Lake Erie Exploration - Day 7 (Friday, July 24th)

July 24, 2009

How are we going to use all this information?

Today is the last day of the Lake Erie Exploration Workshop and now we have to figure out how to bring everything we learned this week into the classroom. To do this, we broke up into four groups based upon topic or target audience and we developed some ideas and lesson plans to teach the Great Lakes in our classrooms. Here are some of the ideas that we came up with:

Group #1: Shari Tennies, Rose Stark, Garry Dole, Cheryl Symans, and Carol Ward


The educators in group one were from a variety of different backgrounds. Some teach in formal classrooms and others work at nature centers or as teacher support specialists. As a group they decided that their target audience would be elementary students and here are some of their ideas.

• A “Is this person a scientist? “ hallway display showing pictures of scientists that we met throughout the week. Students would guess which picture was a scientist and then learn that they are all scientists. This would be great to show that scientists are “real people” too and it is an obtainable career no matter who you are.
• A coral reef sedimentation activity to show that the sediment and pollution that we add to our rivers, lakes, and streams eventually makes it out to the ocean and can damage our coral reefs.
• Adding Lake Erie and Great Lakes curriculum to existing ecology, land and water, and rocks and mineral units.
• Field trips to Lake Erie and other smaller local lakes to do water testing and microscope activities.
• Class adopt-a-beach clean-ups.
• An erosion activity where students look at maps and aerial photographs to measure the rate at which the beaches in their area are eroding.
• New exhibits featuring Lake Erie and the rest of the Great Lakes at the nature center.

Group #2: Heather Gee, Amanda Whitener, Carrie Caspio


The educators in group two also came from a variety of backgrounds. One is a junior high math teacher, one is a pre-service teacher completing an internship with NOAA, and the last one is an educator with the Great Lakes Science Center in Cleveland. Together they planned out a water unit with three themes and then developed lessons within each of those themes.

• #1 – Where does water come from?
- Introduction activities on the water cycle and states of matter.
- “Incredible Journey” activity following a water molecule through the water cycle.
- Math activities on determining the volume of the Great Lakes and graphing data from a irrigation lab.

• #2 – Where does water go?
- Food web activities.
- A lab comparing ocean sand and sand found in the Great Lakes.
- A fish dissection.
- Guest speakers from the water and sewer boards.
- Math activities on plating the bacteria found in water and counting colonies and analyzing temperature change in the layers of the lake.
- Paddle to the Sea book and corresponding curriculum.

• #3 – Where do I fit in?
- Calculating your water use and the amount of personal care products that you use in a day.
- Invasive species and point versus non-point pollution activities.
- Decision making activities for younger students.

Group #3: Mary Draves, Eugene Genco, Todd Patterson


The educators in group three were all high school educators and they chose to create a three week unit on the Great Lakes.

• Week 1 – The Physical Characteristics of the Lakes
- Review the location of the great lakes using local to world maps.
- Use Pat Dailey’s “Great Lakes Song” as an introduction to the unit.
- Constructing “Great Lakes Cakes” project using various cakes, dyes, frostings, and candies to show the characteristics of each of the Great Lakes.
- Great Lake teams where the class is broken up into the five lakes and they research their specific lake and become a “specialist” on their lake.

• Week #2 – Water Quality
- Lake stratification demonstration.
- Water sampling and using the data to determine the water quality of the body of water.
- A seine simulation.
- A macroinvertebrate lab using a leaf pack left in a stream for a week.

• Week #3 – Life in the Great Lakes
- Invasive species research and invasive species puzzle.
- Plotting on a map where the invasive species come from and why.
- Fish: fish stories, external anatomy of a fish, using dichotomous keys to identify fish.
- A narrative where students write about a water molecule’s journey from your house all the way to the lake or from Duluth to the Atlantic Ocean.
- A personal reflection on their impact and lives within the Great lakes basin.

