On Air: Sea Grant Offers Opportunities For Teachers
New York's Great Lakes: Ecosystem Education Exchange - News


Nate Drag, NYSG Great Lakes Literacy Specialist, E: nwd4@cornell.edu, P: 716-645-3610 

Watertown, NY, May 10, 2023 — New York Sea Grant Great Lakes literary specialist Nate Drag joins 790 WTNY AM Watertown for a discussion on opportunities the program provides to educators in New York's Great Lakes region.

"It's my job to work with teachers, educators, students, pretty much anyone who wants to learn more about the Great Lakes so that they can understand how [the lakes] influence our lives and how we impact them", says Drag during a recent segment.

"This summer, the big event that we've got going on is taking 15 teachers from across the Great Lakes out on Lake Ontario on a research vessel."

You can listen to Drag's full conversation below ...


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Full Transcript: 

Speaker1: [00:00:00] Our first in-studio guest is Nate Drag from New York Sea Grant. Good morning, Nate. Good morning. And how are we this morning?

Speaker2: [00:00:08] Doing very well. Thanks for having me. Oh, it's our pleasure.

Speaker1: [00:00:10] Thanks for coming in on this absolutely gorgeous Wednesday morning. I know. Smack dab in the middle of the week. We are. Wow. Time flies. It does.

Speaker2: [00:00:19] It does. Weekends coming, though. We'll get there. Yeah.

Speaker1: [00:00:21] And it's a Mother's Day weekend, too. Let's not forget. It's a big one. I guess so. Well, you are heavily involved with teachers and students and all kinds of goodies [00:00:30] in your involvement with the New York Sea Grant. Why don't you tell us a little bit about that, Nate?

Speaker2: [00:00:34] Sure. So my title is Great Lakes Literacy specialist, okay? Which basically means it's my job to work with teachers, educators, students, pretty much anyone that wants to learn more about the Great Lakes so they can understand how they influence our lives and how we impact them. So everything from how the lakes were formed to how they affect our weather, to the decisions that we make as residents of this region [00:01:00] and of the Great Lakes, of how we can impact them. So I go to schools and I talk to kids about it. I work with teachers to develop lessons about the food web and the Great Lakes or unique species like Lake Sturgeon. And then we take them out in the field and we get teachers to connect with the resource either on the water or right on the shoreline. So I get to talk about the Great Lakes all the time, which is my favorite thing to talk about.

Speaker1: [00:01:25] Well, I bet. Now, I just. I just found out something recently I didn't. I never [00:01:30] knew I Now this is true. The Black River that empties into Lake Ontario, does it not? Correct. Yeah, I never knew that. Oh, yeah. All these years up here, you'd think I'd know that. But.

Speaker2: [00:01:39] So every watershed is a little bit different. And you see something every single day and. And then you realize, Hey, this is all connected. Yeah, Yeah, I'll be.

Speaker1: [00:01:46] Darn. Yeah. We're lucky to have such a wonderful resource right in our backyard, aren't we?

Speaker2: [00:01:51] We really are. And, you know, a lot of people, we don't. We take it for granted because we see it all the time. But the Great Lakes are unique in the entire world. There's no place that has this much freshwater [00:02:00] in one location. You know, most of the world's water is saltwater in the oceans. A lot of it's frozen in glaciers. So that freshwater that's available to the billions of people in the world, 20% of it is right here flowing through our backyard. So we're very fortunate.

Speaker1: [00:02:15] Yeah. If there was ever a drinking water crisis, I mean, would there be enough out there in the Great Lakes to sustain us for any great length of time.

Speaker2: [00:02:25] Right here in the Great Lakes? There's plenty, plenty for us. There's about 40 million people in the US and Canada [00:02:30] that depend on the lakes. But we want to keep that water here in our region. We wouldn't want to build a giant pipeline or ship it away someplace else to some of the more arid regions of the country. But there's plenty of room in the Great Lakes as well. So if people do move back to the region or within anywhere in the Great Lakes, we have a lot of water. As long as we use it sustainably, clean it up after we use it and then take care of it. Because as you know, drinking water essential to life.

Speaker1: [00:02:58] Absolutely. Is [00:03:00] there a lake among the Great Lakes that is in need of improvement among is there a good and a better and a best lake out there?

Speaker2: [00:03:07] They're all great and they all do have their challenges still. So we've definitely done a good job both in the US and Canada and cleaning up some of the problem areas of the Great Lakes. But let's see, in the late 80s, 42 different areas of concern were highlighted by the government says those are the areas we need to clean up the most. And they put together plans for all of them and they've [00:03:30] been working on a lot of them, cleaning up old contaminated sediment, restoring habitat, improving the native plant and animal species that are there. So we've made a lot of progress there, but there's always new threats coming in the Great Lakes, nutrient pollution, plastic pollution, changing weather patterns, invasive species. That's something that's really kind of thrown a wrench into some of the restoration plans. So we've made a lot of progress, but there's a lot of important [00:04:00] work to do still. Yeah.

