Ecology of the Great Lakes course at Michigan Tech

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Great Lakes Series at the Library

Great Lakes Education

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Great Lakes Series @ The Portage Lake  Library

The Great Lakes Series @ The Library
“How Do You Know if the Great Lakes Are Healthy?”

Flyer (html) Flyer (PDF)

Kids getting to the bottom of things
Invasive species impact ecosystem
Daily Mining Gazette News Story

Students investigate Portage Lake food chain
aboard research vessel Agassiz
Daily Mining Gazette News Story

"How do you know if the Great Lakes are healthy?"
Free scientific excursions aboard MTU's Research Vessel Agassiz & more at the Portage District Library

Three engaging hands-on programs will comprise the final segment of the monthly Great Lakes Presentation Series at the Portage Lake District Library in Houghton from 5-8 pm on Monday, May 14.  

FREE 45-minute scientific excursions will be conducted aboard MTU's research vessel Agassiz. departing at 5 pm, 6 pm, and 7 pm from the dock near the library. The public can pre-register for a 45-minute excursion by calling the library at 482-4570. Seventeen persons may participate per excursion (must be 6 years of age or older) with preference given to students in grades 1-12. A group of seventeen Copper Country home school students will participate in a scientific excursion from 3-5 pm.

During each excursion, Dr. Marty Auer, a Great Lakes research scientist at Michigan Tech will demonstrate lake sampling equipment and what these measurements tell us about the ecological health of Lake Superior and the Great Lakes. Find out how the Great Lakes are studied and how scientists assess Great Lakes’ health. (Note: the Agassiz will next be available for public excursions from 1-4 pm on Saturday, July 7th at the Chassell Marina after the Strawberry Festival parade.)

  Bob Kahl, fisheries biologist with U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, will conduct TWO presentations on aquatic invasive species that threaten the Great Lakes from 6-7 pm and again from 7-8 pm. He'll bring live specimens of sea lamprey, rusty crayfish, and zebra mussels. Ever been kissed by a lamprey? Well here is your big chance! Presentations will be at the outdoor picnic tables, or in the community room, depending upon the weather.
Lastly, discover the innards of Lake Trout! Dr. Nancy Auer will have lots of Lake Trout stomachs for children and adults to dissect and discover what the Lake Trout have been eating. In addition, several MTU students will guide participants in viewing live zooplankton, phytoplankton, and bottom-dwelling organisms through microscopes.

These events are hosted by the Portage District Library and coordinated by the Western U.P. Center for Science, Mathematics & Environmental Education with funding from the Great Lakes Maritime Transportation Institute, Michigan Space Grant Consortium, The Wege Foundation, and Michigan Tech University's Departments of Chemistry, Biological Sciences, Civil and Environmental Engineering, MTU’s Remote Sensing Institute. Library programs are free and open to the public.


The Agassiz is a 36-foot, aluminum-hulled vessel that was custom-built to support Michigan Tech’s mission in water quality research and education.  The Agassiz has undertaken scientific research on Lake Superior with funding from the Michigan Great Lakes Protection Fund, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, National Science Foundation, and others. The Agassiz sails from ice-out (mid-April) through October. The Agassiz carries the following scientific equipment: Secchi disk, Temperature probe, Van Dorn water sampler, Portable spectrophotometer, phytoplankton & zooplankton nets, and a PONAR sediment dredge.

The Agassiz is available for scientific excursions for middle/high school students and teachers between May and October this year. A number of classes from area high schools have had the opportunity to expand their classrooms to include the waters of Lake Superior and the Portage Waterway this year.  Students have enthusiastically embraced this unique hands-on learning experience. Michigan Tech scientists and or graduate students lead the excursions which are 2 hours in length and take place on either  Portage Lake, Torch Lake, Keweenaw Waterway, and/or Lake Superior. Water quality conditions in these systems vary both seasonally and by location, providing a dynamic learning experience. Teachers have the flexibility to tailor the topical content of each cruise to best fit their curricula, with options to address biological, chemical and physical features, or focus on one particular discipline, e.g. the physics of lakes. Trips aboard the Agassiz may also include  demonstrations of vessel operation, safety and electronic navigation aboard ship, include a laboratory experience after the excursion, or be combined with visits to related sites of interest, e.g. a wetland or wastewater treatment plant, upon request.


Below are topics that can be addressed in educational cruises, tailored to each age group:

 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 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.  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.


The Great Lakes program series is coordinated by Joan Chadde of the Western Upper Peninsula Center  for Science, Mathematics and Environmental Education at Michigan Tech, and funded by the Great Lakes Maritime Research Institute and the Wege Foundation.

Everyone is invited to all the future Great Lakes program library events and presentations are free.

More About the Great Lakes Maritime Shipping Education Program and Great Lakes Maritime Shipping Games

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