Group #4: Cindi Wallendal, Kathy Bosiak, and Leigh Anne Wycoff


The educators in group four were either junior high or high school educators and they chose to focus on the geology of the Great Lakes for their lesson planning. Here are some of their ideas:
• Using the Great Lakes as a culminating unit at the end of 8th grade Earth Science to tie everything that they learned during the school year into a local topic.
• Make cards with pictures and information on the major events that occurred during geologic times in the Great Lakes basin and have the students try to put them in order.
• Using the football field to make a scale model of geologic time with great lake events.
• Using fossils to recreate the history of the Great Lakes and comparing our fossils to fossils found in other places (specifically North Carolina).
• Making and using dichotomous keys to identify fossils and modern day organisms.
• Linking geology to life science and the field of taxonomy to study animal phyla.
• Analyzing fossils to determine what type of environment they must have lived in.

Ah ha Moments

All in all it was a great week. We are all experts on Lake Erie and now we have the job of creating Lake Erie experts out of our students. Throughout the week there were many ah ha moments where a light bulb turned on in our heads. We can only hope that our experiences in this past week will help us to do the same for our students. Here are a sampling of some of our ah ha moments.

• Seeing a glacial groove and experiencing the true power of how glaciers carve our landscapes.
• Coming to the end of the road and finding a cliff instead of a the continuation of the road. Coastal Erosion!
• Male gobies change color when they spawn.
• Usually oceans are pointed to when we talk about the impacts of bodies of water on the weather. The Great Lakes also have a huge impact on our weather.
• There are fossils of organisms that lived in salt water seas 400 million years ago in Ohio!
• Things that we use everyday like shampoo, conditioner, hair gel, toothpaste, etc… can affect our lakes and drinking water.
• There are billions of round gobies in the Great Lakes! I didn’t know that the invasive species problem was that bad.

A Thank You

We would not have had this experience if it were not for the hard work by several individuals. We would like to thank all the scientists who gave their time to teach us about their research and we look forward to bringing their research to our students. We would also like to thank the staff at TREC in Erie, PA and the staff at the Stone Lab on Gibraltar Island. They were amazing and both locations were excellent for learning about Lake Erie. Lastly, we would like to thank the Sea Grant staff, who spent hundreds of hours organizing and perfecting this workshop. Rosanne, Marti, Helen, Lyndsey, and Howard…we and our students thank you so much!


Lake Erie Exploration - Day 6 (Thursday, July 23th)

July 23, 2009

What’s Really Down There?

Today’s topic was “Life in Lake Erie”. With our lectures, lab work and activities we got a great idea of what really is down below the surface of the lake. Not only did we find out who lives there but also how each of the species interact with each other and their environment—lake ecology.

Dr. Dave Jude, a biologist and ichthyologist from the University of Michigan gave a lecture to us providing us information on what the lake looked like in the past, what it looks like today and what the future may hold for Lake Erie. Characteristics of our lakes in the past were well oxygenated water, high biodiversity and well forested coast lines. As we compare that to what the lakes are today, things have changed. Much of the lake has seen destruction of habitat, invasion of exotic species, introduction of toxic substances, and over fishing. With the use of science and education we have designed ways to improve our lakes by finding ways to regulate fish species, controlling contaminants entering the system, and altering fishing regulations. We seemed to have learned from our mistakes in the past, but find that there are always new problems that throw the balance of the ecosystem out of balance. It is a constant challenge.


To get a better handle on what the present state of the lake is we took some actual samples from the lake to bring back to the lab for testing. The rainy day did not hold us back and we were able to collect phytoplankton and zooplankton using plankton nets. We also collected bottom sediment using a Ekman dredge and we even trawled for fish using a bottom trawl. With our boat full of specimens we headed back to the lab to really see who lives in Lake Erie.











Back at the lab all the teachers were excited to examine our catch. We set up stations in the room where we could view and identify phytoplankton, zooplankton, benthic invertebrates and different species of fish. We combined all our identification data to come up with how each of the species fit into the many food chains in the lake.





Dr. John Gannon, Senior Scientist from the International Joint Commission, and ecologist, helped us interpret our data. He provided us a better understanding of the changing food web in the lake as invasive species are introduced, and our coastal waters that enter the lake change. The upper Great Lakes have a simple system compared to the highly diverse and productive system of Lake Erie. He stressed that we need a better understanding of ecology of our coastlines and put effort into habitat restoration of wetlands, streams and coastlines. To accomplish this educating the public will be vital as well as multidisciplinary science. This is where scientists from two different fields team together to improve and restore our Great Lakes.

