Great Lakes educators reflect on their Lake Guardian experiences

April 1st, 2021 by

Each summer on one of the Great Lakes, 15 educators set sail for a week on the Lake Guardian, an Environmental Protection Agency research vessel, where they work side by side with scientists and fellow educators, growing their knowledge and confidence in bringing Great Lakes science to their students.

The Shipboard Science Workshop is the centerpiece project of the Center for Great Lakes Literacy, a collaborative of education specialists from Sea Grant programs in the region and funded through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. Since 2006, 207 educators have taken part in this adventure.

The hands-on, immersive nature of this experience fosters a broader and deeper understanding of science—the educators onboard are developing research skills as they engage in real world scientific investigation. They also expand their “treasure box” of lessons, teaching strategies, and network of like-minded colleagues. Participants of the workshops have described them as once-in-a-lifetime professional development opportunities.

Educators from every Great Lake state described how participating in the Shipboard Science Workshop has impacted them and their students. You can read their experiences in a new story map: Educators Onboard for Learning.

As 2019 winds down, IISG launches new resources to learn about the Great Lakes

December 19th, 2019 by

As 2019 draws to a close, I’m pleased to report that here at Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant, we’ve had a very good year, and that remained the case through the latter months.  

In October, IISG underwent its program site review, which takes place every four years. Through this process, we presented our work from our last omnibus as well as our current activities to the external site review team. The review provides a great opportunity to reflect on our accomplishments and to look forward to new efforts.

The review team was very positive in its response, which, in large part, is due to not only the hard work of the IISG team, but also the great amount of support from our diverse partners, many of whom directly participated in the review.

This fall, we expanded our communication tools and products to share information about the Great Lakes with wider audiences. Inspired by a rich collection of photographs taken by Peter Essick, who works with National Geographic, IISG led the development of a photo essay called Great Lakes Resurgence about Areas of Concern in the region. The Great Lakes Sea Grant Network collaborated to tell the stories of these degraded waterways, to describe the progress of cleanup efforts and report local impacts of coastal restoration.

IISG now has a monthly podcast series, Teach Me about the Great Lakes, which debuted in December. Hosted by Stuart Carlton, the program’s assistant director, the podcast helps Stuart—and listeners—learn about the biology, ecology and natural history of the Great Lakes. Stuart is a social scientist who grew up in the south, so he is fairly new to Great Lakes issues. The first installment dove into concerns about microplastics, which have been found in the Great Lakes and many waterways all over the world. The next episode, available in early January, will focus on the geological history of the Great Lakes.

Autumn also brought awards season for the Sea Grant program, both regionally and nationally. We are proud of Pollution Prevention Specialist Sarah Zack, who was honored with the Great Lakes Sea Grant Network Early Career Award at the regional meeting in Sault St. Marie, Michigan. Irene Miles, strategic communication coordinator, won the Communications Service Award at the Sea Grant Extension Assembly, Communicator and Research Coordinator Conference in Savannah, Georgia. Also at the Savannah meeting, Brian Miller, IISG’s former director, was selected for the William Q. Wick Visionary Career Leadership Award, one of Sea Grant’s most prestigious honors.

As we all look forward to 2020, we wish you the best in the new year. For IISG, 2020 will bring an even greater focus to Lake Michigan. Scientists from around the Great Lakes basin will converge on the lake to conduct intensive research through the Cooperative Science and Monitoring Initiative (CSMI). IISG has just released an ESRI story map, Lake Michigan Health: A Deeper Dive, to share the results from the 2015 CSMI field year on Lake Michigan.

The Shipboard Science Workshop will also take place on Lake Michigan in the coming year. During this week-long workshop on the EPA research vessel the Lake Guardian, organized through the Center for Great Lakes Literacy, teachers from the region work side by side with scientists to study one of the Great Lakes. This coming year they set sail on Lake Michigan. We look forward to new science and stories that will emerge from both of these exciting initiatives.

Tomas Höök
Director, Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant


Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant is a part of University of Illinois Extension and Purdue Extension.

Anglers and other lake enthusiasts can explore Lake Michigan’s health status online

December 18th, 2019 by

Lake Michigan gets regular health checkups, but like many people, it sometimes needs special monitoring or scanning to get to the bottom of symptoms or concerns. The latest results from some of these tests and evaluations are now available in an Environmental Systems Research Institute Story Map, Lake Michigan Health: A Deeper Dive.

