to the CTD machine. We then sent the cups down to max depths and when they returned the cups were crushed from the pressure of the ocean.