Minnesota Sea Grant
Eleven Great Lakes educators will criss-cross Lake Superior from Duluth-Upper Harbor to the French River in Minnesota and the Amnicon River in Wisconsin this summer to gain hands-on experience with freshwater science, programs and resources that they can take home and use in their classrooms and other teaching environments.
The educators are part of the Great Lakes Sea Grant Superior Shipboard Science Workshop and will be aboard the Duluth Vista Queen and the University of Minnesota Duluth Great Lakes Observatory research vessel (R/V) Blue Heron from 27 June to July 1, 2022.
“Our goals for educators are to help them gain an understanding of Great Lakes water quality and microplastics, gain hands-on experience with water sampling and testing, and ‘help foster awareness and appreciation of natural resource research and management,’ said Marte Kitson, workshop leader and extension educator with Minnesota Sea Grant.
This year’s onboard science workshop includes two educators from Illinois, three from Minnesota, one from Ohio and five from Wisconsin who said they want to gain a deeper understanding of the types, abundance and effects of microplastics on Lake Superior water quality and on the lake. internet food. Megan Gilles, an undergraduate further education intern at MNSG, will accompany this year’s workshop to gain professional experience.
“[Educators] learn how to take water, sediment and sand samples from the beach. They will learn how to process the samples to separate possible microplastic particles using a microscope, and they will use the FTIR spectrometer to find out if the particles are really plastic particles or not,” said Lorena Rios Mendoza, researcher principal of the workshop and professor of chemistry. at the University of Wisconsin-Higher, which studies the concentration of toxic compounds adsorbed on plastic particles, sediments and tissue samples from the oceans and the Great Lakes.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, microplastics are small pieces of plastic less than five millimeters long that can be harmful to aquatic life in the oceans and Great Lakes.
Throughout the five-day workshop, educators will participate in a mix of onshore and onboard activities. Educators will collect water quality data using an instrument called a CTD, which measures conductivity (C) (ability of a substance to pass an electric current), temperature (T) and the depth (D).
Educators will use a manta trawl or manta net, which looks like a manta ray with metal wings and a wide mouth, to collect microplastics that may be in surface waters. They will also use a special water sample bottle called Niskin which allows samples to be taken from different depths of water in a way that seals the sample and brings it to the surface without mixing with water of different depths.
Microplastics are so small that it is difficult to identify what type of plastic it is. To understand this, educators will use an instrument called a Fourier Transform Infrared Spectrometer or FTIR Spectrometer. This instrument uses infrared light (or radiation) to identify the molecular fingerprints of solids that adsorb (or gather) infrared light, such as microplastics, which can help identify the synthetic polymer of the microplastics or the type of plastic that the fiber fragment or particle may have come from.
Educators will also have the opportunity to work on macro-water issues.
Attendees will be able to play Minnesota Sea Grant’s Watershed Game, an interactive and educational tool that helps individuals (especially local officials) understand the connection between land use and water quality.
The 2022 Sea Grant Shipboard Science Workshop will be the fifth year jointly coordinated by the Minnesota and Wisconsin Sea Grant programs. Great Lakes Sea Grant programs, along with educators from across the Great Lakes Basin, are part of the Sea Grant Center for Great Lakes Literacy. The center seeks to foster informed and responsible decisions that advance basin-wide stewardship by providing hands-on experiences, educational resources, and networking opportunities that promote Great Lakes literacy among an engaged community of educators, scientists and citizens.
“This workshop is a great example of the kinds of unique programs that Minnesota Sea Grant is known for. The workshop is really just the start of a year-long program that offers a myriad of supports for workshop participants,” Marte said.
Funding for the 2022 Sea Grant Shipboard Science Workshop comes from the Environmental Protection Agency Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (project number #00085577).
Minnesota Sea Grant is a federal-university partnership that brings water science to communities. We serve Minnesotans at work, home and play. We are a system-wide program at the University of Minnesota with offices on the Duluth and St. Paul campuses.