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.