Skip to main content


Welcome to the Grand Valley State University research and education vessels, D.J. Angus and W.G. Jackson. The vessels are well equipped floating laboratory-classrooms used to study the aquatic environment of Lake Michigan and adjoining waters. Lake Michigan is the only Great Lake entirely within the United States and is the sixth largest freshwater lake in the world. The W.G. Jackson has been to 33 ports of call throughout Lake Michigan.

The Grand Valley State University Robert B. Annis Water Resources Institute (AWRI) operates the research and education vessels as part of its Water Resources Outreach Education Program. Aquatic science has been an integral part of the academic program at Grand Valley State University since the 1960s. The vast water resources available in west Michigan provide a natural laboratory for the study of biology, chemistry, geology, physics, and environmental science. Located at the Lake Michigan Center in Muskegon, AWRI continues its long tradition of education, outreach, and research.

This manual introduces you to the vessel logistics and provides background material on sampling and the biological, physical, and chemical parameters of water. It is written to assist group leaders in understanding the nature of the scientific cruises aboard the vessels. The manual also can be used as a reference by college and advanced high school students, teachers, and others as background for in-depth aquatic studies.

The D.J Angus and W.G. Jackson

The D.J. Angus and W.G. Jackson research and education vessels are available to schools, colleges and universities, and other groups who want a hands-on experience on a research vessel. With the exception of GVSU class trips, there are usually two Science Instructors on-board as well as the captain and deckhand, who operate each vessel. Both vessels have sampling and analysis equipment for measuring a full cadre of biological, chemical, and physical parameters.

With her homeport in Grand Haven, the D.J. Angus is a steel-hulled, diesel-powered vessel that is forty-five feet long and fourteen feet wide. Built in 1985 and launched in 1986, the D.J. Angus has provided thousands of students, teachers, scientists and others with hands-on water sampling and analysis experience. The vessel is named for Donald J. Angus, a life-long supporter of GVSU, and it is supported by an endowment.

The W.G. Jackson was constructed in 1995-96 and joined the D.J. Angus on the water in 1996. The W.G. Jackson is almost 65 feet in length and was specially designed for research and educational purposes. The W.G. Jackson's homeport is in Muskegon at the AWRIs shoreline facility, the Lake Michigan Center. The community of Muskegon, as well as many others, contributed generously towards construction of the vessel, establishment of an endowment for vessel operations, and the shoreline facility. The W.G. Jackson was named after Dr. William G. Jackson of Muskegon.

Scheduling a Cruise
Since both vessels are endowment supported, there are cruises on each vessel that are offered each year to schools and groups at minimal cost. The endowment-supported cruises are offered on a first-come, first-served basis with registrations taken in advance of the vessel season. To accommodate all, there may be a limit on the number of endowment supported cruises available to a single school or teacher. Full cost cruises during the vessel season may be booked at any time. Custom trips can be arranged with advance notice.

For schools wishing to bring two groups at a time for the whole day, we offer free supplemental classroom programs in the Annis Educational Foundation Classroom at the Lake Michigan Center in Muskegon. The contact for this is Dr. Janet Vail at (616-331-3048). and programs are offered in the R.B. Annis Educational Foundation classroom in Muskegon before or after a cruise.

To book endowment-supported vessel trip(s) for fall 2014 or spring 2015:
Please e-mail Roxana Taylor at on the 2nd Monday in May 2014 for fall 2014 cruises or the 2nd Monday of September 2014 for spring 2015 cruises. She will call teachers/coordinators back in the order the e-mails are received. In the e-mail, please give a name, phone number, and the number of trips you will need.

Other reservations can be made by calling AWRI at (616) 331-3749.

Cruises are suitable for 4th grade and above. The instructors will need a list of all participants in the group when they board the vessel with a tally of students and adults. Please make sure this list is completely filled out prior to your group boarding the vessel. The vessels are handicapped accessible, but please let AWRI know about any special needs when booking a cruise.

The MAXIMUM group size is a TOTAL of 26 students and adults in any combination on the D.J. Angus and 28 on the W.G. Jackson The optimal size group for a cruise is 20-23 students plus two or three teachers/chaperones. Adult chaperones are always welcome on cruises and can assist students in several of the activities.

A Typical Cruise

Most cruises last two and one-half hours. This permits the students to sample one station in Lake Michigan and one station in Spring Lake, Grand River, or Muskegon Lake. However, if it is unsafe to venture onto Lake Michigan, the second sample will be taken from inland waters. Shorter trips, longer trips, or a dockside experience can be arranged for special circumstances.

Science Instructors from the Grand Valley State University Water Resources Outreach Education Program accompany the group making the cruise. The instructors, with the assistance of the crew, lead participants through water, plankton, and sediment sampling procedures as well as the mechanics and significance of the analytical water quality tests. University classes are usually assigned one AWRI instructor and the regular professor guides the hands-on educational experience. Sampling equipment on each vessel is available for the collection of water, sediment, and biological samples. An on-board laboratory allows sample analysis to take place while the vessel travels from one sampling station to another. Students and teachers can take samples and data back to the classroom for further study and discussion.

On cruises, the specific topics and depth of coverage vary with age level. In general, the biological, physical, and chemical dynamics and the interrelationships of rivers, inland lakes, and the Great Lakes are illustrated. Eutrophic-mesotrophic (inland lakes) and oligotrophic-mesotrophic (Lake Michigan) systems are compared and contrasted. Human impacts on ecosystems are explored such as shoreline development, impacts of land use, and the invasions by non-native species (lampreys, zebra mussels, spiny water fleas, etc.).

For grades four through twelve, attention is paid to activities and concepts that align with local and state education standards. Advanced groups may request customized cruise experiences. This experience addresses the Michigan Grade Level Content Expectations for science and social studies as well as high school standards ( Biology, Earth Science).

Sampling protocol on cruises is modeled after the Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) program. GLOBE requires quality control and quality assurance, standardized methods and equipment, and replicates for environmental measurements. Data from GLOBE trips can be placed on the GLOBE international web site for use by scientists and students throughout the world. GLOBE parameters are noted throughout this manual.