JULY 2010
A Publication of the
Applied Math and Science Education Repository

The AMSER Science Reader Monthly aims to provide educators with a useful package of information about a particular topic related to applied math and science by combining freely available articles from popular journals with curriculum, learning objects, and web sites from the AMSER portal. The AMSER Science Reader Monthly is free to use in the classroom and educators are encouraged to contact AMSER with suggestions for upcoming issues or comments and concerns at info@amser.org.

This month's AMSER Science Reader Monthly topic is Lake Ecology.

Down the Drain: The Incredible Shrinking Great Lakes
Article by John G. Mitchell for National Geographic magazine
Synopsis and resource annotations by Max Grinnell

article photos

The Great Lakes continue to face a number of severe challenges, including the invasion of zebra mussels, global warming, and the increased demand for water from places like Chicago. In this engaging article from National Geographic magazine, John G. Mitchell takes a look at some of these challenges through interviews with hydrology experts, local residents, and others.

The piece begins with a conversation with Ted Cline, who lives on Lake Michigan's Grand Traverse Bay. Cline talks about the ways in which he has seen the lake change over the past fifty years. Despite recent droughts and higher temperatures creating the lowest lake levels in 40 years, Cline still believes, "Oh, the lake will come back up someday." Mitchell goes on to talk about the basic facts surrounding the Great Lakes system in detail, examining the complex hydrologic cycle and the recent evaporation trends that have affected the water levels and the lives of those who live on and around the Great Lakes.

Mitchell continues the article with a discussion of several organizations that have experienced some positive news in the Great Lakes area. According to Scientist Will Cwikiel of the Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council, "Periodic low water levels are important. Wetlands and exposed bottomlands are among the most biologically productive ecosystems in the Great Lakes." The piece concludes with an overview of some of the plans that have been floated over the past fifty years to transform the Great Lakes, including an idea that would have seen the Great Lakes tapped to reinvigorate the water levels in the Ogallala aquifer under the Great Plains.

Found below is a list of useful resources that will illuminate and enhance understanding of the topics found within this article. The first link will take visitors to the TEACH Great Lakes website. Here visitors will want to use the online lessons which talk about relevant issues, such as hydrology, pollution, and environmental change. The second link takes users to a website provided by the University of Minnesota which covers the basics of the physical, chemical, and biological properties of lakes. Moving on, the third link leads to an excellent website of the film Waterlife, created by the National Film Board of Canada. Visitors can watch the film here, and also learn about the most pressing issues facing the Great Lakes. The fourth link leads to a research paper from the Brookings Institution that takes a critical look at the benefits of restoring the Great Lakes ecosystem. Visitors will also find the fifth website most helpful, as it includes information about the International Association for Great Lakes Research and their scholarly investigations. The final link leads to the homepage of the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway System, which has an interactive "Gateway to North America" tour and a helpful "Facts and Figures" area.

TEACH Great Lakes
The TEACH Great Lakes website is provided by the Great Lakes Information Network. The site features online lessons specific to Great Lakes subjects such as the environment, geography, and pollution. Students can begin with the Introduction to the Great Lakes module found in the middle of the homepage and then move on to learn about water levels, shoreline geology, water pollution, and even explore the history and culture of the Great Lakes. Geared for elementary through high school students, the activities present easily read material along with numerous photographs and other interesting graphics are helpful for learners of any age. There is also a Teacher's Corner with free lessons, links, and a discussion forum to connect educators.
Understanding: Lake Ecology Primer
Part of the larger Water on the Web project, this Lake Ecology Primer "is intended to provide a general background to Water on the Web by introducing the basic concepts necessary to understand how lake ecosystems function." The extensive site contains information on the physical, chemical, and biological properties of lakes, and processes including formation, stratification, and eutrophication.
A beautiful and dramatic website, Waterlife, addresses the dire state of the Great Lakes. Created by the National Film Board of Canada the site has high quality images, a rousing soundtrack, and different narrators. Visitors can choose to discover what part of life water affects from a menu on the left hand side of the page, and in this case, there are many. "Water is..." sits at the top of the left hand side menu, and below it are the almost two dozen topics related to water which can be selected. Rolling the cursor over the slightly transparent list of topics increases their visibility. Some of the topics include "evaporating", "waste", "chemicals", "shipping", "invasive species" and "political". Choose any of the topics, and eerie music accompanies the educational and sobering text that floats and moves about the chosen topic. In some cases, a narrator explains a bit more about the topic and the visitor can still click through the other text presented on the screen.
Healthy Waters, Strong Economy: The Benefits of Restoring the Great Lakes Ecosystem
With good reason, there is a great deal of concern about the future of the Great Lakes. Collectively, these bodies of water account for 90 percent of the United States' and 20 percent of the world's surface fresh water. Beyond that crucial fact, the Great Lakes represent an enormous economic and cultural resource to the region. Here, the Brookings Institution's own John C. Austin, Soren Anderson, Paul N. Courant, and Robert E. Litan crafted this 16-page paper that addresses the benefits of restoring the Great Lakes ecosystem. The report begins by outlining the major elements of the restoration strategy, and it also details the costs of cleaning and preserving the ecosystem. It's a thoughtful and well-laid out report, and policymakers and others will want to take a look at their findings.
International Association for Great Lakes Research
The International Association for Great Lakes Research is comprised of researchers studying the Laurentian Great Lakes and other large lakes of the world. The homepage serves as a centralized resource for Great Lakes research, featuring recent findings, news and announcements (from recently published books to legislation outcomes), upcoming conferences, and current job offerings. In addition, a discussion board invites communication among interested researchers and the public.
Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway System
The St. Lawrence Seaway connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes, and it was completed in 1959. This website details the activities of the Seaway System, and visitors with an interest in transportation and public policy will find the site both useful and interesting. At the top of the homepage, visitors will find the five primary sections of the site, which include "Management of the Seaway" and "Commercial Shipping". First-time visitors should start at "The Seaway" section. Here they will find the interactive "Gateway to North America" tour, along with information on the System's locks and channels and a nice "Facts and Figures" area. The site also contains thematic collections of information designed for business people, students and educators, and the media. Visitors who wish to stay abreast of System activities can sign up for email updates on the homepage. Francophone users will be glad to learn that the entire site is also available in French.

AMSER Science Reader Monthly is published by Internet Scout at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in conjunction with the National Science Digital Library with funding from the National Science Foundation. If you have questions or suggestions please e-mail us at info@amser.org.