Day 5–We Made the News!

July 30, 2009

Today was exciting! We had a news crew from WBKB television, a reporter from the Alpena News, and two wonderful speakers from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Fisheries Research Station in Alpena, who were shuttled over to the Lake Guardian shortly after breakfast. Dave Fielder, a fisheries biologist with MDNR, started off our day of learning with a presentation on the Walleye populations of Saginaw Bay. Saginaw Bay walleye catch The Walleye are increasing in numbers after the decrease of the Ailwife species in the Saginaw Bay. What makes this extremely interesting is that the Chinook Salmon were brought in to help out with the alewife problem, and it is the only time that an invasive species has ever been introduced to control another invasive species that had a positive outcome. (Ever hear of a cute little toxic critter in Australia called the Cane Toad?)

After the talk about the walleye recovery, we went outside to Station 26 and collected more data—this was our time to shine in front of the camera! We did the secchi disk, plankton nets, PONAR, and rosette. The news crew suited up and followed us out onto the deck. Interviews for TVThey mostly stayed back to watch and film, but one adventurous anchor tried to participate and grabbed the PONAR. Sharing what we had learned from the Lake Guardian marine techs early in the workshop, we ever-so-politely told her not to touch that one, because “it can rip your fingers off.” She quickly switched over to a safer prop, the sediment pulled up in the PONAR, which we now lovingly call “Muck.” Her brief report of what we were doing with it was to be featured on the evening news. Even though our group missed the actual broadcast, we heard that it was great, and we also made the top headline of The Alpena News in print and on line.Alpena News
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We ate a wonderful meal of taco casserole and lasagna (Did we mention that we love our cooks, Carl and Donna?), and then headed back to the science lab for another great presentation. Jim Johnson, who is also a Michigan DNR fisheries biologist, made the trek to the ship to speak with us about the history of the Chinook Salmon in the Great Lakes. For the younger “students,” the salmon have not always been present in the lakes, but they were actually introduced into the lakes in the 1960’s to try and take care of an Alewife overabundance problem the Great Lakes was experiencing. (Tons of dead fish were washing ashore in Lake Michigan.) Salmon & alewifeThe outcome achieved was better than most had anticipated. The sport-fishing industry grew, and the alewife population dwindled.

After Jim was finished speaking the visitors took the boat back to Alpena, and we raised the anchor so that we could set off to our next sampling spot. Anchors aweigh!Group A took charge like pros. They tested in record time, and we were off to our next stop. The afternoon was given to us to work on our research projects, do a group concept mapping of our journals, prepare our styrofoam cups and spheres for “the deep” on Thursday, or whatever else we needed to work on. Some groups worked up on deck while our ship glided along the blue waters of Lake Huron - it was cool seeing the remains of the shipwrecked Nordmeer, which sank in 1966 - while others congregated in the science labs of the ship. Lab workEvening came, and we made one more hunt for Mysids. Even though we did not find any, we did bring up a different zooplankton, Holopedium gibberum, that is relatively rare in this part of Lake Huron. Before we studied it under a microscope, it looked like clear fish eggs.
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As our week is starting to near the end, we’ve learned so much about the Great Lakes ecosystem and each other. We have grown to be friends as well as colleagues. It’s not just the cooks we love, but all the crew and scientists on board. Each person has helped us somewhere along the way in this learning adventure, and they are all very much appreciated. With any group that is together for more than a few days, ours has developed inside jokes….like David’s traveling socks, Barfometers, Shaggy, and the Benthic Babes or Muck Girls. Even the word “pheromones” can make some of us smile. The blog team asked each person to write down one “aha” moment today. Some wrote cute things about the week, others were very deep and thoughtful, but each is one thing that will stick with us far beyond the sea legs and feeling perfectly still buildings sway under our feet.

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My ‘aha moment’ was when I found out the vast amount of differences in depth and the overall bathymetry of the Great Lakes. It shows the importance of knowing this information for shipping, boating, research, etc.
An ‘aha moment’ is the realization that the Great Lakes have had more changes in 17 years than in the last 10,000 years!
I am so glad I am learning and participating in so much more than I anticipated.
There is more to the study of the Great Lakes than recording changes. There are still discoveries and connections (Guy Meadow’s amazing study of Lake Huron’s ridge as a hunting corridor of ice age people.
Where have all the walleye’s gone? Now I know!
I take for granted everything we’ve learned about our environment: This trip has given me a new appreciation for the experience, dedication, and knowledge of our scientists and researchers – a great field for my students to consider.
I’ve had more than one ‘aha moment;’ too many to possibly count probably. I’ve been very surprised by the complexity of the research going on in the Great Lakes, and I’m glad I had this opportunity to see how much I still have to learn.
There are an amazing number of ship wrecks in Lake Huron in the vicinity of Thunder Bay because of the unique topography.
Finding out that there are hundreds, maybe thousands of unmapped shipwrecks really brought out the curious, child-like, loves mysteries archeologist in me.
There are no boring invasive species! So much to learn, know and understand about them.
The research done with sea lamprey is really interesting. The idea of lamprey using pheromones to communicate is fascinating.
Our visit to the NOAA Maritime Shipwreck Museum in Alpena drove home the awesome power of the lakes in general and Lake Huron specifically. The Great Lakes should never be taken lightly and always be respected.
Golly, an ancient hunting ground was recently discovered in Lake Huron!!!
And for the best quote for today…When asked how he stays so thin with all he eats, a COSEE student responded with “I dunno, the more I eat, the more I poop.”