The Cooperative Science and Monitoring Initiative (CSMI) intensive examination of Lake Michigan occurs every five years through an initiative that rotates around the Great Lakes—scientists in the region coordinate their efforts to answer critical questions and fill science information gaps for each lake. 

Each year since 2002, through CSMI, multiple federal, provincial, state, and university scientists have joined forces on one of the Great Lakes to take part in coordinated research. This binational program is organized through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Great Lakes National Program Office and Environment and Climate Change Canada in support of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement Science Annex.

Unlike your medical records, information on the health of Lake Michigan is available to everyone, including environmental managers, scientists, educators, students, boaters, anglers and lake enthusiasts in general. On the story map, information is presented through interactive graphics, easy-to-understand diagrams and photos of science in action.

Lake Michigan Food Web: Changes throughout History

“Having this straight-forward tool that helps us explain to anglers and other stakeholders how bottom-up factors affect fish populations is a great thing and very timely, given the changing Lake Michigan ecosystem,” said Vic Santucci, Lake Michigan program manager, Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

Lake Michigan: A Deeper Dive, which was developed by Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant, includes a brief history of the lake as well as information on several key areas of study from 2015—Lake Michigan’s most recent CSMI field year focusing on the lower food web, prey fish and contaminants.

The invasive quagga mussels featured prominently in the scientists’ reports. They found that their lakewide numbers have declined, but that quagga biomass has increased as mussels age and grow larger. In deeper parts of the lake, quagga mussel populations increased between 2010 and 2015.

One way that scientists can assess the number of quagga mussels on the lake bottom is using a towed benthic sled, which, equipped with a camera, visually records mussel distribution and numbers at the bottom of the lake. While visiting the CSMI story map, you can ride along on the benthic sled and see what the scientists saw. Also, Lake Michigan: A Deeper Dive provides graphic illustrations of how the lake food web has changed since the influx of invasive species.

Another key finding is that, in general, larval fish are growing about half as fast as they did before quagga mussels were established in the early 2000s. In fact, quagga mussels, by filtering large amounts of plankton, may be having a negative impact on fish production.

Next year, CSMI scientists will once again gather on Lake Michigan for monitoring and testing to assess the health of the lake. To set 2020’s research priorities, scientists and resource managers came together in 2018 to discuss the latest findings and to define critical data needs. Over the next couple of years, scientists will report the results of their fieldwork and the CSMI story map will be updated with information from this upcoming Lake Michigan checkup.

This project was supported by the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant is a part of University of Illinois Extension and Purdue Extension.


Writer: Irene Miles, 217.333.8055,

Videographer: Hope Charters, 765.494.1614,

Contacts (CSMI): Paris Collingsworth, Carolyn Foley

Contacts (Story Map): Kristin TePas, Allison Neubauer

Students are welcomed aboard the Lake Guardian research vessel

May 16th, 2018 by

Not every day do students board a ship and learn about the research conducted out on Lake Michigan. Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant (IISG) Community Outreach Specialist Kristin TePas recently organized tours of the U.S. EPA research vessel, the Lake Guardian, for 140 students and chaperones from four Illinois and Indiana schools.

Students from Chicago’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. College Preparatory High School boarded Lake Guardian just off Navy Pier with their science teachers Cheryl Dudeck and Melanie Yau, who in previous summers, completed a week-long shipboard science teacher workshop on the research vessel. Earlier in the day, Deb Broom’s class at Portage High School in Portage, Ind., and Marta Johnson’s students from South Shore International College Prep in Chicago toured the ship as well.

Students from King College Prep inspecting quagga mussels with their science teacher

While aboard Lake Guardian, students learned from the ship’s crew about aquatic invasive species like quagga mussels in the Great Lakes, got a hands-on experience with research samples, and met the ship’s captain. The crew shared with students stories about life on the ship and demonstrated the equipment researchers use to monitor water quality on the lake. Paris Collingsworth, IISG Great Lakes ecosystem specialist, was on board to share some recent research findings.

Students picking up trash from beach on Ohio Street

Middle school students from Discovery Charter School in Porter, Ind., also joined their science teacher Amanda Renslow aboard the research vessel. In addition to the ship tour, Renslow’s students engaged in a beach cleanup at nearby Ohio Street beach. Students tracked each item of trash they collected for further discussions about recycling and sustainability back in the classroom.

