Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Adults and kids learn about Great Lakes research, fish food web, marine robotics, more ...

By Michele Bourdieu

On July 1, 2014, visitors board Michigan Tech's research vessel Agassiz at the dock outside the Portage Lake District Library for a short excursion to Michigan Tech's Great Lakes Research Center (GLRC). On the boat they learned about equipment scientists use to study the bottom of the lake. (Photos by Keweenaw Now)

[EDITOR'S NOTE: Michigan Tech's research vessel Agassiz has been making a round of public appearances this summer, offering kids and adults a chance to learn about ways that scientists study the Great Lakes. Keweenaw Now had a chance to visit the Agassiz on some of these trips and take photos and videos for a series of articles. This is the first article in the series.]

HOUGHTON -- Kayla Golde, 8, and her sister, Madison Golde, 10 -- accompanied by their parents, Tammy and Emmett Golde, of Elo, Mich. -- recently participated in a variety of activities designed to offer families a chance to learn about life forms in the Great Lakes and how scientists study them.

On July 1, 2014, the Portage Lake District Library and Michigan Tech's Great Lakes Research Center (GLRC) partnered for a science program that included a ride on the Agassiz from the Portage Library to the GLRC, a visit to a GLRC laboratory to see what's in the water -- using microscopes -- and to dissect a fish stomach, and a chance to drive and observe the ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle) designed by Dollar Bay (Mich.) High School students to photograph what's under the water.

Here are some photos and videos from that event:

Before riding on the Agassiz, Kayla and Madison learned about the ROVs from Lance Kangas, a Dollar Bay High School student in science teacher Matt Zimmer's marine robotics class ...

Near the Portage Lake District Library, Dollar Bay High School 10th grader Lance Kangas demonstrates how to control the ROV and view what it is photographing on the bottom of the Keweenaw Waterway (Portage Canal). Kayla Golde, 8, and Madison Golde, 10, of Elo, observe closely. Casper Carn, 4, of Hancock, takes a peek at the computer screen. Life guard Sarah Lyle of Houghton is on hand for safety. (Videos by Keweenaw Now)

After some instructions from Lance, Kayla and Madison were anxious to drive the ROV themselves:

Madison drives the ROV by remote control as Kayla follows its movements on the computer screen. Dollar Bay (Mich.) High School students first designed the ROV in their marine robotics classes (2011-2012). It has been used by National Park Service staff at Isle Royale National Park to identify invasive species underwater.

Asked what she thought of the ROVs, Kayla said, "They're cool!"

Dollar Bay High School senior Stanley Peterson was on the dock making adjustments to one of the ROVs for a demonstration.

"It's fun," Peterson said -- about working with the ROVs. "I want to go to school for engineering. This has a lot of science and math involved."

Stanley Peterson, who will be a senior at Dollar Bay High School next year, works on one of the student-designed ROVs on the dock outside Portage Lake District Library. He hopes to study engineering in college.

Dollar Bay High School science teacher Matt Zimmer (in green shirt) answers visitors' questions about the Remotely Operated Vehicles designed by his students.

Soon it was time for Kayla, Madison and their parents to take the boat ride on the Agassiz, followed by a visit to a fish laboratory in the Great Lakes Research Center.

Joan Chadde -- Education/Outreach Program coordinator for the Center for Science and Environmental Outreach, Western U.P. Center for Science, Math and Environmental Education -- checks off names of passengers who reserved their seats for the Agassiz scientific excursion on July 1, 2014. Captain Steve Roblee, standing on boat deck,  welcomes visitors and provides life jackets for those who need them (including a special size required for small children).

At left is Captain Roblee's assistant, Terrianna Bradley of Detroit, who explains  equipment used on the research boat. Passengers pictured here include, from right, Barry Drue, L'Anse Sentinel editor (ready to take notes!); his wife, Kathy Drue; an unidentified passenger; Peter Rudnicki of Chaplin, Conn., and his Mom, Wendy Heikka.

