Laura Grimm: What Makes the Great Lakes So Great?, August 3, 2022

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Laura Grimm

Aboard NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson

July 4 – July 22, 2022

Mission: Hydrographic Survey of Lake Erie

Geographic Area of Cruise: Lake Erie

Date: August 3, 2022

Weather Data from my home office in Dalton, Ohio

Latitude: 40 45.5’ N

Longitude: 081 41.5’ W

Sky Conditions: Partly Cloudy

Visibility: 10+ miles

Wind Speed: 9 mph with gusts up to 23 mph

Wind Direction: SW

Air Temperature: 87 F (31 C)

Heat Index: 92 F (33 C)

Relative Humidity: 57%

Science and Technology Log

What is under all that water? 

Have you ever wondered what the seabed (lakebed) made of?  This information is important for several reasons: knowing where to anchor, pipeline &/or structure construction, habitat, dredging, etc.  Information about the sediments can be found on navigational charts.  Periodically, hydrographers need to take bottom samples to update these charts.  To do this, they bring the ship to a halt and drop a spring-loaded sampler to the seafloor.  The sampler snaps shut, capturing a sample of the bottom substrate.  The sediments that are brought aboard are analyzed according to grain size which range from clay (< 0.002 mm) to stones (4.0 mm and larger).

  • a spring-loaded trap attached to a rope, resting on deck
  • two scientists wearing hard hats and life vests prepare to lower the bottom sampler. one is holding on to the rope attached to the sampler, while the other directs the sampler with a pole or a hook
  • Laura, wearing a hard hat and life vest, pulls on the rope attached to the bottom sampler (strung over a pulley)
  • On the top of the chart is a ruler measuring 0-100 millimeters. 0-4 mm is classified as "granules," 4-8 mm as "small pebbles," 8-16 mm as "medium pebbles," 16-32 mm as "large pebbles," 32-64 mm as "very large pebbles," and 64-100 mm as "small cobbles." An inset box notes that 128-256 mm is classified as "large cobbles" and anything larger than 256 mm are "boulders." In the lower part of the chart, there are nine boxes with photos of grains of different sizes, topped by a scale ranging from 0-2000 micrometers. At the low end of the range, 0-125 micrometers is classified as "very fine sand," 125-250 micrometers as "fine sand," 250-500 micrometers as "coarse sand," 1000-2000 micrometers as "very coarse sand." and inset box notes that 3.9-62 micrometers is classified as "silt."
  • Bottom Sample Sediment Classification Tables. Sediment Size Classification, with Grain Size in millimeters: Clay - < 0.002 mm. Silt - 0.002-0.0625 mm. Sand (fine) - 0.00625-0.25 mm. Sand (medium) - 0.25-0.5 mm. Sand (coarse) - 0.5-2.0 mm. Gravel- 2.0-4.0 mm. Pebbles-4.0-64.0 mm. Cobble-64.0-256.0 mm. Boulder- >256.0 mm. Stone - 4.0-256.0+

What is it called to drive a ship?  The action of driving a ship is probably most often called piloting the ship. You may also hear people use the words steer, navigate, guide, maneuver, control, direct, captain, or shepherd.  Whatever you want to call it – I was super excited to pilot the ship.  I was also a bit nervous because it is so big!  Maneuvering a 208’ vessel seemed a bit daunting.

I first got some excellent tutoring by Helmsman AB Kinnett and Conning Officer ENS Brostowski.  All I needed to do was to make a 180ᵒ turn.  How difficult could it be?  I needed to take the ship out of the navigation system (commonly called, Nav Nav), go from autopilot to manual steering, follow the Conning Officer’s rudder directions, do some fine tuning, switch from manual steering to autopilot, and turn on the Nav Nav system.  Easy shmeezy! 

My legs were shaking just a bit.  I guess I did okay.  Someone did call up from the plot room and ask, “Just who is driving the ship?”  Haha.  They calmed down once they learned it was just “the teacher”. 

