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Season: mid-April through October
Season: mid-April through October
||Lake Investigations for Middle & High School Students Aboard Michigan Tech’s Research Vessel (R/V) Agassiz
the R/V Agassiz
This custom-built, 36-foot, aluminum-hulled vessel supports Michigan Tech’s
mission in water quality research and education.
The Agassiz has served
as a platform for research on Lake Superior sponsored by the Michigan
Great Lakes Protection Fund, the Environmental Protection Agency, and
the National Science Foundation. During the 2004 field season, the Agassiz
was engaged in more than 20 cruises involving middle, high school, and
university students and their teachers, extending their classrooms to
include the waters of Lake Superior and the Keweenaw Waterway. As might
be expected, students enthusiastically embrace this opportunity for a
hands-on learning experience.
to Study Lake Superior and Connecting Waters
Here in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, our students live beside the
largest freshwater lake in the world! To many of them, this vast body
of water will serve only as a backdrop for their lives ... a place to
live, work and play. However, these students also have the good fortune
of living near a university which is active in the exploration of that
lake. Class excursions aboard the Agassiz are now available to middle
and high school students, providing an opportunity for a hands-on, guided
experience in scientific investigations. An afternoon aboard the Agassiz
can help enhance student interest in science and math and open the door
to exciting career opportunities.
Offered in cooperation
with the Western UP Center for Science, Mathematics and Environmental
Education, the Agassiz program offers great flexibility in the design
of cruise experiences, providing age-appropriate activities that complement
classroom curricula. Cruises may be a half-day or full-day in length,
exploring the waters of Portage Lake, Torch Lake, the Keweenaw Waterway,
and Lake Superior. Water quality conditions in these systems vary both
seasonally and with location and thus the topical content of each cruise
is tailored to the site and the season. Cruises can provide a survey of
surface water quality, including biological, chemical and physical features,
or Center staff and MTU faculty can work with teachers to design a field
experience focusing on a particular discipline, e.g. the physics of lakes.
Trips aboard the Agassiz may also include demonstrations of vessel operation
and safety and electronic navigation.
The Agassiz has been inspected by the U.S. Coast Guard and certified as
a passenger vessel. The ship is operated by an MTU captain licensed by
the U.S. Coast Guard. The Agassiz is equipped with a full complement of
safety (life jackets, fire suppression system, lifeboat), navigation (electronic
charting, GPS, radar) and communications (cell phone, marine radios, EPIRB)
The Agassiz can carry
19 passengers: nominally, the MTU cruise leader, the teacher and 17 students.
In order to provide hands-on experience and to hold the attention of those
on board, it is recommended that classes be split into groups of 9 students.
Groups of 12 will work also, if an additional teacher comes along. Opportunities
for laboratory analysis and companion visits to local sites of environmental
interest, e.g. a wetland or wastewater treatment plant, can be arranged
to accommodate entire classes.
are coordinated by Joan Chadde from the Western U.P. Center for Science,
Mathematics and Environmental Education. Joan has an M.S. in Water Resources
and extensive experience in leading environmental science programs for
elementary, middle, and high school students and teachers. MTU faculty
are available to share their scientific expertise and introduce students
to the fascinating world of Great Lakes research.
Typically, boat time costs:$880 per 8-hour day and $440 per 4-h or 1/2 day
minimum. Michigan Tech faculty ($60/hour) or graduate students ($15/hour) are available to lead the cruise, provide a one-hour pre-cruise introductory presentation, and conduct a two-hour post-cruise laboratory experience analyzing samples.
The Agassiz sails from ice-out (mid-April) through October.
Each season offers its own opportunities: May and June cruises help integrate principles developed in the classroom over the previous year; July and August cruises visit the lakes during their most dynamic period; and September and October cruises provide an exciting start to the school year with hands-on experiences to support classroom studies.
To Make Reservations,
Joan Chadde, Education Program Coordinator
Western UP Center for Science, Mathematics & Environmental Education
105 Dillman Hall
Michigan Technological University
1400 Townsend Drive, Houghton, MI 49931
Tel: 906-487-3341 Fax: 906-487-1620 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Agassiz Web Page:
Below are some examples of topics used in educational cruises in the past
year. These can be tailored according to a teacher’s needs to provide
age-appropriate lesson plans supporting and extending classroom curricula.
A PONAR dredge is used to collect samples of the invertebrate animals
which inhabit the bottom sediments. Samples are processed to separate
the animals from the sediment and the collection is inspected. Plankton
nets are used to sample the phytoplankton and zooplankton that inhabit
the open waters. Stops can be made to conduct shoreline seining of the
fish community. On board discussion focuses on differences in the diversity
of aquatic life in different habitats and the role of invertebrate animals
as indicators of ecosystem health.
The physical composition of sediment samples collected with the PONAR
sediment dredge is evaluated. The sand-silt-clay content of the sediment
is compared for sites at various depths. On board discussion focuses on
the role of particle size, density, and their interaction with wave energy
in determining sediment character and the types of organisms which inhabit
Depth profiles of dissolved oxygen and water temperature are developed
at several sites using a HydroLab sonde. Vertical structure in oxygen
and temperature is explored as a basis for understanding the significance
of thermal stratification. On board discussion focuses on the interplay
of physics (temperature), chemistry (oxygen), and biology (oxygen consumption)
in determining the oxygen resources of lakes.
Equipment Available Aboard the Agassiz
Secchi disk for transparency
Temperature probe or thermometer
Water bottle samplers
Portable spectrophotometer Phytoplankton & zooplankton nets
PONAR sediment dredge & wash tubs
Clipboards & pencils
Handheld scientific probes
Near shore marine navigation consists of determining the current position
of a vessel and how to arrive at a new position from the current position.
This is accomplished using several techniques and various tools. Non-electronic
tools include: nautical charts, compasses, dividers, parallel rules, binoculars,
basic mathematics, and the polaris. Electronic tools include: GPS., depth
sounder, radar and electronic navigation system. While aboard the Agassiz,
the use of tools and techniques to navigate the vessel will be demonstrated.