Summer storms brings flooding to the forefront

In July, the Taste of Chicago closed down for a day due to heavy rain. In the suburbs, storms are flooding streets and basements. It’s a rainy year—the month of June had the third highest rainfall at Chicago O’Hare since records have been kept in 1959.

City sewers built to take on storms from days gone by are no match for today’s rainfall that lands mostly on parking lots, streets, and sidewalks instead of being absorbed into fields and patches of forest. What’s more, climate change predictions appear to be coming truelarger storms are hitting more frequently.

Basements and streets underwater are a serious concern, but when Superstorm Sandy hit the east coast two years ago, it illustrated that flooding of critical facilities, such as hospitals, can have widespread and possibly catastrophic impacts.

IISG’s climate specialist, Molly Woloszyn, is tackling the issue of flooding from the angle of better preparation and prediction. She is part of a project that is assessing the flooding vulnerability of critical buildings in Chicago, including utility providers, transportation facilities, and hospitals. She is looking at factors like location, elevation, and flooding history of the facility, but also the placement of critical systems, such as generators and potable water supplies. Ultimately, this will result in recommendations on how these facilities can shore up their structures and systems to reduce this risk in the face of future storms.

Molly and other project contributors at the Midwestern Regional Climate Center are also dipping into 25 years of data from the Cook County Precipitation Network to connect large rain events with their consequences, such as combined sewer overflows and reports of basement and viaduct flooding. The goal here is to help the National Weather Service make forecasts that are impact-based for the city of Chicago. 

Updating rain event reports for what constitutes a 5-year storm or a 100-year storm, for example, (meaning the probability of these storms happening is 1 in 5 or 1 in 100 years) is one part of the city’s plan for getting ahead of flooding concerns as detailed in the City of Chicago Green Stormwater Infrastructure Strategy. Planners and engineers use long term rainfall data to make decisions going forward, but the last report was released in 1992 with data up to the mid-80s. By all accounts, big storms are getting bigger and more frequent. More data is key for local decision makers. The Midwestern Regional Climate Center's analysis of the Cook County data will provide new rainfall thresholds for various sized events over the course of the last 25 years.


Jumpin’ Jack joins tour of Great Lakes region

Jumpin’ Jack, the silver carp sensation known for his glam look and high-flying stage tricks, will join Lady Quagga on tour of schools and public events starting this month.

Despite differences in their history and style, the two have been dubbed a ‘captivating duo’ by many critics. Several experts have also commended the “spokes-mussel” and “flying fish” for dedicating their tour to spreading the word about the risks of aquatic invasive species and how people can help prevent their spread.

Jumpin’ Jack, along with his cousin bighead carp, initially came to the U.S. in the 1970s to help control algae growth in aquaculture and municipal wastewater treatment plants. They soon moved to nearby lakes and rivers and are now a common sight on major rivers like the Illinois and Mississippi. Together, these Asian carp have knocked back plankton populations, crowded out native species, and seriously injured boaters.

In addition to traveling with Lady Quagga, Jumpin’ Jack is also booking independent appearances. Contact his manager, Terri Hallesy, for more information. 


Social science strengthens outreach for the Upper Trenton Channel clean-up plan

Scientists and engineers are working together to design a clean-up plan for Michigan’s Upper Trenton Channel, where high concentrations of historic pollutants pose a threat to aquatic life and public health. The process began about a year ago with a feasibility study. In January, local residents had a chance to weigh-in on an early draft of the plan. And in the coming years, this Great Lakes Legacy Act project could remove or cap around 240,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment.  

Just as important as the clean-up effort itself, is ensuring that local communities and other key stakeholders understand the project and its goals. But before they can begin public outreach, project partners have to understand and appreciate the role the channel and nearby Detroit River play in the communities. 

That is where IISG’s social scientist Caitie McCoy and her interns Erika Lower and Mark Krupa come in. The three were in Michigan earlier this month to conduct a needs assessment that will help the project team tailor outreach products and messaging to those who use and visit the river.