Alongside the beach, Allison Neubauer, IISG Great Lakes outreach associate, led an activity for the Discovery School students to guess how long common items thrown in the trash, like juice containers and newspaper, take to break down in the environment.

For more information about the research vessel, including information about ongoing projects, visit Lake Guardian.

Students near Lake Guardian on Navy Pier

Lake Guardian display wins APEX Award of Excellence

July 18th, 2017 by

When a 180-foot ship marked with the words “U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY” docks on the shores of one of the Great Lakes or their connecting channels, people take notice. The research vessel Lake Guardian has incited curiosity for over 25 years as it has carried scientists across all five Great Lakes to collect and analyze samples of water, aquatic life, sediments, and air.

Last year, IISG completed a project to answer frequently asked questions about the ship and to communicate the important work done on board to monitor and protect the world’s largest surface freshwater system.

Allison Neubauer, Joel Davenport, and Kristin TePas received an APEX Award of Excellence for the colorful display they created about the R/V Lake Guardian. Easily transported and exhibited from one port to the next, the display is made up of two large posters that use graphics and accessible language to communicate key facts about the ship, such as its size and berthing capacity, and provide a glimpse into the scientific sampling processes and Great Lakes research topics that the vessel facilitates.

Since making its debut last spring the display has proven to be a hit with people drawn to the ship. In particular, the eye-catching infographics designed by Davenport have been the subject of praise.


New intern draws on CSMI fieldwork in Lake Huron

June 26th, 2017 by

I’m aboard a 180-foot research vessel traversing Lake Huron; the ship is the U.S. EPA R/V Lake Guardian, and the goal is to take the pulse of this gaping freshwater entity. Every year the Cooperative Science and Monitoring Initiative (CSMI) comprehensively surveys one of the five Great Lakes. As a result, it’s been five years since we’ve taken a long look at Lake Huron.

Those working on this particular six-day research cruise vary from marine technicians who live on the ship for the whole sampling season, to scientists from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) onboard for the week to collect data and bring it back to their labs.

Left: A larval fish seen under a microscope. Right: The trawl net used to sample larval fish being pulled in over the sunrise.

And me?

I’m here with IISG as the Great Lakes communication and outreach intern, helping out with the sampling and observing so that when I’m back on land, I can use this experience to enhance my translations of scientific studies from the 2015 CSMI survey of Lake Michigan to engaging, accessible outreach materials for policy makers, fisheries managers, and the general public.

Clark working on the fantail.

I am on the 4 a.m. to 4 p.m. shift of this around-the-clock undertaking. At 3:30 a.m., I’ve got to hastily get up and shuffle down the hall to relieve the night shift on the back deck. I pull on my rain boots, life jacket, and hardhat, then grab a clipboard to record the samples as they come in. There are six sampling sites to complete on this cruise, and each composes a “transect,” a narrow section of water which runs perpendicular to the shoreline, providing an offshore, mid-shore, and nearshore snapshot.

Each station has a sampling agenda. If a station is reached at night, this protocol begins by sampling benthic, shrimp-like animals known as Mysis under red light. If the sun has already risen, we use an extremely large and well-outfitted CTD—an instrument that measures conductivity, temperature, and depth as it is deployed through the water column.

Next up is the zooplankton sampling, followed by two ichthyoplankton tows to sample larval fishes—the early stage in a fish’s life history where they are mere millimeters in length, floating about eating the zooplankton we sampled just prior. The larval fish collected are separated from the various bycatch of flotsam and examined back at USGS headquarters for a variety of parameters including species, length, and age.

The age data, collected by examining growth increments on the larvae’s minute otoliths (inner ear bones), is reported in days old. I find them enormously cute, in an E.T.-without-legs kind of a way.

Map of the CSMI survey stations in Lake Huron. During this cruise Harbor Beach, Maitland River, Saugeen River, Nottawasaga River, Parry Sound, and French River transects were sampled, in that order.

After each of the three stations have been surveyed, a large sampling instrument called the Triaxus is towed back along the entire transect to gather information across the full survey area. Depending on the length of the transect, this can take a while.

I have found this a great time to hit the galley and grab a second or third breakfast, depending on the day. After all, by 9 a.m. I’ve been awake for a good five to six hours and there’s more sampling to do.

We then lower the Rosette, a big water sample collector, to measure the amount of chlorophyll in the water. We also put nets down six different times to collect zooplankton. We then used a big net to collect larval fish out the side or behind at different depths throughout the water column. We also towed the Triaxus for a few hours. We head to the next transect and do it all over again.

