The last sampling station of Tuesday night ended a bit earlier than expected as the waves swelled higher and higher, crashing over the fantail of the ship. It was a long, rough night of rocking and rolling. The journey from the eastern basin took longer than expected because of trouble with one of Lake Guardian’s engines. There was much relief at sunrise for everyone when we found ourselves safely tied to the pier in Erie, Pennsylvania where we would spend the day with land learning.
Our day began after another wonderful meal prepared by the ship’s personal Chef Craig. Our first stop was at the Tom Ridge Environmental Center adjacent to Presque Isle State Park. This regional science consortium supports lots of laboratory work. This center also promotes environmental education to the general public. Dr. Jeanette Schnars showed us several of the labs, including the one that Dr. Steve Mauro uses to test Lake Erie water for harmful bacteria. We also were able to see the self-contained hydroponic labs that use the nitrogen from fish waste for fertilizer to grow lettuce, tomatoes, and strawberries.
Our second stop was Presque Isle State Park. It was time to get wet! We were divided into three rotation groups to learn techniques for nearshore sampling. Just as we were getting started the local TV station WICU12 showed up because they hear about the wonderful collaborations between scientists and educators aboard the Lake Guardian.
The Hydrolab instrument will be available for the educators to borrow during the school year. Kristin TePas provided tips for using the tool as we practiced. The instrument measures chlorophyll a, water temperature, dissolved oxygen, conductivity, pH, turbidity, and depth. Sara Stahlman led a station so that we could practice seining techniques to collect aquatic samples in search for the newly invasive Rusty Crayfish. We didn’t find any crayfish, but we did capture Round Gobies. Steve Mauro led the third station. He showed us bacteria cultured from the park beaches and explained that Presque Isle water is influenced not only be local storms and runoff, but also by water discharged by cities as far away as Cleveland, Ohio.
On our third stop we were ready to do our part to practice good stewardship for the environment. Presque Isle park employee John Laskos described how the park participates in a national stewardship program called “Adopt a Beach” to help keep the Great Lakes clean. We all put on our work gloves and began picking up trash around one of the park’s busiest beach. Dr. Sherri (Sam) Mason had mixed emotions about the amount of “Nurdles” she found in a tiny area. These small pieces of plastic are shipped around the great lakes on their way to being processed into the plastic products we use, and a recently discovered pollutant in the great lakes.
After a picnic lunch it was time for some kayaking and canoeing fun through the lagoons. Park staff provided good information about the invasive species management practices including the purple loosestrife, phragmites, and newly introduced cattails. Certain aquatic herbicides can be sprayed, controlled burns are being considered, and individual extractions. We also learned a little about The Battle of Lake Erie and the history of Misery Bay. We had a great time paddling around.
Before leaving Presque Isle State Park we stopped back at the Tom Ridge Environmental Center to listen to a presentation about the B-Wet program. The program is a very successful local service learning program. Shipboard Science participants were encouraged to develop their own service projects in their communities using the B-wet model.
To finish the long day we had dinner at the Sheraton and were entertained by author David Frew as he told stories about the Battle of Lake Erie in 1812. As we boarded the Lake Guardian for our next destination, the calming sunset set the stage for smooth sailing, and a good night’s sleep dreaming of tomorrow’s adventures in the central basin.
Dispatch from the field by Marcy Burns and Dave Murduck