GLREC Education and Outreach

Great Lakes Research and Education Center (GLREC) staff work with educators, partners, and interpretive staff at 10 parks in the National Park Service's Great Lakes Network to bring new research findings to the public.

The educational projects listed here are in addition to those listed on the primary Great Lakes Research and Education Center website.


Educational Projects

Students prepare to conduct water quality tests to compliment work done on eagle contaminants at Apostle Islands National Lakeshore.
Bayfield High School students prepare for study of Lake Superior waters.

photo by Rick Erickson

Linking Research and Education - Workshop and Educational Activities

Students at Bayfield High School in Bayfield, Wisconsin have had the opportunity to learn about scientific research being conducted at Isle Royale National Park and Apostle Islands National Lakeshore as a result of a “Linking Research and Education Workshop” sponsored by the NPS Great Lakes Research and Education Center and the NPS Great Lakes Inventory and Monitoring (I&M) Network. During the workshop, held in December of 2008, Bayfield High School educator Rick Erickson worked with employees, researchers, and volunteers from two National Parks and the Great Lakes I&M Network to develop educational activities which he then utilized with his students.

Since the workshop, the Bayfield High School Science Department has formed a partnership with researchers at the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore and Great Lakes Inventory and Monitoring Network to learn about and assist with research focused on mercury concentrations in bald eagle nestlings. Students in Bayfield’s chemistry class learned about the relationship between water chemistry and mercury contamination, and about the eagle research conducted in the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore (APIS).

High school chemistry students collect water sample in Lake Superior.
Bayfield students use NPS monitoring protocol to collect water samples.

photo by Rick Erickson

The chemistry students then spent an afternoon at the mouth of a Lake Superior tributary learning how to properly collect water samples and perform water chemistry tests using NPS protocol. Students collected samples and performed tests within APIS throughout May and June of 2009. This data will be presented to eagle researchers to assist in the understanding of mercury concentrations in bald eagle nestlings. Erickson hopes the students he has in future years will be able to contribute in similar ways.

Student Activity: Water Quality Testing at Eagle Nest Site

Using other lessons developed during the “Linking Research and Education Workshop” Bayfield students in the Science Topics class learned about how climate change could affect Isle Royale National Park, specifically with respect to the moose-wolf relationship.

Student Activity: How Many Moose Can an Island Hold: Climate Change and Isle Royale
National Park

These lessons have provided an opportunity for students to learn about the valuable resources in our nation’s national parks, and in the case of Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, the students became participants in research that will help them gain an understanding of our park ecosystems.

Piping plover

photo by Alice Van Zoeren

Workshop participants from Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore also joined forces to produce educational materials and activities revolving around Great Lakes Piping Plover populations.

Great Lakes Piping Plover Information Sheet and Review Questions

Great Lakes Piping Plover Survival: Lesson Plan

The teachers, volunteers, interpreters, and resource professionals involved in the workshop hope that, as a result of these activities, students will become active stewards of our national parks and our natural resources.

Isle Royale Wolf/Moose Study

Celebrating 50 Years of Wolf-Moose Research

Scientists have been studying the interactions and interdependence of wolves and moose at Michigan’s Isle Royale National Park for nearly half a century. This represents the longest continuous predator-prey study ever conducted.

The Isle Royale wolf-moose study, conducted by researchers from Michigan Technological University, began in 1958. Throughout 2008, the National Park Service, Michigan Tech and partners in three states hosted a series of events and programs and produced anniversary posters, books, lesson plans, and other special materials commemorating the study’s 50th anniversary.

For more information about the 50th Anniversary Celebration activities, including articles, lesson plans, photographs, and more, visit

Educator Institute participant examines macroinvertebrates caught in the Little Calumet River
Institute participant samples macroinvertebrates

Nurturing Young Researchers

During the spring of 2008, 22 teachers from across Northwest Indiana participated in the “Nurturing Young Researchers: Inquiry Along the Lakeshore” Educator Institute at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. Participants in the three-day event discovered ways they could encourage their students to engage in their own scientific “research”. Throughout the session, teachers worked side-by-side with scientists and other resource professionals to focus on each of the steps involved with scientific inquiry. Explorations along Lake Michigan focused on one’s prior knowledge, questioning, developing hypotheses, and using a variety of research “tools”. A shift the next day to the Little Calumet River brought opportunities to design investigations, and collect and analyze data. On day three, educators focused on drawing conclusion and sharing results. In addition to practicing inquiry-based learning, participants were also exposed to a variety of citizen science projects their students could engage in, including the Alliance for the Great Lakes’ Adopt-a-beach program and Project BudBurst. The institute was held in partnership with the Dunes Learning Center, the I.S.L.A.N.D. (Increasing Science Literacy: Achieving New Dimensions) Program, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, and the U.S.G.S. Lake Michigan Ecological Research Station.

cartoon scientist
Note the accentuated sensory organs and the "open mind" captured in this image of a scientist drawn by SPARKS workshop participants.


