Brandon Krumwiede describes mapping projects during his River Talk. Image credit: Michael Anderson

By Lily Cartier, University of Minnesota Duluth

Knowledge of the oceans is more than a matter of curiosity, our very survival may hinge on it.

–President John F. Kennedy

While this inspiring quote is about the oceans, the same could be said about two waterbodies that we know and love locally: the St. Louis River and Lake Superior.

But how much do we really know about these waters? Brandon Krumwiede, a Great Lakes geospatial coordinator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), told listeners at the March River Talk held at the Lake Superior Estuarium in Superior that what lies at the bottom has largely been unknown and unmapped.

Krumwiede said that full-fledged mapping of the St. Louis River Estuary was not undertaken until 1943, driven by World War II and the importance of local ship-building and steel production.

“It was really important to map out the river and the estuary so that we had safe navigation, commerce could commence, and all the vessels that were being built in the Twin Ports could be shipped overseas,” Krumwiede said.

After that, estuary mapping efforts languished. Currently, there is not a comprehensive modern picture of the St. Louis River Estuary or the Great Lakes. It is difficult to know the health of the plants, animals and water in the area without knowing what lies below the surface. 

Along with an assortment of government and local agencies, NOAA gained funding from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative in 2020 for a project called the Collaborative Benthic Habitat Mapping in the Nearshore Waters of the Great Lakes. The team uses benthic habitat mapping to measure the water levels in the Great Lakes. The goal is to map any part of the Great Lakes that has a depth of 80 meters or less. As of now, the project has mapped about 13% of the Great Lakes. 

This underwater mapping is done through two different methods. The first is called “sonar,” a process that uses sound waves to map the area. This uses small survey boats that move up and down the area that is mapped. The second is called “lidar,” which stands for light detection and ranging. This mapping technique uses green lasers on vessels or drones to map the substrate.

“At night, with a bathymetric lidar survey, you[‘ll] see this plane spinning around a green laser all over the beach. It looks like a UFO,” Krumwiede said.

Both types of underwater mapping come with pros and cons – the main one being the reliance on good weather while the data is taken. As you can imagine, lake conditions in northern Minnesota and Wisconsin are not often optimal for boats and small vessels. This study has a short season of about May to early November, at the latest. 

Krumwiede wished they would have prepared better for the warm weather we had this winter. “This season would have been amazing. We should have had survey boats here year-round because we were ice-free,” he said.

Why is mapping the river and Great Lakes vital? 

“It’s really important to think about, how do we ensure that we get the data that’s needed to make sure we make the right decisions and manage these natural resources into the future. For our generation and future generations down the road,” Krumwiede said.

The final River Talk for the season will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, April 10, at the Lake Superior Estuarium. Keith Okeson with the Lake Superior Chapter of Muskies Inc., will present, “Muskies and the St. Louis River.”

 

The post Underwater mapping expands knowledge spanning from the St. Louis River to the Great Lakes first appeared on Wisconsin Sea Grant.

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Blog | Wisconsin Sea Grant

Blog | Wisconsin Sea Grant

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Wisconsin Sea Grant

NOAA GLERL Physical Scientist James Kessler recently received a NOAA National Ocean Service (NOS) Peer Recognition Award for outstanding day-to-day collaborative efforts involving crosscutting programmatic tasks that contributed to the accomplishments of the NOS mission.  Peer Recognition “Rafting” Awards recognize … Continue reading

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NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory

NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory

https://noaaglerl.blog/2024/03/06/noaa-glerl-physical-scientist-receives-noaa-national-ocean-service-peer-recognition-award/

Gabrielle Farina

Congratulations to NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory Deputy Director Jesse Feyen on receiving an American Meteorological Society (AMS) award this week! Dr. Feyen was awarded the Scientific and Technological Activities Commission (STAC) 2023 Committee on Coastal Environment Outstanding Service … Continue reading

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NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory

NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory

https://noaaglerl.blog/2024/02/02/noaa-glerl-deputy-director-jesse-feyen-receives-ams-stac-2023-coastal-environment-committee-outstanding-service-award/

Gabrielle Farina

Actors Neil Brookshire and Cassandra Bissell practice their lines for “Me and Debry,” a play about marine debris held at the Door County Public Library in 2022. Image credit: Bonnie Willison, Wisconsin Sea Grant

What is marine debris, what are its impacts and what can we do about it? These are the central messages of a play written on behalf of Wisconsin Sea Grant by David Daniel with American Players Theatre of Wisconsin.