Speaker1: [00:04:02] So the now the zebra mussel, now they're great at cleaning up a body of water, but they're also a detriment to the to the other living organisms out there. Isn't that true?

Speaker2: [00:04:13] That's right. You could almost say they're a little too good at their job. Yeah, right. They're filter feeders. So in terms of water clarity, they filter everything out. So the water looks very clear. But some of those organisms that they're eating when they're filtering, those organisms [00:04:30] are important for other native species. So other types of zooplankton or fish that would depend on that food source the zebra and their closely related cousin quagga mussels, which are a little bit bigger, but they're both pretty tiny. They just pretty much filter and clean everything and eat everything.

Speaker1: [00:04:46] So they derail the food chain.

Speaker2: [00:04:48] Exactly right. Right at the base, which then can go all the way up and really mess things up.

Speaker1: [00:04:54] Yeah. Nasty, nasty little critters.

Speaker2: [00:04:55] I know no bigger than your fingernail, but when they're trillions of them. Whoa.

Speaker1: [00:04:59] Yeah. My [00:05:00] goodness. Now you have a date trip planned. Tell us about that, Nate. Yeah.

Speaker2: [00:05:05] So this summer, the big event that we've got going on is taking 15 teachers from across the Great Lakes out on Lake Ontario on a research vessel. So every year, the EPA's Lake Guardian, which is a large research vessel, tours the Great Lakes to do water quality testing, various monitoring activities. And they have a group of scientists that live aboard the vessel. So for one week this year, 15 teachers [00:05:30] are going to live aboard the vessel. I'll be there too, which is pretty exciting. And we'll be working with the scientists to do some of that monitoring. And then the teachers can take that experience back to their classrooms. It's called the Shipboard Science Workshop because the teachers get to be a scientist for a week and then bring that data, that research exercise back to their students. And of the 15 teachers, seven of them are from New York State. I had to share space with the other seven Great Lakes states because they're pretty good too. But I'm a little partial to teachers here in New York [00:06:00] because they're connecting with the kids in our communities. So I'm excited that seven of them, of the 15 are from the Lake Ontario watershed. Oh, cool, cool.

Speaker1: [00:06:09] Nate, if someone wants to get in touch with you, how can they do that?

Speaker2: [00:06:11] So they can send me an email? My email address is nwd4@cornell.edu. Sea Grant is headquartered at Cornell, but we have staff across New York State up here in the Great Lakes and then also down in Long Island. But any teacher from Lake Erie up through the Saint Lawrence River [00:06:30] and obviously Lake Ontario can get in contact with me to talk about different ideas, about lesson plans, activities, field trips, connecting with local partners, scientific researchers, anything Great Lakes related.

Speaker1: [00:06:43] Super Nate Drag from New York Sea Grant. I can't thank you enough for coming in this morning and I suspect we'll be having you back.

Speaker2: [00:06:49] That sounds good. I'll be here.

Speaker1: [00:06:50] Yeah, We'll have a great day. And thank you again, Nate. Thanks a lot. Travel safely out there. Thanks. Thank you. Bye.

More Info: New York Sea Grant

New York Sea Grant (NYSG), a cooperative program of Cornell University and the State University of New York (SUNY), is one of 34 university-based programs under the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Sea Grant College Program.

Since 1971, NYSG has represented a statewide network of integrated research, education and extension services promoting coastal community economic vitality, environmental sustainability and citizen awareness and understanding about the State’s marine and Great Lakes resources.

Through NYSG’s efforts, the combined talents of university scientists and extension specialists help develop and transfer science-based information to many coastal user groups—businesses and industries, federal, state and local government decision-makers and agency managers, educators, the media and the interested public.

The program maintains Great Lakes offices at Cornell University, SUNY Buffalo, SUNY Oswego and the Wayne County Cooperative Extension office in Newark. In the State's marine waters, NYSG has offices at Stony Brook University in Long Island, Brooklyn College and Cornell Cooperative Extension in NYC and Kingston in the Hudson Valley.

For updates on Sea Grant activities: www.nyseagrant.org has RSS, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube links. NYSG offers a free e-list sign up via www.nyseagrant.org/nycoastlines for its flagship publication, NY Coastlines/Currents, which is published quarterly.

New York Sea Grant Home *  NYS Department of Environmental Conservation Home

This website was developed with funding from the Environmental Protection Fund, in support of the Ocean and Great Lakes Ecosystem Conservation Act of 2006. 

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