From the field: Hands-on education for our Coast Guard crew

>Lt. Cmdr William Woityra sent me a short piece about an innovative partnership between the Coast Guard Cutter Neah Bay and a local Ohio University, that enables crewmembers to get a hands-on education about the Great Lakes.

“In addition to their busy icebreaking schedule, Neah Bay found the opportunity to form a mutually beneficial partnership with Dr. Mike McKay of Bowling Green State University. Dr. McKay teaches biology classes at Bowling Green and performs research on the Lake Erie ecosystem, focusing especially on the populations of algae in the lake, and their effect on the rest of organisms. His data sets for Lake Erie are bountiful for the summer months, but lacking for the winter when the lake ice makes research next to impossible. Enter Neah Bay.

During the 2009/2010 winter season, Neah Bay partnered with Dr. McKay and collected water samples on four occasions, and helped provide a better view of how the winter ice conditions were affecting the life in the lake.

As the winter wore on, Dr. McKay and Lt. Cmdr. William Woityra, Neah Bay’s Commanding Officer, expanded the partnership to include a college-level ecology class for eleven members of the Neah Bay’s crew who assisted in the collection of water samples. The first class session was held February 10th. Dr. McKay and his colleagues from Bowling Green, Dr. George Bullerjahn and Dr. Ben Beall got underway with the cutter to demonstrate the new sampling gear and present the first lecture to students. Over the course of the ice season there were another five occasions on which Dr. McKay or Dr. Beall visited Cleveland to present lectures. The members of the class collected 192 water samples from 21 locations on the lake, and processed the water to determine the total chlorophyll concentration.

In addition to the Dr. McKay’s lectures on the scientific method, the formation of hypoxic dead zones in Lake Erie, the impact of invasive species on the Great Lakes, and toxic algae blooms, the class also participated in two sessions with guest lecturers. Cmdr. Tim Cummins, Ninth District staff, visited the unit and spoke about the Coast Guard’s involvement with Ballast Water regulations and Asian Carp. Mr. Glen Neksvasil from the Lake Carriers’ Association visited the unit and spoke about the economic impacts of Great Lakes Shipping.

The class concluded on April 27th with a final exam and group presentations by the class on topics of their choosing. Chief Petty Officer Jason Kempton, BM2 Brock Taylor and FN Jordan Walker presented on the Zebra Mussel invasion. SNBM Guillermo Medrano and SN Freddy Lee presented on Sea Lampreys in the Great Lakes. MK3 Mark Stuart, EM3 John Leary and FN Dillon Palmer spoke about the environmental impacts of Great Lakes Shipping, and MK1 Jason Leeper, FS2 David Moellenbeck, and BM3 Justin Sickler presented the feasibility of using bioremediation to clean up Maumee Bay.

Dr. McKay and Neah Bay both look forward to continuing this valuable partnership next winter, planning on offering a different biology class to the crew and collecting more water samples to build on the already impressive data set. In addition to the benefits reaped by both parties in this cooperative effort, it also presents an opportunity to fulfill the Coast Guard’s responsibilities as listed in US Code, Title 14, section 2: ‘The Coast Guard shall… engage in oceanographic research of the high seas and in waters subject to the jurisdiction of the United States.'”

What are you doing to reach your educational goals?

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