They interviewed around 35 people with diverse backgrounds—everyone from area residents to city planners to members of boating associations—to learn more about their perceptions of the channel and river. The final results of the study won’t be available for a few months, but the interviews have already given Caitie, Erika, and Mark a better understanding of the interests and concerns surrounding this popular recreation site.

“One interesting thing we learned was that the safety of the channel and river during dredging is of prime importance to the community,” said Caitie. “This is a fast flowing channel, and we will need to explain the science and engineering behind what keeps stirred up sediment from flowing downstream during the project—in terms that everyone can understand.”

An impromptu trip on the channel also gave Caitie, Erika, and Mark deeper insight into how the community uses the channel and river. The trip—which set off bright and early on the 16th—was led by the Wyandotte Rowing Club. Later that night, the group took to the water once again with one of the residents they interviewed.  

Similar studies for the Sheboygan River and St. Louis River Areas of Concern have already helped shape outreach efforts there and allowed project partners to gauge changes in community perceptions at the end of a clean-up project.

The Upper Trenton Channel, which sits about 20 miles south of Detroit, is part of the Detroit River AOC. Project partners include Michigan Sea Grant, Friends of the Detroit River, the Detroit River Public Advisory Council, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, the Michigan Department of Community Health, and the U.S. EPA. 


Friday Foto: Green infrastructure funding is part of newly-signed Clean Water Initiative

This week Governor Pat Quinn signed the Clean Water Initiative, which will provide financial support for communities in Illinois to improve stormwater, wastewater, and drinking water infrastructure, and be better prepared to cope with the impacts of climate change - increased risk of drought and extreme precipitation.


Knauss Fellow Sara Paver shares her experiences at NSF

It’s been a few months since IISG-sponsored graduate students Sara Paver and Katherine Touzinsky began their Knauss fellowships. We were curious to hear about their experiences so far and thought you might be too. First up is Sara, an alum of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign who is spending the year at the National Science Foundation Division of Ocean Sciences. 
“I have officially reached the halfway point in my fellowship. I am having a wonderful experience, and the time has passed unbelievably quickly. I would consider the best aspects of being a Knauss Fellow to be (in no particular order) the abundance and breadth of opportunities—no two fellowship experiences are the same, and there is quite a bit of flexibility to tailor your experiences to your interests—and the awesome people you have the opportunity to interact with along the way. I really enjoy working with my colleagues at the National Science Foundation (NSF) and spending time with the other fellows. 
My fellowship placement is in the Division of Ocean Sciences, where I have been working to facilitate the review of grant proposals submitted to the Coastal Science, Engineering, and Education for Sustainability (Coastal SEES) program and the Biological Oceanography core program. I submitted a few grants to NSF as a graduate student, and it has been very illuminating to see the grant review process from the other side. I especially enjoy meeting and interacting with the scientists who serve on panels.

My position at NSF has also enabled me to improve my science communication skills. I revised the 2014 Coastal SEES award abstracts to make them accessible to a non-specialist audience. I have also been writing NSF Highlights to describe the broader impacts of research accomplishments funded by the NSF Biological Oceanography program.
Outside of my work at NSF, I have been using my non-stipend fellowship funds to travel. I recently returned from Waterville Valley, NH, where I attended my first Gordon Research Conference. The theme of the conference was “Ocean Global Change Biology: Interactive Effects of Multiple Global Change Variables.” In May, I had the opportunity to travel to the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences in East Boothbay, ME to participate in an Ocean Carbon and Biogeochemistry scoping workshop focused on improving predictive biogeochemical models through single cell-based analyses of marine plankton. These experiences provided me with opportunities to network with researchers—including scientists whose work I cited in my dissertation and had specifically hoped to meet—as well as the chance to watch collaborations form and new research areas emerge. 
The Knauss Fellowship has also provided me with unique extra-curricular experiences. For example, I recently viewed Saturn through a telescope at the Naval Observatory during a special tour for Knauss Fellows set up by Justine Kimball, the fellow currently serving as policy liaison to the Oceanographer of the Navy. Earlier in the year, I went bowling with my NSF colleagues at the Truman Bowling Alley in the basement of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, which is near the White House. I also went on a road trip with some of the other Knauss Fellows, including IISG fellow Katherine Touzinsky, to Horn Point Laboratory on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, where we completed an Integration and ApplicationNetwork (IAN) science communication course.

