students on boat

News Flash

We are currently taking reservations for Fall 2024 trips!

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. Check out a typical cruise!

About the Program

Operating season for the vessels is normally mid-April through mid-October. There are two reservation times during a typical year. Spring trip reservations are taken starting on the second Monday of September. Fall trip reservations are taken on the second Monday of May. 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 Manual (PDF) and our Exploring the Lakes video (YouTube). 

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.


K-12 and college trips will be held on the W. G. Jackson docked at the Annis Water Resources Institute in Muskegon and on the D. J. Angus docked at Harbor Island in Grand Haven.

Contact Cheryl Kastas at [email protected] or (616) 331-3749 about the maximum group size and trip costs. At least two chaperones are recommended on the W. G. Jackson. All participants MUST be age 9 or older. 

Please note:  The vessel program follows state, local, GVSU, Coast Guard, and CDC requirements and guidelines. Passengers will be required to follow any protocols as directed by the crew. 

on the boat

Scheduling a Trip

To book vessel trip(s), follow the instructions below:

Sign ups for Spring cruises start at 8:00 a.m. on the 2nd Monday in September. Sign ups for Fall cruises start at 8:00 a.m. on the 2nd Monday in May. DO NOT CALL ON THE FIRST DAY OF SCHEDULING. Instead, PLEASE E-MAIL Cheryl Kastas at [email protected] starting at 8:00 a.m. to initiate your request. She will respond to requests 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.

Cheryl Kastas 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 [email protected]

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. Classroom programs can be booked with Cheryl Kastas at the same time as vessel cruises.

Transportation Support for Muskegon Schools

If your school is based in Muskegon county, you may be eligible for funding to support transportation costs of bringing your students to AWRI (and other organizations) for a field trip! 

This flier contains more information about this partnership, supported by the Howmet Aerospace Foundation.

Contact AWRI Education Specialist Christina Catanese to find out how to apply for this funding at [email protected].

Page last modified June 26, 2024