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Students: Finding Our Fish

Louis Agassiz was a prominent 19th century Swiss scientist who immigrated to the United States, joined the faculty at Harvard and, in 1848, led one of the first scientific explorations of Lake Superior. In 1879, Samuel Scudder anonymously published an account of a meeting with Agassiz. The professor directed Scudder, then a beginning student, to study a pickled fish in a jar. Agassiz would drop by at intervals to see what Scudder had learned. The investigation wore on for four days; the fish taught well, the student learned and the professor was pleased. Scudder later remembered this experience as the one of greatest value in his education.

In preparation for our cruise on Lake Superior, participants were invited to read Scudder’s tale and to seek to ‘find their fish’ during the cruise. Here, that ‘fish’ might be an observation or experience that informed them either personally or professionally and that might provide direction for them along life’s road. Participants were encouraged to journal about their ‘fish’ and to share some of those thoughts at the cruise’s end. Their contributions are presented below.



Whitney Sauve

Whitney

Whitney Sauve
Baccalaureate Candidate
Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering
Michigan Technological University

For those seven days, where the sky met the water both of them radiant blue
We slept, we ate, we laughed, we grumbled, we smiled
And were reduced at sunset to tiny organisms
In reverence of the blazing red horizon
Above silky pink ripples of sea

During mornings and afternoons
We would gather at the back of the boat all hardhats, lifejackets, steel-toe boots
We watched, we listened, we sampled, we separated
And bore witness to the time between now and the glaciers
Rubbed its fine particles between our fingertips
Staying up through the night to sample, to drain, to separate
To befriend the sculpin and diporeia

Somewhere between the divine moonrise
And categorizing a species according to size I found myself truly present
In the water’s reflection, the instruments, the company
My spirit stretched taut and it was only Me, The Journey And the Sea


Kyle Bareither

Kyle

Kyle Bareither
Baccalaureate Candidate
Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering
Michigan Technological University

In my experience on the Lake guardian I realized how much I loved the outdoors. When I was out on the lake all my responsibilities faded away with the quickly disappearing land. All there was left was the knowledge to be attained from the lake with the careful guidance of our instructors. This boat became like a family and we relied on one another and did what was needed to get the research done while gaining an understanding of a great natural resource, Lake Superior. My “fish,” was everyone, teachers and students, participating as one to help understand our resources for future generations.


Carly Bock

Carly

Carly Bock
M.S. Candidate
Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering
Michigan Technological University

At the beginning of the cruise, we were all asked to “find our fish.” This kind of made me nervous at first. What if I can’t find anything interesting enough to me to call it my “fish”? Well, I had nothing to worry about. I didn’t recognize it at first, because the experience was so overwhelming. But after a few days I began to realize that my fish was everywhere. From the sediments (which is where my research is anyway) to the benthos to the plankton to the fish, including the temperature profiles and light attenuation, I was fascinated. If I had to pick one subject, though, it would be the chemistry. I’ve always loved chemistry, and seeing it applied to environmental systems was the icing on the cake. Even the less scientific/more romantic aspects were captivating. Spectacular sunsets (and moonrises!), scenic coastlines, crystal blue water… On the first day we had rough weather, and despite my seasickness, I couldn’t help but sit by the door and watch the waves crash over the back deck. All in all, this trip has inspired a desire to remain on the shores of Lake Superior for the rest of my life, so I guess you could say I “found my fish” in the lake itself.

Maxime Bridoux

Maxime

Maxime Bridoux
Ph.D. Candidate
Department of Environmental Chemistry
State University of New York - Albany
Maxime Bridoux 2

I really enjoyed being part of the “Ecology of lake Superior” (or “the quest for Diporeia”…) course aboard the lake Guardian this summer. This trip gave each of us the opportunity to be involved in the assessment of Lake Superior lower food-web. Part of this assessment included sampling phytoplankton, zooplankton, sediments cores, benthic organisms… Of these many different activities, the collection and taxonomic identification of the phytoplankton (the base of the whole food web) was my favorite activity, especially the fact that we were sampling and identifying from the boat, microscopic organisms that represent the primary food and energy source (the “fuel”) of this ecosystem; meanwhile a satellite was gathering data of reflected light by the lake’s surface water, which ultimately will allow scientists to estimate the productivity of the lake. This contrast between the micro- and the macroscopic was really fascinating to me.


Sharon Heineman

Sharon

Sharon Heineman
Biology, Chemistry Teacher
Culver Academies
Culver, Indiana

I actually rediscovered one “fish” and found a new one during my week aboard the Lake Guardian. The rediscovered “fish” was the satisfaction one finds when questions are answered through the process of collecting and analyzing data. While, I wasn’t in on the actual design of the project, I thoroughly enjoyed the collection (and problem solving) and preservation of samples. With experience with only land dwelling organisms (deer, quail, plants, etc.), I learned much about the additional requirements necessary when collecting from the depths of an aquatic environment.

