July 19, 2008
During this past week, teachers participated in a variety of lectures and lessons, on topics including: history of the Great Lakes, the Buffalo River and the Erie and Welland Canals, Great Lakes fish and fishery, an overview of Lake Ontario, invasive species of the Great Lakes, botulism, VHSV and other environmental stressors, cormorants, Lakewide Management Plans and online resources, such as the Great Lakes Information Network’s “TEACH Great Lakes” (pictured below, (2), by NYSG’s Helen Domske)
Areas of Concern
Also discussed were the Great Lakes Areas of Concern, of which there are currently 40 in the Great Lakes (including, in Lake Ontario, the Buffalo River, St. Lawrence River, Rochester embayment and Eighteen Mile Creek; the Oswego River is one of three AOCs delisted over the years, meaning it is no longer of concern).
Nearly a decade after the revised 1978 Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement was signed by Canada and the United States to “restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the waters of the Great Lakes Basin Ecosystem,” the two nations agreed that the worst areas would be given priority attention. Subsequently, 43 such areas were designated as Areas of Concern because they contained contaminated sediment, inadequately treated wastewater, nonpoint source pollution, inland contaminated sites or degraded habitat to a greater degree than the rest of the Great Lakes. Twenty-six of these are solely in the United States, 10 are solely in Canada, and five are binational waterways.
The Teachers Teach Themselves
In addition to listening to classroom discussions, each teacher also presented a classroom activity to the group during his/her stay on the Guardian. Each presentation was based on a selection from “Greatest of the Great Lakes - A Medley of Model Lessons,” a collection of 41 innovative classroom activities, assembled by COSEE Great Lakes, that provide teachers and students (grades 4-10) with insights into the uniqueness of the Great Lakes and their influence on aquatic life and human populations.
One of the activities (pictured below, (1), as demonstrated on the Guardian’s outside deck) had the teachers sketch out the shape of each of the Great Lakes using pieces of yarn. Then, they had to figure out population ratios, both for human and other animal inhabitants. Over a dozen other lessons were discussed by the teachers on the ship’s first deck through the week, as seen in picture (3), below.
A key concept driven home by John Arnold, a teacher from Williamsville, NY, was the importance of ocean literacy, quite simply, an ocean-oriented approach to teaching science standards. “Each of the seven essential principles of ocean literacy is supported by fundamental concepts comparable to those underlying the national science standards,” said Arnold. For teaching tools and many other ocean literacy resources visit www.coexploration.org/oceanliteracy.
Getting the (Field) Work Done
Each teacher was part of the team that conducted water, mud and soil samples with researchers aboard the Guardian, as seen in picture (4), below. Even the educators, including NYSG’s Helen Domske (pictured (5 -6), below), were part of the two crews set up to collect and analyze data.
From Collecting Samples, to Collecting (and Analyzing) Data
Juliette Smith, a SUNY ESF graduate student of Dr. Greg Boyer (pictured (7), below), is part of the analysis team helping the teachers identify specimen in the lab. As mentioned in previous blog entries this week, teachers are measuring for a variety of factors in the samples they’ve collected at approximately 18 stations (or, sites) along the way. And before they leave the Guardian this morning for good, they’ll report out in two groups, as to differences in the data set - including nearshore versus offshore and eastern end versus western end of Lake Ontario. They’ll also discuss their list of main “stressors” or drivers that affect each of the individual systems they’re examining.
Hypotheses will also be discussed for how they’d expect the two different ecosystems to vary in (a) water chemistry (ie., turbidity, pH, conductivity, alkalinity), (b) benthic biology - ponars and box cores, or lake sediment samples, (c) planktonic biology, the microscopic animals and plants found in the samples, respectively, zooplankton and phytoplankton), and, lastly, (d) physical parameters, such as secchi depth, temperature, latitude and longitude, maximum depth and depth of thermocline (the thin but distinct layer in the Lake where temperature changes more rapidly with depth than it does in the layers above or below).
Specifics from the two groups reporting out later this morning will be made available soon, most likely after the teachers have left the Guardian. In the meantime, here are a few specimen caught under the microscope from sample collected during the week at various stations across Lake Ontario. Thanks to Sam Roman, a teacher from Cleveland OH, for snapping the shots. And to Juliette Smith and Dr. Boyer for helping to identify the tiny critters.
(as pictured (8), above) Pandorina, a phytoplankton
(as pictured (9), above) Volvox (a green algae), phytoplankton
(as pictured (10), above) Cyclopoid (copepod), a zooplankton
(as pictured (11), above) Asplancha (rotifer), a zooplankton
(as pictured (12), above) Pediastrum (upper right hand corner; green algae), Microcystis colony (the “black blobs”; cyanobacteria, aka, blue-green algae), Fragillaria (faint lines of orange; diatom), all phytoplankton species