And—if we’re lucky—in exchange for all our hard work, the next time I crawl out of my bunk at 3 in the morning I get to witness a scene like this one:

Emily Clark is working with Paris Collingsworth and Kristin TePas as a summer intern with IISG where she is creating outreach materials for the results of the 2015 Lake Michigan CSMI field year. Clark is a student at College of Charleston in South Carolina studying biology, environmental studies, and studio art.

Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant is a part of University of Illinois Extension and Purdue University Extension.

From cruise to classroom, Sea Grant and partners expand Great Lakes literacy

January 24th, 2017 by

“It was an early morning start with sampling near Stony Point along the northern shores of Minnesota,” Ann Quinn, of Pennsylvania and Krysta Maas, of Minnesota, wrote in a blog post in July of 2016.

“As we approached Duluth, we stopped three times to sample near the shore and within the harbor.  As we passed under the lift bridge, we could ‘clearly see’ the sediment plume from Monday night’s tremendous storm.”

Quinn and Maas were two of the 15 educators chosen last year to participate in the annual Shipboard Science Workshop aboard the U.S. EPA’s largest research and monitoring vessel on the Great Lakes, R/V Lake Guardian. Sea Grant’s Center for Great Lakes Literacy (CGLL) with U.S. EPA Great Lakes National Program Office (GLNPO) host the annual program. CGLL, formerly known of Centers for Ocean Science and Educational Exploration, is a collaborative effort led by Sea Grant educators throughout the Great Lakes watershed. This cruise is an important cornerstone of CGLL’s programming.

Every summer since 2006, CGLL joins forces with GLNPO to facilitate this week­long workshop on one of the Great Lakes. Educators from not only traditional classrooms but also from places like museums, zoos and nature centers are welcome. The experience provides educators in the Great Lakes basin the opportunity to actually “do” science alongside aquatic researchers and learn strategies to integrate Great Lakes science into their curriculum.

IISG community outreach specialist Kristin TePas, who as the Sea Grant liaison with GLNPO accompanies every cruise, never tires of seeing teachers learning and researching in the field.

“I always look forward to watching how the educators take to the whole experience,” TePas said. “They come on rather green and leave at the end of the week looking like they have always lived on the ship, working like a well-oiled machine, taking part in field sampling and then analyzing in the lab.”

The hands-on, immersive nature of the experience fosters a broader and deeper understanding of science by integrating knowledge and research to enhance the teachers’ scientific investigation skills. Educators also expand their “treasure box” of lessons, teaching strategies, and network of like-minded colleagues.

2016 Lake Guardian working_cropped

Following their time aboard the R/V Lake Guardian, the teachers return to their classroom with newfound knowledge that they then implement into school initiatives, like organizing cleanups of nearby natural areas, starting real-world data collection and analysis for class projects, bringing scientists into the classroom to talk and work with students, and inspiring school science and environmental clubs.

Alex Valencic, an alumnus of the 2013 Lake Ontario cruise, incorporated his experience into his fourth-grade class in Illinois.

Each student spent six weeks studying a freshwater fish found in the Great Lakes and learned about its appearance, habitat, life cycle, and where it falls in the food web.

“My primary goal is for my students to understand the rich diversity of life that lives within the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Seaway,” he said. “Even though we don’t live right on a lake, Illinois is hugely impacted by Lake Michigan.”

Educators and scientists on recent cruises have taken advantage of a new way to communicate their experiences to those back on land. In addition to filing blog posts on the CGLL website, folks on the cruise have started using Twitter to document their journey while traversing the lake. Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant Educator Allison Neubauer has compiled the tweets into a narrative of the cruise.

“Showing off the collaboration as it’s happening, making it accessible and informative,” Neubauer said, “is a great way to tell the important story of the work being done by the teachers and researchers in only seven days.”

The scientists onboard were equally impressed with the experience.

“A strong scientist-educator connection can bring the research alive as scientists share stories from the field or lab,” wrote Wisconsin researcher Emily Tyner in “Scientist Spotlights,” an ongoing series on the CGLL website.

“But the sharing process isn’t one-way,” Tyner pointed out. “Educators can offer a new and helpful way of looking at problems that stump scientists. Thinking back on my Lake Guardian cruise, the educators helped us gain helpful perspective when we faced hours trying to determine the problems with our experimental setup.”

