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
“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
“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.