Reflections on a Mid-summer Night’s Dream

July 29, 2011

So here it is, Friday morning, and I just finished my laundry. I was busy matching socks, when I went to the galley and realized that Jared and Lisa were nowhere to be found and I must have missed breakfast. All I could find was a half-empty bag of Ginger Snaps. I shook away the morning fog as I realized I needed to move forward on solid ground.

I called a couple of my shipmates and we wanted to share some of our reflections on this past week’s journey. Since departing the Guardian on Wednesday, we are struck by how our perception of everyday things has changed. We find ourselves seeing the world through a different lens, and not just because of the patch. Here are some of the anecdotes we shared:
• Going down the ladder into the lake and questioning the kind of algae my feet were slipping on
• Sitting out on the boat, considering flow rate and water quality
• Cleaning the dog pool, and wondering what kind of algae was growing on the side
• Looking at the koi in the pond and wondering what they really wanted to eat
• Listening to NPR and questioning the research methods and data analysis used by the scientist being interviewed

We each have found a strong desire to stay connected to the water and have developed a different kind of appreciation for the chemical, biological, and physical processes that are occurring there.
This trip has truly fostered an appreciation and understanding of scientists as colleagues and resources. As we write this, concerns about our nation’s economic health continue to escalate. We hope that programs like this can continue to exist and that the important research carried out by scientists like ours continues to have sources of funding.

So as the Guardian reaches port today in Milwaukee, the wheels continue to turn as we revisit and process information learned on the trip, look for ways to implement this in our classroom, and find ways to stay connected to our shipmates.

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Sweet Mother Michigan, Father Superior
Coming down from Mackinaw and Sault Ste. Marie
Blue water Huron
Rolls down to Lake Erie-o, falls into Ontario
And runs out to sea

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Now it’s stuck in your head too!

Sandy, Cindy, and Lynn

Bon Voyage Lake Guardian 2011

July 27, 2011

After an evening of celebrating our research, learning, and community building we retired to our final night on the RV Lake Guardian. An early morning wake up call and a bit of rain hustled us along as we packed up our bags. From power cords and flash drives to microscopes and tucker trawls, we hauled everything off the boat as we made our final trip across the gang plank. Promptly at 9AM, the Lake Guardian departed with Captain Bob at the helm as they set off for Lake Michigan. The teachers and researchers cheered and applauded the crew for a spectacular trip.

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The presentations of research projects took place at the Great Lakes Aquarium. We amazed ourselves by how much we had learned, and our ability to explain our results to our colleagues and scientists. Our projects reinforced the idea that science is about the process; it may not always support the expected outcomes. We learned that nearshore and offshore systems of Lake Superior are very complex. We definitely need to do more research, maybe next summer (hint, hint)?

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Experiences such as these are often very powerful. It is amazing how we grew not only in science, but even more so as a very close knit group. Many feel as if we have developed life long friendships as we became more and more of a family throughout the week. We learned so much about each other and enjoyed sharing many aspects of our lives with each other. So hats off to thd COSSEE Lake Guardian Workshop 2011 and our very best to each of us on our journeys. We know we will find ways to keep in touch.

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Last Day on the Lake Guardian

July 26, 2011

Lake Guardian teachers demonstrate the deployment of the zooplankton net to NERR teachers

Man Crew COSEE Superior 2011

Today was a sad day on the Lake Guardian. As we watched the sun rise over the Apostle Islands, a sight—or rather, a dream washed our eyes with pinks and purples and the mixed colors of sandstone. However, as we watched this we all knew that our last day on the boat was upon us. It was for that reason that late last night people who had no job or task to do were still milling around the labs and watching their colleagues work the decks, sampling zooplankton and phytoplankton. Fortunately, we had a couple of long awaited programs (long awaited for the week long event that is). Our first treat this morning was the “isotope lecture” by lead scientist Joel Hoffman (Isotope Ubermensch). Dr. Hoffman enlightened and delighted the anxious crowd of teachers with warm-up jokes and quirky isotope anecdotes. He turned up the heat when he threw in race cars and the addition of “two isotopes walked into a bar…” by Dr. Greg Boyer. Dr. Hoffman drew gasps of “oohs” and “ahs” as he demonstrated how isotopes pinpointed snowfall originating from the Great Lakes during the great Groundhog Blizzard of 2011, opening our eyes to the wonders of isotopic meteorology. When we were joined by the group of teachers studying the St. Louis Estuary, we were treated with our second delight of the day. This group, which was sponsored by the National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR), revitalized our group by making us the teachers of the sampling equipment and the students of methods they were using to test turbidity and water clarity. This week has been a lightning bolt of energy and time for all of us. No one can believe the week has come to an end; alas, it has. Everyone has left the wet lab as John and I finish typing, and though there will be one more blog for our research trip, this is sadly our last night to be with each other, so we are saying goodbye for now. Remember, to join the COSEE group next year on Lake Huron…that’s where the Merrill sank if you don’t remember and join Sandy tomorrow for her retrospective of the last minutes of COSEE 2011.

