Underwater Exploration: Lake Michigan Research University of Wisconsin Sea Grant
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photo of ROV used by students/Wisconsin Sea Grant
Students use research tools like this ROV to study the environment underwater. Wisconsin Sea Grant/Russell Cuhel


Student Aquanauts Program

Sea Grant researchers are also involved in a program called Aquanauts. The Aquanaut program, funded by the National Undersea Research Program through the JASON Foundation, gives middle-school teachers and students a chance to practice scientific research. Right now the group is studying perch spawning habitats, in particular a shallow reef in Lake Michigan just south of Milwaukee Harbor that is a favorite spawning ground for these fish.

The research team uses a tool called a remotely operated vehicle, or ROV, to help them identify underwater areas from which they will later gather data. The ROV is essentially a small, unoccupied submarine that is controlled from the surface. Cameras on the ROV collect underwater video footage - certainly an easier and safer way than diving to find out what's happening below the surface.

After the Aquanaut team gathers video images using the ROV, they head out into Lake Michigan on the research ship R/V NEESKAY. From the ship, they take samples of physical, chemical and biological features of the sites they've chosen - for example, characteristics like temperature, light levels, pH, oxygen levels, and the presence of chlorophyll and bottom-dwelling animals. After sampling, the student Aquanauts return to the lab and, under the supervision of the head researchers, carry out chemical and biological measurements of their data. The group meets again several weeks later to calculate, graph and interpret their data.

Lake Michigan Research