I am excited to see what is in store for me in the next six months and would encourage anyone interested in the intersection of science and policy to seriously consider applying to be a Knauss Fellow.
Be sure to check back here next week to hear how things are going for Katherine Touzinsky

**Photo A: Sara (left) and three other Knauss Fellows take a break from Capital Hill Ocean Week events to pose for a photo. 
Photo B: Sara enjoying her visit to East Boothbay, ME. 


Join us in welcoming our new graphic arts specialist

We are excited to announce that Joel Davenport has joined the team as IISG's graphic arts specialist. Joel helps shape the look of the program and works closely with the communication team and program specialists to produce our newsletter, flyers, displays, and other print and online outreach materials.

Joel brings seven years of experience in publication design, organizational branding, illustration, and web design. He has a Bachelor’s degree in communication with an emphasis on marketing.


Asian carp jump into new markets

A physical barrier to stop Asian carp from making their way into Lake Michigan won't be happening any time soon, but there are other ways to reduce the risks of these fish becoming established in the Great Lakes. From the latest issue of IISG's The HELM: 

The men behind a new fish processing plant in Illinois aren’t veterans of the fishing industry. They are a lawyer, alloy company owner, and restaurant builder who saw Asian carp jumping in the Mississippi River and thought, “There must be something we can do with these things.” 

That thought became a reality this April when American Heartland Fish Products opened its doors in Grafton, IL, a small town near the confluence of the Mississippi and Illinois rivers. The plant uses a unique production process to turn Asian carp into fish and bone meal and Omega 3 oils. The high-protein meals are primarily sold to animal feed producers. Their biggest seller, Omega 3 oil, is used for everything from cosmetics to dietary supplements.

“There is a demand for these products that never quits,” said Ben Allen, who co-owns American Heartland Fish Products with Gray Magee and Bryan Lebeau. “I have been involved in a lot of businesses, but never one where there is such a demand for the product.” Read more.


Latest climate report details the lasting effects of this past winter's weather

It probably comes as no surprise to those living in the Great Lakes region to hear that this spring was one of the coldest on record. Since 1948, there have been only four years with lower spring temperatures. And these unusually cold temperatures—and the snow that came with them—had significant impacts on Great Lakes ecosystems, communities, and economies. 

These impacts are the focus of the latest edition of the Great Lakes Quarterly Climate Impacts and Outlook report. Released in June, the report details how the long winter helped lake levels rebound from record lows, forced cities to invest more in winter operational expenses and infrastructure maintenance, and has left some farmers concerned about this year’s crop. It also provides a look at expected temperatures and precipitation levels for the coming months. 

The Great Lakes Quarterly Climate Impacts and Outlooks is developed by NOAA and Environment Canada. Past editions, as well as reports for other regions, are available at the U.S. Drought Portal.


From industry to rebirth: Student video presents history of Buffalo River

Interested in the comeback of the Buffalo River? You're in luck. AP biology students at the Global Concepts Charter School in Lackawanna, NY have created a video PSA explaining cleanup efforts and their importance in one of the nation's most industrialized rivers. 
Their teacher, Amanda Jasper, has put local environmental issues center stage in her AP course for several years. Last year, students explored Lake Erie aboard the Spirit of Buffalo and researched everything from algal blooms to zebra mussels. She got the idea for the video after attending a workshop hosted by the New York and Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant programs introducing a new curriculum that connects students in living near the Buffalo River to environmental projects in their community. “The students took this project very seriously and told me they really enjoyed learning about something they are so close to,” said Jasper. “I am very proud of them.” 
Remediation projects have been underway in the Buffalo River since 2011. The latest phase of the project is expected to get rid of approximately 500,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment, bringing the total to around a million. The Great Lakes Legacy Act project also includes planting native species to help restore underwater habitats.


