Science Wednesday: Lake Guardian Shipboard and Shoreline Science Workshop, Day #1

By Dr. Joel Hoffman

Science Workshop, Day#1.

In July 2011, scientists and educators from around the Great Lakes will be aboard EPA’s Lake Guardian research vessel to research environmental conditions in Lake Superior, and share their stories.

I am amazed and excited that the workshop is commencing. How do you prepare to take 15 educators for a week on a large, oceanographic vessel?

Our preparations started this past winter. Initial discussion about the theme for the research cruise (human interactions with the coast) led to many more about the appropriate science activities which then led to me calling around the Great Lakes for scientists to participate. We wanted top-notch scientists, for sure. We also wanted the research to mean something—the projects had to be interesting, cutting-edge science to which the teachers could add their effort.

Three months out, we called for applications and were flooded with interest. This is fantastic, of course, but tough, too. We could only take 15. This motivated us to find new ways to expand the reach of the program and so we doubled-down on our outreach efforts. The result was that we will have two first-ever collaborations. One—we will hold a class by satellite from the middle of Lake Superior in collaboration with the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry as part of their “Great Lakes Rocks” program. Two—the new Lake Superior National Estuarine Research Reserve will host 6 teachers in a related COSEE program and join us on the research vessel for the last day of the workshop.

Today, we introduce the teachers to the lake, the vessel, the cruise theme, and their new (temporary) job as a Great Lakes scientist. We will visit the Great Lakes Aquarium this afternoon to see up-close what life in the lake is all about. Then, we will explain the teachers’ mission to them: to be scientists, to participate in ongoing Great Lakes research, to be up in the middle of the night as the research commands (the boat runs 24/7), and to approach their days with a sense of inquiry and curiosity.
What better way to experience Great Lakes science than to stand on the deck in the middle of the night, under the stars, staring over the horizon, as a sampling net is towed quietly behind the vessel, so you can simply ask “What’s out there?.”
Here we go.

About the author: Dr. Joel Hoffman is a research biologist in EPA’s Mid-Continent Ecology division, and. the head scientist for the 2011 Lake Guardian Shipboard and Shoreline workshop on Lake Superior.