Day 7—Our Adventure Comes To An End

August 7, 2009

It was called “The Love of Learning Boat” by the Bay City Times before our journey had even begun. Several newspapers had the same announcement printed and posted on their websites. “Fifteen teachers from seven Great Lakes states are preparing for a week-long Lake Huron Shipboard and Shoreline Science workshop aboard the Lake Guardian, a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency research vessel.” This was the tagline, but it barely came close to hinting at what our week would be comprised of. Sure, just spending a week on an EPA research vessel sounds really cool, but nowhere did anyone print that we would have first-hand presentations from over 15 experts on different Great Lakes topics during our time onboard. It never said that scientists would be traveling from several states to accompany us on our learning adventure, and never was it mentioned that we would be doing first-hand data collection during the week from different stations on Lake Huron. Yes, the information we learned about the ecology and lakes systems will be implemented into our classrooms, but we will take much more from it than that. Each one of us will take back the experience of truly being scientists for a week, and with that we will help our students grow and become encouraged to not be happy just learning in a classroom, but to explore the world around them.

Every teacher is going back to our classroom with a ton of new information and ideas on how to implement our summer learning into our lessons. From 4th grade through 10th, our students will all benefit from the week their teachers spent onboard the R/V Lake Guardian. Some will focus on the history, others on the creatures living in the water, and many will learn about the changes that have happened and are still happening in this wonderful ecosystem. The main thing, though, is that the students will be taught about an important part of the world around them. It was amazing to hear that the majority of the states we came from did not have specific standards addressing the Great Lakes when each of the represented states was touching at least one of the waterways. The group projects and concept maps for the week focused our attention on how we are going to incorporate our knowledge into classroom lessons this school year. Because of the COSEE Lake Huron Shipboard and Shoreline workshop, over 1000 students will be learning more about the Great Lakes than even their teachers might have known before the week-long journey on the Lake Guardian.

We pulled into Milwaukee this morning and said our goodbyes to each other, the crew, and the wonderful people that had made this adventure possible. Each one of us received a certificate acknowledging our participation in the COSEE Lake Huron Shipboard and Shoreline Workshop, and we took group pictures to help us remember the people we shared a week of our lives with learning about the Great Lakes system. Some stayed to go on a tour of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Great Lakes WATER Institute while others had planes, trains, or busses to catch for the trip home. A group of 5 of us took a ferry back to Michigan and a drive home. No matter what method we chose to return us to our families, we took with us a wealth of knowledge and memories that will last a lifetime.

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August 4, 2009

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Day 6 ~ Last Full Day of Adventure

Thanks to the Crew of the Lake Guardian
We capped off the trip with a HUMONGOUS THANK YOU to the fabulous crew. Unless you have spent anytime on a research vessel, it is hard to fully appreciate all the details that must be attended to. Two captains shared the pilot hour with supporting ship mates, and welcomed out visits to learn more about navigation of the Great Lakes. When we stopped for a sampling, every member of the crew was at station, ensuring our safety and a successful drop. The engineers made sure the boat was running smoothly and air handling systems were operational. Some of us went below and watched them work. We wore headphones to protect our ears from the noise of the engines. The ship mates needed to have diverse skills from fixing the cooling system, replacing a bolt with a four foot wrench, to placing the PONAR at the correct location and ensuring the satellite system was up and running. In a kitchen the size of a pantry, Carl and Donna performed culinary miracles with four shifts of eaters coming and going in the galley. Samplings were not always as scheduled or a freighter would need to pass, so the timing of the meals added pressure to their jobs. You would never know it because Donna and Carl always greeted everyone with a smile, a joke and a fresh pot of coffee.


One of the fringe benefits of being on a research vessel with educators is the opportunity to collaborate. Our group generated a list of questions to investigate during our week on board the Lake Guardian. Since quagga mussels were the latest invasive species to attack the Great Lakes, many of the teams focused on them. Why are they such a problem?

• Because they are extreme water/food filters, quagga mussels eat up the food source of fish and can change the food web in a lake.

• They take in lots of pollutants (at levels higher than the surrounding area), which can harm wildlife that eat them.

• Some researchers believe that Lake Erie’s dead zone may be that way because of quagga mussels’ non-stop feeding, ability to live in deep water (up to 130m in the Great Lakes) and the excretion of phosphorous with their waste.

• Quagga mussels, like zebra mussels, clog water intake pipes and underwater screens. This plugs up pumps at power and water treatment plants which is frustrating and costs money to fix!

