R/V Lake Guardian Completes Maiden Voyage for COSEE Great Lakes

June 28, 2006

Saturday morning in Cleveland saw the return of 16 educators, six scientists and four Great Lakes Sea Grant education leaders from a week of Shipboard and Shoreline Science on Lake Erie sponsored by the National Science Foundation and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Their ship was the 180-foot long U.S. EPA Great Lakes National Program Office research vessel, the R/V Lake Guardian, contributed for this education workshop and staffed by EPA scientists. The cruise was the first major event of the Center for Oceanic Sciences Education Excellence (COSEE) in the Great Lakes, a consortium of educators and scientists assembled to promote science literacy through study of the Great Lakes, America’s inland sea.

Exhilarated and exhausted, the sailors reported stories of science learned first-hand beside noted researchers from four states. Elbow to elbow in hard hats, work vests and steel-toed boots, they collected information about the water quality, physical conditions of the lake, and living things in and below the water. When the samples came on board, the work gear was traded for lab coats as the educators learned how to interpret new information and identify lake plankton and benthic invertebrates. Their data will be contributed to the EPA’s log of the changing Lake Erie system, but more importantly will become part of curricula in grades 4-10 and informal education in Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York.

In addition to the science immersion, the intrepid crew of the Lake Guardian experienced Lake Erie’s notorious sudden storms, the mayfly swarms, and the intricate interrelationships of wind, water, land and life in and around the lake. They made flags depicting their adventures, learned and wrote songs and got to know teacher colleagues with great ideas they can use for teaching. And importantly for COSEE goals nationally, they developed professional relationships with scientists who now understand their classroom needs and potential. The collaborative relationships will be cemented over the coming months as educators develop plans for using their new knowledge in teaching.

This summer’s Shipboard and Shoreline Science cruise began and ended at the Great Lakes Science Center in Cleveland. The voyage took its eager crew of learners through critical science areas of Lake Erie, with shoreline activities at Stone Laboratory in Put-in-Bay, a visit in Toledo from representatives of the Maumee River Remedial Action Plan Committee, exploration of Old Woman Creek National Estuarine Research Reserve in Huron, OH, a tour of the Tom Ridge Environmental Research Center in Erie, PA, with a Living Seas IMAX presentation. Canoeing and kayaking in a lagoon off Presque Isle Bay capped the shoreline experiences with first-hand views of wetland vegetation and beaver lodges.

Each summer for the next four years, the COSEE Great Lakes program and U.S.EPA Great Lakes National Program Office will support another Shipboard and Shoreline Science workshop. In 2007 the voyage will be on Lake Ontario, and following summers will include Lakes Superior, Huron and Michigan. A Great Lakes Education Summit in 2010 will bring these and other COSEE Great Lakes efforts into focus for their impact on science literacy in the Great Lakes region.