This evening was spent in our work groups processing all the information that we took in these past 6 days. How are we going to take all this amazing information and put it to use in our classrooms? As teachers we look forward to organizing these experiences and knowledge in a fashion that we can excite our students to science and increase their appreciation of these Great Lakes. We all, young and old, need to be caretakers of the lake and voices for the future of the lakes.



Did you know?

- There are degree programs that combine both biology and engineering. Many different universities now have biosystems engineering programs where students learn how to use both biology and engineering to solve problems in biological systems.

- Botulism E contamination occurs from rotting algae, which is then filtered by zebra mussels, which in turn is eaten by round gobies, which are then eaten by Loons. A loon only needs to eat 2 gobies to die from botulism E poisoning.

- Fish have a stone-like structure called an otolith in their head that helps them to maintain their balance much like our inner ear. Scientists can use the rings on the otolith to determine the age of the fish to the exact day.

Lake Erie Exploration - Day 5 (Wednesday, July 22th)

July 22, 2009

A Blast from the Past

History was our main theme today as we spent the day learning about the Geology of the Great Lakes, locating and identifying fossils and hunting for ship wrecks. Sounds fun? It was!

We began our day with a lecture from Dr. Charles Herdendorf, a scientist from Ohio State University. It was difficult to pinpoint what kind of scientist he was as he was knowledgeable and experienced in geology, anthropology, ecology and even more. He provided us with an engaging lecture on the history of the formation of the Great Lakes. Among the vast amount of information we learned, he explained the five natural stages of lake formation. These stages were caused by tectonics, marine environment, streams, glaciers and coastal forces. To put our newly acquired information to life, we packed our backpacks with hammers, picks, safety goggles, and collection bags and headed off to Kelly’s Island.


Once we arrived at Kelly’s Island Dr. Herdendorf described what fossils we would likely see as we experienced some of the best glacial grooves located at Glacial Grooves State Memorial. These were filled with hundreds of fossils. We felt very fortunate to have the opportunity to experience first hand glacial grooves. With key in hand, Dr. Herdendorf led us into the protected area of the glacier grooves so that we could observe how life might have been millions of years ago. We had fun coming with possibilities to explain what we were seeing. All of us were extremely grateful for the once in a life time experience observing these glacial grooves up close.





Now it was time to use our hammers, picks and goggles to find our own fossils to take back and share with our students. Lots of pictures were taken of science teachers in action. Our students will be impressed when they see their teacher out in the field doing science collections. The light rain provided a perfect environment to submerse ourselves in our work. Most of us were successful in finding our prize fossil and will proudly display and share it with our students.




One more bit of history to uncover: The sunken ship! Now it was time to put on our bathing suits, snorkels, fins and masks and look for sunken treasure. Feeling lucky after collecting fossils, we were excited to hit the water and start searching. Our readings told us that the “Adventure”, a schooner converted to a steam barge, had sunk in 1903 just off the coast of Kelly’s Island. We were provided maps of the underwater wreck. Dr. Herdendorf described to us how the map of the wreck was created and with his lead we dove in. Even though the water was a bit chilly we began our search. The wreck was found but alas the turbidity of the water made it difficult to see details of the ship. Guess we will have to try another day. But we all enjoyed our swim in Lake Erie.



We couldn’t have asked for a better close to the day than our Great Lakes music performance. We were fortunate to have Pat Dailey, professional musician, sing many of his songs and play guitar. Pat has done much to support and spread the word of our great lakes through song. He has performed in many areas of the great lakes basin and produced a number of cds. We had been practicing all week to sing the great lakes song with him and joined in with him as he preformed the song. After the song, COSEE awarded him a plaque for his songs and dedication to Great Lakes education. He was a real inspiration to us as he shared his love of the lakes through song. Learning the history of the lakes gives us even more reason to be stewards of these Great Lakes.