  • Laura, wearing a Teacher at Sea hat, stands at the helm of NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson. To her right is AB Kinnett. To her left is ENS Brostowski pointing at a screen.
  • Laura at the helm (now we can see the wheel.) AB Kinnett and ENS Brostowski look on.
  • Laura stands at the helm (the wheel is out view.) ENS Brostowski, standing behind her with arms folded, issues instructoins.
  • Laura, at the helm (wheel visible), looks upward and reaches for something (out of frame) with her right hand. AB Kinnett stands in the background but looks directly at the camera.
  • screenshot of a navigation screen that displays the recent track of NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson as lines on a nautical map

Parallel Parking

We came into the Port of Cleveland on July 22.  The crew did a super job of parking!  (I am sure “parking” is not the correct term.)  They used the windlass and ropes to secure the ship to the port (on the starboard side) and then put the gangway in place.  Don’t forget to take out the garbage!

  • view of Cleveland over the bow of NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson
  • the interior of the ship is mostly dark in this photo, but we can see the lighthouse through the circle of porthole.
  • view of the stadium from the water
  • view over the bow of NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson. three crewmembers, wearing hard hats and life vests, prepare to throw ropes over the rail as the ship pulls up alongside a dock. tall buildings of downtown Cleveland are visible in the background.
  • three crewmembers, wearing hard hats and life jackets, operate the windlass on the bow deck of NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson.
  • a crane swings the gangway (a ramp with railings) over the side of the ship, ready to lower it into place.
  • crane lowers the gangway into place; crewmembers wearing hard hats and life jackets pull on ropes to help maneavuer it
  • gangway, still attached to crane, in place, connecting the deck of NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson to the dock.
  • crane lifts a set of six steps, with railings, in the air. a davit of NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson is visible in the background.
  • the steps lead up from the deck to the top of the gangway, which then ramps down to the dock. the fast rescue boat (stowed on board) is visible in the background.
  • crane lifting a crate filled with blue and black trash bags
Laura, wearing a Teacher at Sea hat, and four crewmembers, wearing hard hats, pose for a photo on the dock, in front of stacks of large coils of metal wiring
On dry land after 19 days!  This crew was amazing!  From left to right: 1AE Perry, ENS Castillo, TAS Grimm, BGL Bayliss, AB Thompson. 

Personal Log

In late April 2022, I was informed by the NOAA Teacher at Sea office that I would sail aboard NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson on a hydrographic survey of Lake Erie in July.  Truthfully, I didn’t know what hydrography entailed – but I was familiar with Lake Erie.

I grew up only 20 miles from the Port of Cleveland.  As a child, my family spent a week each summer on Middle Bass Island where I learned to swim and fish for walleye and perch.  I was a sun-kissed, towheaded child that liked to catch frogs and talk with insects.  My daughter and I vacationed on Kelleys Island for many summers.  I even took an oceanography class on Gibraltar Island.  I was very excited to learn more about the Lake of my childhood.

  • a satellite map of the Great Lakes, with each lake labeled. no other political features are labeled.
  • a political map of the Great Lakes showing the lakes and the surrounding states and provinces. A dashed white line through Lakes Superior, Huron, Erie, and Ontario marks the division between U.S. and Canadian waters.
  • a political map of the Great Lakes, with the outline of the Great Lakes' watershed superimposed.
  • shapes and positions of Great Lakes superimposed on satellite map of Central Europe. Lake Superior reaches west to the Netherlands, and Lake Ontario east of Budapest.
  • shapes of the 25 largest lakes, to scale, all arranged near one another for comparison.

So, why are the Great Lakes so Great? 

The following video will help you get an idea of why these lakes are so significant.  See if you can answer the following questions while watching the video.

  1. How many lakes make up the Great Lakes?
  2. Why is the word “HOMES” a good way to remember the names of the lakes?
  3. How many states border the Great Lakes?
  4. What country is north of the Great Lakes?
  5. Geologically speaking, how did the Great Lakes come to be?
  6. How much of the world’s fresh surface water is in the Great Lakes?
  7. Which lake is the deepest, coldest, and contains ½ of the water in the Great Lakes system?
  8. Which two lakes are “technically” one lake?  Why?
  9. Which lake has the longest shoreline?
  10. Which lake is the warmest and shallowest?
  11. How does water get from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario?
  12. How does water that starts in Lake Superior finally get to the Atlantic Ocean?
  13. List three reasons why the Great Lakes are so great!
  14. List a few things that are causing problems for the Great Lakes.
  15. What effect is climate change having on the Great Lakes?
  16. How are people and governments trying to protect this GREAT resource?
What is so great about the Great Lakes?

