Monthly Archives: October 2008

Question of the Week: What do you do to protect children from environmental hazards?

Each week we ask a question related to the environment. Please let us know your thoughts as comments. Feel free to respond to earlier comments or post new ideas. Previous questions.

Many people don’t realize children can be more sensitive to environmental exposures, indoors as well as outdoors. But there are many, often simple things we can do to protect children from environmental hazards, including avoiding asthma triggers such as secondhand smoke or mold. October is Children’s Health Month.

What do you do to protect children from environmental hazards?

En español: Cada semana hacemos una pregunta relacionada al medio ambiente. Por favor comparta con nosotros sus pensamientos y comentarios. Siéntase en libertad de responder a comentarios anteriores o plantear nuevas ideas. Preguntas previas.

Muchas personas no se dan cuenta cuán más sensitivos son los niños a las exposiciones ambientales, tanto en entornos interiores como exteriores. Sin embargo, hay pasos, muchas veces sencillos, que usted puede tomar para proteger a los niños de los peligros ambientales, incluso el evitar los desencadenantes de asma como el tabaquismo pasivo o el moho. Octubre es el Mes de Salud Infantil.

¿Qué hace para proteger a los niños de los peligros medioambientales?

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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At Sea with the Bold: Golden Gateway

Two staff members, Margot Perez-Sullivan and Margaret Ford, joined nine environmental scientists and the crew of EPA’s Ocean Survey Vessel (OSV) Bold to document science and research in action. Read the blog posts by Margot Perez-Sullivan from our San Francisco office to get an in-depth look at some of what’s involved in protecting our waters.

Day 6 (9.10.08):

We all seem a little bummed that today is our last day at sea. Correction: most of us are bummed, some of the landlubbers that haven’t been feeling too great are anxious to get back on land. We should be pulling into San Francisco around 7 p.m. tonight. I think it’s going to be great to go through the Golden Gate, hopefully it won’t be too foggy and we’ll actually see the bridge.

Since the survey is over and we’re just in transit, we are going to look for marine mammals. Hopefully we’ll spot a few!

We just pulled into San Francisco! I’m sitting in my room typing, trying to avoid packing and the reality that the adventure is over.

Off the Farallon Islands we saw a humpback whale, dolphins, seals and sea lions!

photo view of Golden Gate Bridge from Bold shipGoing through the Golden Gate was amazing. We really haven’t seen the sun since we left Eureka and oddly enough, when we first spotted the Golden Gate Bridge, we actually saw that there it was sunny in San Francisco! We all went to the stern of the boat, snapping photos – everyone needs a picture of being on the boat with the Golden Gate Bridge above us! Amy’s family went to the bridge to see the ship pass through. When Captain Jere realized that someone’s family was up there, he came down, told us to plug our ears and blew the horn for them!

It’s great to be home, but I’m sad it’s over.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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At Sea with the Bold: Land Lubbers Bay-Area Bound

Two staff members, Margot Perez-Sullivan and Margaret Ford, joined nine environmental scientists and the crew of EPA’s Ocean Survey Vessel (OSV) Bold to document science and research in action. Read the blog posts by Margot Perez-Sullivan from our San Francisco office to get an in-depth look at some of what’s involved in protecting our waters.

Day 5 (9.9.08):

Since pushing off on Sunday morning, we’ve lost three scientists to seasickness at different times. Fortunately, we’re all stoked to be doing hands on work; no one has a problem covering shifts when someone doesn’t feel well. Last night’s transit was particularly hard on some folks, but [knocking on wood] I sleep like a baby on this boat and luckily I haven’t gotten sick at all. I find the rocking hypnotic, but a few others don’t share my sentiments.

We are way ahead of schedule. There were 12 CTD deployments scheduled – and four were completed last night, leaving 8 for today. My shift doesn’t start until 2 p.m, so I’ve spent most of the day wandering around the ship, talking to scientists and the crew. The seas are a bit rougher today, so walking around on the ship has been particularly challenging. Walking is more like a zigzag through the ship, and I’ve been bumping into things constantly. I walked up to the stern of the ship and watched the boat go over waves and come crashing down. The seas have been so rough that some waves were above the height of the back deck – we took a sharp turn and some waves crashed over the deck!

So far, the only marine mammals we’ve seen were at seals at the dock in Eureka. Emily, one of the deck technicians on the crew spotted a whale yesterday or the day before, so we’ve all had our eyes peeled. Oddly enough, a hummingbird was flying around so Emily and Amanda (the chief steward) brought some sugar water out for the little guy. Kim, the first mate, told us that the hummingbird flew up into the bridge and flew out.

