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April 2016 Newsletter

A Closer Look #159

Newly upgraded pilot house of the W. G. Jackson

Another busy season on the research and education vessels D.J. Angus and W.G. Jackson

AWRI’s 65-foot W. G. Jackson vessel and the 45-foot D. J. Angus began their 2016 research and education seasons on April 25th.  There will be students (4th grade and up) onboard both vessels almost every week day through mid-June.  During the first week alone, there were classes from Kent, Ottawa, and Allegan counties on the D. J. Angus and classes from Muskegon and Kent counties on the W. G. Jackson.  Each class has the opportunity to compare and contrast water quality at two different sites in the 2.5 hour hands-on science experience.  Over 161,000 people have participated in AWRI’s onboard education program since1986.

Programs in AWRI’s R. B. Annis Educational Foundation classroom are offered to groups who use the W. G. Jackson as well as those who want just a hands-on science experience or a program about what happens at AWRI.  Sherry Claflin, an earth science teacher, is heading up the classroom this year along with Rebecca Soll, AWRI intern. 

In preparation for the 2016 season, there have been numerous projects on both vessels during the winter.  Of note is the upgrade of the electronics and control panel in the W. G. Jackson’s pilot house. A similar upgrade is planned for the D. J. Angus in 2017. This is part of Fleet Captain Tony Fiore’s 5-year plan for the vessels. Also, there will be some new staff on both vessels this season. Michele Svoboda, a retired earth science teacher, will be joining the instructional staff on the D. J. Angus. Three new deckhands and a summer intern will be part of the crew this year.

During the summer, the W. G. Jackson will be used for Dr. Mark Luttenton’s four-year research project funded by the National Institutes for Health. Fungi will be collected from Lake Michigan sediment in a number of sites. Researchers at the University of Oklahoma will be screening the fungi for selected compounds that could be part of a treatment for pediatric cancer. Monitoring of Muskegon Lake continues with sampling in spring, summer and fall.

Although funding from the Great Lakes Restorative Initiative has ended, the Making Lake Michigan Great public outreach tour will likely continue in a limited way this summer with trips to Indiana and White Lake. The tour has reached thirty-three ports of call in Lake Michigan since 1998.

Reservations for fall trips on the D. J. Angus and W. G. Jackson will be taken starting May 9th. Those wanting to reserve a trip will need to contact Roxana Taylor via email ( no earlier than May 9th.   

Janet Vail is the author of the unit and an advisor for the project, which is funded by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.