When I travel, I like to read books that have a connection to my experience.  While on Thomas Jefferson, I read The Death and Life of the Great Lakes by Dan Egan.  It outlines the vast resources provided by the Great Lakes.   Not only do they hold 20% of the world’s supply of surface fresh water, they also provide food, transportation, and recreation to tens of millions of Americans and Canadians.   The Great Lakes are so very lifegiving, however, they are in trouble.  They are under threat as never before.  They need our help. 

In his book, Egan describes how invasive species – like the sea lamprey, zebra and quagga mussels – have colonized the lakes, issues associated with these invasions, and what has been done to mediate and prevent the arrival of future invasive species.  He also discusses the massive biological “dead” zones caused by outbreaks of toxic algal blooms.  Lake Erie Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) Forecasts are a regular part of the NOAA weather forecast for the western basin of Lake Erie.  Human-made climate change, dredging of shipping channels, and threats to siphon off Great Lakes water to be used beyond the watershed boundaries all pose threats to this incredible resource.  He ends the book with what was being done in 2017 (publication date) to “chart a course toward integrity, stability and balance” of the Great Lakes.

All in all, it was a pretty depressing book.  It caused me to reflect, however, on what I can do as an educator to bring this knowledge to my students.  Even more importantly, how can I have students experience and eventually love the lakes and all they represent?  How can I get them to become familiar with and care for the nature in their backyard?  My work is cut out for me.

“We cannot protect something we do not love, we cannot love what we do not know, and we cannot know what we do not see. Or hear. Or sense.”

— Richard Louv

The week before leaving on my “Grand NOAA Adventure”, I was nervous and started to doubt my own abilities and why I had applied to Teacher at Sea in the first place.  Was I cut out to be a successful Teacher at Sea?  Did I have the knowledge, skills, and fortitude to thrive at sea?  What happens if my technology crashes?  What if I am seasick for 19 days? 

Four things happened to help me move forward. 

  1. My husband – my chief cheerleader – gave me many doses of encouragement.  If he believed I could do it – I knew I could.
  2. I came across a saying on a tea bag (of all places) that gave me great strength, “Personal growth lies within the unknown; courage permits you to explore this space.”  This experience would take courage.  I am courageous.
  3. My daughter reminded me of a poem by Mary Oliver.  The last lines of which, “What are you going to do with your one wild, precious life?”  That’s right!  You only go around once.  Take the bull by the horns – so to speak.  Jump on and hold tight.  Life is short, and the world is wide.
  4. NOAA and NOAA’s Teacher at Sea Program believed in me enough to provide me with this awesome opportunity.  They have seen many a teacher come and go.  They believed I had what it took to be successful.  I chose to believe them. 

NOAA TAS stresses the 3 Fs: Flexibility, Following Orders, and Fortitude.  These are words to live by. 

  • Flexibility = Everything doesn’t always turn out as planned.  Be flexible.  Those who are not flexible, break. 
  • Following Orders = On a ship, this is essential.  In life, rules are made for a reason.  Follow them.  If you believe that the rules are unjust, work to change them.
  • Fortitude = Have courage.  Be strong – physically and in your convictions.  Be tenacious and believe in yourself.

I wish to thank NOAA TAS program and all the people who live and work aboard NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson.  Thank you for the long conversations and my seemingly endless questioning.  My curiosity is insatiable.  Thank you for checking my blog for accuracy – it needed to be “ship shape”!  Thank you for brainstorming with me inventions that could be created to make hydrographic technology easier if there were no budgetary restrictions.  Thank you for opening my eyes to a world of science, technology, and research that I previously did not know existed.  Thank you for teaching me what it meant to be part of the crew. 

This experience has taught me many things about science and technology, career possibilities, what it is like to live on a ship, relationships and work culture, and the power of reflection.  I learned so much more than is represented in my blog posts.  I am looking forward to sharing my experience with my students and the community. 

All my best to my new friends.  May you continue to have fair winds and following seas.

Sincerely,

Laura Grimm

Dalton STEAM & NOAA Teacher at Sea

a bandanda with a pen or marker drawing of NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson in the center. underneath reads "NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson Teacher at Sea 2022." surrounding the illustration are handwritten messages from the crew in different colors of ink.
Hand-made bandana signed by the crew of Thomas Jefferson

For the Little Dawgs . . .

Q: Where is Dewey?  Hint: He was getting ready to come home.

