Lake Ontario Shipboard Science: Day 7

July 16, 2018

I always wondered what life on board a ship was like and what it would be like to conduct scientific research along with a team of scientists. I think the the whole team would agree that we’ve been given a special gift of just a small glimpse, a snapshot, into the lives of a crew working on a research vessel. It’s amazing to see the teamwork and collaboration of the diverse group of people from all walks of life who have come together to study the Great Lakes. Who are these people?  


From students pursuing advanced degrees in Science, to professors and researchers who have devoted decades of their lives to preserving and enriching the Great Lakes, to staff from many levels of government – these people inspire us to continue this work with our students and foster a new generation of Lake Guardians. This past week a new group came together to learn about the Great Lakes – a unique and varied group of teachers and educators from different states around the Great Lakes basin.  We jumped in head first and immersed ourselves in the Great Lakes culture that has stolen the hearts and minds of many before us. 


There was so much to learn on a trip like this. I once thought that good scientists never made a mistake, now I know that although they plan and prepare, sometimes accidents happen and they can often be corrected with a little ingenuity and some extra work.  Sometimes a mistake may lead to a groundbreaking discovery or to a new set of questions that spins off in an entirely different direction. I also never realized how much time, trial and error, and analysis went into research. Now I see that the discovery, that “Aha!” moment, is just a small part of the process. I used to think of each Great Lake as a separate entity but in reality they are inexorably connected to each other and what happens in one lake can affect all of them eventually. In the past, it seemed like once damaged, there was no chance for an environment’s recovery but there is hope for areas of concern (AOCs) due to new partnerships between the EPA, Industry, and concerned citizens.   

Leaving such a wonderful experience always brings a lot of unexpected emotions and thoughtful reflection. We’re all buzzing with energy like a swarm of mysis shrimp with pieces of information that we’ve collected this week and we can’t wait to share that excitement with others. Our Great Lakes are a remarkable, complex, and organic ecosystem and we impact it by the choices we make. Each life-form in this system has something of value and is worth appreciation and preservation for future generations.   

By Libby Robertson and Kristen Guadagno