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Rachel Ratliff, Great Lakes Educator at the Inland Seas Education Association, demonstrates how a Secchi disc is used. Ratliff was one of the instructors on Monday’s trip for local educators on the schooner Inland Seas. (Diary photo by Christie Mastric)

A teacher saw a leech in a puddle in Mattson Lower Harbor Park, and instead of letting it face an untimely demise, he picked it up and put it in Lake Superior.

Teaching people how to save leeches, however, was not the main topic of Monday’s Inland Seas Education Association visit. However, conservation was an important part of it, as ISEA focused on educating local teachers and others about the ecology of the Great Lakes. Local students learned the subject on Sunday.

The programs were based on Inland Seas, a 77-foot schooner that provides educational programming on the Great Lakes. Based in northern Suttons Bay, Marquette was one of the ship’s first stops along Lake Superior.

Chris Standerford, director of the Seaborg Math and Center at Northern Michigan University, is also the regional director of the MiSTEM network, which serves the entire Upper Peninsula. He participated in the establishment of the tours of the inland seas.

Amanda Williams, a “school” instructor at the Inland Seas Education Association, shows sediment collected from the bottom of Lake Superior. Williams was one of the instructors on Monday’s trip for local educators on the schooner Inland Seas. (Diary photo by Christie Mastric)

ISEA is dedicated to the teaching of science, technology, engineering and mathematics in the Great Lakes. Its education programs on board and ashore are designed to inspire people of all ages to advance the long-term stewardship of the Great Lakes.

Sunday’s program was titled “Work by the water.”

“One of the things the MiSTEM Network tries to do is help with career exploration and connections with adult mentors and people in the community who are actually working in STEM fields that might be of interest to students,” said Standerford. “So we took advantage of the presence of inland seas here to focus on the theme of water. “

Students toured various stations to chat with professionals who make a living on the water.

On Monday, educators and staff from the Marquette Maritime Museum also scoured the stations to learn about zooplankton; benthos, or benthic organisms; and microplastics.

Before boarding, they used underwater robotics, or remotely operated vehicles, in the Lower Harbor, getting a view of the lake bottom.

“These have wide-angle cameras, which means it takes up a lot of the world – which makes the fish really big. “ said Jillian Votava, Senior Instructor for ISEA.

Although they didn’t see any fish, Standerford told educators that ROVs can be used to teach things like buoyancy, shapes, what works and what doesn’t.

“You can do ROV stuff with elementary school kids very easily”, he said.

Tim Bliss, who teaches science and art at central colleges, brought his own ROV.

This summer, a digital format was created and code was written to use a joystick.

“Since we had converted it to digital, we had not used it, so this is kind of our test. “ said felicity.

On inland seas, Votava said participants would “Sailors, scientists and stewards”.

Although the ship was crewed, the educators – with guidance – helped hoist the sails and learned some sailing terminology.

Much of their time, however, was spent learning things like Secchi discs, which measure the clarity of water, and taking water and air temperatures so that ISEA can create a database.

They also identified a midge larva in the sediment, learned how microplastics negatively affect the environment, and saw how a small wind turbine is used.

Under the bridge, they saw the tiny life of the lake. To help them see organisms such as a nauplius copepod, a microscope attached to a television allowed them to see zooplankton.

Juliana Lisuk, volunteer coordinator for ISEA, called the microscope-TV setup “the best and the only channel on the ship.”

Votava said she hopes educators will share their knowledge with at least one person.

“We are all for the search for these personal links with water”, she said.

ISEA offers programs to schools, groups and the public. For more information, contact ISEA at 231-271-3077 or visit

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