On Board the OSV BOLD: Textbook to Reality

February 13, 2009 – 11:45 am (Day 5)

About the Author: Beth Totman is a press officer in Region 2, New York City. She covers Superfund, Emergency Response and Pesticides. She’s been with EPA since June 2007.

For more than a month, EPA’s Ocean Survey Vessel (OSV) Bold is studying the health of the waters around Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. EPA scientists and non-scientists will blog about their research and what it’s like to live and work at sea.

Yesterday’s Open Ship was a huge success. Over 600 schoolchildren and teachers passed through the ship to see the two labs on board, the captain’s bridge, the living and sleeping quarters, the side scan sonar room, the CTD (Conductivity, Temperature and Depth recorder), which is a piece of equipment used to test water quality, and the diving operations room, with the different kinds of wetsuits for the divers. It was pretty remarkable to see how excited each child got when concepts like radar and sonar were described. My role was to take groups through the ship from station to station, so I heard each scientist and crew member describe her station over and over again. It really helped me understand, even better, just what happens on the ship.

Crew member shows a wetsuit to kidsIt was good to spend the day talking about the science that happens on this ship, but now it’s time to go out and do that work. Right now, we are heading to the northwest coast of Puerto Rico, off of Arecibo to look for marine debris. The goal of this leg of the trip is to test out various types of gear and methods to provide information to develop an Agency-wide, uniform protocol for marine debris monitoring. All debris that is collected will be counted and categorized.

Then tonight we will sail around the western end of Puerto Rico to Jobos Bay on the south coast. There we will use side scan sonar to map the outer reef area, at the request of Puerto Rico government and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). We’ll gather data to help create maps to show the extent and condition of essential recreational fisheries and habitat types.

It’s amazing what this ship can do! In just four days, this ship has been used in an unplanned mission, as an educational tool for schoolchildren, as a means to collect crucial information and data for the Agency, and as a helping hand to other environmental agencies that have like-minded goals in protecting and conserving our environment. I am mid-way through my trip at this point, and will continue to report out on the OSV BOLD.