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Season: mid-April through October

Season: mid-April through October

Investigation Topics:
Biological Limnology
Physical Limnology
Chemical Limnology

Find out more, see all the details in the
R/V Agassiz Brochure for Educators
PDF File 1 Mb
RV Agassiz Website

Boat Registration Form for Educators PDF File

If you have Adobe Acrobat Reader you can fill in the form and print out the filled in version. Otherwise print out the blank form and fill-in by pen.



  Lake Investigations for Middle & High School Students Aboard Michigan Tech’s Research Vessel (R/V) Agassiz

Introducing 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.

An Opportunity 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.

Safety, Capacity and Leadership
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) equipment.

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.

Educational trips 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.

Availability and Cost
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, Contact:
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:

Agassiz Web Page:

Investigation Topics:
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.

Biological Limnology
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.

Physical Limnology
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 various environments.

Chemical Limnology
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.

Limnological Equipment Available Aboard the Agassiz
Dissecting scopes
Secchi disk for transparency
Temperature probe or thermometer
Water bottle samplers
Portable spectrophotometer Phytoplankton & zooplankton nets
PONAR sediment dredge & wash tubs
Clipboards & pencils
Data sheets
Handheld scientific probes
GPS units

Marine Navigation
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.

Youtube Video Player of RV Agassiz

Contact the WUP Center

Last Update: January 30, 2013

Copyright © 2011Western Upper Peninsula Center for Science, Mathematics and Environmental Education
Michigan Technological University
Educational Uses Permitted, giving credit to WUP Center

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