Web-based tipping points tool will help communities protect and grow at the same time

For land use planners, balancing community growth and environmental health is always a challenge. But after months of pilot testing, IISG is putting the final touches on a new web-based tool that will help them do just that. 

The Tipping Points and Indicators tool uses the latest watershed research and cutting-edge technology to show planners where aquatic ecosystems in their area are in danger of crossing a “tipping point,” triggering rapid and sometimes irreversible shifts in how they function. With help from a Sea Grant facilitator, planners can use the tool’s interactive maps, simulators, and recommended response strategies to develop watershed-specific plans that prevent ecosystems from being degraded beyond repair. 

Specialists from Ohio, New York, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant programs have spent the last few months testing the tool in broad range of communities and divers audiences. Planning groups from the industrialized southern Lake Michigan to the more preserved northern Wisconsin and Minnesota can now use the decision support system to kick off the watershed planning process. In Indiana, Ohio, and New York, facilitators have also introduced planning consultants and state employees to tool modules so they can take the process back to their own communities. 

Experiences so far have been positive, with many users expressing excitement about the role Tipping Points and Indicators could play in improving watershed planning. Community members, local officials, and consultants were particularly interested in the tools’ recommended policies, ordinances, and outreach efforts tailored to local needs. In fact, a watershed advocacy group from the Duluth area mentioned they could have spent a whole day on that module alone. 

To further enhance the tool, users also recommended making maps and planning strategies more watershed-specific. Many of these refinements are being made now. Others, including the addition of the new land cover data and models that predict future tipping points, are expected in the coming months. 

And as the project grows, so does the lead team. Last month, IISG brought Purdue software developer Brandon Beatty onboard to help boost the usability of Tipping Points and Indicators and ensure it continues to rely on the latest research and technology. 

The tipping points tool is part of a four-year project funded by NOAA and EPA and coordinated by Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant. Partners include Purdue University, University of Michigan, Michigan State University, University of Minnesota Duluth, University of Windsor, Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, the Cooperative Institute for Limnology and Ecosystem Research, the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, and the Sea Grant Great Lakes Network.


Stay up-to-date on this week's dangerous lake conditions with the Michigan City buoy

Boaters, anglers, and swimmers, you many want to think twice before heading out into Lake Michigan today. Forecasters are predicting waves swells as high as 7 ft, creating dangerous conditions for any one in water.

The high waves are the result of an unusual weather pattern expected to continue into tomorrow. A small piece of the polar vortex has dropped down to the southern Great Lakes, bringing fall-like weather to parts of Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana.

The cool air may be a welcomed break from July heat, but the shifting weather is not without its downsides. Right now, parts of the lake are actually warmer than the air above it, creating the perfect conditions for waterspouts. The wave swells created by gusty winds also bring a higher chance of rip currents, especially along Michigan's western shore.

Whether you are planning a trip to the lake or not, you can track wave height and other lake conditions in southern Lake Michigan as the strange weather continues with the IISG real-time buoy.

*The week's strange weather brings a chance of waterspouts like this one captured near Winthrop Harbor in 2013. Photo by Phil Mathis.


Former intern Naoki turns Great Lakes buoy experience into offshore power development

It’s been two years since we launched our summer internship program, and we couldn’t be happier with the results. Our interns did great things at IISG—educated boaters on AIS prevention, investigated community perceptions of sediment remediation projects, installed a real-time buoy in Lake Michigan, and more. But this impressive work didn’t stop at the end of the summer. Several are now in graduate programs, including law school. Some moved on to internships focused on Great Lakes monitoring and renewable engineering. And a few have even stayed at IISG. 