  • Dewey the beanie monkey sits on top of a life preserver mounted on NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson's rail.
  • Dewey the beanie monkey sits on top of a life preserver mounted on NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson's rail. Setting sun visible in the background.
  • Dewey the beanie monkey peaks out of a black backpack.
  • Dewey the beanie monkey peaks out of a black backpack on the desk in Laura's stateroom. Her Teacher at Sea hat is on the desk next to the backpack.
  • Dewey the beanie monkey sits next to a whiteboard displaying a drawing of a

Oktay Ince: An Introduction, June 16, 2022

NOAA Teacher At Sea

Oktay Ince

Anticipating Departure on NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson

June 20- July 1, 2022

Mission: Hydrographic Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Lake Erie/Lake Michigan

Date: June 16, 2022

Introduction

Greetings from Beavercreek, Ohio. My name is Oktay Ince, and I will be posting here over the next couple of weeks about my experiences from NOAA’s research vessel, Thomas Jefferson, as an educator conducting a hydrographic survey of Lake Erie/Lake Michigan! I’ll drive up to Cleveland on June 19, which will take about 3.5 hours from where I live now. My official work will start on June 20th, though. I can’t wait to have this once in a lifetime opportunity and share them all with you! Stay tuned …

Long Awaited Journey!

Back on January 27, 2020, I received a congratulations email from the NOAA Teacher at Sea Program.  “ Dear Applicant, On behalf of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Teacher at Sea Selection Committee, we are pleased to inform you that you were selected to be a finalist for the 2020 season”. At first, I was confused about what it means to be a finalist in this incredible program. Was I selected? Was I on the waiting list or did I have to meet certain criteria to be fully eligible to participate? The answer came later in the letter. I have to be medically cleared in order to sail. That includes a Tuberculosis (TB) test prior to sail. 

After completing all the necessary documents, I received an email on February 20 stating that I was medically cleared to sail and able to participate in the 2020 NOAA Teacher at Sea Program! Yay!!! We then had our first informational meeting on March 3.

A week after that, on March 10, a disappointing email came in! Due to the nationwide spread of Covid-19, our sailing season was canceled! However, there was a positive note at the end, “ We are planning to keep each of you in finalist status for our 2021 season.” I thought, well at least we are sailing the following year in 2021, not thinking that the pandemic would stay with us for two LONG years. 

By December 14, 2021, there was a hope to sail in the 2022 season. After confirming my interest in sailing and TB test (yes, again!), I received another congratulatory email on March 11, 2022 stating that I would be one of the teachers who will sail in the 2022 season! On April 28, I learned that I’ll be sailing NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson on June 20- July 1, 2022 on the Great Lakes conducting a hydrographic survey of Lake Erie!

And here was the most exciting part: I will be the FIRST NOAA Teacher at Sea on the Great Lakes!

About Me

Destiny favors prepared minds” 

– once said Louis Pastor, a famous 18th century French microbiologist who invented the process of pasteurization and pioneered many scientific discoveries that we use today. 

Whether Pastor said or not, this quote well defines my philosophy in life. As a little boy from the hills of central Anatolia, I dreamed of going places I’d never been before and learning as much as I could to help to make the world a better place. I always seek to learn, meet new people, and have new experiences. 

Studying Biodiversity at Acadia National Park, Maine 2021

Here I am, about to explore the largest group of freshwater lakes on Earth, Great Lakes, by total area and second-largest by total volume.

I am entering my 8th year in the field of education with my new position as an assistant principal of academics at the Horizon Science Academy High School in Columbus, Ohio. I taught various science subjects including biology, chemistry, and genetics; and health science pathway courses including health science and technology, medical terminology, patient care and pharmacy technician in the career technical education program in our school. 

What am I going to do on NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson?

NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson is a hydrographic survey ship, meaning it collects bathymetric data (i.e. map the seafloor) to support nautical charting, modeling, and research, but also collect other environmental data to support a variety of ecosystem sciences. In this research assignment, Thomas Jefferson will collect data from the Cleveland, Ohio area as well as the vicinity of South Bass Island and Presque Isle. At the end of the project, the data will allow us to identify hazards and changes to the seafloor, provide critical data for updating NOAA’s nautical charting products, and improve maritime safety. 

I am anticipating assisting with the acquisition of survey data on survey launches, scanning data to assist with the final processing of data, and riding on small support boats to help with the installation of shore positioning stations and tide gauges. 

