Mike Mathis, a Metroparks environmental educator, recently stepped off the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency vessel Lake Guardian after a weeklong research excursion on Lake Michigan.
Mathis was one of 15 educators chosen from more than 60 applicants to collect data alongside EPA scientists July 12-18 as part of the Lake Michigan Shipboard Science Workshop.
“The experience was once in a lifetime,” said Mathis. “I learned so much about scientific research and the Great Lakes. With this knowledge I hope to develop new Great Lakes programming for Metroparks.”
Thanks to facilitators from Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant (IISG), the workshop afforded teachers an opportunity to work alongside four scientists from the U.S. EPA Great Lakes National Program Office, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Loyola University Chicago.
Teachers evaluated the presence of microplastics and assessed the impact of aquatic invasive species—particularly zebra and quagga mussels—on Lake Michigan’s ecosystem. They were able to analyze the samples in onboard laboratories. The goal is for teachers to take their experiences back to the classroom and inspire their own students to want to do scientific exploration of the Great Lakes.
“Educators were immersed in authentic, place-based learning, working side by side with scientists to address current environmental issues. Using innovative sampling and monitoring equipment, teachers were provided with once-in-a-lifetime professional development experience to explore science up-close and personal,” said Terri Hallesy, IISG education coordinator.
Lessons focusing on food-web dynamics, endangered and invasive species, climate change, plastics pollution, water contaminants and stewardship opportunities for students throughout the basin helped educators connect the research they were doing to their classroom curriculum.
The Lake Michigan Shipboard Science Workshop was supported by the EPA through funding from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and Center for Great Lakes Literacy (CGLL) cgll.org.
The Center for Great Lakes Literacy is a collaborative effort led by Sea Grant educators throughout the Great Lakes region. CGLL fosters informed and responsible decision-making that advances basin-wide stewardship by providing hands-on experiences, educational resources and networking opportunities.
Teachers tweeted and blogged about the cruise as well. Weblogs are posted at http://www.cgll.org/category/shipboard-science/2015-lake-michigan-shipboard-science/.
IISG is part of NOAA Sea Grant, a nationwide network of 33 science-based outreach and education programs.