A Final Day at Sea

July 24, 2019

After enjoying a beautiful day at Stone Lab and in Put-in-Bay, we headed back out to sea for our last day of sampling and data analysis.  We headed north, through Canadian waters to our first collection station, the western-most location on our trip, near the mouth of the Detroit River and west of Pelee Island.  Since the Western Basin is known to be the shallowest area of Lake Erie, the water was quite shallow (9-10 meters), even though we were far from shore. We collected samples from the Rosette and Manta at this location, however, the Rosette sample was considered unusable because the bow thrusters had stirred up sediment from the shallow bottom, clouding the water, which was intended to be a surface sample.  The manta sample from this station was chock full of mayfly bodies.

We continued on to collect samples from 3 other stations in the Western Basin.  The first two were in slightly deeper locations, one west of Pelee Island and one north of Pelee Island.  In Sandusky Bay (near Cedar Point amusement park), we ran into shallower water — only 9.0 meters — and again, the boat stirred up a bit of sediment from the bottom.  We filtered the sample anyway, to see what data we could find.

In addition to collecting samples, teachers spent the morning and afternoon working on a variety of activities.  Of chief importance, has been completing our Collaborative Integration Plans (CIPs) and slide presentations about our group’s research.  For the CIPs, teachers were partnered up based on similar teaching assignments. For example, teachers who have 6th-grade science classes are in a group, high school biology teachers are in a group, etc.  The goal of the CIP is to give teachers notes on tangible ways to incorporate our experiences this week into our classroom curricula. This includes identifying which activities target specific grade-level standards, materials that are needed, and any challenges to implementation that need to be addressed.  The slide presentations will be presented tomorrow, on our last morning aboard and will also be shared with all participants so that regardless of which research team we were on that we can have slides with talking points on all topics covered to go over with our students.

To give us a break from all this hard work, Angela Greene shared an interactive mystery game, “The Case of the Haunted Ship” based on the board game Clue.  The premise of the mystery was alleged hauntings that had occurred aboard and a list of suspects, locations, and methods of haunting. Teachers worked in teams to covertly search for clues that had been hidden in the galley, labs, and other areas on the bottom deck of the ship, careful not to give away their discoveries to other groups.  Each clue revealed a piece of evidence that teams could use to eliminate suspects, locations, or methods and come up how the alleged hauntings took place. It was great fun!

Throughout the evening, we headed back East, into the Central Basin for one more collection, just east of Cleveland, near the shore.  It was one last beautiful Lake Erie sunset for us as we lowered the Rosette, Ekman, and Manta one last time with the Cleveland skyline in the distance.  We finally made it back to dock in Cleveland at around 11:00 PM, after cruising slowly past the entire Tall Ships Festival line up.

Thoughts from Natalie . . .

Now seasoned professionals at the sampling and data collection processes, teachers are noticing more and more the nuances of the different sampling locations and the range of conditions that make up Lake Erie.  Scientifically, my awareness and competence has grown significantly since my first bewildered day on the boat, when I was overwhelmed by the scope of all the equipment, processes, and scientific research that were being thrown at us.  Personally, my relationships with these amazing educators have also grown tremendously from simply trying to keep track of names and who was from what state to in-depth discussions of our passions, interests, and families.

In my first year of teaching, my mentor described an analogy between teacher personalities and plants.  The short version is that some teachers are like marigolds, plants that help other plants near them to grow strong and healthy, and other teachers are like walnut trees, plants that give off a toxic substance that is detrimental to nearby plants.  As a new teacher, I was encouraged to seek out marigold teachers and avoid walnut-tree teachers, with the caveat that unfortunately, walnut tree teachers are WAY more abundant.  On this trip, I feel like I have found marigolds a-plenty! These people have impressed me with their knowledge, dedication, and wide-ranging life experiences, and have inspired me to expand my use of outdoor experience and current, real-life scientific topics and research that students can relate to.  These are not always easy things to do, but the resources and support of the SEA Grant folks have been truly awesome.

In some ways, it is hard to believe that it has been less than a week since we started this journey, but I also sense that everyone is looking forward to slowing down and relaxing a bit after a fast-paced week and to reconnecting with their family and friends.  I’m sure that we will all look back fondly on this enriching week.

Thoughts from Amy . . .

“When adventure calls – answer!” The opportunity to be a part of an active research vessel on Lake Erie has been unreal. I can’t even begin to put into words how this experience has changed me as a person and as an educator. This has been an amazing week! Being the last full day, we are all pretty tired; our brains are full of science and figuring out how to bring all of the things we have learned back to our students and our classrooms. 

It has been a true privilege and pleasure to work side-by-side with scientists who are actively researching the water quality of the Great Lakes. Each and every scientist has been willing to explain the procedures for sampling and processing and how data is generated. Two of the biggest things I have learned, science takes time and modifications are made on the “fly” when things aren’t going as planned. When a water sample comes off the boat, the processing time for filtering water (microplastics), preserving steps (zooplankton and phytoplankton) is painstakingly time-consuming. We weren’t able to immediately throw a sample under the microscope and see what we found – we had to take the time to properly process the water samples before any analyzing can take place. When we began sampling in the western basin, the water was full of sediment, thereby causing the water to be too “thick” to filter in the same manner as the eastern and central basin. An adjustment was made by our lead scientist to switch to a larger filter and then to filter that with the smaller filter we had been using. This message is a powerful one to bring to students, who often think differently about the scientific process. 

I am grateful for this opportunity and will be sharing my experience on the Lake Guardian with anyone and everyone who will listen!

– Amy Boros and Natalie Hudak (July 13, 2019)