Before we could go to bed, we had one last place to visit. We stopped by the old fish hatchery in Put-in-Bay to check out their education programs. The fish hatchery is no longer hatching fish, but the Ohio Department of Natural Resources uses it to educate visitors and school groups about the fish found in the area. Visitors to the island can stop by and check out their exhibits and even go fishing off of their dock. We loved their exhibits, but there was unfortunately not enough time for us to go fishing today. We will have to save that for tomorrow when we have a visit from fish biologists.




Did you know?

-Lake Baikal is the largest lake in the world, containing 20% of world’s fresh water
- The ship, Adventure, had its watery grave robbed of its propeller in 1964 and taken to a YMCA somewhere in Ohio to be used by its flag pole. It was later returned, 1997, to the sunken wreck by Dr. Hergendorf and his diving team.
- During the Cambrian Period North America was actually below the equator and then drifted to its current position. This explains why we found fossils of coral in the quarry and glacier grooves.

Lake Erie Exploration - Day 4 (Tuesday, July 21th)

July 21, 2009

Make Room for More!

That’s how we felt today as it was jam packed with tons of new information, new equipment, and new vocabulary. With four scientists/speakers, lab demonstrations, field experiences, history lessons, and cultural connections our minds were full to the brim by the end of the day.

Our day began with Dr. Darren Bade, assistant professor and limnologist from Kent State University. Dr. Bade provided us with an introduction to the physical science of water and the lakes. He constructed a model using water, a fish tank, light, fan and thermometers that demonstrated the effects of light and wind on a body of water. We were able to collect data that demonstrated stratification. We were all wowed when he added the indicator to the tank and we could observe the different currents near the surface and the sinking of some in the colder water at the bottom. We agreed our students would find this exciting and bring a better understanding of what is really happening down below in the great bodies of water- the Great Lakes.



After getting our boat shoes, suntan lotion, hats and sunglasses we boarded the Stone Lab research boat to put into action some of what we learned in the morning lecture. We headed towards one of the deepest parts of the lake to do testing and data collection. Dr. Bade demonstrated proper techniques in using science equipment to collect dependable data. We measured light penetration using secchi discs. We then compared our findings with a light meter and found that the simple piece of equipment works well. We also tried out an activity that we could use with our students that uses m&m’s to look at light penetration and its affect on color and visibility. We also used probes that took temperature readings and gave us information on dissolved oxygen and the saturation of oxygen. During our testing time the Lake Guardian, EPA research boat, sailed past us. We made phone contact with them and compared our data with them and found that our data was comparable with theirs.






Dr. Rosanne Fortner provided us an activity to use with our students looking at interactions between the atmosphere and the hydrosphere. We looked at several web sites that students could easily access and gather important real time data to understand how these two parts of the environment affect each other.


Our minds needed to make more room as Dr. George Bullerjahn and high school student, Grace Miner informed us of their research on glyphosate and phosphonate on fresh water picocyanobacteria. We found out that these nutrients are active ingredients in Round up, a pesticide applied to farm fields. Dr. Bullerjahn is a research scientist at Bowling Green State University. His research is asking the question of what impact these phosphonates have on ecosystems. His research has shown that the toxic cyanobacteria can use them as a nutrient. He brought along a high school student, Grace Minor, who has been mentoring with him and has been part of his research. All the teachers were very impressed with her interest and dedication to science, her abilities to understand the process of science and her communication of her knowledge to us. We all hope to work with a student like that some time in our career.


We weren’t done yet as Kristin Stanford, alias “The Snake Lady”, impressed us with her fearlessness as she shared with us her passion of rescuing the native water snake. She has been a strong advocate for the snake educating the public. We listened to a new aspect of invasive species, the round goby. Kristin’s research has shown that the water snake’s population is growing due to the increase of the round goby as a food source. Because of their new found diet they have been able to increase their growth rate, body size and survival rate. Looks like they are well on their way to a successful come back. There is a great website to learn more about her work at



After dinner we met Candra Krisch from Ohio State Multicultural Studies department. She shared with us her Native American heritage and how science plays apart of it. We learned about indigenous knowledge that is built on observations over a long period of time and traditional ecological knowledge that is long term contacts with their environment. She shared with us many of her family and personal items that demonstrated her culture and history. Her discussion enlightened us to open our minds to understanding the culture of all of our students.