To celebrate the program’s two-year anniversary, we go back to where it all began with a four-part series showcasing our first round of interns—what they did and where they are now. The series wraps up with Naoki Wada.  

What did you work on while interning with IISG?
During my internship, I led a project that resulted in the first-ever nearshore real-time weather observation buoy in Indiana’s Lake Michigan waters. Data from the Michigan City buoy is used for research, educational, and weather alert purposes. I was responsible for configuring, testing, deploying, operating, and recovering the buoy in 2012. I also developed a user manual to ensure proper buoy operations in the future.

What did you like most about your internship?
I was responsible for the whole project—from configuration of the internal system and construction of the mooring structure to deployment and later retrieval in preparation for winter storage. It was a great learning experience with a lot of trial and error. I learned how to manage a project and gained knowledge of various technical features and techniques. The experience also taught me that it's ‘ok’ that I don't know everything. There are always ways to figure it out. Also, I liked that the effort was not for the sake of learning, like in school, but to help someone and society. 

What are you doing now?
I am a graduate student in mechanical and ocean engineering at University of California at Berkeley. My primary interest is the development of offshore floating wind power, for which the experiences and knowledge gained as an IISG intern has proven highly useful. This summer, I am also interning as a renewable energy consultant at an engineering service company in San Francisco called Black & Veatch. My main task is to conduct production estimates for large-scale solar power plants to verify the feasibility of the proposed projects.  

As you can tell, I am very interested in engineering and renewable energy. I am interested in both the technical and non-technical aspects of these fields and am trying to find the way I can best contribute to the worldwide effort to develop renewable energy. 

How did your time with IISG help prepare you for your graduate program and internship?
The experiences I had as an IISG intern is obviously highly relevant to what I am studying in graduate school. Through the internship, I learned how difficult it was to develop and deploy a small observation buoy and what kind of tasks and processes were involved. Because these same processes generally apply to other floating structures, including offshore floating wind platforms, I know I will use the knowledge I gained at IISG throughout my graduate program. 

Also, the project management skills I learned will be useful as I move into industry. It is similar in that there will be a product or deliverable that has to be created on a limited budget and time frame. Knowing how to plan ahead is always important because things can definitely go wrong unexpectedly. 

What advice would you have for future IISG interns or those considering applying?
One experience and summer can lead to bigger opportunities in many ways. Even if you’re not 100 percent sure what you will do in the future, just go for it if it’s the type of thing that you might like. Commit to the opportunities in front of you and the path will follow. 
For the latest information on fellowship and internship opportunities, visit our fellowship page regularly.


In the news: Teachers test water quality, learn about invasive species near Erie, PA

It's day four of the Shipboard and Shoreline Science Workshop, and teachers from across the Great Lakes region are hard at work conducting field experiments alongside researchers aboard the EPA R/V Lake Guardian. The group was in Lake Erie's Presque Isle Bay yesterday collecting water samples and hunting for invasive species. Their work, along with some of the researchers and participants, was featured on WICU 12 Erie.

"I'm going to bring this back to my classroom," Chad Solomon, a teacher at Chicago's Whitney M. Young Magnet High School told WICU. "We live in Chicago, but very rarely do kids actually get to the lake. I am going to be bringing this experience back to them."

Joining the teachers at this shoreline stop and throughout the research cruise is IISG's Kristin TePas. Kristin coordinates the annual teacher workshop, held each year on a different lake, for the Center for Great Lakes Literacy and the EPA Great Lakes National Program Office.

Sea Grant-funded researchers Sam Mason and Steve Mauro were also on board sampling for emerging pollutants like plastic and pharmaceuticals. You can learn more about Mason's research in Lake Erie and across the Great Lakes in the latest issue of UpClose. And watch for the next edition later this month to hear from Mauro directly about his work on the Lake Guardian. 

