Day: November 2, 2021

Great Lakes Investigations Aboard Michigan Tech’s Research Vessel Agassiz for Students in Grades 4-12

Dr. Noel Urban aboard the Agassiz with students

The Ride the Waves program completed its 8th year of offering scientific excursions aboard Michigan Tech’s research vessel Agassiz for students in grades 4-12 and the community. Twenty-four excursions for 374 adults and students were conducted during the summer and fall. The Agassiz was a popular attraction at two community events (Strawberry Festival in Chassell and Lake Superior Day in Copper Harbor) during the summer where participants learned how scientists assess the health of the Great Lakes. Students in grades 5-8 participated in nine scientific excursions.

School classes could choose from two programs offered—Aquatic Food Web in the Portage Waterway and Torch Lake Mine Waste & Remediation in Torch Lake.

The Aquatic Food Web & Lab (3-hr program: 1.5 hrs lab & 1.5 hrs Agassiz) investigates water quality (depth, clarity, temperature, and dissolved oxygen), and students collect benthic and plankton samples that they bring back to examine in the lab to find out “how do you make a lake trout?”Dr. Cory MacDonald and PhD student, Kenny Larson, along with graduate students in the lab—all from the CEGE Department– led these investigations.

Torch Lake Mine Waste Remediation (4-hr program: 2 hrs Agassiz; 2 hrs remediation assessment on land) presents the history of mining & milling copper and its impacts on the land and water. Students visit a historic copper milling site, evaluate a reclaimed former Superfund mine waste site along Torch Lake, and compare sediment cores from healthy and impacted parts of the lake. Dr. Noel Urban, in the CEGE Department led the Torch Lake investigation, along with Joan Chadde leading the land remediation assessment.

Thank you notes from students

Some of the students’ observations included:

I didn’t know there were so many types of zoo and phytoplankton!

I learned a lot of new things—what a Secchi disk measures and looking for organisms in mud.

I learned how activities on the land affect life in the water.

Now I know that fish smell like algae!

I sincerely appreciate learning about local history.

We are so grateful that we got to do this field trip!

The Ride the Waves Program is made possible with a generous grant from General Motors (GM). Logistical support is provided by Michigan Tech’s Great Lakes Research Center. More than 3000 youth have benefited from GM’s support since 2013.

For more information, contact Joan Chadde, Director, Michigan Tech Center for Science & Environmental Outreach at the Great Lakes Research Center: 906-487-3341 or