Friday, September 26, 2014

Whalenet update - resources available and FACEBOOK!

Hi Sea Fans!  

I thought I should just quickly share this with you seeing as I visited Michael a while ago whilst on my world travel adventure:  

"WhaleNet now has a Facebook page.

Join us and access educational resources using actual satellite tracking research data.



Build a Life-sized Whale:

Satellite tracking Data:

We will have a live satellite tag on a marine animal soon.  Stop in Often.

Michael Williamson

Go and have a look.
Have a great weekend Sea Fans!

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Wednesday, September 17, 2014


Hi Sea Fans!

Now if you thought I was having fun before, just wait, there's more...with Mr and Mrs Fish (!  Yup, that's what they are called at Fish Camp on the campus of Southern Maine Community College in South Portland, Maine.

The Fish campers and I got on really well and HAD A BALL using costumes to show life as it is in the sea! I taught about clams, tide pool life and fish characteristics and the kids became the lessons.  Sounds odd? Well, have a look...

Outside of the classroom, I joined in the “Tests of Strength, Courage and Wisdom”  climbing the wall,

using a parachute to become a jellyfish,
and joking with the Fish Campers as they prepared for exciting challenge activities.

Come rain or shine, nothing stopped us having fun!  When it rained, I became the caller for a tropical ocean bingo style game called Mango.  
AND...I'm proud to say, I was one of the judges for the crazy hat and t-shirt contest. 

The campers thought I was a bit mad when I made friends with “Big Orange” the Fish Camp mascot and demonstrated how a cleaner wrasse contributes to dental hygiene in other fish. 

 An guess what?!  I was voted “Honorary Staff” of Fish Camp!!! 
The staff and my friends at Fish Camp.
So that was my awesome visit with Mr and Mrs Fish.  I hope I get to see them again.

Best Fishes Sea Fans!
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Monday, September 15, 2014

From fish surveys to the DUOY educator workshop!

Hi Sea Fans!

My Texan adventures continue...

I got to attend the annual "Down Under, Out Yonder" (DUOY) educator workshop and scuba field experience at Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary (FGBNMS).  Participants learned about coral reefs (including reef fish ID) and how to teach about them in the classroom.   Everyone had fun because this involves lectures AND some fun activities that help everyone remember what they are taught (always handy!)  :) 

I helped Geri Kizior, one of the teachers, turn her hand into a coral polyp.  I also helped her keep a journal of all the activities that were going on during the workshop.
Building coral colony shapes out of Lego bricks with teachers Nancy Smith and Sheila Suarez.  (The bumps on top of each brick look like coral polyps sticking out from their skeletons).
More information about the DUOY workshop is available at

All FGBNMS educational activities are available as free downloads from the website at for those mommy's and teachers out there who may be interested
The DUOY workshop wasn't only on land though! On one of the evenings, everyone from the workshop boarded a live-aboard dive boat to head out to Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary for some diving. The sanctuary is over 100 miles from shore and it
takes 7-8 hours to get there, so everyone slept on the trip out to feel rested for the fun ahead. 

When we woke up in the morning we had arrived at the sanctuary and it was time to dive. 
I was ready to dive, but they didn't bring dive gear small enough for me!
Seas were quite calm and visibility was good, so we got some fantastic views of the reef and its inhabitants. Participants also conducted fish surveys as part of their training which gave them an appreciation for the difficulties of working underwater. 
I helped Kelly record her fish count data.  When added to the other participants' data, the total over 3 days added up to 107 different species spotted!
The nice thing is that they can continue doing this type of citizen science (google this, it means that everyone can get involved and help the scientists!!!) on their own after the workshop.

More information on the fish survey program from REEF is available at

In between dives we got to have some fun spotting wildlife and saw 7 whale sharks feeding near the surface!!!
Hard at work : )
And at the end, even teachers have to take tests!
Final fish ID test for teacher Amy Bujacz.
So a little bit of sunburn and a lot of fun later, I'm off to my next host...where will it be?

Have a great week Sea Fans!
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PS. All NOAA images credited to NOAA Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Cowboy hats and fish surveys for me!

Hi Sea Fans!

In Texas, on my time off I got to wear cowboy hats and when I was "working" I got to wear a life jacket, immersion suit or sunglasses...ha ha ha ha!

While I visited Kelly, I got to take part in a research trip to Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary. 

I helped Captain Mike pilot R/V MANTA during dive operations at Stetson Bank.
This trip was specifically to collect long-term monitoring data at Stetson Bank. Both researchers and volunteer science divers from Texas A&M University Galveston took part in this trip to collect images and conduct fish and benthic (bottom of the sea) surveys.
Me enjoying the view! (The water in the sanctuary is so much clearer than the muddy coastal water of Galveston.  This is because there are different current patterns in the Gulf of Mexico and because of the sediment load (sandy deposits) from nearshore rivers).
Here are some pics from our trip to show you what the scientists get up to:
"Helping" (more like supervising or just checking things out while others work :)) one of the science divers from the university enter data from his dive surveys into the computer on board R/V MANTA.
Identifying sharks that were spotted on the dive.
Man I love this!  For more information about Stetson Monitoring, go to

Have a great weekend Sea Fans!
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PS. All NOAA images credited to NOAA Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Some more of Texas...

