Local science teacher learns about Lake Erie

Julie Sek, a high school science teacher at the Erie 2-Chautauqua-Cattaraugus BOCES LoGuidice Educational Center in Fredonia, recently stepped off the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) research vessel Lake Guardian. She was one of 16 educators chosen from more than 50 applicants to collect data alongside EPA scientists. The unique opportunity was part of a workshop sponsored jointly by the Center for Great Lakes Literacy (CGLL) and the U.S. EPA.

“This was an extremely amazing experience that has invigorated my passion for science!” said Julie. “I learned so much about scientific research and about Lake Erie that I can take directly back to my students and fellow educators.”

Thanks to facilitators from Sea Grant programs in Pennsylvania and Ohio, the Lake Erie Shipboard Science Workshop afforded participants an opportunity to work shoulder to shoulder with scientists on research projects currently taking place on Lake Erie. The educators learned new strategies to implement Great Lakes research into their educational settings.

Dean of Health Professions and Science Steve Mauro from Gannon University, Professor Sherri Mason from SUNY Fredonia, and graduate student Ruth Briland from Ohio State University guided educators in learning about the impact of human activities on Lake Erie water quality. Teachers collected and analyzed data related to concentrations of microplastics and E. coli (bacteria), as well as emerging contaminants like Triclosan and Fluoxetine (chemicals in hand sanitizers and anti-depressants that are making their way into the Lake Erie watershed). Lessons focusing on food web dynamics, endangered and invasive species, climate change, plastics pollution, water contaminants, and stewardship opportunities for students throughout the basin helped educators connect the research they were doing to their classroom curriculum.

“Educators were immersed in an intense week of Lake Erie Science,”said Lyndsey Manzo, Ohio Sea Grant’s Education Specialist, who along with Marti Martz from Pennsylvania Sea Grant organized the expedition. “The educators really stepped up and not only helped the EPA collect meaningful data, but also acquired new scientific and pedagogical skills as well as interesting stories and ideas with which to inspire their students.”

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The Lake Erie Shipboard ScienceWorkshop was supported by the US EPA through funding from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and CGLL with support from the Pennsylvania and Ohio Sea Grant programs. The Center for Great Lakes Literacy is led by Sea Grant educators throughout the Great Lakes watershed. CGLL fosters informed and responsible decisions by providing hands-on experiences, educational resources and networking opportunities that promote Great Lakes literacy among an engaged community of educators, scientists and citizens. More information can be found at Pennsylvania Sea Grant and the Ohio Sea Grant College Program are a partnership between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and Pennsylvania State University and Ohio State University (respectively). They are part of NOAA Sea Grant, a nationwide network of 32 similar science-based programs.