COSEE Great Lakes "Super Scientist!"
One of the goals of COSEE Great Lakes is to link scientists and educators in partnerships that are mutually beneficial. In order to create those partnerships we need dedicated, interested scientists who are willing to give of their time and expertise. We found a "Super Scientist" in Dr. Greg Boyer, Faculty of Chemistry and Director, Great Lakes Research Consortium at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry.
Dr. Boyer has been the lead scientist for several of the shipboard workshops for COSEE GL. These unique workshops are a partnership with the USEPA that enables educators to live and work aboard the R/V Lake Guardian as it conducts research on the Great Lakes. The educators work alongside scientists who are involved in monitoring and research projects while the ship moves along transects on the lakes each summer.
Dr. Boyer truly enjoys his COSEE GL experiences, and it shows. He has a real interest in the educators and spends as much time with them as possible. When he's not leading them through actual research stations, he's spending time with them in the laboratory as they key out plankton collected during the tows or talking with them over a meal in the galley.
When asked why he enjoys working with educators, Dr. Boyer said: "Educators are interested in what they can bring back to the classroom. They have a big picture outlook, and they want to know more about how things fit together. I am always impressed on how willing they are to try things. I have never heard an educator complain about what I asked them to do. Rather than complaining about having to get up at 3a.m. for a sample station knowing they had class the next morning, they are making arrangements to wake up their team members. They are motivated to get the maximum out of the experience, rather than do just what I asked."
According to Dr. Boyer, the educators reap great benefits during the COSEE GL Guardian workshops. "To quote an old proverb: I hear, I forget; I see, I remember; I do, I understand. There is no substitute for hands-on experience. It gives the educators credibility when they talk to their students. It provides the fodder for the interesting stories. I think it also recharges their batteries and lets them know that this is not just the realm of the research scientist. It lets them know that they can conduct research and more teachers should get involved."
Scientists also benefit from the work with educators. Dr. Boyer states: "I think the most useful thing from attending the COSEE Great Lakes cruises as a scientist is that it grounds our research. Funding agencies are constantly pushing for collateral benefits and broader impacts from our work and this provides it. In addition to the obvious educational impacts (and the fact that it is fun), the educators ask questions of you. Many times these questions are basic, so it forces you to go back and rethink some of the basic tenets of your work. For example: Why is it that quagga mussels live at deeper depths than zebra mussels? - What is the real biochemical difference that allows quagga mussels to expand their range and can we use that to get rid of invasive species? Sometimes we get tied up in the obvious observations and forget the basic underlying questions."
Dr. Boyer's partnership with the teachers doesn't end when they leave the ship. He invites them to stay in touch through email and many take him up on his offer. For example, Middle school teacher Kenneth Huff has relied on Dr. Boyer to help him create a Great Lakes unit that has students using mini (homemade) Secchi disks to test water clarity in classroom containers. Huff credits Dr. Boyer with helping him develop the activity based on Secchi disk tests that were conducted on the Lake Guardian.
Although we consider Dr. Boyer a "Super Scientist," he is not alone. COSEE GL has fostered links with many dedicated scientists who generously give of their time and expertise. Our goal of developing partnerships between educators and scientists has been very successful. Without a cadre of interested scientists and the support of the USEPA Great Lakes National Program Office and the dedicated crew of the R/V Lake Guardian, our programs would never reach the level of success that we have experienced.