Grand Valley State University's W.G. Jackson is one of two research boats the university uses for its vessel-based outreach. Photo via Facebook
Researchers at Grand Valley State University’s Annis Water Resources Institute on Muskegon Lake are receiving a $250,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which will aid the facility in continuing its extensive Great Lakes education and outreach programs through 2013 and 2014.
The grant will fund the Coordinated Vessel-Based Education and Outreach Activities program, which provides educational experiences for the general public, public officials, educators and K-12 students on board the two research boats owned by AWRI, the W.G. Jackson and the D.J. Angus.
The program has been in place for two years and is a coordinated effort between AWRI, Michigan State University’s Sea Grant Extension Program and the Inland Seas Education Association. The new two-year grant will allow program organizers, including AWRI associate research scientist Janet Vail, to continue coordinated efforts of school research vessels to address education and outreach goals.
“Being on an outreach and education vessel provides a unique opportunity to experience the Great Lakes through the lens of a scientist, and helps adults and children alike to gain an understanding of ecosystem health and water quality,” Vail said. “The tours also serve as a venue for participants to talk about their concerns about local bodies of water, and what can be done to help restore them.”
AWRI achieves outreach and education goals on the Great Lakes through the Making Lake Michigan Great program, which has operated at 33 ports over 15 years, including Manitowoc and Milwaukee, Wis., and Ludington, White Lake and Holland in 2012 alone.
AWRI uses one of its research vessels, the 65-foot W.G. Jackson, for most of the tour activities. The boat takes more than 3,300 adults, college students, and school children each year on 90-minute cruises, during which they learn about sampling and analyzing lake water quality. The purpose of the port visits is to spread the word about the Lake Michigan Lakewide Action and Management Plan (LAMP).
AWRI’s other vessel, the 45-foot D.J. Angus, has been used for teacher workshops, which are another part of the project.
In addition to the EPA grant, Vail and the outreach and education team will get matching funds from Grand Valley and the Inland Seas Education Association in amounts of $17,984 and $19,176, respectively.
AWRI is a multidisciplinary research organization in GVSU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Its three main activities are freshwater ecological research, an Information Services Center that collects and analyzes data for natural resource management decisions, and the Education and Outreach Program.