Researchers at Grand Valley State University’s Annis Water Resources Institute will be able to continue extensive Great Lakes education and outreach programs through 2014 after receiving a $250,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The grant will fund the Coordinated Vessel-Based Education and Outreach Activities program, which delivers onboard educational experiences for the general public, public officials, educators and K-12 students in strategic ports of call around the Great Lakes.
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 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 visited 33 ports of call over 15 years, including Manitowoc and Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and Ludington, White Lake, and Holland in 2012 alone.
AWRI uses one of its research vessels, the W.G. Jackson for most of the tour activities. The boat is 65 feet long and takes more than 3,300 adults, college students, and children 4th grade and above on water quality sampling excursions each year. The purpose of the port visits is to spread the word about the Lake Michigan Lakewide Action and Management Plan (LAMP) for Lake Michigan. Guests on the boat learn from hands-on water sampling tours, boat open houses, exhibits, and public meetings. AWRI’s other vessel, the 45-foot long 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 match funds from Grand Valley and the Inland Seas Education Association in amounts of $17,984 and $19,176, respectively.