The educators no doubt would agree. They get the chance—as many have put it—to take part in an adventurous, educational, inspiring, fun, and once-in-a-lifetime adventure!

Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant is a part of University of Illinois Extension and Purdue Extension.

R/V Lake Guardian completes summer survey

November 11th, 2016 by


This post, written by Kathryn Meyer and Todd Nettesheim, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, originally appeared on the International Joint Commission website.

Out on the Great Lakes, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Lake Guardian research vessel is not your typical ship.

It has the usual pilot house, cabin rooms, and galley, but this 180-foot research vessel has a few extra special features. Those include three onboard laboratories; a Rosette water sampler for measuring conductivity, temperature and depth; and multiple devices for sediment collection. These additions allow researchers to analyze water, sediment, and biological data while the Lake Guardian travels across the Great Lakes.

Also special is the collaborative group of scientists, from the U.S. EPA’s Great Lakes National Program Office (GLNPO) and other government agencies and universities, working onboard to collect and analyze samples to monitor the health of the Great Lakes. The overarching goal of the science performed onboard is to understand the chemical, physical, and biological changes in the lakes to help inform fishery and water quality managers.

The Lake Guardian is a floating laboratory essential to many Great Lakes long-term monitoring programs, with about 25 years of data collected since its first voyage on the lakes in 1991. Starting out on Lake Michigan, the ship samples the lakes twice a year as part of the routine spring and summer surveys. The ship weaves across each lake to reach specified sampling stations. Onboard, scientists and crew work around the clock to ensure that each station is sampled as the ship passes by Great Lakes icons including the Mackinac Bridge, Welland Canal, Soo Locks, and Isle Royale.

Other parts of the Great Lakes are sampled by the EPA’s research vessel Mudpuppy II, a 33-foot shallow vessel designed for studies to determine the nature and extent of contaminated sediment in Great Lakes nearshore areas.

In August, EPA scientists from GLNPO collaborated with scientists from Buffalo State, Cornell University, University of Chicago, and University of Minnesota-Duluth to complete the Lake Guardian’s 2016 Summer Survey.

The survey consists of 97 stations where scientists collect water, phytoplankton, zooplankton, benthos (invertebrates that live on the bottom of the lakes), and sediment samples. Each station starts with the Rosette sampler plunging into the water to retrieve water samples at different depths on the starboard side, while on the aft deck plankton nets are cast into the water.

On some stations, a ponar sampler also is dropped to the bottom of the lake to scoop up sediment and collect benthos. Once the samples are back onboard, they are either immediately analyzed in one of the ship’s labs or preserved for analysis on land. The water samples help to track nutrient concentrations among other water chemistry parameters. The biological samples help us track changes and better understand the lower food web in the lakes.

The month of sample collection and analysis, knowledge-sharing and comradery onboard the Lake Guardian highlights the shared commitment to protect the health of the Great Lakes.

For example, GLNPO began monitoring nutrient concentrations in Lake Erie in 1983 to assess the effectiveness of phosphorus load reduction programs initiated by the 1983 phosphorus load supplement to the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (GLWQA). Data showed that the lake responded to the phosphorus load reductions and in-lake total phosphorus concentrations approached targets in the late 1980s. Our data also documented the re-eutrophication of Lake Erie that began in the early 1990s.

When the ship is not completing one of the long-term annual spring and summer surveys, the vessel supports additional monitoring efforts across the lakes. These include monitoring dissolved oxygen levels in Lake Erie and supporting collaborative science as part of the Cooperative Science and Monitoring Initiative (CSMI) – a binational program established under the GLWQA. The US EPA and Environment and Climate Change Canada work with a broad array of partners to implement CSMI in fulfillment of GLWQA requirements.

This year, CSMI was focused in Lake Superior, where more than 200 water samples, 150 plankton nets, and 600 ponar grabs were performed across the lake to assess the long-term status of the lower food web. Each year, the Lake Guardian also serves as a floating classroom for educators throughout the Great Lakes thanks to programs run by the Center for Great Lakes Literacy.

Interested in learning more about the R/V Lake Guardian? Check out the EPA Great Lakes website. You can also check out information from one of our partners, Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant, and the Lake Guardian Twitter page to stay up-to-date and see if she’s coming to a port near you.