The second fish was the hidden world of plankton. It is almost unimaginable to think what goes on in a world that is invisible to us under normal conditions. The collection, identification and information made while checking our IDs really made me more appreciative of this hidden world which is actually the very basis of life in the lake. I want to take some extra time with my students next year to try to lead them to appreciate this microcosm as I do.

It was also good to have an opportunity to hear from leaders in various areas of research and find out what the very newest ideas are concerning ecology. I like to bring up these new ideas when the old ones show up in the readings we use in class.


Lisa Hoogenboom

Lisa

Lisa Hoogenboom
Chemistry Teacher
Maine South High School
Park Ridge, Illinois

Today we dissected fish on the upper deck of the boat. While cutting open fish guts reminded me why I wouldn’t make it as a biology teacher, it was interesting to see what my colleagues pulled out of their fish stomachs. One was a fish almost as long as the lake trout, with an undigested, sharp fin. This caused me to think about the fact that the bigger fish eat the littler fish, eat the littler fish, eat the zooplankton, eat the phytoplankton….and that a lot of atoms in that fish came from the smaller organisms that either it ate directly or from something that the fish before ate. Fish scales can apparently be used to determine the age of the fish. I took a couple fish scales off of one of the lake trout and brought it down to the microscope. The fish had between sixteen and twenty-five rings, depending on how you counted. This caused me to think about how this fish was at least as old as my high school students and had been swimming around for as long as they’ve been alive.


Bob Kaukola

Robert

Bob Kaukola
Math, Science Teacher
GFW Middle School
Fairfax, Minnesota

My fish was found by all the ideas I received for my 7th grade science class. I can incorporate things such as plankton sampling and sediment sampling to help my students understand the ecology of the local lake. We can then compare it to the ecology of the local stream and discuss the impact of the land practices on the ecology of the water. I can then incorporate the chemical analysis of certain farm fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides and hopefully tie this into a big picture so that students may see the connectedness of all these ecosystems.


Scott Martin

Scott

Scott Martin
Life Sciences Teacher
American School of Japan
Scott Martin 2 Scott Martin 3

I have many pleasant memories of the week that I spent sailing the waters of Lake Superior on the R/V Lake Guardian. The ship was the venue for the Ecology of Lake Superior class and all of our coursework took place on the boat over the week of July 8th, 2006. Highlights of the trip include the following; sifting through 4 degree (C) bottom sediment at 3 AM in search of Diporeia, watching 8 foot waves give way to progressively smaller waves and feeling my appetite return and talking world politics with my new friend, Ziad. I enjoyed the chance to get my hands dirty while processing PONAR on the fantail and getting to know the diverse group of students and instructors while working. I choose to spend my free time on the upper decks where I could view the ever changing panorama of Lake Superior passing by and absorb of tales told by the crew members. All in all the class was an experience like none other and I look forward to sharing illustrations from the trip in my classroom.


Cory McDonald

Cory

Cory McDonald
Ph.D. Candidate
Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering
Michigan Technological University

The "fish" I found this week was the waves. They can look so similar from day to day, but closer inspection reveals a complex array of combined motion. A textbook diagram can make wave motion look so cut and dry, as if there were only three or four possible water surfaces. In reality, however, the movement of the water surface is so complex, it is nearly impossible to truly see it. One can focus intently on one point and still not be able to wrap one's mind around what the water is doing.

As often as I could I would head out on the deck to watch the waves. The big six to eight foot storm waves were the most exciting, but also seemingly the least complex. Surprisingly, it was the small "ripples" that were the most interesting. It was not until I began to try to draw them until I realized just how intricate their movements were. I've gained only a small insight into understanding exactly how the waves move, but I think from this point on, every time I look at a body of water I'll refine that understanding just a little bit more.


Ann Marie Miller

Anne Marie

Ann Marie Miller
Explorer
Marquette, Michigan
Ann Marie Miller2

Optics in the Rain/Secchi Disk at Night.this group has spunk! It didn't take long to find my fish. The researchers from Upstate Freshwater Institute were collecting data enthusiastically. It was raining, cold, and the waves were making an appearance. Time was an issue and final preparations for the Hyper Pro were being made by Dr. Alan W. He turned to me and said, "I'm going to throw it in and see what happens." As I watched I thought there she goes, that's my fish, that's me."

P.S. Thank you to all the generous spirits, faculty/participants/crew, aboard the R/V Lake Guardian who shared their knowledge, talents and time for a most enjoyable adventure.


Ashley Parks

Ashley

Ashley Parks
M.S. Candidate
Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering
University of North Carolina

Ashley Parks
M.S. Candidate
Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering
University of North Carolina

Journal Entry from July 12th, 2006: We're supposed to finding our "fish" while we're here. I was pretty sure before I came on the boat that my fish would be modeling. Modeling now, on the boat, is more fun than normal modeling. I'm completely taken away from everything except the water. No daily life chores or expectations. I love the engulfment of being the on boat-- it makes the modeling more real. Even though I'm working on a computer, everything I'm modeling is surrounding me.


