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Great Lakes Article:

Lake cruise teaches preservation tips
By Tim Zorn
Northwest Indiana Post-Tribune
Published June 30, 2005

HAMMOND — Leaning over the railing, Helene Uhlman looked for a black-and-white disk rising slowly toward the surface of Lake Michigan.

At the same time, Mary Mulligan compared the lake’s color to a series of colored water samples.

Usually, both of them are office-bound — Uhlman as administrator of Hammond’s health department and Mulligan as the brownfields specialist for Gary’s environmental affairs department.

But on Wednesday, they and more than a dozen other public and environmental officials got a chance to see Lake Michigan the way scientists — and school children studying the environment — do.

The W.G. Jackson, a 65-foot-long boat operated by Grand Valley State University in western Michigan, took them three miles from shore for a first-hand look at techniques for determining the lake’s health, from its surface to its floor.

“I read a lot of things, but this is more hands-on and I can understand what they’re explaining,” said Brenda Scott-Henry, a Gary Sanitary District grant writer. “This was a great experience.”

Wednesday morning’s voyage was one of five, plus two workshops for teachers, during the Jackson’s three-day visit to Northwest Indiana this week.

Alex da Silva, who helped arrange the visit for the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, said 147 people signed up for the educational cruises and 30 more would have gone if there were room.

During each school year, the Jackson and a sister vessel, both equipped with laboratories, take about 4,000 Michigan school children onto Lake Michigan to help them learn to care for the lake.

Crew member Candi Goldman, a former teacher in Detroit, showed how she tells children that lakes can become eutrophic — choked with decaying matter and unable to sustain fish.

The Jackson spends its summers touring Lake Michigan to promote awareness of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Lakewide Management Plan, a continuing program to identify and attack water-quality problems on the Great Lakes.

“We’re trying to bring the EPA’s message — that yes, there is a plan out there — to as many people as we can,” said Janet Vail, director of Grand Valley State University water research institute.

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