By: Brandon Schroeder, Michigan Sea Grant and Meaghan GassHuron Pines AmeriCorps Member 


The Guide - August/September 2015

Have you ever wondered about what else, besides fish, resides in our Great Lakes? You may be surprised to learn that plastic is floating throughout the Great Lakes.  This plastic pollution can weather and break down into smaller and smaller plastic fragments, also known as microplastics.  These small pieces of plastic absorb pollutants, and confused as food, they can also be consumed by fish and birds resulting in harm.  In general, marine debris is a growing issue and concern in our world’s oceans but also here at home in our freshwater seas – the Great Lakes. 


To better understand this issue, Alpena High School ninth grade chemistry students, in cooperation with Great Lakes scientists, are researching plastic pollution in Thunder Bay and Lake Huron.  Using a surface trawl, a research net designed to sample plastic pollution, students have collected water samples onboard the glass bottom boat, Lady Michigan, over the past two school years.  Collecting data specific to local waters, these samples were taken back to the school chemistry lab, where they were analyzed. While on the water, students conducted some field-based water chemistry analysis and learned about biological pollution – aquatic invasive species – also affecting the health of Lake Huron ecosystems.  


Expanding their research in 2015, these students have newly partnered with David Brooks, affiliated with the EarthWatch Institute and captain of the leading microplastic research vessel in the Great Lakes region, Nancy K. While onboard, a select group of Alpena High School students collected surface water samples and charted sample locations.  The collected water samples were analyzed in the classroom as part of the students’ chemistry class... 

Created on Wednesday, August 26, 2015