July 12, 2019

UWS professor conducts research on Lake Erie aboard EPA’s Lake Guardian Research Vessel

Professor Rios Mendoza spent a week aboard the Lake Guardian, the largest research vessel in the United States.

Professor Rios Mendoza spent a week aboard the Lake Guardian, the largest research vessel in the United States.

Lorena Rios Mendoza worked alongside middle and high school teachers to share field and lab research techniques that they can take back to their classrooms.

UW-Superior associate professor of chemistry, Dr. Lorena Rios Mendoza, traveled to Lake Erie aboard the largest research vessel in the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency’s Lake Guardian.

Rios Mendoza spent seven days aboard the vessel, collecting surface and column water and superficial sediments to test for the presence of microplastics. She worked alongside 6th-12th grade teachers to share her field and lab research techniques with them so they can pass along the knowledge to their students. The middle and high school teachers helped Rios Mendoza collect and analyze the samples.

“Educators are the pillar of the new students in science,” said Rios Mendoza. “They have an enormous responsibility in promoting curiosity and interest for the students in the environment. Our responsibility as scientists is to communicate with educators to share our research results and innovations that can help them to educate the new generations of future scientists.”

Rios Mendoza added that he hopes by sharing her research, educators will be equipped to encourage young people to reduce or stop their use of plastic items.

This trip marks the third time Rios Mendoza has collected and analyzed water samples from Lake Erie, but her first time aboard the Lake Guardian. She has been working with plastic debris pollution since 2003 in the North Pacific Gyre and started working on Lake Superior in 2011. Her work has been published in the peer-reviewed science journal Nature and reported in the New York TimesChicago TribuneThe National Geographic websiteAtlantic magazine and others. The work of Rios Mendoza and other researchers led to laws in Wisconsin and Michigan banning the use of microplastic beads in personal-care products.

Professor Rios Mendoza spent a week aboard the Lake Guardian, the largest research vessel in the United States.

Professor Rios Mendoza spent a week aboard the Lake Guardian, the largest research vessel in the United States.

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