"How unsinkable is this boat?" asked Peter Rudnicki, age 7 and 3/4.

Agassiz Captain Steve Roblee explained the many safety features of the boat, including, if ever it should be required for rescue, aircraft from Traverse City, Mich. He noted the Agassiz has multiple uses -- research, a lab for Michigan Tech classes, and public education.

Assisting Captain Roblee on this trip was Terrianna Bradley, Michigan Tech environmental engineering student.

Agassiz Captain Steve Roblee and his assistant, Terrianna Bradley, are pictured here with some of the equipment used to study the lake and its sediments. Bradley is holding an instrument that measures the depth of the water, dissolved oxygen and temperature.

Bradley said she is really enjoying her summer job working under the General Motors Ride the Waves program that helps support these educational excursions on the boat.

"I've been doing this all summer," she said. "I love this! The best part of my job is going on the lake and teaching science to kids."

The Agassiz dropped off the passengers at Michigan Tech's Great Lakes Research Center, where they headed for a fish lab.

During the lab visit in the GLRC, Mark Kransz of DeWitt, Mich., a Michigan Tech environmental engineering student who has a minor in fish biology, explains the food web for fish in Lake Superior.

While visitors observe dissected fish to learn about what fish eat, Mark Kransz explains that one purpose of the dissection is to show how the lakes are affected by what fish eat, since pollution goes up the food chain.

Xena Cortez, Michigan Tech environmental engineering student, points out to Kayla Golde and her family a drawing of an organism Kayla has just observed under a microscope in the fish lab.

Helping visitors observe bloodworms, a type of benthos found in Portage Lake, under a microscope in the lab was Julia Rice, who is studying civil engineering at Michigan Tech. Rice is from Alcoma, Mich., near Lake Huron. She says she has lived near the water all her life and wants to be a "green" civil engineer.

"Right now I'm interested in the water side of civil engineering," Rice explained.

Julia Rice, center, of Alcona, Mich., who is studying civil engineering at Michigan Tech, shows some bloodworms under the microscope to Robin Kisiel and her Mom, Sharyn Kisiel, of Chassell.

A poster in the fish lab explains the life cycle of the bloodworm, a common type of benthos in Portage Lake.

Peter Rudnicki, age 7 and 3/4, said he didn't know what fish ate before the excursion on the Agassiz and the visit to the lab but he learned a lot from the event.

"The boat is like a mini-lab where they take samples and then take them to another lab, where they analyze and study them," Peter noted.

In the GLRC fish lab, Peter Rudnicki and his Mom, Wendi Heikka, of Chaplin, Conn., study a poster that explains how the mouth position of the fish while eating helps identify them.

After the lab visit,  a Michigan Tech van took the visitors back to the Portage Library for some boat building or more observations of the ROVs.

Madison Golde, left, and her sister, Kayla, build their boats in the community room at Portage Lake District Library.

At Portage Library kids have fun sailing boats they made themselves in a small, plastic "lake."

Chase Crisman, who will be 10 in August, said he liked the boat ride, but the activity he liked the best was making this submarine out of aluminum foil and toilet paper rolls.

Iriina Aho, 4, of Hancock, proudly displays the colorful sailboat she made at Portage Library.

Portage Library also provided materials for young artists who just wanted to draw or color their own creations. Here Arli O'Connor, 10, of Chassell, draws a woodpecker. Arli said she went on the boat excursion and found out there was a lot to learn about the lake. "I didn't dissect a fish, though," she said.

Chris Alquist, Portage Lake District Library community program director, who helped organize the activities, said she loves this kind of event.

"It was a lot of fun," Alquist said. "What was really nice about this was that there was a variety of events that appeal to many interests."

At least 60 people rode on the Agassiz that day and more visitors came for other activities, she added.

This science program was funded by General Motors and the Portage Lake District Library.

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