Saturday, August 21, 2010

Inland Seas Arrives At Chicago with Great Lake Semester Students

August 21, 2010, 1040 CDT.  Inland Seas arrived at Burnham Harbor, Chicago, after a 7 day voyage from Leland with the Shedd Aquarium's Great Lakes Semester program. Eight students and two Shedd instructors sailed with ISEA's Tom Kelly, Remy Champt, Tyler Champt, Christine Crissman and Daryl Collins.  We made port calls at Frankfort, Ludington, Muskegon, Holland, St. Joseph, and Hammond.  See Capt. Tom's photos at

Celebrating our arrival at Chicago
Below is an article that appeared it the Deerfield IL edition of the Chicago Tribune:

Local student sails the high seas in summer excursion

By Ally Suffrin

Jordan Kolpas aboard the Schooner Inland Seas.

Equipped with newfound scientific knowledge and one-of-a-kind, hands-on experiences sailing Lake Michigan, Deerfield High School senior Jordan Kolpas among several other students docked Aug. 20 to end a weeklong trip aboard the Schooner Inland Seas. As a part of the Shedd Aquarium’s Semester for the Great Lakes program, Kolpas walked away with a new perspective on issues surrounding the Great Lakes, as well as a deepened passion to conserve the Midwest’s vast and precious resource and to help spread the word. With the goal of the trip for the students to engage their peers in action and discussion on the Great Lakes, Kolpas sat down for an enthusiastic interview on an experience that clearly impacted him deeply and inspired him to fulfill the mission of the program.

What issues about the Great Lakes did you focus on during your trip?

We came up with four main issues that the Great Lakes face: invasive species, water quantity, water quality, and the fourth one is a general overview, the general health of ecosystems, which ties into everything.

What sort of research did you do on the boat?

On the boat, we did fish trolls, where we put a net behind the boat and we dragged it for ten minutes, and saw the fish we caught, counted the fish, and put them back in the water. We could see the biodiversity of the areas that we were going through. It was kind of surprising. Every different port had a lot of different levels of invasive species. Round Gobis are our invasive species and there were a little over 60 of them at our first port and two native fish. There’s a lot of Zebra Quagga Mussels too, that filter the water and have all the gross stuff from the water in them. So if the water’s really clear in the lake, it’s not supposed to be that way. It’s supposed to be kind of murky but it’s not good for the ecosystems. It’s not supposed to look like The Bahamas.

What was some of the other research conducted?

We stopped and did trolls and sediment grabs, when the boat was stopped we picked up sediment and looked at it and did water quality samples. We did the science ourselves: we put chemicals in it and tested to see the dissolved oxygen. From looking at the ships data, we could see that some areas were affected by the mussels and the round gobis, especially in St. Joseph, in the channel. The water was terrible. We did a secchi disk test where you lower it down into the water and see how far you can see until it disappears. We did that, and it was like one meter and it was gone.

What kind of cool facts did you learn about the Great Lakes?

A cool fact is the Great Lakes could cover the entire continental United States in ten feet of water. Chicago and its surrounding suburbs use enough water to fill two and a half Sears Towers every day. About one billion gallons! That’s why water conservation is a big issue. The Great Lakes aren’t going to run out any time soon, but in the future [it could]. It’s something we need to think about now before it becomes too prominent of an issue.

What was it like sleeping on a boat for a week? Any unusual experiences?

I had to bunk in what’s called “The Ghetto.” There’s a little sign, with skull and crossbones. It’s the smallest bunk on the boat, and for some reason I got it. For my last trip, last summer, I was on a high school trip for marine biology and I didn’t get any bunk. I slept in the galley, on the floor.

How are you helping to raise awareness to teens and inspire them to help preserve the Great Lakes?

We made videos as a start. We scripted our videos on the boat and’ we’re going to actually make them. We’re going to make a Facebook page. I’m going to make a video about invasive species and how they affect the Great Lakes and we’re trying to focus on teenagers and awareness.

What can people do help preserve the Great Lakes?

Don’t leave your garbage laying around, throw it away—it’s really easy. People leave garbage near the Great Lakes and it kills native species, and contaminates our own drinking water. It’s just the easy things people can do, like don’t run the water when you brush your teeth, try and not take half hour showers. You don’t have to do something drastic to get results. I think a lot of people take the Great Lakes for granted and it’s something you can utilize.

What has spurred your interests in this realm of environmental preservation?

The Shedd Aquarium’s teen programs have had a big impact on me. I did high school marine biology last summer and it really got me thinking about conservation. I’ve always been interested in marine science but the Shedd Aquarium has focused my passion towards conservation. What we do here has an effect on the Great Lakes—and it’s all about how you can help. Basically all of the programs they have there are focused in some way on conservation, and that’s how I became interested in that and then I realized how much it makes sense, and started getting more into it.

Could you see this as a future career?

Yeah--the government has a lot of research positions and pharmaceutical companies and there are a lot of jobs within the realm. I’m interested in maybe research, or something academic- maybe I could get a PhD and end up teaching and helping with research for a university. I’m not sure yet. I’m looking at Wisconsin, and Northwestern is right on Lake Michigan.

When did you first become interested in marine science? Any childhood experiences?

My grandpa had a boat when I was really little. He was an avid fisherman, and he loved the ocean and the lakes and I always went on his boat. We always had a great time and having fun on the boat spurred my interests. And what little kid doesn’t like learning about sharks? I loved the Shedd Aquarium too; we always went when I was really little. It was always a special place for me.

What was a particularly memorable experience on your trip?

The sailing was really unbelievable. They taught us how to sail a boat, and I’ve done sailing before, but nothing was like sailing a ship. They taught us how to raise the sails, the names of everything, what it all did and the reasons for it, so it was very cool. We got to steer the boat ourselves. We had watches, so we had to watch for driftwood or other boats and tell the person who was steering. Even at night we had watches, so all night somebody was up watching for about a half hour.

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