Lake Guardian research vessel

Science Wednesday:Lake Guardian Shipboard and Shoreline Science Workshop Day 7!

Each week we write about the science behind environmental protection. Previous Science Wednesdays.

By Dr. Joel Hoffman

Workshop Day#7, Teachers teaching teachers

Tuesday afternoon the US EPA’s Research Vessel Lake Guardian returned to port in Duluth, MN, where we were joined by five teachers who were participating in a shore-based Great Lakes science workshop with the Lake Superior National Estuarine Research Reserve . The teachers from theshore-based workshop had been sampling in the National Estuarine Research Reserve located in the St. Louis River, during the past two days to measure its environmental quality.

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.
NERR (shore-side) teaching our teachers (ship-side)

NERR (shore-side) teaching our teachers (ship-side)

Our sampling plan was to sample in the St. Louis River, close to the reserve, and then sample out in the lake so that the teachers could compare the environmental quality. But as we arrived at the station and began to start our sampling, something different happened – something that had not happened while we were sampling on Lake Superior. The teachers stepped up. The scientists stood back. Those teachers who have been with us the past week described the scientific instruments to the shore-based educators. Then they explained what the data were used for and how the data should be interpreted. The shore-based educators, in turn, looked at the results and told the boat-based educators how the values we got near the reserve or out in the lake compared to the results they had obtained in the river. I was greatly impressed. The teachers were now teaching the teachers.

LG (ship-side) teachers showing NERR teacher how to diploy zooplankton net

LG (ship-side) teachers showing NERR teacher how to diploy zooplankton net

A week ago, I stood alongside our rosette, a sampling device that is lowered into the lake to measure its physical and chemical properties, and carefully explained the way it worked, why it took the data it did, and why that was useful to scientists. A week later, the workshop teachers can explain with confidence the same device and provide personal stories about how it was important to the science in which they participated during the past week. Scientific terms that were foreign are now familiar. Concepts that were difficult are now comfortable. This is all evidence for the value of this immersive experience. When we have teachers working shoulder-to-shoulder with scientists, the teachers truly internalize the information and so they have the confidence to share it with others. And now they can share it with their students – the next generation of stewards of our Great Lakes.

This blog is the last in our Workshop series, thanks for joining us on the journey! Check out the Workshop website for much more information, including blogs by the teachersand podcasts.

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.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.


Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Lake Guardian Shipboard and Shoreline Science Workshop  Report Out From Day 2!

Teachers on the back deck learning about sampling

Teachers on the back deck learning about sampling

By Kristin TePas

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.

Science Workshop, Day#2 Report Out

Let the research begin! We did our first sampling station Thursday at the Coordinated Science and Monitoring Initiative (CSMI) site.  The teachers rotated through each piece of sampling equipment and each gained hands-on experience helping out the scientists and marine technicians.

We first deployed the Rosette to collect water samples for water quality analysis.  The Rosette has a central cylinder where a sensor package is located and clustered around that package are sampling bottles. For more on Rosette samplers.  Water samples were collected at different, discrete depths throughout the water column. To determine the discrete sampling depths, temperature is used by measuring the thermal stratification the term for the temperature layering effect that occurs in water) of the lake. In the summer months there is a distinct warmer upper layer called the epilimnion (e.g., 12-15C) with a rapidly decreasing layer beneath leading to a uniform colder layer called the hypolimnion (e.g., 4 C).

Teacher hosing down zooplankton net

Teacher hosing down zooplankton net

We next deployed phytoplankton and zooplankton nets to collect algae and zooplankton.

Phytoplankton were collected from the upper productive layer of the water column, while zooplankton were collected throughout the water column. Scientists will analyze the abundance and composition of these communities because as the base of the food chain, they support the entire system!
We then collected sediment using a PONAR grab sampler which was named after Great Lakes scientists, Charles E. Powers, Robert A. Ogle, Jr., Vincent E. Noble, John C. Ayers, and Andrew Robertson.

This sampler allows us to examine the benthic zone, or the lowest level of the lake’s ecosystem. With these samples, grabbed

Teachers transferring zooplankton sample into bottle

Teachers transferring zooplankton sample into bottle

from the lake bottom, scientists will look at the benthic organisms that live in the sediment, total organic carbon and plastics. The collection of plastics is for Dr. Rios-Mendoza (University of Wisconsin-Superior), who is studying the abundance and composition of plastics polymers in aquatic environments.

The teachers will get plenty of experience using the equipment and processing samples as we’ll be sampling at many more CSMI sites over the next several days!