Day 6: A Day of Small-Group Research

July 25, 2011

A new day starts that 12:00 AM and so does this blog entry. Due to the type of research that we are conducting, all of our testing needs to take place after sundown. By this point in the trip all of us are pretty use to staying up late, waking up in the middle of the night, and getting up before dawn to do our part in the research. At midnight, we were dropping the rosette for water analysis, taking benthic samples from the lake floor, and trawling for larval fish and macrofragments of plastics. We have been doing these things for days now and have them pretty down pat, but for some reason getting soaked with water is just part of the process. After collecting all the samples, we spent the next couple hours scraping nets, filtering water, examining samples under the microscopes. Before calling an end to the beginning of the day the handful of us still up went to the front of the ships to view the moonless night sky unfettered by light pollution from the northern cities.

Being on a ship gets you used to many oddities; sleeping in bunk beds, sharing a bathroom with five other people, NOT flushing the toilet when you are done using it, having every meal prepared for you and not even having to do the dishes, the constant rocking of the boat, and the loud hum of the engine. With almost all of the researchers sleeping at 7:30 in the morning after a long night of sampling, one of those oddities got us all up. The engines stopped and the boat slowed and that was enough to wake us all up wondering why we had come to an unscheduled stop. Due to a calculation error we had arrived at our next research spot an hour and a half early. Within minutes, the deck was alive with teachers ready for another set of samples. Everyone was excited because this spot was going to be testing waters at 237 meters deep. Think about that. That is 777 feet. Only twelve of the fifty states have buildings that are taller that! One of the reasons we were so excited about this spot is that we all decorated Styrofoam cups, shoved them in pantyhose to secure them to the rosette, and lowered it down the 237 m offshore of the Keweenaw Peninsula. The pressure was so great that the cups were compressed to nearly half their size!

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We then headed off to the mouth of the Bad River of the Chequamegon Bay without stopping, which took the rest of the day. That was fine with us because we had a lot of work to do on board. We are all presenting our small group research projects on Wednesday and needed the time to wrap things up.

Janet, John, Paul, and Jim have been researching the presence of plastic in Lake Superior. Using a mantatrawl drug to the side and behind the boat to avoid the wake, a sample is taken for one hour at 2 knots. They also have been taking shoreline samples for plastics.

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Lori W., Jillian, Lori S.D. and are collecting zooplankton samples and comparing nearshore samples to offshore. They are looking for difference in abundance and biodiversity in relation to possible nutrient and temperature differences.

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Mark, Diane, Sara, and JoAnn are collecting phytoplankton samples and comparing nearshore samples to offshore. They are looking for the relationship between phytoplankton and nutrient loading and therefore human population centers.

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Sandy, Lynn, Cindy B., and June are researching different chlorophyll levels using the hydrolab (data sond) that we were trained with earlier on our voyage. They are comparing different levels and different locations to find the greatest abundance of chlorophyll in the lake.

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We also learned a few lessons with Cindy H. and Rosanne to bring to our own classrooms covering watersheds, fisheries, and aquatic habitats to wrap up our day.

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DAY 5: Wetlands, Guts and Gay

July 24, 2011

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After waking up from a taste of Houghton our day started while still docked with another delicious meal in the galley. Following the scraping of plates and filling of coffee mugs we headed to the wet lab for a lecture. Dr. Joel Hoffman inspired us with his enthusiastic overview of costal wetlands. The lecture came to abrupt halt as the boat pulled away from the dock and we headed to the O2 deck to marvel at the well engineered lift bridge. We clicked away with our cameras and chitter chatter as we peered at the massive columns of steel that the bridge was comprised of. Little did we know that the task of gut processing was in our near future.

Following a 15 minute float we docked at Michigan Tech and stepped off the ship onto the land of rebar. Michigan Tech is in the middle of a 40 million dollar building project complete with boat house, state of the art laboratories, and extra space for visiting scientists who will contribute to the research of the Great Lakes.

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We met with Marty Auer who provided us with a tour of the new facility, still in progress and then headed over to a lecture and lab. Dr. Auer provided us with information about the new facility and current research at Michigan Tech. We found the lab to be engaging as we studied features of the lake bed, identified a variety of plankton and donned our purple latex gloves and dissected the stomachs of lake trout.

Dr. Charlie Kerfoot, from Michigan Tech, led us on a world wind tour of the historic copper mining sites of the area. We piled into two vans and headed to Gay, MI with several relevant stops along the way. Including the historic Quincy mine, Torch Lake and massive piles of Stamp Sands on the beaches at Gay.

The waters of Superior called to us and we answered. We arrived at the boat a few minutes after our scheduled departure and were elated the Captain Bob hadn’t sailed on without us. We headed out through Portage Lake and channel and met Mother Superior an hour later. We now await our first testing station and anticipate fun times on the back deck and in the labs.
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