Hi Sea Fans!

I'm still in the land of everything that's BIG and I'm getting to do such cool stuff!!  After visiting OLE and seeing the Oregon II, I visited Kenny Guindon at Katie's Seafood Market in Galveston as his crew offloaded their most recent catch.  Agent Clark talked to them about their trip and sea conditions.
Me with Captain Kenny Guindon.

("Kenny Guindon captains the fishing vessel/boat Falcon from his homeport in Galveston, Texas. As a second-generation fisherman, Guindon has been associated with commercial fishing since 1983 as a commercial fisherman, commercial fishing vessel captain, and Manager of Katie’s Seafood Market in Galveston. He has been the captain of a commercial longline and bandit fishing vessel in the Gulf of Mexico for the past six years".)

Katie's Seafood Market takes part in the Gulf Wild program ( that allows the tracking of responsibly-caught and safety tested seafood back to the fishermen who bring it in.  It's quite an amazing system: their uniquely numbered gill tag on every Gulf Wild fish tracks everything: who harvested the fish; where it comes from in the Gulf; and even at which port the fish was landed!  In South Africa we have MSC (Marine Stewardship Council) labels which are similar so if you're a South African wanting to know more and wanting to be able to make a difference, have a look at

From the seafood market to the classroom...

I helped Kelly Drinnen (my host in Texas and sanctuary outreach specialist) teach a class on reef monitoring for a group of high school students taking part in a Sea Camp program through Texas A&M University at Galveston. 
Examining a series of photos from 2002-2011 from one specific spot at Stetson Bank (in the sanctuary).
Part of the Long-Term Monitoring program at Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary includes taking photos at the same locations year after year, then comparing the images over time to identify any changes taking place in the habitat. 
Me helping Kelly Drinnen demonstrate how a
T-frame is used to help steady the camera and make sure we take the same picture in the same orientation (position/angle) at the same location (place) every year.

More information on their Long-Term Monitoring program in the sanctuary is available at

and if you'd like a downloadable copy of the Reef Monitoring Lesson, it's available at

Hmmm...what fun!  Anyone for some reef research?  Marine biology covers so much!!!

Anyway, I must get going.  Have a great week (end of week) Sea Fans and chat soon!
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PS. All NOAA images credited to NOAA Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary

Tuesday, September 9, 2014


Hey Sea Fans!

Yup, I've also been in the state where everything is BIGGER...TEXAS!!!!!  I was lucky enough to be invited to visit the Galveston Lab of NOAA (National Oceanographic ad Atmospheric Administration).  If you want to know more about them, go to:

While I was there, I took part in NOAA Observer Training with the NOAA Fisheries staff. 
Inflatable PFD’s (personal flotation device) are an important part of safety.  Making
sure that the hydrostat or soluble pill is in proper working order 
before you leave land is a good idea!
NOAA Fisheries organizes fishery observers to collect catch and bycatch data from US commercial fishing and processing vessels.  The full Observer training is 3 weeks long, but I only had a week so I got a taster of what they get up to. This included mostly safety training because the job requires a lot of time at sea.
I learned how to put an immersion suit on properly and how to look after it. An immersion suit could save your life one day so these things are VERY important to know!!

More information about the NOAA Observer program can be found at

I was also lucky enough to visit with NOAA Office of Law Enforcement (OLE) agent Matt
Clark and made some rounds with him in 
Galveston Bay
OLE works to prevent seafood fraud and illegal fishing. They also protect marine resources and their habitat and help safeguard the health of seafood consumers (you and me :)) and the livelihoods of coastal communities.

information about NOAA OLE can be found at

While checking things out around Galveston Bay, OLE visited briefly with NOAA Ship Oregon II that was docked at Pier 21 in Galveston. Oregon II is a NOAA Fisheries research vessel that operates
largely in the Gulf of Mexico and occasionally makes port in Galveston.  Built in 1967, Oregon II is the oldest research vessel in the NOAA fleet.

For those of you who'd like to know more about what goes on when the ship goes to see for a research expedition, read this:

For the moms and dads who might want to know more about the ship's design, here's a pdf:

Fascinating stuff!!  And who said that being a marine biologist meant that you just swim with dolphins all day?!?!?  How boring!

I hope you've enjoyed my travels so far Sea Fans because there's still lots more coming...including more from Texas!

Chat soon and have a great week.
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PS. All NOAA images credited to NOAA Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary