Area youngsters put on lifejackets and boarded the research vessel the W.G. Jackson on May 7 for a two-and-a-half-hour hands-on, investigative science experience which is truly a unique learning experience. In this floating classroom, aquatic science instructors guide participants in the use of sampling equipment and instruments to compile water quality data from Lake Michigan and shoreline water bodies.
Sampling equipment used on a standard cruise includes a plankton net, Van Dorn water bottles, and a PONAR dredge. Equipment for determining water color, transparency (secchi disk), and temperature is also found on the vessels.
Each of the main cabins on the vessels has a laboratory with stations for water analysis including dissolved oxygen, pH, turbidity, and conductivity. Other types of analyses can include nitrates, phosphates and alkalinity.
Microscopes with video cameras are used for examining biological samples. Other instruments on the vessels are a global positioning system (GPS) and depth finders.
Data from sampling stations are compared and contrasted to develop an understanding of Lake Michigan and inland lake or river ecology. For school groups, attention is paid to aligning the cruise experience with Michigan science standards.