A special day for a very special lake

By GARRETT NEESE

gneese@mininggazette.com

HOUGHTON – Lake Superior researchers, food producers, students and community organizations got to share their work with the public at the second Lake Superior Day at the Great Lakes Research Center Tuesday. The celebration was part of Michigan Technological University’s Earth Day activities.

Tech’s Lake Superior Day is intended to recognize the services people benefit from in the Lake Superior watershed, and also to let people know about the Lake Superior Stewardship Initiative.

“The center is a great place for education and knowledge,” said Joan Chadde, education and outreach program coordinator for the Western U.P. Center for Science, Mathematics and Environmental Education. “It’s our job to bring people in for outreach and education.”

Another goal was to introduce more people to the Great Lakes Research Center, which is starting its second year.

“This building is designed to be open to the public and encourage not only collaborative science, but citizen science,” said Guy Meadows, director of the center. “We’re just thrilled to see a turnout like this.”

Meadows and the staff are the people excited by this winter. He said it could reset the lake’s temperature, which had been getting warmer and warmer in recent years, increasing the habitability for invasives.

“As soon as the ice goes away, we’re going to get out and start making measurements,” he said.

The first and second floors were filled with displays from Tech and K-12 students showing off projects, booths from local food producers and displays from numerous community organizations.

Visitors could also take tours of the building, or watch presentations, as well as the premiere of the “Growing Up Green” documentary.

There were also several hands-on activities, including building a water tower out of spaghetti noodles.

In the limnology laboratory, people learned about the Lake Superior food web.

The colder temperatures of the lake have helped protect it from the invasive species that had revamped the food webs of other Great Lakes.

Civil and environmental engineering professor Martin Auer showed the crowd a zooplankton from the waters of Lake Superior, magnified 400 times by a $42,000 microscope.

“They’re eating the algae, then the herring are going to eat them,” he said. “The lake trout are going to eat the herring – then who eats the lake trout?”

Downstairs, graduate students led children in a game of blowing bubbles across a map of Lake Superior. The catch: the bubbles represented long-lasting pollutants such as mercury that can travel by air.

Players suggested means that would reduce the number of “bubbles” in the future, such as bicycling or using less electricity.

After the lesson children had the option to keep blowing bubbles, this time freed of the metaphorical baggage.

One of the players, Tegan Mouw of Houghton, said the day was “fun.”

“I like all the cool projects that they do here,” she said.

Barb Flanagan and Kay Wiitanen of Laurium had just finished looking at the Dollar Bay High School ROV in the boat house. Both were impressed by the work – and the building.

“It’s different to see it in person rather than just read about it in the newspaper,” Flanagan said.

“Fantastic,” added Wiitanen.

For more information on the Lake Superior Stewardship Initiative, go to lakesuperiorstewardship.org.

For more information on the Great Lakes Research Center, go to greatlakes.mtu.edu.