New boat enhances Lake Superior Reserve’s research
The Lake Superior National Estuarine Research Reserve is now home to a vessel that will greatly enhance its scientific research, monitoring and educational missions.
The 25-foot vessel is assigned under an agreement with from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which is the Reserve’s federal partner and funding agency. Owned by NOAA’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, the vessel will dock at the Reserve’s Barkers Island headquarters and ferry Reserve staff, visiting scientists, student groups and scientific equipment around the St. Louis River Estuary and Lake Superior.
The vessel is intended for operation in protected waters and near-shore environments, making it an ideal boat to navigate the St. Louis River Estuary and coastal Lake Superior. It comes outfitted with a high-resolution sidescan sonar that produces detailed images of lakebeds and river bottoms. Additionally, an onboard side crane allows loading and unloading of bulky scientific equipment needed for other research endeavors, meaning the vessel will be a versatile workhorse for the reserve, its research partners and visiting scientists.
“Reserve staff, the Friends of Lake Superior Reserve and our community partners are very excited about this boat,” says Reserve Manager Erika Washburn. “This first-in-the-nation arrangement was developed over the last two years with different parts of NOAA, in cooperation with UW-Extension and UW-Superior. Having access to this boat will significantly enhance our ability to grow our research and education programs and meet our overall mission. In that way, our Lake Superior coastal community partners will all benefit.”
The vessel will also help NOAA and the National Estuarine Research Reserves (NERR) system determine which NOAA boats might be most useful to other NERR reserves as NOAA considers expanding its working relationship with the system.
“This is the first time there’s been this very direct partnership between a NERR and NOAA in terms of research vessel support,” says Dennis Donahue, Marine Superintendent for NOAA’s Lake Michigan Field Station. “A number of reserves are looking into how this type of partnership might translate to them. This boat will help the Lake Superior Reserve explore and better understand what type of vessel would best support NERR’s mission and long-term plan.”