Shipboard Science 2015 Day 7: Sun Sets

July 18, 2015

Clouds come floating into one’s life no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky. R. Tagore


It’s hard not to feel a little sad as the sun sets on this incredible experience aboard the Lake Guardian and we look back over this week of learning, teaching, sharing, friendship, encouragement, and perseverance. There were a few unexpected clouds as people experienced some equipment problems, a lab spill, sea sickness, or other flies in the ointment. But these things set the stage for people to work, encourage, learn, and stretch in new ways as we persevered through challenges and to add to the color of our sunsets.

As we traveled on both water and land it was apparent that the Great Lakes are truly a precious natural resource well worth our time, attention, caring and concern.

This week our group had the opportunity to work with Dr. Glen Warren. He mentored us gently and patiently allowing and encouraging us to explore ideas and possibilities.  We used the benthic sled and saw the scope of the dressinid population and we saw the imperative need to manage the lakes wisely.

A second group worked with Dr. Tim Hoellein, professor of biology at Loyola University on the presense of plastic  microbeads in the lake and their affect on aquatic life. Tim patiently led our research through deck based data collection and lab observation. We found some very interesting zooplankton!

In addition, six individuals worked with Emily Tyner, a PhD candidate, and Zac Driscoll, a Research Technician. This group explored the effects that quagga mussels are having on the distribution and availability of phosphorous in Lake Michigan. A surprising connection is beginning to be uncovered between quagga mussels, algae blooms, and the development of botulism in birds. Mussels concentrate phosphorous for alage to consume, the algae blooms die and create an excellent location for the botulism bacteria to thrive, and finally birds eat organisms that carry botulism.  The interconnections need further scientific study to be confirmed. Hopefully, the future scientists that explore the Great Lakes will be students that were inspired by teachers who sailed aboard the Lake Guardian.

With this in mind, we will return to our classrooms all over the Great Lakes region to share our new knowledge and expanded hearts as we teach students, colleagues, family, and friends to be scientifically literate citizens of our planet and good stewards of the Great Lakes.

Liz, Mike M, Susie