News Links
Don’t forget to check out the article in the July 25th Detroit Free Press Local news briefs: Teachers to travel around Lake Huron
http://www.freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2009907250339
And another in the Fort Mill Times “Teachers to study Lake Huron aboard EPA vessel”(Published July 23, 2009)
http://www.fortmilltimes.com/124/story/670604.html?story_link=email_msg
The Alpena News
http://www.thealpenanews.com/page/content.detail/id/506147.html?nav=5004

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A Night -Time Reflection

July 28, 2009

Stars were amazing tonight. A cold breeze and calmness swept over everything. A light came on from the front of the ship keeping watch out on the water. As I came back in it was hard to go to bed. There is so much to do. So much to keep busy with; why waste time with sleep? I know I’ll feel differently in the morning.

The halls feel like a campus dorm. ‘Be quiet, everyone’s asleep!’ But you know it’s not true.working.JPG Many are up working on projects or studyingw6.JPG, but you stay quiet in the hall anyway.

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These days are filled with lecture, lab, and dorm cafeteria meals that fill you up with meaningful conversation and plans for the future. This short visit back to college life is different from our last stay. This time we have no pressures of the outside world on our floating university. No sororities, dating woes, or parents calling. Just the opportunity to take in all that we can from each ‘class’ or ‘lab’.

We are grateful for the opportunity to be students again, a little wiser and a lot more willing. Thank you COSEE, EPA, NOAA, and everyone else involved with sharing the Lake Guardian and the talents of it’s staff with us on this odyssey for the love of learning. We cherish every step along the way.

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Day4- A Day On Shore

Dawn in AlpenaToday dawned with promise of a more relaxed pace. The day began with another fabulous breakfast by our kitchen staff. Next we worked on various projects while we waited for our turn to take the ship’s small boat, Vega, to the port at Alpena on Thunder Bay.
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Upon arrival we walked a few blocks into town to the NOAA National Marine Sanctuary. There Dave took his socks off to let them dry after the wet trip over. sock TreeThey seem to be happy with the break from Dave as they ran off but have been sending pictures. Sock PFDMore about Dave’s missing socks in the days to come.

Sock TV

At the Maritime Heritage Center we listened to Angie Bowen from the US Fish and Wildlife Service discuss aquatic invasive species. Many found the variety of aquatic invasive species surprising. A staggering average of 2 invasive species are introduced to the Great Lakes every year!! Round gobyThe preserved specimens that were handed around helped everyone understand distinguishing features for each. There was uncertainty about the differences between the tastes of leaches and lampreys until we learned that sea lampreys attach to cold blooded hosts while leeches only attach to warm blooded hosts. We also learned that they have teeth on their tongues!

Next Mike Wagner from MSU discussed the research that has been taking place in regard to sea lampreys and cleared up more questions about this complex creature. We learned that pheromones seem to be one of the major bases of decision making in the lives of sea lampreys (and other creatures). Lamprey migratory path

Cathy Green led the group through the National Marine Sanctuary Museum for the next segment.Patty Museum Most of us were not aware of the shipwreck sanctuary or even the need for one.cathy Cathy answered our many questions about the legal issues involved in protecting sunken ships and shared the history of several of the most interesting in the Thunder Bay area. tourOne particularly interesting case involved a cargo ship that sank in the late shipping season presumably as a result of ice coverage over the ship itself. The ship can be found today with the mast still standing and hull without damage standing straight up at the bottom of Lake Huron.

museumHere we enjoyed a different view of the ship wreck simulation in the museum as we tunneled through the hull.tube

After the museum we were allowed free time in Alpena. trailMany of the group enjoyed dinner in a local Steak House then roamed around town until it was time to ride back to our home ship.Lake GuardianReturn to Shipload Some activities enjoyed included a walk down the Maritime Heritage Trail, and a visit to the local Dairy Queen and Dollar General.

PFD funAlpena sunset


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