We weren’t done yet! One more stop to the International Peace Memorial located at Put-in-Bay. We enjoyed our water taxi ride over to the island and a short walk to the memorial. Here we took the elevator to the top of the monument. Our personal park rangers gave us the history of Perry’s war, the monument itself and gorgeous views of the islands and of course, the beautiful great lake-Lake Erie.



Did you know?
- Kristin Stanford, “snake lady”, starred in the TV show, Dirty Jobs by Mike Rowe, and reached millions of people educating them about the endangered Lake Erie Water Snake. Her show was the #2 most viewed show in the history of Dirty Jobs.
- Most scientists are normal looking people.
- The herbicide, round-up, kills plants on land, but it can actually cause as increase in plant life in the water.

Lake Erie Exploration - Day 3 (Monday, July 20th)

July 20, 2009

Moving Day!

We began our day with packing up our suitcases and piling into the vans to head west. We said our good-byes to Presque Isle. It was unanimous that we all enjoyed our time on the isle and took with us new experiences and information to bring back to our classrooms.
We moved on from Erie, Pennsylvania and headed west along the coast. The lake was not always in view and we had to remind ourselves that we were following the lake. Our first stop was at Painsville, Ohio were we met up with Frank Lichkoppler, Ohio Sea Grant program leader . We looked at bathymetric maps of Lake Erie, (3D ones too!), and observed the coastal lines and the lake depths of Lake Erie’s three basins.

Checking Out the Bathymetric Maps of Lake Erie

We then headed to the lake were we observed the coastline at the park. We looked for clues as to what the history of the area was and found that major erosion had occurred with loss of much of the hillside. Frank discussed with us measures that were being taken to protect against continual coastal erosion. We saw seawall, break walls, jetties, and groins. We learned how each of these change the direction sediments, and sand along the coast. We also had a discussion of reasons why the Great Lakes do not have wave size like the oceans and found out that it has to do with the distance the water travels. We now know about fetch and seiches.

A Morning with Frank

What a Beautiful Day!

Checking Out the Groin

We completed our stop here by participating in an activity called “How Fast can a Shore-line Change” from the Great Lakes Medley resource. This was a great supporting activity to what we had just learned on coastal erosion. The activity allows students to determine how fast erosion has occurred in the area provided and how much sand and clay can be removed by waves and currents. Many of us thought this was lesson that would work in our classrooms.

Coastal Erosion Activity

We moved again up the coast to the Old Woman Creek National Estuarine Research Reserve. We were introduced to the research being done at the center. The SWMP program takes real time data on pH, conductivity, temperature, dissolve oxygen, water levels and turbidity .This real time data is sent to NOAA and made available to the public. Our last discussion was on the importance of reserves. Reserves are protected areas used for long term research and stewardship. This provides us a way to understand human impact to the environment. Another cool thing that we saw at the visitor center was a preserved specimen of a Passenger Pigeon. The last Passenger Pigeon died at the Cincinnati Zoo in 1914.

Welcome to Old Woman Creek

A Passenger Pigeon!

We then took a walk down to the lake and observed the mouth of Old Women Creek which was closed. The mouth of the creek was in an unusual state, as it was filled in by sand caused by unusual storms from the North this past winter.

Old Woman Creek

Collecting Sand

Our next move was further to the west to catch the ferry to Put-in-Bay, Ohio. The ferry boat brought us to the South Bass island where we saw the sites of Put-in-Bay . We were able to check in to Stone Lab, Ohio State University Island Campus on Lake Erie. We caught another boat to Gibraltar, a 6-acre island where Stone Lab is located. After our introduction to Stone Lab we unloaded our suitcases and enjoyed a beautiful sunset on Lake Erie; a wonderful welcome to the island. Looks like the next four days will be filled with learning and experiencing this great lake-Erie.

The End of a Great Day

Did you know?

- Stone Lab is the oldest fresh water biological field station and research laboratory in the United States founded in 1895.
- Ohio students were found to know more about the oceans than the Great Lake
- In 1988 Dr. Seuss changed the wording in his famous book, The Lorax. Because of great water quality improvement in Lake Erie, the line “I hear things are just as bad up in Lake Erie!” is not in newer additions of the book.

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