Me and Debry,” (pronounced “debris”), is a half-hour, whimsical, audience-participation play about litter (marine debris) in the Great Lakes. It had its “world premiere” in Wisconsin’s Door County in October 2022 and was performed three times at the Gilmore Fine Arts School in Racine, Wisconsin, for fifth- and sixth-grade students in May 2023.

The play’s script has been fine-tuned through these performances and is now available for others to use for free, complete with props.

Ginny Carlton, Wisconsin Sea Grant’s education outreach specialist, recently discussed the play and why schools or other educational institutions might be interested in performing it.

Ginny, what is marine debris and what message does the play offer about it?

So, a lot of times people think about gasoline or oil on the water because we often see that on the news. Technically, from NOAA’s perspective (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), that isn’t marine debris. It’s obviously pollution, but the definition requires marine debris to be a solid. It can be anything from something really small, like a microplastic, to something quite large, like a derelict fishing vessel.

Often, environmental messaging can be sort of depressing and doom and gloom. We wanted to provide students with an uplifting message. One of the lines in the play is, “If it’s to be, it’s up to me.” This particular line is repeated a couple times during the play, so that hopefully, the students come to understand that they can have a positive role in at least considering what to do and making a change that would have a positive impact.

Ginny Carlson (left) instructs Racine elementary students in an environmental stewardship day project at Quarry Lake County Park as part of the marine debris project that the “me and Debry” play came from. Image credit: Bonnie Willison, Wisconsin Sea Grant

What is special about the play compared to other marine debris educational materials?

Two reasons: one, it presents the material in a slightly different messaging format. Rather than reading a textbook or watching a video, it has an opportunity for interaction. There’s a lot of audience participation built into the play script. There are four central roles that are performed by members of the audience. One is a crane, another is a kayaker, a fish and a kid. Then beyond those four central roles, there’s also audience participation opportunities when the play starts to talk about what we call the eight R’s. Many teachers and students are already familiar with three of the R’s. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. The play introduces five others for the students and the educators to think about. (Rethink, Refuse, Repurpose, Refurbish and Repair)

I think another reason is that it has the potential of getting people up moving and actually doing, and inspiring action beyond the actual performance. So, providing an opportunity for the students to consider their own behavior and their own impact on this issue and potentially making some minor adjustments in what they’re doing. Obviously other educational curriculum and formats also attempt to do that, but for some reason, I think just having the audio and visual together and having live interactions with people brings it one step further along than just listening to a teacher talk about it or with a PowerPoint or watching a video, perhaps.

Also, the script design itself is a rhyming format, and that tends to grab people’s attention, and it somehow helps people to remember the content better than just having it in regular prose.

Do actors in the play need to memorize lines?

Even with the actors that were at Door County and in The Gilmore Fine Arts School, we told them that there was no need for them to memorize lines. They could do what they called a reading performance, which means that you can have the script in hand. The desire is to have you pre-read it, so you’re not standing and reading like a storybook-style program, but that you have some familiarity with the script ahead, but have it there to provide a refresher as you move along.

What do students get out of the play in addition to marine debris education?

Students get an opportunity to do some public speaking. I think oftentimes students don’t have the opportunity to publicly speak in front of their peers and or other individuals. So that can be a real confidence-booster to have the opportunity to do that.

They also have an opportunity to consider different worldviews and different perspectives. So, by including the characters of the crane and the fish our intention and hope was that perhaps the students  or youth that are watching the performances and interacting with the performances would understand how humans can and do impact other organisms and our responsibility to them — a stewardship message that is part of the play as well.

The “Me and Debry” script is now available to use for free. Image credit: Bonnie Willison, Wisconsin Sea Grant

How do people get the script if they want it?

The easiest way to obtain it is to simply download it from our Wisconsin Sea Grant Education website. We have it available in English, and then the four main character parts for the audience members are in English, Spanish, and Hmong translations as well. The eight R materials for audience participation, they’re available in English, Spanish, and Hmong directly from our website. We also include all that material in a costume kit and an educational kit that you can make a request to have sent to you within Wisconsin. That link is also on the education website. So, you simply make a request for the materials to be interlibrary loaned to you.