I’m hearing that the Captain cancelled the last CTD site as the seas are too rough, so we only have 3 samples left before the survey is complete! The last sample is our deepest on this survey at about 500 meters. For this survey’s final sample we all agreed to meet outside and celebrate a successful, safe survey.

It’s about 9 p.m. and the last sample is complete. With the last sample complete, we all cheered and thanked Allan for his great work on the survey. We all met on the back deck as planned to see the CTD surface from the depths one last time. When the last CTD sample was on its way back to the surface, Tina and I went down to the back deck. On our way down, my feet slipped out from under me and I slid (or fell..) all the way down the stairs. None of the EPA folks caught it – they were hypnotized by the science, but when I looked up, two of the guys on the crew were looking right at me. They saw the entire thing. When they saw that the only thing bruised was my ego, they laughed. So embarrassing…but I’m glad Margaret didn’t get it on camera.

This has been a great team effort. Being on a ship is a bit like a family – we all work, eat and when we can, goof off together. The crew has been great to work with all around, very professional, friendly, they take the time to answer our questions and most importantly, they ensure our safety – correcting us if we forget a hard hat, life vest or anything else that that could put us in harm’s way. For me, the best part about this experience was getting my hands dirty while collecting data and getting to know people in our office that we might not otherwise meet in our daily work. This has been a fascinating experience, I’m anxious to see the results of the survey and I’d love to do it again.

Next stop: San Francisco!

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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At Sea with the Bold: Plankton Passion

Two staff members, Margot Perez-Sullivan and Margaret Ford, joined nine environmental scientists and the crew of EPA’s Ocean Survey Vessel (OSV) Bold to document science and research in action. Read the blog posts by Margot Perez-Sullivan from our San Francisco office to get an in-depth look at some of what’s involved in protecting our waters.

Day 4 (9.8.08):

This afternoon, Eugenia used her plankton sampler to take a deep water plankton sample. It’s exciting to have this kind of opportunity because Eugenia usually samples off piers. She’ll use this information to try to figure out plankton characteristics that can be tied to red tides and other bio-toxic occurrences that compromise our ability to each shell fish. VIDEO: See Eugenia sampling.

Photo of CTD instrument being deployed in the waterThe previous shift finished all the grabs, so my shift moved onto using the CTD, which stands for Conductivity, Temperature and Depth. Sieving for critters was fun yesterday, but I was excited to do something new. A CTD measures the water’s characteristics and will be used in conjunction with the other samples to determine how the HOODS site is performing and will give scientists a better idea of water quality in the area. The CTD is deployed off the side of the ship, dropped down — almost but not quite — to the ocean floor.

Photo of computer screensAs readings are taken continuously with depth, the information is displayed real time on a computer screen and saved in a computer file in the Data Acquisition Center (DAQ). Usually a scientist and a member of the tech crew monitors the data coming in to see any important features at a particular location and make sure the device is working.

Photo of CTD instrument being retrieved from the waterOur shift ended around 9:30. We were strictly on CTD sampling; this is by far the most nerve wracking process as two doors open and the CTD is deployed off the side of the ship – which leaves room for falling. I didn’t fall, but those who know me, are fully aware of my clumsiness on land. CTD samples aren’t hands-on the way sediment sampling and sieving samples are, but what’s really interesting is that we get the data on a computer in the Data Acquisition Center in real time and can be analyzed later.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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At Sea with the Bold: Sub hunting…?

Two staff members, Margot Perez-Sullivan and Margaret Ford, joined nine environmental scientists and the crew of EPA’s Ocean Survey Vessel (OSV) Bold to document science and research in action. Read the blog posts by Margot Perez-Sullivan from our San Francisco office to get an in-depth look at some of what’s involved in protecting our waters.

Day 4 (9.8.08):

First full day at sea. Got to sleep in a bit this morning, until about 8, so I missed breakfast, but lucky for me the mess deck is stocked with all kinds of good food so no one will go hungry. I’m hearing that we’re close to our last sediment grab which puts us way ahead of schedule.

Since we were so ahead of schedule, this morning, Margaret and I thought it would be great to talk to some of the crew on the boat and talk to people about life at sea.

Silouette of BoatworkerThe crew is pretty diverse with 16 men and women of all ages and backgrounds. Many of the crew got into the maritime industry because of a parent or relative. They all seem to like their jobs and are very accommodating to EPA staff. It must be strange to live on a vessel that has a different people coming and going year-round, but they don’t seem to mind and are very personable.