My Goals while in the  NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson

Through this program, I hope to accomplish the following objectives: 

  1. Learn how NOAA’s scientists map ocean/lake floor and how they communicate their data with related stakeholders. The process of collecting ocean/lake data, analyzing and communicating this vital information with the public is something I am interested in to bring back to my school. 
  2. Explore ocean related careers and interview with those who are interested in sharing their experiences within their career journey. Presenting those careers to our students through PBL projects, or career exploration days will increase ocean-related careers within our school building. 
  3. Increase my knowledge on the Great Lakes and its significance locally and globally. This is significant because Ohio’s streams flow into either the Ohio River or Lake Erie, and eventually both release their water into the Atlantic Ocean. I want to make sure our students know their local water systems well and how they connect globally. 

About NOAA

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is a scientific and regulatory agency within the Department of Commerce. Its mission is “to understand and predict changes in climate, weather, ocean, and coasts, to share that knowledge and information with others, and to conserve and manage coastal and marine ecosystems and resources”. 

NOAA’s products and services support economic vitality and affect more than one-third of America’s gross domestic products. Source: NOAA’s Official Website

About NOAA’s Teacher At Sea Program

The NOAA’s Teacher at Sea (TAS) Program provides once-in-a-life time opportunity for educators by sending teachers to sea aboard NOAA research and survey ships to work under the world renowned NOAA’s scientists, officers and crew. Teachers will then share what they learn with their students, districts and communities. For more information, check out their official website

About NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson
NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson is hydrographic survey vessel that maps the ocean to aid maritime commerce, improve coastal resilience, and understand the maritime environment. The ship officially entered the NOAA fleet in 2003 (formerly the U.S. Naval Ship Littlehales) and was renamed for President Thomas Jefferson. You may find more information about NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson here.

Cindy Byers: Off to Alaska! April 15, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Cindy Byers
Aboard NOAA Ship Fairweather
April 29 – May 13, 2018

Mission: Southeast Alaska Hydrographic Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Southeast, Alaska

Date: April 15, 2018

Introduction

In two weeks I will be embarking on my first ocean science experience aboard NOAA Ship Fairweather.  After having several friends become “Teachers at Sea,” I just knew that I wanted to have this experience so I could become a better ocean educator and bring this knowledge back to my students.

I am a seventh and eighth grade teacher from Rosholt Middle School, a small school district in rural Wisconsin.  Our pre-Kindergarten through 12 grade building has 650 students.  As a middle school teacher my duties include earth science, health, language and reading.  I also work with small groups of gifted students two hours a day.  It makes me flexibility and a “jack of all trades” as they say.

My real passion is science and environmental education, and I have found ways to teach my other subjects often using these as topics.

My students would tell you I like boats and working with scientists!  I have spent time working with Sea Grant on the Great Lakes.  Sea Grant is a network that is a partnership between 33 university-based programs and NOAA.  They are in every coastal and Great Lakes state.  I have attended and taught workshops for teachers through Sea Grant. In 2011, at the invitation of Sea Grant, I spent 9 days on Lake Superior with 16 other teachers and 3 scientists aboard the Environmental Protection Agency’s R/V Lake Guardian studying near and offshore environments.

In 2016, I was aboard Wisconsin’s Flagship, Denis Sullivan , with Sea Grant and a group of teachers on a six day journey up Lake Michigan and across Lake Superior.  This is the same tall ship that my seventh grade students sail on each fall.

 

 

I am so excited to be working on an ocean vessel.  I have always dreamed of going to Alaska, and I can not think of a better way to do it.

I will be on a hydrographic survey to collect data that will be used to produce maps for safe navigation. The instruments onboard include multibeam echosounders and side sonar that work to image the ocean floor.  Four small boats are also used to set up tide measuring stations. The data is also used for other scientific and environmental prediction purposes such as tsunami displacement measurements and mapping of fish habitat.

NOAA Ship Fairweather
NOAA Ship Fairweather (Courtesy of NOAA)

I am very excited to share how all of the science equipment is used and how the data is organized.  I would like to find a way to have my students be involved in science labs that use some of the techniques and data used by the scientists on the ship.  I would also like to learn more about careers in NOAA that some of my students may be interested in pursuing!

 

Did you know?

NOAA’s mission is: Science, Service and Stewardship

1. To understand and predict changes in climate, weather, oceans and coasts;

2. To share that knowledge and information with others; and

3. To conserve and manage coastal and marine ecosystems and resources.