The kit has costumes for the two primary actors. Basically, a T-shirt and a pair of oversized sunglasses, so it’s not elaborate costuming. And similarly, it has costumes for the four main characters. And then supporting props for the various eight R topics.

Does it cost anything?

No. Just like our other educational kits at this time, there’s no charge. We will ship it on our cost, and we also pay for the return shipping.

Me and Debry, is part of a two-year project funded by Wisconsin Sea Grant with grants from the National Sea Grant College Program, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Marine Debris Program, U.S. Department of Commerce, and the state of Wisconsin.

The post Marine debris play script available for free first appeared on Wisconsin Sea Grant.

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News Releases | Wisconsin Sea Grant

News Releases | Wisconsin Sea Grant

https://www.seagrant.wisc.edu/news/marine-debris-play-script-available-for-free/

Marie Zhuikov

We’ve all heard that no two snowflakes are alike. But few people know that most are similar enough they can be classified.

Michael Notaro with the University of Wisconsin-Madison is teaching Wisconsin school children the similarities in snowflakes to share the wonder of nature and information about the Great Lakes climate, but also to expand an international environmental database.

An “ordinary dendritic” snowflake crystal. This means it has six branches. Image credit: The Bentley Collection, UW- Madison.

The database is called GLOBE, which stands for Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment. This environmental education youth citizen science program began in 1995 and is run by NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration). It is sponsored by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of State. According to Notaro, more than 40,000 schools in 127 countries participate by inputting data such as temperature, wind speed, soil moisture and bird migration from their communities into the online GLOBE database.

Notaro, director for the Nelson Institute Center for Climatic Research, said his Sea Grant-funded Snow-GLOBE Youth Citizen Science Collaborative project helps address a lack of climate science education in the classroom.

“There’s very little time allocated toward the topics of weather and climate, particularly climate change,” he said. “Also, a lot of educators have expressed discomfort in terms of their training and teaching related to climate. So, I’m trying to provide the tools for the teachers, the training for the teachers, and also the opportunities for the students to learn how to become citizen scientists – that they themselves, even as a young person, can support some of the missions of NASA, NOAA and other agencies.”

Darien Becker, environmental educator with Welty Environmental Center (right), instructs two interns from Beloit Memorial High School on how to identify snowflakes using the Snow-GLOBE protocol. Image credit: Aaron Wilson, Welty Environmental Center.

He’s currently working with eight schools and three environmental centers across Wisconsin in Beloit, Racine and Door County. The children measure snow depth, snowfall amounts and their liquid equivalents. This data has a home in GLOBE already. What doesn’t have a home is snowflake classification. Notaro would like to change that.

The children take photos of snowflakes with their cellphones and a special lens, which Notaro provides. “They start with a wooden board with black velvet. The flake falls on it. Then you use a clip-on macro lens to take a photo and a high-precision ruler to estimate the crystal’s diameter. I also provided information like images from the Bentley Library,” Notaro said.

The Bentley Collection is housed at UW-Madison’s Space Science and Engineering Center. It contains photomicrographs (photos taken through a microscope) by Wilson Bentley, a homeschooled Vermont farm boy who developed a passion for studying water in all its forms. Snowflakes were his specialty, and he sold collections to universities across the United States, including UW-Madison.

Based on the shape of the crystal, the students can classify what type of snowflake it is. Some of the options include columns, hexagons, two branches, four branches, and the typical Christmas-card version with six branches.

Notaro said the photography activity is a hit. “Kids are interested in their cell phones, as we know. Kids are interested in photography. This connects those interests to science.”

A plate snowflake with simple extensions. Image credit: The Bentley Collection, UW-Madison.

Such data will help track what’s going on with snow in Wisconsin. Notaro’s goal is to expand the project to more middle schools, high schools and environmental centers in Wisconsin and across the Great Lakes.

“Ideally, I hope to find a school where there are three or more teachers interested in participating,” he said. “That helps with the longevity of their involvement. And then I usually set up a professional development workshop near them. I’ll order GLOBE equipment, so I supply all the equipment that they need. Then I provide training and calibration instructions and work with the school.”

Interested educators can contact Notaro at mnotaro@wisc.edu.

