Explore Lake Michigan aboard a working scientific vessel!

Since 1986, thousands of students and others have experienced hands-on science on Lake Michigan and adjoining waters through the Water Resources Outreach Education Program of Grand Valley State University's Robert B. Annis Water Resources Institute. Offered aboard GVSU's research and education vessels D.J. Angus and W.G. Jackson, the program serves school groups as well as other organizations. It can be customized for all ages from fourth grade through adults.

About the Program

Operating season for the vessels is mid-April through mid-October. There are two reservation times: Fall trip reservations are taken in May of the current calendar year, and Spring trip reservations for the next year are taken in September of the current calendar year. There are a limited number of endowment supported cruises available.



This two and a half hour hands-on, investigative science experience is truly a unique learning experience. In this floating classroom, aquatic science instructors guide participants in the use of sampling equipment and instruments to compile water quality data from Lake Michigan and connecting water bodies.


Sampling and Analysis

Sampling equipment used on a standard cruise includes a plankton net, Van Dorn water bottles, and a PONAR dredge. Equipment for determining water color, transparency (Secchi Disk), and temperature is also found on the vessels.


The main cabins on the vessels have specially designed laboratories for students. which have various water analysis stations. These include dissolved oxygen, pH, turbidity, and conductivity. Other types of analyses can include nitrates, phosphates, and alkalinity. Microscopes with video cameras are used for examining biological samples. Other instruments on the vessels are a Global Positioning System (GPS) for position and depth finders. For more information on cruises, please see our instructor/student manual.

Correlations with educational standards

A trip on the W.G. Jackson or the D.J. Angus is an excellent way for students to have an authentic STEM experience that supports the Michigan K-12 Science Standards.  Our three dimensional learning program integrates cross cutting concepts and disciplinary core ideas with science and engineering practices.  As students do the work of scientists, they collect, analyze, and interpret water quality data. They draw comparisons about different bodies of water to ascertain patterns, explore cause and effect relationships, and develop models of systems.  Educators can easily build on their students’ experiences with AWRI programs through many links to their own classrooms.  The Michigan-specific context of our programs stresses the unique location of our state in the Great Lakes basin, our water resources, human impacts on systems, and authentic scientific research.


The optimal size group for a cruise is 20 students plus 2 or 3 teachers/parents. On the D. J. Angus docked at Harbor Island in Grand Haven, Michigan, the ABSOLUTE MAXIMUM group size permitted is a TOTAL of 28 participants (students plus adults in any combination). On the W. G. Jackson docked at the Annis Water Resources Institute in Muskegon, Michigan, the recommended MAXIMUM group size is 30 participants.  At least two chaperones are needed on the W. G. Jackson.  All participants MUST be age 9 or older.


Scheduling a Trip

To book vessel trip(s) for the 2019-2020 season, follow the instructions below:
The fall and spring season trips fill up fast. Sign ups for spring/summer 2020 begin on the 2nd Monday of September 2019 at 8:00 AM. Sign ups for fall 2019 cruises began at 8:00 AM on the 2nd Monday in May.  DO NOT CALL ON THE FIRST DAY OF SCHEDULING. Instead, PLEASE E-MAIL Roxana Taylor at taylorr@gvsu.edu starting at 8:00 AM to initiate your request. She will call teachers/coordinators back in the order the e-mails are received. In your e-mail, please give a contact name, school or group name, age of group, phone number, and the number of trips you will need.

Roxana Taylor at AWRI will be the main contact for your trip. Please contact her if your group is going to be late or if there are special requests or circumstances.  Also, she can answer questions about the cost of trips, what to expect on a cruise, etc.  She can be reached at (616) 331-3749 or at taylorr@gvsu.edu.

Note: 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, which is adjacent to the W.G. Jackson dock. The contact for this is Janet Vail at vailj@gvsu.edu 616-331-3048.