The Great Lakes Research and Education Center collaborated with the S.P.A.R.K.S. Across America program to enrich science education in Northwest Indiana families. SPARKS stands for “Supporting Parents in Advocacy, Reform, and Knowledge in Science”, and is the brainchild of staff from the Bronx Zoo. SPARKS is a hands-on program which shows parents ways they can encourage their children’s interest in science. By attending a series of hands-on workshops, parents met local researchers, learned of local resources they could use to enhance their children’s informal science experiences, and learned a variety of activities to engage their children with science. The workshops were of the “train the trainer” variety, with all participating parents turning around to share what they learned with other parents and children in their communities.

In Northwest Indiana, the Great Lakes Research and Education Center facilitated local SPARKS programs along with staff and parents from the Dunes Learning Center, the Gary Community School Corporation, the Field Station Cooperative Preschool, and Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. A series of three parent workshops and a SPARKS fair were held in Gary, Indiana in Fall and Winter of 2007-8. During winter and spring of 2008 two parent workshops and a SPARKS fair called “Nature Discovery Quest” were held at the Dunes Learning Center in Chesterton, IN.

Excitement about science begins at an early age, and researchers from the National Park Service, Indiana University Northwest, and the Field Museum of Natural History provided parents with tips to spark an interest in science among today’s youth.

Park Break!2008 participants visit the Inland Marsh site within Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore
USGS Scientists accompany PhD and Masters students to the field during the Park Break!2008 seminar.

Park Break! 2008

On March 17 - 21, 2008, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore partnered with the Gulf Coast Cooperative Ecosystem Study Unit, Texas A&M University, the George Wright Society, the United States Geological Survey, and the Student Conservation Association to present a field based executive seminar called Park Break! 2008. This intensive seminar was designed to give students at the PhD and Masters levels a chance to work alongside park scientists, managers, and policy makers while exploring topics of importance to parks and protected areas. At Indiana Dunes, eight Fellows interacted with 25 scientists, managers, and policy makers while exploring a variety of issues and challenges related to parks and protected areas on the wildland-urban interface. Discussions and field experiences revolved around many topics including but not limited to: biodiversity in the Indiana Dunes; using science to help set management priorities; managing fire on the wildland-urban interface; dealing with multiple jurisdictions; recreational water quality; managing whitetail deer; dealing with invasive plants; and connecting with the public through education, outreach, and stewardship.

Four Park Break!2008 seminars were held around the country, and participants from each of the different venues will have papers published in the summer, 2009 issue of The George Wright Forum. For more information on the George Wright Forum, visit:

Educators try their hands at a WETMAAP exercise.
Educators participating in the "WETMAAP" Workshop.

WETMAAP Workshop

On July 18, 19, and 20, 2007, area educators working with middle school, high school, and university students attended a free WETMAAP workshop at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. WETMAAP stands for “Wetland Education through Maps and Aerial Photography” and was designed by researchers at the United States Geological Survey (U.S.G.S.) and Chadron State College in Chadron, Nebraska.

Workshop participants explored the changing Indiana dunes wetland habitats. They were introduced to wetland habitats, functions, and values; wetland mapping; aerial photography and satellite imagery; topographic maps; and GIS technology. Participants learned how to integrate wetland issues, maps, and images into their existing curricula, and received a portfolio featuring a wide variety of tools, including aerial photographs, maps, and exercise correlated to the national standards in science, math, and geography.

This workshop was sponsored by the Great Lakes Research and Education Center at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, the Great Lakes Northern Forest Cooperative Ecosystem Studies Unit, Purdue University North Central, the Indiana Lake Michigan Coastal Program, the U.S.G.S. National Wetlands Research Center, and Chadron State College.

For more information about the WETMAAP program, contact

Students discuss wildlife research with Dr. Ralph Grundel, a U.S.G.S. Scientist.
Students visit the U.S.G.S. Lake Michigan Ecological Research Station.

photo by Wendy Smith

Great Lakes Research...Then and Now

In June 2007, students from Lew Wallace High School in Gary, Indiana, explored the Indiana Dunes - a living laboratory where past, present, and future researchers have learned and continue to learn how the world works.

Students explored dune formation and succession while learning about Henry Chandler Cowles and his research on dune succession over 100 years ago. They also met with a researcher from the United States Geological Survey (U.S.G.S.) Lake Michigan Ecological Research Station to learn how research on E. coli and beach monitoring has been used to help ensure the safety of park visitors. The teens spent the afternoon speaking informally with U.S.G.S. researchers to learn more about their careers, their feelings about the work they do, and suggestions to help students who are interested in pursuing their own research careers. This project was funded through the Centers for Ocean Sciences Education Excellence (COSEE) Great Lakes O'Lakers Program. For more information about COSEE, visit

Staff on the W.G. Jackson research vessel teach educators to use sampling equipment during the Great Lakes Institute
Teachers interact with staff aboard the Annis Water Research Institute's W.G. Jackson research vessel during the Great Lakes Institute.

Great Lakes Educator Institute

In 2006, the GLREC partnered with the Alliance for the Great Lakes, The Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant College Program, Indiana University Northwest, the Annis Water Research Institute, and many other organizations to present five Great Lakes Educator Workshops around Lake Michigan and Lake Superior. Ten scientists working in Great Lakes national parks shared their research findings with middle school and high school teachers who incorporated the new information into their lesson plans.


Return to the primary Great Lakes Research and Education Center website:

Last updated: April 10, 2015

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