• They build up in places where we go for summer fun - on boat docks, break walls, buoys, boats, and beaches - Ouch. Keep your sandals on

Teachers broke into teams, further defining the question, collecting and analyzing data. Tonight we had the chance to listen to what our colleagues learned, and the opportunity to generate further questions.

[insert photo of group]
I wonder what’s in the muck?
Four Detroit public school teachers, Jennifer Edwards (elementary school science), Ellen Hoyer (elementary ed), Kathleen Kennmon (middle school science) and Kimberly Stevenson (high school science) teamed to create an introduction to the sediment, food chains and food webs of the Great Lakes with extensions across the K-12 level. Combining hands on inquiry with data and cross curricular extensions, the unit could be adapted to use any local “muck.” Since we know that often a melody will help us remember the words, they developed a song that highlighted the concepts:

What’s in the muck that we’ll find today.
We’re looking for a predator and a prey.
COSEE Great Lakes was a lot of fun.
We did our work on Lake Guardian.

Follow the food web and you will find
Matter and energy over time
We start with plankton and you will see,
It’s eaten by bloodworms and the spiny water flea.

Blue-green algae can’t get away
Zebra mussels devour them as prey.
The Round Goby is the next in line.
But, the Walleye and the Bass will eat their spines.

Thankfully we are the last in line
And we hope that you have enjoyed our rhyme

[insert photo of group]
I wonder what size plankton near shore quagga mussels eat in Lake Huron? Stephanie Crook (high school science) and Patti Connor (middle school science) partnered with Laura Rainey (high school science) to collect water samples near the shores of Lake Huron. Laura looked at variables that affected the turbidity of the water and concluded that shorelines factors i.e. runoff, development influenced the clarity far greater than invasive species. Using three samples and a control, Patti and Stephanie chose plankton from a near shore site and surmised from their results that the quagga preferred plankton in the 220-500 micron size range. There was high quagga mortality rate in the water with larger plankton due to high fecal counts and low oxygen content. Problems arose with smaller plankton as the quagga fought for scarce resources. The question begs, will the quagga die off after it strips the Great Lakes of its food source? All three were excited to integrate their increased knowledge of the Great Lakes’ ecosystem into their curriculums.

[insert photo of group]
I wonder how abiotic factors affect biotic factors in Lake Huron?
Charlie Daniels (high school biology), John Taylor-Lehman (high school science), Ron Pilatowski (integrated high school science) introduced the outline of their curriculum by developing a base of knowledge and assessing prior knowledge of their students. They wanted to determine the gaps in learning and misconceptions and use that information to shoot for the teaching points. In order to investigate the concepts of abiotic and biotic factors through complex experiments, data collection and graphing and interpreting results, the three teachers knew that preparation would help the students succeed. They planned to use the data from the Lake Guardian surveys as the underpinning for their classroom curriculum.

[insert photo of group]
I wonder what impact water temperature will have on the oxygen consumption of quagga mussels harvested in Lake Huron?
Kristi Backe (science educator, Notebaert Museum) and , Susan Hobart (Grades 4/5 elementary)
work with young children so a goal of their experiment was to focus on scientific process and collegial nature of science research while considering the impact various water temps had on quagga. Using nine samples and controls, they collected quagga mussels between .5 and one inch and placed ten quagga in equal amounts of filtered water. They located them in three temperature zones: room temp. (24 C) bottles; cold bottles in the 4 C cooler and warm water at 44 C using a warm water bath. Their prediction was quagga mussels would consume the most oxygen in warm water, a smaller amount in room temperature water, and the least in cold water. Unfortunately, the quagga mussels all died within twenty minutes in the warm water bath. Based on percentage of oxygen used, there was a distinct pattern and significant difference showing increased oxygen in the warmest and room temperature water and the least in the cold. The three teachers felt they could use their power point to show students the steps of safe, engaged scientific inquiry, and apply the strategies to investigate questions generated by their students.

[insert photo of group]
I wonder how quickly the quagga mussel can change the turbidity of the water it inhabits?
Pat Trommater (4th grade science) and Dave Johnson (middle school science) began their presentation comparing the anatomy of a quagga mussel with other mollusks. They compared the reproduction capacity with other small creatures, which they knew would have an impact, due to the sheer numbers of sperm and eggs that are released by each quagga. Their experiment alone of ninety six quagga could have produced nearly 100 million offspring! They used nine containers with and a control and measured the turbidity of the water over a 24-48 hour time period. They plan to replicate the experiment with local water and specimens and compare their results and process with the students’.

Last Entry ~ Barfometer Design by John Taylor Lehman
Based on a modified PH scale.