PONAR sampler

PONAR sampler

Got a question about the equipment? Then send a question to the Lake Guardian mailbag for our experts to answer!

About the author: Kristin TePas works with IL-IN Sea Grant as an outreach specialist and is a liaison to U.S. EPA’s Great Lakes National Program Office.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Lake Guardian Shipboard and Shoreline Science Workshop: Things I’ve Learned This Summer

By Maggie Sauerhage

Things I’ve learned this summer: Lake Superior is ENORMOUS, spanning 31,700 square miles; the Lake hosts a variety of unique habitats and biodiversity; and finally, cell phone reception on the Lake can be lousy.

As an EPA intern in the nation’s capital, I’ve been remotely assisting in communicating a science education workshop on Lake Superior.  I’ve  been lucky enough to have scientists, education experts and Lake Guardian crew members fill my brain with knowledge about lake science, science education and what life is like on a 180-foot-long research vessel.

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.

EPA’s Joel Hoffman, head scientist for the workshop, explained the variety of unique habitats surrounding the Great Lakes. From urban areas to places that are extremely remote, coastal zones are reflective of water quality in the Lake. Joel and other scientists are working with educators to measure water quality around the Lake.

EPA is measuring water quality and health indicators in the Great Lakes as part of new scientific standards established to assess ecosystem health of all five lakes. This data will create a record that scientists can use to determine how the lakes are doing and where they might need help. Listen to my podcast with Joel to learn more.

Minnesota Sea Grant’s Cindy Hagley is helping educators in the Workshop transform the science they are learning into teaching materials. Teachers can share videos, photos, and data from the Workshop with their students. Read about the educators’ daily experiences here.

Lake Guardian crew member Amy Jo Strange spends a large part of the year floating on the Great Lakes on the vessel. While one of her most important jobs during the workshop is to keep the educators safely on deck, she enjoys sharing her passion for the Great Lakes.

I’ve really enjoyed learning about Lake Superior and the Great Lakes through the Workshop, and speaking with the many people involved has sparked my interest in Lake Superior science! If you have questions for the scientists and others onboard, please submit them here and check back to see the answer!

I’m excited to follow the scientists, educators and all those onboard during this week and next, and I hope you’ll come along!

About the author: Maggie Sauerhage is a summer intern in EPA’s Office of Research and Development. Maggie is a senior at Indiana University majoring in Spanish.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Lake Guardian: Shipboard and Shoreline Science Workshop Day 1 Wrap Up!

By Dr. Joel Hoffman

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.

Science Workshop, Day#1 Wrap up

Wednesday we officially kicked-off the science education workshop on the Lake Guardian Research Vessel! Our educators arrived by plane and car from across the Great Lakes – New York to Minnesota. For those who have not been on a large lake or to sea on a large research vessel, it’s hard to describe your first impression. You enter the R/V Lake Guardian from the back deck, walking a gang plank from the shore on to the working portion of the vessel. A massive, black steel tower, called an A-frame, and a number of large cables and winches, take up the better portion of your view. These are the mechanical systems used to lower various sampling gears hundreds or thousands of feet down into the lake. You can’t see the front of the boat. The three decks stretch to the sky, over the top of which you can see the diesel stacks. There is a constant hum and vibration when you stop onboard. This is the sound of the engine idling, providing power to the ship.

After settling in, the educators spent the afternoon at the Great Lakes Aquarium while the scientists aboard the ship prepped the biological and chemical labs, as well as readied their field sampling equipment, for use. We brought onboard science equipment including two special nets that are pulled behind the vessel – a manta trawl for sampling plastics and a tucker trawl for sampling fish larvae.  Also a variety of microscopes with cameras attached for photographing, counting and measuring organisms. A special sensor was brought that can quickly determine the different types of algae present in the lake. And a great deal of filtering equipment was brought along for water quality sampling. We will blog more on the science equipment as we go along.

Tomorrow we run out to Stony Point to intercept a remote sampling vehicle that “flies” through the water by itself, taking measurements of the lake’s physical and chemical characteristics, such as temperature and color. It has been sampling for the past two days across the western arm of Lake Superior, taking continuous measurements. From there, we will head back towards Duluth for our first official Year of Lake Superior sampling site as part of the Coordinated Science and Monitoring Initiative. This will be our first major science station for the cruise.

Group of teachers at the Great Lakes Aquarium working on their first assignment - concept mapping.

Group of teachers at the Great Lakes Aquarium working on their first assignment - concept mapping.

The first day of the cruise is always tough and exciting. Tough because there are many preparations to be made, exciting because Thursday, we will push away from the dock, say farewell to land, and go to work.

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.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.