Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary
Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary
Gray's Reef Expedition 2014
Mission Information

Saturday: April 26, 2014
Log Day 7

Zaida Hager
Graduate Student/Marine Biology
College of Charleston

Zaida Hager and Samantha Martin deploy CTD.

Zaida assists Senior Survey Technican Samantha Martin to deploy a Conductivity-Temperature-Depth (CTD) from the NOAA Ship Nancy Foster.
(Photo: Jamie Morris)

I was invited to join the Gray's Reef 2014 NOAA Ship Nancy Foster expedition as a volunteer survey technician and have been on the ship since we set sail on April 20. Until the divers arrived, our main research priority was to conduct survey operations. My role in this has been to assist the survey technicians, Samantha Martin and Nick Mitchell, with their duties. Now that the divers have boarded, we also conduct fisheries acoustics surveys each day at dawn and dusk, just before or after divers conduct visual fish surveys. The visual fish surveys serve to ground-truth the acoustics data collected using survey instruments. This confirms for the surveyors the actual fish that are in the water column for comparison to what are recorded using acoustic instruments.

Observers help to keep divers safe by watching carefully while divers are underwater.

Observers help to keep divers safe by watching carefully while divers are underwater.
(Photo: Amy Rath)

Though I've spent some time at sea as an observer on a commercial fishing vessel, this is my first experience with surveying. I am very interested in learning about the technology and in understanding how to use the computer programs. I appreciate the hands-on experience I've gained through helping with the deployment of a CTD instrument that measures conductivity, temperature and density.

I have also learned a great deal while assisting with the seafloor mapping project using multibeam sonar. As the ship navigates back and forth across the sanctuary, surveyors tell the computer when to start or stop logging data as the ship reaches the beginning or end of a line and instructs the ship's navigation officers as to which line to map next. There has been much to learn about the process of planning survey lines and the data organization methods that are used on this ship. Hopefully before the expedition ends, I'll learn more about processing raw mapping data.

Divers Hampton Harbin (l) and Lauren Hesseman (r) prepare for a dive to conduct a visual survey in GRNMS.

Divers Hampton Harbin (l) and Lauren Hessemann (r) prepare for a dive to conduct a visual survey in Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary.
(Photo: Amy Rath)

In addition, I have had opportunities to join dive crews on the small boats to observe divers and help bring their gear back onto the boat after they finish their dives. I especially enjoyed being outside in the sunlight for a few hours, and it made me really jealous that I don't get to dive with them!

The expedition has been great so far and I hope to continue to volunteer with Gray's Reef on other projects. My next goal is to become a Team Ocean diver so that I'll be able to join them on dives in the future!


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