Anita Quinn

Anita Quinn

Anita Quinn
Director
Research and Sponsored Programs
Michigan Technological University

What type of fish did I "catch' on this trip? Certainly an opportunity to take the time to think about how "awesome" God's creation is. He not only takes care of the birds in the air, but the fish in the sea (including beautiful fish like the Sturgeon), and every other creature too. He certainly has done a good job of taking care of me. He's got it down, right to Zooplankton and Phytoplankton.

There are few areas of study that I feel provide me with an opportunity to get down to my core values, rethink them, and not only grow my knowledge, but my spirit too. Biology, Geology, Forestry, and Civil & Environmental Engineering are certainly disciplines I enjoy and provide me with this opportunity. Watching the enthusiasm and interest of the students was very inspiring and I appreciated the chance provided to interact with them.


Paul Rogalla

Paul

Paul Rogalla
Life Sciences Teacher
Indianola Middle School
Indianola, Iowa

The time spent on the Lake Guardian represented the most intense, biological event I have ever experienced. Doing PONARS in Canada under the moon at 11:00pm at night was very exciting and very gratifying. It was a once in a life time experience, spiritual in nature. My fish was found within the people and the research, to be part of true research on one of our nation's pristine ecosystems, not acting as an observer, but the opposite. Each day we were confronted with new ideas and talented people sharing their passions. All those aboard the research vessel were actively engaged in the research projects which were aimed at learning about the ecosystem called Lake Superior.

 

Mark Rowe

Mark

Mark Rowe
Ph.D. Candidate
Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering
Michigan Technological University

On July 9th around 9am, we arrived at Stannard Rock Lighthouse. It was cool, overcast and light rain was falling. Dr. Noel Urban pulled up a sample of sediment from the bottom using a PONAR sampler in 170m of water. The sample had a thin layer (20 mm) of dark sediment on the surface, with red clay below. There was also a striking band of red and black material about 50 mm below the surface.

It was of particular interest to me to see the sediment sampling in the course because I had written a paper on a mass balance model for polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) in Lake Superior. PBDEs are used as flame retardants in many consumer products and are being implicated as persistent bioaccumulating toxicants (PBTs). Burial in the sediment is an important removal mechanism for these hydrophobic chemicals from the water column. I had compared my model results to PBDE concentrations in dated sediment cores from another research group. The sediment core data showed very interesting trends in burial rates of PBTs with respect to time that followed production and use rates of the chemicals over the past 50 to 100 years. Of particular interest in the sediment samples that I saw on the course was the dark layer of sediment that had been deposited in the post-glacial period over the last 4000 years. This layer, which would contain all of the anthropogenic PBTs, was easy to discern from the thick underlying layer of gray or red clays that were deposited during the period when the continental glaciers were melting. The post glacial sediment layer was very thin, only about 20 mm in most samples. I could better appreciate that it must be a challenging process to slice that layer into thin samples representing approximate ten year periods for PBT and dating analysis.

In contrast to many lakes, the sediments of Lake Superior are oxic to a substantial depth because of the low temperatures and low biological activity. This is actually visible in the sediment samples because a layer of red iron and black manganese oxides precipitates about 50 mm below the surface at the interface between the oxic surface layers and anoxic deeper layers.

A final observation of interest came from the ROV dives. Most of the PBTs that settle to the sediment-water interface are not buried, but re-suspended into the water column. This process is not well described by equilibrium partitioning models in Lake Superior, suggesting a more complex phenomenon. With the ROV, it was possible to see what was going on at the sediment-water interface. There was a surprising amount of biological activity in the form of zooplankton. It was also surprising to see currents at each of the ROV dive locations; there was much more activity at the sediment-water interface than I would have anticipated.

Carl Schroeder

Carl S

Carl Schroeder
Baccalaureate Candidate
Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering
Michigan Technological University
Carl Schroeder2

Being afloat on Lake Superior for seven days offers a unique opportunity to evaluate your life and attempt to focus in on what you feel is your place, purpose, and calling during our time on this planet. Given this, I found that my “fish” was the entire experience and how it allowed me to realize my after graduation desires. Having the opportunity to gaze off into the limitless horizon of Lake Superior, without any physical obstructions, allows ones mind to clear and engage in deep thought. Also, daily occurrences such as the orange and pink hue of the setting sun erupting behind the rugged Canadian coast, splashing its color across the smooth ripples of the lake, only to be replaced by the yellow streak of the rising moon, proved complementary to that state of mind.


Lisa Tomlinson

Lisa

Lisa Tomlinson
M.S. Candidate
Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering
Michigan Technological University

The most thrilling part of the Lake Guardian experience was to be out on the big lake itself, doing field work. The (seemingly) endless ponar sampling, the excitement of pulling up a benthic sled, and the subsequent hours of sample processing in the lab were completely exhausting. The absolute immersion in the benthic fauna of the lake, the camaraderie of a late night lab group, and the surprise of a sculpin in a ponar jar made you forget your exhaustion, and instead allowed you to be swept away in the marvelous world that is Lake Superior.


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Civil & Environmental Engineering Department at Michigan Tech
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Last Modified: July 17, 2015