Even though the 2016-17 school year officially ended today, one lucky PRMS student’s school year will extend just a couple more days; as 8th grader Nick Tanck will join 7th/8th grade Science teacher Lynn Kurth Saturday morning on a day-long research expedition on Lake Michigan, to unlock some of the Lake’s hidden secrets.
Kurth will be just one of two teachers selected to join the expedition, sponsored by the University of Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric (NOAA) Office of National Marine Sanctuaries (ONMS). As part of the expedition, Tanck and Kurth will join researchers from the NOAA, the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS), the Adler Planetarium, and Wisconsin Sea Grant on the 50-foot research vessel R/V ‘Storm.’
The team will experience first-hand the high-tech tools scientists are using to better understand Lake Michigan and possibly discover historic shipwrecks. Also in attendance will be teacher Anthony Rosero from Trowbridge Elementary School in Milwaukee, and four of their students.
As Kurth explains, she and Rosero met during a similar expedition last August, during which Kurth served as Rosero’s mentor.
“Last August, the UW Sea Grant Institute organized a teacher workshop aboard the Sailing Vessel S/V ‘Dennis Sullivan,’ during which we sailed from Milwaukee to Duluth as part of the ‘Tall Ships’ festival. As part of the expedition, teachers were teaching teachers about the Great Lakes,” she explains.
“I had previously designed a teaching unit on ROV’s, so my portion of instruction was on ROV’s and served as Anthony’s mentor. And now Anthony has been selected to accompany us on the trip Saturday, along with a student. As teachers that’s what our dream is; to bring research and technology to our students. This expedition provides us with the perfect opportunity to do so.”
According to a press release from the institute, the group will also learn about the technology used to map the bed of Lake Michigan. They will explore a shipwreck with an ROV, and even learn about equipment that could be used to search for a fallen meteor. The shipwreck is the ‘Francis Hinton’ a wooden steamer that sunk during a November storm in 1909 in 15 feet of water. The meteorite plunged into Lake Michigan in the early morning hours of February 6, 2017, creating a fireball that was documented on vehicle dashcams in Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois and Indiana.
While this will be the first such trip for Nick, Saturday will mark the fourth for Kurth.
“I began working with Sea Grant six years ago when I participated in a teachers work shop on Lake Superior, after which I volunteered to work on a manual for a technical instrument.”
Then in the summer of 2014, Kurth was one of just 12 teachers selected from around the country to participate in a Long Line Survey of sharks in the Gulf of Mexico and eastern seaboard.
“That trip was a lot of fun,” she adds with a smile.
“Us teachers accompanied a NOAA research team in the Gulf of Mexico and east coast, tagging various species of sharks from very neat looking Hammerhead Sharks to Tiger Sharks. At one point, we discovered a shark tagged from 10 years prior by the University of Virginia. The odds of tagging a shark twice in its lifetime is very rare. The reason for tagging is to measure various aspects of shark life from their growth rates to travel routes.”
Last July, Kurth set sail once again, this time bound for Uganik Bay-located just north of Kodiak Island on the southern coast of Alaska- participating in a ‘Teacher at Sea Alumni’ research expedition, to map Uganik Bay for the first time since 1908. Kurth and her team boarded the Research Vessel R/V ‘Ranier’ for the trip, which was equipped with multi-beam SONAR equipment to assist in the mapping process.
“Mapping is very important’ Kurth said.
“Information must stay updated with climate change. Ships are now going places up there that never existed before, due to the receding of ice in the region.”
Nicholas Tanck-son of Richard and Tiffany Tanck of Merrill- was selected last month of a field of 30 students.
According to Kurth, a 4-member committee consisting of both teachers and PRMS administration formed an application process to select the lucky student to accompany Kurth. Students from all three grades (6-8) were eligible to apply. Application questions included a focus on career aspirations and level of interest in maritime research and technology.
“Nick’s responses were excellent and well-thought out,” she adds.
“They hit the nail right on the head with what we were looking for in a student maritime research candidate”
As Nick explains, his interest in maritime research and technology stems from his experiences in boy scout activities.
“As a member of the boy scouts, we went to the Mall of America two years ago and spent the night at the 300 foot tunnel at Sea Life. We literally fall asleep watching fish and sharks swimming right over the top of us! I think that trip really formed my interest in marine life and research. It was a very a neat experience. I feel like research helps others learn. So if my research can help others, this is a great opportunity for me” he adds with a grin.
Joining Kurth and Tanck will be PRMS 7th/8th grade teacher Jackie Bizer and three other students.
While Kurth and Tanck are out on the water performing their research with ROV’s, Bizer and her 8th grade students; Devin Miller, Camryn Schultz and Kennedy Berndt, will attend the Wisconsin Maritime Museum in Manitowoc; participating in a plastics survey along the shore of Lake Michigan.As part of the survey, the team will gather and weigh plastics material found along the shoreline and document their research for the museum.
According the UW-Sea Grant Institute, the R/V Storm (the vessel which Kurth and Tanck will board for their expedition) is in Lake Michigan for a two-week mission to explore the underwater environment and map the lakebed in support of the proposed Wisconsin-Lake Michigan National Marine Sanctuary. NOAA scientists from NCCOS, ONMS and the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory are collaborating during this and other missions, to improve understanding of Lake Michigan’s maritime heritage and natural environment. The data will be used by cultural and natural resource managers, and university scientists.