More science discoveries made with teachers aboard the R/V Lake Guardian exploring Lake Huron
Lake Huron is a great teacher! Educational opportunities abound in research conducted during weeklong scientific expedition with educators to study the waters and life of Lake Huron - Part 3 of 3.
In part two of this article, we learned about some of the research and discoveries the teachers made alongside of the research scientists aboard the R/V Lake Guardian on Lake Huron. In this third part, we will learn details about the types of research they conducted, and what it meant to them, and will mean, to their students.
The educators’ research activities were broad and included:
- Water testing to record chemical (e.g., pH and dissolved oxygen) and physical characteristics (e.g., temperature and clarity) of Lake Huron, using a rosette sampler to grab water samples from the deepest areas of Lake Huron (some samples from nearly 700 feet in depth). Teachers learned how to apply lessons of chemistry and physics, and even Great Lakes geology, in describing water quality in Lake Huron.
- Deploying nets towed from the research vessel, teachers discovered phytoplankton (microscopic plants), zooplankton (microscopic animals), Mysis, and larval fish. Research findings allowed teachers to compare and contrast different habitats of Lake Huron, including offshore deep-water habitats to nearshore more productive shallow water habitats, such as Saginaw Bay. Teachers learned that the Great Lakes support a broad diversity of life, and that these different habitats and biodiversity of Lake Huron all reflect interconnections, such as through the food web.
- Benthic Bottom Grabs were achieved by lowering a PONAR dredge to grab and retrieve sediment from the bottom of the lake. Upon examination, this revealed bottom living organisms, such as diporeia, oligachaetes and invasive quagga mussels colonizing bottom areas. Teachers learned that a study of bottom sediments means an opportunity to monitor pollution and estimate populations of invasive quagga mussels. This provided the teachers with a firsthand look at research illustrating an understanding of human interactions with these aquatic environments.
- Fisheries surveys included prey fish trawls (larger nets towed behind the boat) and a gill net set assessment to survey top predator fish. Trawls yielded small forage fish (food for other fish) such as deepwater sculpin and ninespine stickleback in offshore environments and perch, trout perch, suckers, young walleye, and invasive round gobies in more nearshore habitats. Gill nets surveyed larger species, too, finding walleye, suckers, and other species. Teachers compared species diversity in different habitats and studied stomachs to track what fish were eating. Applying mathematics, teachers could compare populations in respect to habitat differences and even food preferences of fish by comparing food found in stomachs to food available in the environment.
The educators’ research odyssey resulted in exploration at all levels of the Lake Huron ecosystem—connecting the food web linkages through their research. More than studying aquatic organisms and habitats, teachers gained an understanding of how people are connected with and affect water quality and ecosystems of Lake Huron. Possibly most important, and at the heart of the teachers’ efforts, were the educational opportunities and lessons developed through their research back to their schools, educational colleagues and students.
Visit the teachers' blog to read more information about the teachers’ experience and perspectives about life aboard a Great Lakes research vessel and scientific research activities on Lake Huron. Visit the Lake Huron Shipboard and Shoreline Science Program to learn more about the program, partners, and teachers.