Redefining the Classroom

LSSU professor, Sault High School teacher part of Lake Superior research excursion

Posted: September 15th, 2011

SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. – Sault Area High School Teacher Paul Pioszak and Lake Superior State University Professor Ashley Moerke Ph.D. stepped off a 180-ft. research boat just in time for their classes to start this fall. The two were part of a weeklong research excursion into Lake Superior with fellow teachers and scientists.

Pioszak, a Sault High English and government teacher, and Moerke, who is co-director of the LSSU Aquatic Research Laboratory as well as a biology professor, were participating in a workshop that had them monitoring and conducting research on the lake's near-shore areas in the Environmental Protection Agency’s Lake Guardian. Pioszak was one of 15 educators chosen from more than 50 applicants to collect data alongside EPA and university scientists. Moerke was one of several scientists on board. The unique opportunity to combine educators with scientists was provided through the Shipboard and Shoreline Science Workshop sponsored jointly by the Centers for Ocean Sciences Education Excellence (COSEE) Great Lakes and the U.S. EPA.

RESEARCH CRUISE -- LSSU Biology Prof. Ashley Moerke Ph.D. assists Sault Area High School Teacher Paul Pioszak in bringing a Lake Superior bottom sample aboard the Environmental Protection Agency's Lake Guardian research vessel. The two were part of a weeklong Shipboard and Shoreline Science Workshop that sought to provide teachers with new ideas in presenting science to their students. Moerke and Pioszak are shown in the St. Louis River estuary between Duluth, Minn. and Superior, Wisc. collecting benthic (bottom-dwelling) invertebrates as part of the EPA's standard monitoring protocols for the Great Lakes. (Photo courtesy of Minnesota Sea Grant)

A print-quality version of this photo is available here.

"The COSEE excursion exposed the teachers first-hand to the rigors and excitement of science," said Moerke. "It also gave them a unique opportunity to discuss current issues facing the Great Lakes, all while in the middle of Lake Superior."

Facilitators from Sea Grant programs in Minnesota, Illinois and Indiana organized the cruise to give teachers an opportunity to work closely with scientists on research projects involving Lake Superior, and to provide them with new strategies on how to implement research into their classrooms. The educators focused on topics such as coastal processes, plankton ecology, food web dynamics, the impact of human activities on Lake Superior water quality, and invasive and endangered species.

"The experience exceeded my expectations," said Pioszak. "The Great Lakes Basin has always been important to me, but the ship experience solidified the importance of passing this information on to my students so they also will appreciate the incredible resources in the region."

Pioszak and Moerke also coach Sault High's National Ocean Sciences Bowl team and are incorporating their experiences aboard the Lake Guardian into their lessons and discussions with their team.

The Shipboard and Shoreline Science Workshop was supported by the EPA and the National Science Foundation's Division of Ocean Sciences and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Sea Grant Program through COSEE Great Lakes, with support from Minnesota Sea Grant. Web logs may be read by going to the Minnesota Sea Grant website.

Minnesota Sea Grant facilitates interaction among the public and scientists to enhance the environment and economies along Lake Superior and Minnesota's inland waters by identifying information needs, fostering research, and communicating results. It is funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the University of Minnesota as part of NOAA Sea Grant, a nationwide network of 32 similar science-based programs. -LSSU-

CONTACT: Tom Pink, 906-635-2315,; John Shibley, 635-2314,; Prof. Ashley Moerke, 635-2153,; Sharon Moen, University of Minnesota Sea Grant Communications Coordinator,, 218-726-6195