A Day in Erie, PA

July 24, 2019

What a day on land!

After a delicious breakfast on the ship by our chef, Derek, we had a tour of the Bicentennial Tower at 9:00 with Brenda Sandburg, Erie Western Port Authority → “An Overview of Erie”. At 9:30 we headed to Tom Ridge Environmental Center (TREC) and had a brief tour of the Regional Science Consortium labs (RSC) where they monitor water quality for human and dog safety. Here’s an interesting fact, and one for dog lovers to heed, dogs have less tolerance than humans, and can face even death, from low levels of microcystins, which are liver toxins. For dogs, the limit is 0.2ppb and for humans, the limit is 0.6 ppb.  (So the big takeaway??? Before allowing your dog to swim or drink the water, check with your state environmental office for any beach advisories or warnings.) After meeting the RSC staff, we had an opportunity to explore the center.

Upon leaving the environmental center, we went to Barracks Beach and met with Dr. Sam Mason, Penn State Behrend Sustainability Coordinator, to conduct a sampling of micro and macro plastics from the beach and shoreline. There was another group from a local insurance company doing a beach cleanup who so graciously donated their removed debris for our later sort and classification at the Maritime Museum.

After a paper bag lunch in the park pavilion, we headed over to the Erie Maritime Museum where we met with the Merchant and Navy Historian for Lake Erie to hear a very interesting presentation on the Battle of Lake Erie where Captain Perry defeated the British through cunning naval skills and discussed ways to bring history and the museum into the classroom. Afterward, a docent directed some of our crew through a gun drill reenactment inclusive of preparation, loading, arming, and shooting a replica of a canon from a Brig ship. 

We then met in the conference center where Marti Martz, PA Sea Grant Senior Coastal Outreach Specialist, discussed “Clean Ups as Conversation Starters”, providing protocols and practices for Adopt-a-Beach Clean-Up. We then took the macro and microplastics collected on the shoreline from the morning, to conduct a marine debris analysis – sorting, counting, and categorizing our samples using the data collection sheets entitled What is the impact of beach litter?.


To wrap up our time at the museum and our day, Becca Turner, Fairview HS Science Teacher, presented, “Best Practices for Stewardship Projects with Students” and followed by Marti Martz, PA Sea Grant → CGLL and their available support for stewardship projects. 

Thoughts from Jennie . . .  

I am one of those odd ducks that never desired to be on a cruise ship. My romantic notions of being on the water were more inclined towards cargo ships and research vessels. Growing up on our family’s cabin cruiser on the upper Chesapeake Bay and New York Harbor, along with watching Jacque Cousteau’s adventures on TV, I was fascinated with marine life and life on the ocean in general. In college, we began an annual trek to Provincetown, Ma., to go on whale watches with researchers from Mystic Seaport Aquarium. From that point on, participating in a research vessel became my dream. Unfortunately, even though I considered oceanography as a major, I ended up pursuing Environmental Studies and, for numerous reasons, I never worked in the field.

Fast forward many decades of having an assorted career path, at age 56 I am finally realizing my dream come true. Being on the Lake Guardian, which is the quintessential model of learning by immersion, doing real-life research alongside the tutelage of scientists, marine technicians, and fellow educators will launch my summer transition from seven years as a 6th grade English teacher to 6th grade Science. My experiences will enable me to recreate real-life science applications into my curriculum as well as expose my students to the various science careers opportunities from the ship captain, able-bodied seaman, marine techs, to the scientist. Spending a full packed day onshore today to continue our education and exploration of science, complemented and enhanced our offshore experiences beautifully. This week is truly creating an exuberance within me that will forever be embedded in my memory.

– Jennie Busch and Katie Riley (July 9, 2019)