Follow the rest of the week's events and hear more from the teachers on board at the Center for Great Lakes Literacy blog.

*Photo taken during the 2010 cruise on Lake Michigan


Invasive but delicious: Chicago shop serves up Asian carp burgers

While Asian carp, the invasive fish making their way towards the Great Lakes, are a popular food in several countries, they haven’t completely taken hold here. But that may change if proprietors like Dirk Fucik in Chicago have their way. 

"Highly invasive Asian carp are advancing on the Great Lakes, so fire up your grill. Asian carp are eaten and appreciated globally, but the fish have never been popular in America because they’re bony and are thought to be bottom-feeders (actually, you can tell your pesca-prejudiced pals, Asian carp are plankton-feeders.) Nevertheless, Asian carp burgers at Dirk’s Fish & Gourmet Shop have been well-received.

'90 percent of the people who try it like it,' Dirk Fucik says. At Taste of Chicago one year, Fucik gave out 800 carp burgers in two hours.

Fucik fillets the carp, then grinds the remaining fish. 'Once you’ve done that, it’s like ground anything,' Fucik says. He’s used Asian carp in the meatballs in Italian wedding soup, and he’s received a lot of compliments for his Asian carp gefilte fish. Fucik recommends preparing his burgers with some cambozola cheese in the middle, or using Dirk’s Thai or 'Terry-aki' marinades. The burgers cost $6 per pound, compared to $18 a pound for salmon burgers."
Read more at the link above, and visit our webpage for previous articles on eating Asian carp.


Former intern Meredith expands her environmental work into outreach

It’s been two years since we launched our summer internship program, and we couldn’t be happier with the results. Our interns did great things at IISG—educated boaters on AIS prevention, investigated community perceptions of sediment remediation projects, installed a real-time buoy in Lake Michigan, and more. But their impressive work didn’t end with the summer. Several are now in graduate programs, including law school. Some moved on to internships focused on Great Lakes monitoring and renewable engineering. And a few have even stayed at IISG. 

To celebrate the program’s two-year anniversary, we go back to where it all began with a four-part series showcasing our first round of interns—what they did and where they are now. In this third edition, we check in with Meredith Brackett. 

What did you work on while interning with IISG?
During my IISG internship, I worked with Paris Collingsworth on a study comparing zooplankton and nutrient data collected by the Great Lakes National Program Office (GLNPO) with data collected by the Interagency Lower Trophic Level Monitoring Program of the Lake Erie Committee Forage Task Group (LEC-FTG). We used a mathematical model to calculate the similarities in zooplankton communities across time and locations. This study will help improve monitoring efforts by determining whether the LEC-FTG survey is capturing characteristics that the GLNPO data is not. 

What did you like most about your internship, and why?
My favorite part of my internship was collecting nutrient and biological samples aboard the EPA R/V Lake Guardian. This allowed me to gain hands-on experience in the field and collect the zooplankton species that I was looking at in my data study.

What are you doing now?
I am currently interning with the Oak Ridge Institute of Science and Education (ORISE) at GLNPO. My work there is focused on Great Lakes projects, such as formatting web releases for the International Association for Great Lakes Research website, working with USGS on uploading GLNPO monitoring sites to the Science of the Great Lakes (SiGL) Mapper database, and formatting the website for the IISG Limno Loan program. Additionally, I am still doing work on the R/V Lake Guardian.

How did your time with IISG help prepare you for your ORISE internship?
The internship really helped me meet people in the different areas of the Great Lakes and expand my contacts in the industry. I met the people I work with now while at IISG, actually. Additionally, the internship allowed me to learn about various aspects of Great Lakes ecosystems, and I apply this knowledge daily in my current position. 

What advice would you have for future IISG interns or those considering applying?
My advice would be to definitely apply for the internship! It is a great way to make contacts in the environmental industry. There are tons of networking opportunities. Additionally, the IISG internship is a great way to experience environmental work underway in the Great Lakes basin and to see all of the career opportunities available.
For the latest information on fellowship and internship opportunities, visit our fellowship page regularly.


