Teacher set sail for research

BRISTOL – Champion Middle School fifth-grade science teacher David Murduck was among a group of 12 formal and informal educators nationwide chosen to spend one week this summer collecting data alongside scientists aboard the Environmental Protection Agency’s research vessel, Lake Guardian, on Lake Erie.

Murduck, of Bristol, was selected from among 50 applicants for the opportunity to be part of a workshop sponsored jointly by the Center for Great Lakes Literacy and the United States EPA.

The teachers were instructors of grades 5 and up.

”I learned so much about scientific research and about Lake Erie that I can take directly back to my students and fellow educators. The experience exceeded my expectations,” he said.

Murduck, who takes part locally in the annual Envirothon hosted by Trumbull Soil and Water Conservation District at Mosquito Lake, said the shipboard science event was held in July with a 12-member crew.

“It’s the main ship used by the Environmental Protection Agency,” Murduck said.

He said the group received training for educational presentations in schools. He is planning to make presentations locally and before the Ohio Teacher Association and National Association of Science Teachers.

Murduck said the experience helped him to better understand the Great Lakes.

He said he learned the Great Lakes have more shoreline than the eastern coast of the United States. He also noted Lake Erie has two percent of the total volume of water of the Great Lakes but is responsible for almost 50 percent of the harvest of commercial fish. Murduck said one-third of the population of people who live around the Great Lakes live around Lake Erie.

“We are expected to teach students the scientific method but very few teachers have the opportunity to actually model the method by experience. I was able to work directly with scientists and do all the research,” Murduck said.

Murduck said one night the group did work from 12:30 to 4 a.m.

Lessons focused on food web dynamics, endangered and invasive species, climate change, plastic pollution and water containments.

“There were three main areas of research we did. We researched the amount of plastic in Lake Erie by collecting surface plastic and determined the amount of plastics in the lake coming from rivers,” Murduck said noting the group used nets.

The second area was testing for chemicals in the water such as antibacterial soaps and chemicals from antidepressant drugs people throw in the water, as well as E. coli there from heavy rainfall and chemicals in algae blooms.

The third area of study was invasive species in the lake such as spiny water fleas, which can become a problem when they compete with other species for food.

“We went to Presque Isle and were looking for a new invasive rusty crayfish, which is aggressive and destroys the algae beds. It was brought in by a fisherman using bait. It is rapidly expanding and competes with other organisms,” he said.

“I was surprised the tremendous amount of work and time it takes to process everything that is collected in order to get the data,” he said, indicating he and others had to count the spiny water fleas and other organisms.

He said in Lake Erie there is a dead zone area where the algae is in the central basin.

Grants made the program possible and allowed teachers an opportunity to work shoulder-to-shoulder with scientists on research projects currently taking place on Lake Erie.

Murduck said he plans to implement what he learned into his classroom and share how humans impact Lake Erie water quality.

Murduck said with new state science content area standards being taught in schools, he now has ”new material and knowledge to share and use in my classroom and a lot of material that I can apply in real life.”

He said one of the focuses in the classroom will be to protect the Great Lakes and other bodies of water.

Murduck said he looks forward to sharing the ideas and materials he learned with other teachers and students.

He said grant money from the Center for Great Lakes Literacy will help to clean up the lake and also provide opportunities for students to travel on field trips to Lake Erie this year.

”Many students have never been to Lake Erie,” he said.

Murduck noted that many careers in the sciences, along with math and engineering, are being explored in the schools. He said there is a new focus on the design process of engineering and science with recording of data and the scientific method.

Murduck has degrees in biology, geology and education and worked with Goodyear and BP Oil before becoming a teacher, serving five years in Berea Schools and 14 in Champion schools.