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Great Lakes Article:

Tall ship brings lessons about Great Lakes
By Jon Malavolti
Muskegon Chronicle (MI)
Posted on on August 9, 2005

While the makeshift crew of the Inland Seas didn't find any new species dwelling at the bottom of White Lake on Monday, they did discover a new smoothie flavor.


At least that's what the green sludge sample taken from the bottom of the lake resembled to young members of the White Lake Yacht Club who participated in an educational sail on the tall ship.

The Sutton Bay-based schooner will be tied up on the Muskegon Channel wall Wednesday and Thursday near the USS Silversides, providing free dockside tours and an opportunity for a paid science-oriented sailing trip.

Tom Kelly, the ship's captain and executive director of the Inland Seas Education Association -- the group that owns the Inland Seas -- said their mission is to teach people about the Great Lakes.

"The idea is to get people to understand how the Great Lakes work and all the organisms that are in here and what they do -- to learn what makes the lakes tick," Kelly said.

The smoothie-like sample, meant to collect plankton from the bottom of White Lake, was later examined with a microscope and produced some interesting results.

Several different types of plankton could be spotted swimming around in tiny droplets of water taken from the sample as it was magnified onto a television monitor below the ship's deck.

Back topside, young sailors aided the four-person crew of the Inland Seas with steering duties and raising the sails. Kelly said normally he has a small staff closer to about a dozen people during such educational voyages.

"We wouldn't of been able to do everything without their help, so they really got a chance to see how everything works," Kelly said.

Sally Schwartz, a teacher in the Detroit area and member of the yacht club, said she saw firsthand the educational advantage of the trip on White Lake.

"Any opportunity to get hands on is very beneficial, to learn by doing," she said.

For 10-year-old Chris Lopez, the trip was both educational and fun.

"I love sailing, it's my favorite thing to do," he said.

"It was pretty cool raising the sails," he said. "And later I'm going to look up some more information and learn a lot more."

That's exactly what Kelly, a White Lake native himself, was hoping to hear at the end of the sail in his hometown.

"My interest in aquatic ecology stemmed from when I saw that this lake was in trouble from various pollution sources like sewage and the chemical companies, so that inspired me to go on to college in that field," he said.

After graduating from Whitehall High School in 1966, Kelly went on to earn a bachelor degree in conservation and masters in fisheries and biology from the University of Michigan.

"So I'm hoping that I'm going to inspire a generation of new kids, some who may become scientists who help solve problems in the future," he said. "But it's also important to have the average person understand what's going on out there and how important it is.

"Even if you don't live on the Great Lakes, it's the basis of our economy and it's hugely important for the state of Michigan and we need to take care of it."


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