Volcanic eruptions 8
Geyser 7
Fire hose 6
Garden hose 5
Sprinkler 4
Mouth full 3
Leaky faucet 2
Nausea 1
Calm 0

Where On the Lake Guardian Are Dave’s Sox?
Winners of the Barfometer Design Competition
Dave’s sox reappeared this evening as the grand prize in our barfometer competition. Since our cruise was calm with pleasant weather and talented crew, we did not have the chance to test our inventions, but the entrants are confident in the efficacy of their designs. While the winners did not get to keep Dave’s sox, they were able to have the final clue, locate them and be the heroes to return them to barefoot Dave. Congratulations to all the designers for their creativity in making our cruise fearless.

I replaced my “sea sickness” patch today just as a bit of “insurance”. I feel like I am used to the gentle rocking of the ship but I don’t want to take the chance of “chumming” the water before the end of the voyage. So far the most uneasy I felt was on land! And many other people had the same experience when we visited the NOAA Thunder Bay visitors’ center. Part of the tour involved walking into the hold of a full scale model of a schooner. The slanted floor, swaying light fixtures, and having been out on Lake Huron for 3 days combined to give me a feeling of being aboard a strongly rocking ship. I wonder how I am going to feel on Friday when I am back on shore for good.

Reflection on Spending a Week on a Moving Vessel on a Dramatic Body of Water
Susan Hobart,MSEd, Madison Metropolitan School District Grade 4/5

As I drove into the parking lot to meet my fellow educators, the pelting rain limited my visibility and increased my anxiety. What would I do on a boat if the rain continued, and we hit off shore storms? I was prepared with ginger tablets and sea bands, and yet, not knowing what to expect, fear mixed with my excitement of the unknown. By the time we were sitting down for one of Donna and Carl’s fabulous healthy heart dinners, my fears had been replaced by excitement as the sun came out and our week long agenda had been revealed. What a fantastic opportunity that I could never replicate in inland Wisconsin ~ a chance to work with educators and researchers passionate about the Great Lakes environment with a diversity of backgrounds and experiences. The collaborative nature of each day helped me learn from everyone, increasing my understanding of the geo/bio/cultural implications of our Great Lakes and developing questions to consider.

We are fortunate in the USA to have a wealth of researchers and inquiring minds that work in partnership to research and preserve our environment. On board our vessel alone, we had access to the resources of the University of Michigan, Michigan State, the University of Wisconsin, the Environmental Protection Agency, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Marine Sanctuary Program, Center for Ocean Sciences Education Excellence, The Great Lake Sea Grant Network, Michigan Department of Natural Resources, and the Cetacean Marine Corporation.

In my class, my goal is to integrate science throughout our curriculum and everything I have learned and thought about on board, I will be able to infuse into my practice. One of the programs I use is the FOSS chemistry unit, Mixtures and Solutions, in our fifth grade science rotation, but I have not worked in a research laboratory since college. Partnering with two science educators from Chicago and benefitting from the support of an EPA researcher and two university professors, I was able to develop a question and the action steps to answer it and complete the experiment. In our classroom, I focus on science process, inquiry and collaboration; on the Lake Guardian, I was able to practice what I preach. I had my own moments of “oops” and “yikes” and “aha!” When we completed our experiment in the boat’s laboratory and presented our findings to the group, I had a chance to reflect on what I would do different next time, what affected our outcome and further questions I had. Being a student and developing my own thinking in concert with others gave me a chance to walk in my students’ shoes as I plan the integration of science for the upcoming school year. Thanks, COSEE, for the chance to learn while doing!

[insert photo of Bucky wrapped to go]
Bucky Badger, University of Wisconsin - Madison Mascot
Successfully Went Where No Man (or Woman) Has Gone Before

Along with the nets from the Lake Guardian, Bucky was sent to the deepest waters of Lake Michigan. Wrapped in plastic, the teachers and researchers predicted half and half that Bucky would stay dry in his plastic bag. Before his departure, we double wrapped him in plastic and removed as much of the air as possible from the bag. We knew from Physics 101, the pressure at the depth of 900 feet would push air out and possibly explode the bag. Or, the air inside the six inch stuffed Bucky would expand and cause his bag to open and lake water flood the bag.

We sat with bated breath as the bag containing Bucky and other research items was slowly dropped into the bottom of Lake Michigan. After a twenty minute wait, the net bag was pulled to the surface, and Bucky had a big smile on his very wet face. He quickly dried out from the brisk lake wind, but unfortunately, he lost his voice box from the pressure, and no longer sings On Wisconsin. He was a brave Bucky and added to our knowledge base of the incredibly deep Lake Michigan, and now, he is even more famous for taking this incredibly deep dive.
[insert photo of Bucky after return ]

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