Learning on the lakes

By MEAGAN STILP

mstilp@mininggazette.com

HOUGHTON – Community members got the opportunity to learn a bit more about the lakes they live near Tuesday evening. In an event co-sponsored by Michigan Technological University’s Great Lake Research Center and the Portage Lake District Library, attendees participated in multiple stations focused on the Great Lakes, including a ride aboard Michigan Tech’s research vessel, the Agassiz.

“We plan events to bring youth and community members out,” said Joan Chadde, education program coordinator at Michigan Tech. “We have five different stations that the students and their parents can participate in and they can stay for as long or short as they like.”

The stations included a visit to a GLRC lab, where participants looked at organisms under a microscope and even dissected a fish to find out what was in its stomach. At the PLDL, children were encouraged to use their creative side in boat building and mural-making stations.

“They draw something from the Great Lakes that will go on our mural wall,” said Chris Alquist of the Portage Lake District Library. “The mural is going to be posted on the library windows here.”

Outside the library, students from Dollar Bay High School’s Student Organization for Aquatic Robotics (SOAR) team showed off their remotely-operated vehicles. They created the ROVs as part of a class but their purpose goes beyond the classroom while helping combat invasive species, such as zebra mussels, at Isle Royale National Park.

“We’re using it to find zebra mussels on the bottom of boats and docks since they’re an invasive species,” said Lance Kangas, Dollar Bay High School student and SOAR member. “…We’re helping spread ideas and get more people interested. We’re trying to get little kids curious about it so they can do it later.”

The final station was perhaps the most popular as attendees lined up to get a chance to ride aboard the Agassiz to learn how scientists assess the health of the Great Lakes. The Agassiz took them from the PLDL to the GLRC, with a van shuttling them back to the beginning.

“The idea is to get a lot of people out on the water and give them an overview on how scientists assess health of lakes. It’s been interesting to see how interested people are. At Strawberry Festival we start at 1 p.m. and people are still there at 5 or 6 waiting in line to get their turn,” Chadde said. “I don’t think it’s just about the boat ride because people are only out there for half an hour but we do surveys and people really appreciate the opportunity to learn and interact with the scientists.”

Tuesday’s was one of many events planned for the summer as part of GM’s “Ride the Waves” grant to Michigan Tech. People will also be able to ride on the Agassiz from noon to 3 p.m. Friday at the Lake Linden Marina, July 12 during Strawberry Festival in Chassell and July 20 during Lake Superior Day in Copper Harbor. Those interested are encouraged to call (906) 487-3341 to sign up for a spot as space is limited.

There are also many more events in the future at the PLDL as part of their science-themed summer reading program. For more information on those visit www.uproc.lib.mi.us/newpldl/ or stop in.