Teachers set sail on Lake Erie for a week-long research cruise

Fifteen Great Lakes educators took to the water today for the annual Shipboard and Shoreline Science Workshop. They will spend the next six days working alongside scientist as they conduct field research aboard the EPA research vessel Lake Guardian.  This hands-on experience, coupled with activity development with Sea Grant specialists and other teachers, will help participants bring the latest Great Lakes science back to their classrooms.

Among the participants this year are teachers from Illinois and Indiana, and two of them wrote in to tell us what they hope to gain from their experience on Lake Erie.

Chad Solomon, a teacher at Chicago’s Whitney M. Young Magnet High School, hopes his time on the Lake Guardian will help him foster a stronger connection between his students and the Great Lakes.

“I have been a science teacher for over 15 years and now teach middle school environmental science. I design my class to be hands on, and one of the things I am looking to do during the CGLL Shipboard Science Workshop is identify ways to make the Great Lakes 'hands on'. Other than a once-a-year beach clean-up, my 7th grade curriculum is devoid of lessons that kinesthetically involve my students. Likewise, I want to increase my student’s personal connections to the Great Lakes. Many times we go on that beach clean-up, and I hear my students say that they have never visited the lake. In Chicago!”

Steve Park has taught 7th grade science in Huntington, IN for 20 years. He is looking forward to a week of hands-on learning.

“My experiences at Riverview Middle School have fueled my passion for sharing the wonders of creation with the next generation. I like to bring real world experiences to my classroom, and participating in the Lake Erie Shipboard Science Workshop will provide the perfect opportunity to share authentic scientific research with my middle school students. I am looking forward to being an active participant aboard ship while also having the opportunity to collaborate with other teachers to find out how they incorporate Great Lakes literacy into their classrooms. I always tell my students they will learn best if they are actively engaged in the scientific process. I will be thrilled to show them how I learned through experimentation aboard the R/V Lake Guardian. Thanks for including me in this voyage!”

Hear more from the teachers and follow the week’s events on the Center for Great Lakes Literacy blog.


Make water safety part of your fun at the beach

It’s Fourth of July! Let’s head for the beach! You’ve packed up towels and snacks and sunscreen for a day in the sun and surf. Now give some thought to water safety too.

Since 2010, 357 people have drowned in the Great Lakes, according to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project (GLSRP). To date, GLSRP has tracked 27 deaths this year, which is up from this time last year. This may be due to the water’s cold temperatures after a tough winter. Colder water uses up your energy faster than warmer water.

GLSRP’s Dave Benjamin and Bob Pratt teach water safety classes on beaches, in schools, and at other venues. On June 30, they brought their message to Ogden Dunes in Indiana, advocating for safer swimmers, safer waters, and safer responses.

Safer swimmers means learning how to swim, but if that’s not the case, putting on life jackets, or other flotation aids, especially for young children. It also means keeping a close eye on children in the water.

But children are not the only ones at risk. Young men make up 4 in 5 deaths from drowning. They tend to take more risks, or can be over confident about their swimming skills.

Safer waters mean swimming where there are lifeguards and away from structures that can cause dangerous currents around them.

Part of a safer response is knowing what it looks like when someone is in trouble in the water. “Hollywood portrays drowning as this very dramatic thing with the victim waving their arms and shouting for help, but when someone is drowning you will simply see their head tilted back in the water and a look of distress on their face,” said Benjamin.

The safe swimming experts recommend looking around the beach before trouble happens to spot items that can be used for floatation. For example, if you haven’t brought a cooler yourself, you will probably see others on the beach that can be used in an emergency.

If you find yourself in troubled waters, such as a rip current, the most important thing to do is not panic. Pratt recommends that you remember to flip, float, and follow. “Flip over on your back, float to conserve energy, and follow the current so that when you know where it is headed, you can swim out of it.”