“This upcoming winter we’ll be able to get some data collected. The goal is building up the schools and the resources toward data collection. I hate to say it, but hopefully, it snows a lot,” Notaro said.

The post Hoping for snow: Wisconsin snow data project captures snowflake images and students’ attention first appeared on Wisconsin Sea Grant.

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News Releases | Wisconsin Sea Grant

News Releases | Wisconsin Sea Grant

https://www.seagrant.wisc.edu/news/hoping-for-snow-wisconsin-snow-data-project-captures-snowflake-images-and-students-attention/

Marie Zhuikov

Newly published research from the NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory (GLERL), the Cooperative Institute for Great Lakes Research (CIGLR), and partners reveals that using underwater robots could significantly advance scientists’ ability to study the harmful algal blooms (HABs) that … Continue reading

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NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory

NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory

https://noaaglerl.blog/2022/12/19/underwater-robots-significantly-advance-our-ability-to-study-lake-eries-harmful-algal-blooms/

Gabrielle Farina

Every summer, NOAA GLERL scientists travel far and wide across the Great Lakes region to study the biological, chemical, and physical properties of these amazing lakes. A portion of this fieldwork contributes to a larger project called the Cooperative Science and Monitoring Initiative – or CSMI – which helps us take a deeper dive into studying a different Great Lake each year. 2022 was Lake Huron’s turn to shine, and GLERL's efforts focused on benthic and spatial surveys in Thunder Bay and Saginaw Bay. Continue reading

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NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory

NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory

https://noaaglerl.blog/2022/10/26/lessons-from-lake-huron-a-look-back-at-noaa-glerls-2022-fieldwork-for-the-cooperative-science-and-monitoring-initiative/

Gabrielle Farina

New stamps celebrate NOAA marine sanctuaries’ landscapes and marine life

Ever visited a U.S. national marine sanctuary and look forward to another trip? If so, you can have inspiration through a new set of postage stamps.

In honor of the 50th anniversary of the NOAA’s National Marine Sanctuary System, the U.S. Postal Service is releasing 16 new postage stamps showing scenes from sanctuaries around the world.

Read Now at Great Lakes Now.

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Great Lakes Now

Great Lakes Now

https://www.greatlakesnow.org/2022/08/stamps-celebrate-noaa-landscapes-marine-life/

Tynnetta Harris

The NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory (GLERL) and partners recently deployed a buoy in Lake Champlain that will measure the lake’s wave heights to assess the accuracy of a new experimental model for the lake. This is part of … Continue reading

Original Article

NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory

NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory

https://noaaglerl.blog/2021/06/22/new-wave-buoy-will-provide-data-to-support-wave-and-flood-forecasting-on-lake-champlain/

Gabrielle Farina

The North Beach area in Racine features several coastal engineering structures and a popular beach that will offer learning opportunities for middle-school students in the community. Image credit: David Mickelson, Wisconsin Coastal Management Program

When Adam Bechle, Wisconsin Sea Grant’s coastal engineering outreach specialist, was growing up in Green Bay, he did not feel connected to Lake Michigan. When he visited the shore during rare school field trips, he enjoyed the outings but there was no one who could tell him how waves worked or why the dike he was sitting on was built.

So, when Sea Grant senior special librarian and education coordinator, Anne Moser, approached Bechle about a project designed to connect middle-school students to their watershed by exploring coastal engineering concepts, he thought it was a great opportunity.

The two wrote a proposal to the Great Lakes Region Bay Watershed Education and Training (B-WET) program, through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which funds projects that encourage “meaningful watershed educational experiences” for K-12 students and their teachers. Their 17-month pilot project, “Coastal Engineering Education: People, Place and Practice,” was funded through a competitive process and begins soon.

Moser said their Great Lakes B-WET project is unique. “This place-based approach to watershed learning is innovative in its use of coastal engineering as an educational framework to engage students. The other thing that struck the funders was that the project is focused not only on the place and the practice of coastal engineering, but also on the people. It was important for us to include career pathways that introduce students to a variety of coastal engineering, green infrastructure and healthy beach management careers.”