We started with Captain Jere. He’s an excellent captain, a real character with an eclectic background and a hard New England accent, which I love. He reminded me of why I stayed in New England for so long after college. Captain Jere told us that he used to run this exact kind of ship, it was called a T-AGOS back during the Cold War when it was used as a submarine hunter. This is a man that really knows his ship – he also told us that there used to be a “burn room” within the dry lab. Burn rooms on submarine hunters are stainless steel rooms where all the top secret documents are kept – if the ship was compromised, one of the crew dashes to the burn room, flips a switch and the entire contents of the room go up in flames while maintaining the vessel’s integrity without causing a ship-wide fire. VIDEO: See the burn room.

Photo of bunkroomWe got a chance to take a tour of the galley, commonly known as a kitchen on land. The chief steward, Amanda, is very accommodating to different dietary needs and makes us some very tasty meals. No one goes hungry on this ship!

It’s funny; boats have different names for everything. Boats don’t have ropes, they have lines. If something is secured it means it’s not working. It’s not a ramp, it’s a gangway. It’s not the cafeteria, it’s the mess deck; it’s not the kitchen, it’s the galley. It’s not the toilet, it’s the head. The bridge is where the Captain and his mates steer the boat from and where all the navigational equipment is housed. Port is left and the color is red, starboard is right and the color is green. The different colors are lit on each side respectively while the boat is at sea so that other ships can tell which direction we’re heading. ….the list goes on and on…

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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At Sea with the Bold: Tiger Sharks Attack!

Two staff members, Margot Perez-Sullivan and Margaret Ford, joined nine environmental scientists and the crew of EPA’s Ocean Survey Vessel (OSV) Bold to document science and research in action. Read the blog posts by Margot Perez-Sullivan from our San Francisco office to get an in-depth look at some of what’s involved in protecting our waters

Day 3 (9.7.08):

Just finished my shift. My hands are freezing and I’m knackered, but it was so much fun! With great interest I sieved the benthic grabs and found a tiny Dungeness crab, a shrimp and tons of worms, some of which were very colorful.

Amy is on the Periwinkles team, but she stuck around a long time to help us out. She told me what the little critters were and is so fun to work with, it’s great. The Tiger Sharks worked well together and we kept a good pace going throughout. We were lucky to get a lot of good grabs without having to take grab after grab after grab to get a good one.

photo of workers sieving through sedimentTiger Sharks managed to get 10 sediment grabs for a total of 20 samples. It’s great to have such knowledgeable people around me that can not only tell me what all these little critters but are so passionate about their work. Amy with her infinite marine biology knowledge made the sieving go by so much faster. And I learned something. Bonus!

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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At Sea with the Bold: A Big, Bold Adventure

Two staff members, Margot Perez-Sullivan and Margaret Ford, joined nine environmental scientists and the crew of EPA’s Ocean Survey Vessel (OSV) Bold to document science and research in action. Read the blog posts by Margot Perez-Sullivan from our San Francisco office to get an in-depth look at some of what’s involved in protecting our waters

Day 3 (9.7.08):

Finally, we push off. The scientists are excited to get working and I was pleased to find out that I don’t just have to sit around and watch! I’m going to get the chance to get my hands dirty with sampling, too. Our group has been divided into two work crews, the Periwinkles and the Tiger Sharks – I’m a Tiger Shark. I’ll be joining the Sharks for the 2pm – 10pm shift.

After getting underway, we did an “abandon ship” drill. I was literally just getting out of the shower, barely had time to dry off and throw clothes on! The alarm sounds 6 times and we all muster on the upper deck, life vests and survival suits in hand, a head count follows and in the event of an actual abandon ship order, we get on the life rafts and get off the boat. Of course, I forgot my life vest and survival suit – not to worry though, I did have my comb. One of the crew comes barreling up the stairs and yells, “You’re standing between me and my life vest – bad place to be!” I realize I need a life vest and suit and see one sitting on the deck, and as I go to pick it up and another crew member comes down the stairs and says, “hey, that’s mine.” I’m thoroughly embarrassed with my dripping wet hair and comb, but thankfully Chris came over and got me a life vest. Sometime during my first most embarrassing moment at sea, we lost sight of land. Interesting feeling! VIDEO: Watch the drill and safety briefing.

workers retriving sediment sample The Captain made it to the first sampling site in no time at all – but unfortunately it took four drops of the equipment to get a proper sample. The first round of samples collected had everyone really excited. For each grab a photo is taken of the sediment before it is transferred into a sieve (for the benthic organism collection) or a pan (for the chemistry analyses). My shift is from 2 pm until 10 pm, so I’m just observing during this shift to make sure I know what to do.

For this survey, we will be going to 19 sites and taking two grabs per site for a total of 38 grabs. Why two grabs? One to look for critters (benthic organisms) and the other for chemical concentrations (chemistry sample). VIDEO: Tour the lab

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.