Editor’s Note: There are 78 science vessels active in the Great Lakes, each more than 25 feet long, and smaller boats which assist conservation officers, scientists, educators and resource managers (See this interactive map). Over the years, these operators have formed the Great Lakes Association of Science Ships (GLASS), with 68 American and Canadian participating organizations networking and providing information about these vessels at

Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant is a part of University of Illinois Extension and Purdue Extension.

Limno Loan spurs freshwater education around Great Lakes

October 12th, 2016 by

This story first appeared on

The Limno Loan program, overseen by the Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant, is making it easier for educators around the Great Lakes to teach their students about freshwater science. Not only that, but it’s also inspiring youngsters who have never gotten to use real scientific gear.

The program, which launched in the 2011-2012 school year, began after suggestions from teachers taking part in a science workshop on the Lake Guardian Research Vessel. The workshop on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ship led them to think that it’d be a great idea to get some of the same gear into the hands of their students.

The Limno Loan program of today is pushing the boundaries of success, providing four Hydrolab DS5 water quality sondes to high school and middle school teachers around the Great Lakes. Each gets the sondes for about two weeks, including shipping time to and from the Sea Grant, to use in their lesson plans.

That first year, the program only had about five teachers who checked out sondes. This year, more than 20 have already signed up and the pace signals to program managers that nearly 40 could use them by the end of the school year.

“High school and middle school students use them the most. That’s the most appropriate age for this type of equipment,” said Kristin TePas, community outreach specialist with the Sea Grant. She says the youngest who’ve used the Hydrolabs were fifth graders. “Most I’d say probably just deploy them in a river or small water body but some have rented boats to take their students out onto lakes.”

When that’s the case, it’s common that the educator secures some sort of grant to cover the cost. And there are usually educational discounts that can help.

“That is one of the hurdles to getting them out there,” said TePas. “You need to have money to do those field trips.”

Loaning the sondes out to teachers provides a substantial cost savings over purchasing. Each one records a standard set of parameters, including temperature, conductivity, pH, dissolved oxygen, chlorophyll a, turbidity and depth.

The measurements are incredibly intriguing to students, who can see how their local water body is doing in real time. But since most of the sampling trips hit ponds on campus or streams nearby, depth is not as important as the other data coming in.

“For some, the lesson is just doing a pond day. … Some are just doing a snapshot in time. Others have a monitoring program and they’re comparing the data that they’re getting,” said TePas. “They might compare between two sites or between different areas. It’s more of a comparison spatially than temporally.”

TePas points out that the sondes have a lot of advantages over other methods the kids may have used in the past. Water quality testing kits often use tablets or strips that can introduce complexity. And the projects sometimes take longer because of that.

One big advantage that the Limno Loan program provides to school kids is that they actually get to use real scientific gear.

“For some reason, just using equipment that’s used by real scientists gets them more excited. It’s instantaneous,” said TePas. “They’re able to see right away what the status of the particular lake is.”

The teachers benefit as well. Long before students get their hands on the sondes, Sea Grant officials give them hands-on training to use the gear.

The training is provided during workshops, TePas says, typically during other activities in partnership with local groups. Because of that, they can take various formats, but the training is consistent throughout.

TePas says it usually starts with the parameters, covering what they measure and what their levels mean when it comes to aquatic health. A few suggestions for activities or coursework that the teachers could use are also thrown in.

“Then we show them the logistics of using the equipment,” said TePas. “The only thing they have to calibrate is DO (dissolved oxygen) when they get it.”

The busy season for the Limno Loan program typically coincides with the school year, it seems. Most of the sondes get checked out in September and October during the fall. When winter comes, TePas and others can’t send them out because of the risk of frost damaging the sondes and their sensors. But things pick back up with educators once again borrowing them in April, May and June.

With those restrictions, it’s not likely that the sonde-sharing program could get any bigger than it is currently. The equipment also gets used by Sea Grant educators when not in use by teachers.

But it’s certain that the program is providing benefits for teachers and students in the Great Lakes. In just the few years it’s been running, TePas says the sondes have gone from schools in New York to Minnesota and everywhere in between.

“First and foremost, I want to increase water quality literacy. … I hope at least they take away a better understanding of water quality. So why do we care, why do we measure this stuff?” said TePas. “And if we had some budding scientists come out of this, that would be awesome.”

About Daniel Kelly

Daniel covers monitoring, tech and everything in between as editor of the Environmental Monitor. You can also find his work on Lake Scientist. Connect with him on Twitter @danielrkelly.

Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant is a part of University of Illinois Extension and Purdue Extension.

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