Bechle and Moser plan to work with seventh-grade students and at least four teachers in the Racine Unified School District. Bechle explained that they chose Racine for several reasons. “Racine got hit by a big storm in January of 2020 that did a lot of damage on the lakefront, plus high water levels have been causing problems at North Beach. It’s being inundated frequently and there’s standing water at times. So, there’s ongoing engineering work happening there. We also have a good relationship with the city of Racine, specifically, their public health department. They’ve done great work to bring their beaches up to outstanding water quality and have nature-based features that help with filtering stormwater.”

Crew leaders and a crew supervisor (right) with the Great Lakes Community Conservation Corps measure the width of North Beach. Image credit: Anne Moser

Also in Racine is Chris Litzau, president of the Great Lakes Community Conservation Corps (CCC), an organization that trains and educates disadvantaged populations in Racine with outdoor projects reminiscent of those conducted by the original Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. Litzau’s group has been working with seventh graders in Racine over the past five years on a healthy beaches project on North Beach. The wide sandy beach can average over 1,000 visitors per month during summer. Numerous rock breakwaters, jetties and revetments lie south of the beach and offer examples of erosion and sediment movement.

The new project is multi-faceted and also involves Sea Grant staffers Natalie Chin and Ginny Carlson. In a nutshell, the team will meet with the school district to discuss its needs, create a five-lesson coastal engineering curriculum, bring the curriculum to teachers and to Great Lakes CCC crew leaders through workshops so that they can then teach their students, and work with the students to develop North Beach stewardship projects that use coastal engineering practices. Throughout the project, the students will also have the chance to be mentored by working engineers and other professionals who reflect the rich diversity of their community.

After evaluating how the project proceeds and is received, Bechle and Moser will make the curriculum available for use in other locations and school districts around the Great Lakes through the Center for Great Lakes Literacy. The Great Lakes CCC will be able to absorb the lesson into their regular programming.

Moser expects some challenges in developing the project curriculum. “We really have to start from scratch,” she said. “We need to pick Adam’s brain and take all the great work he’s done and somehow figure out how to engage the kids in a pretty technical field. It’s an exciting opportunity.”

What might the beach stewardship projects entail? Bechle said students could help with protecting fragile dune systems, reducing stormwater runoff, or even by developing social media campaigns to share the issues they learn about through the project. “There’s plenty of ideas where we can connect kids to the beach,” he said.

Readers who are connected to the engineering field and are interested in helping the project can contact Anne Moser. She said they are looking for mentors from Racine, Kenosha or even Milwaukee.

The post Unique costal engineering education pilot project coming to Racine first appeared on Wisconsin Sea Grant.

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News Releases – Wisconsin Sea Grant

News Releases – Wisconsin Sea Grant

https://www.seagrant.wisc.edu/news/unique-costal-engineering-education-pilot-project-coming-to-racine/

Marie Zhuikov

Understanding the major effects of ice on the Great Lakes is crucial. Ice cover impacts a range of societal benefits provided by the lakes, from hydropower generation to commercial shipping to the fishing industry. The amount of ice cover varies … Continue reading

Original Article

NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory

NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory

https://noaaglerl.blog/2021/02/04/five-decades-of-great-lakes-ice-cover-data-and-where-to-find-it/

Gabrielle Farina

With a network of experimental buoys that are constantly recording new data every few minutes, the amount of data the NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory (GLERL) has collected in the past 15 years is massive – and prepping it … Continue reading

Original Article

NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory

NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory

https://noaaglerl.blog/2020/12/11/new-science-with-historic-data-15-years-of-great-lakes-environmental-data-archived-in-noaa-data-repository/

Gabrielle Farina

If you followed our fieldwork last summer, you probably remember hearing about our research on the fascinating sinkholes and microbial communities that lie at the bottom of northern Lake Huron off the coast of Alpena, MI. Now you can experience this … Continue reading

Original Article

NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory

NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory

https://noaaglerl.blog/2020/01/29/sinkhole-science-groundwater-in-the-great-lakes/

Gabrielle Farina

When most people think of sinkholes, a massive cavity in the ground opening up and swallowing a car is what usually comes to mind. But when scientists at the NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory (GLERL) hear “sinkholes,” their minds … Continue reading

Original Article

NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory

NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory

https://noaaglerl.blog/2019/10/10/millions-of-microbes-the-unexpected-inhabitants-of-lake-hurons-underwater-sinkholes/

Gabrielle Farina