In a world vying for people's educational attention, the staff at The Ohio State University's Ohio Sea Grant College Program and Stone Laboratory located in the middle of Put-in-Bay in northwest Ohio on Gibralter Island have certainly set a very high standard for others to emulate.
Education to be imparted nowadays has to definitely be informational and thought provoking, but have the "blast" power of a Hollywood blockbuster.
Dr. Jeffrey Reutter, Director, and his incredible staff, along with their contributing partners, have raised the bar in their field of water quality and its simultaneously related issues.
At a two day seminar on Monday and Tuesday of this week at their location on Gibralter Island, which is in the middle of the infamous summer party location, Put-in-Bay, members of the media were invited to experience their specialized schooling techniques at a Science Writers Workshop.
And, to be sure, this was not your father's classroom.
The serious work that Dr. Reutter and his staff are doing at the Franz Theodore Stone Laboratory on water quality is absolutely essential to the care and preservation of the largest supply of fresh water in the world.
The details of clean drinking water, HAB's (Harmful Algal Blooms), AIS's (Aquatic Invasive Species), along with recreational uses, fish and wildlife uses, business and industry uses came together in a very unique and dynamic way.
As Dr. Reutter describes it, "Our goal is to provide writers with a very enjoyable and informative experience on Lake Erie--Ohio's most valuable natural resource--to help you better understand critical issues affecting Lake Erie."
As Lake Erie and the issues encountered there closely correspond to our Lake St. Clair and the issues here, the class was especially insightful, with experts available to discuss important topics and shed more light on them and answer pertinent questions.
From the classroom presentations by Stone Lab's Dr. Justin Chaffin; Ohio EPA's Linda Merchant-Masonbrink; Stone Lab's Dr. Kristin Stanford; Lake Erie Commission's Executive Director, Gail Hesse; Stone Lab's Fisheries Outreach Coordinator, Tory Gabriel and Assistant Laboratory Manager, Kevin Hart; Ohio Coastal Management Program's Chief, Dr. Scudder Mackey; Ohio Sea Grant's Jill Jentes-Banicki; Ohio Sea Grant College Program's Assistant Director, Dr. Christopher Winslow; along with tours around Gibralter Island by Stone Lab's Matt Thomas and Kevin Hart and a demonstration of the Lab's ROV; a tour of the Aquatic Visitor Center by Shane Anderson and Jason Gasteau; to personal comments, incites and observations by Dr. Reutter, who has been Director at Stone Laboratory since 1987, the two day seminar was jammed full of information and entertainment, thus the new caption of "edutainment" as Dr. Reutter "likes to call" it.
This interconnection and collaboration of many, many government agencies, businesses and the public all brought together in the strikingly beautiful and amazingly exciting venue of Put-in-Bay was a unique and distinct pleasure.
As about 20 of us were attending this seminar, Put-in Bay, in the backdrop was preparing for her Labor Day activities, which will attract between 500,000 and 1,000,000 visitors for the weekend events. These events will include a reenactment of the Battle of 1812, the viewing of the Tall Ships, and a performance by The Ohio State University Marching Band.
And with all of the anticipated people and events going on around them, the Stone Lab people and facilities quietly and effectively do a vital and important piece of work. In addition, they pass on this knowledge and plant the seed of exploding interest into the hearts and minds of people of all ages.
All ages include seminars for students from grades 4-12, which included "366 different high schools since 1990, and college students from 112 different colleges and universities," says Dr. Reutter.
This "Cheeseburger in Paradise" atmosphere, as Jimmy Buffett would sing, of island living, with a boat being the means of transportation, immediately takes your mind to a breathtaking and relaxed state where the knowledge and education just seep in with ease.
And because the work of the Stone Laboratory is so very important to our survival, and that of the fish, wildlife and vegetation, this form of "edutainment" captures your interest immediately and draws you in like a magnet.
From the new laboratory where Dr. Jeffrey Chaffin is coordinating the water quality testing results done by four different sources in four different ways; to having the chance to experience the boat, equipment, and manner in which these tests are done; to actually having the opportunity to dissect a fish with Tory Gabriel and learning that the heartbeat can go on for many minutes after the severing of the spinal cord; to Matt Lane showing us the Lab's ROV, Scarlett (it is OSU), and discovering some "treasures" on the bottom of Put-in-Bay, this new form of education, "edutainment" was well worth the time.
As Dr. Chris Winslow explained in summing things up, this "edutainment" seminar helps to do a "better job (in communicating) how important this program is and how important these issues are."
Our own Lake St. Clair will undoubtedly benefit from the dedication and work done on water quality and its attendant issues by Dr. Jeffrey Reutter and his staff at the Ohio Sea Grant College Program and Stone Laboratory, and their collaborating partners, and for that, and so much more, we thank you.
And, if you are looking for a unique, educational experience of a life time, for your students, business co-partners, or water-interested members of the public, contact Dr. Reutter at the Stone Laboratory and check out this form of "edutainment" - you will be amazed and thoroughly grateful for the opportunity.