By Winifred Bird –
On a recent Thursday morning between spring storms, six Washington Island Middle School students huddled excitedly around a dock at Shipyard Island Marina, preparing to launch a real-world experiment with the potential to benefit not just their Island home but the entire Great Lakes ecosystem.
“Who wants the honor?” asked Tim Verboomen, their eighth-grade advisor for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math).
Tommy Pratt, 14, stepped forward and grasped a black metal cage holding a light blue disk about the size of a smoke detector—a submersible speaker worth $1,200, on loan from Dennis Higgs, a biologist who has been advising the students on the project.
Feeding a yellow rope carefully through his hands, Pratt lowered the cage into the crystal-clear water. His classmates watched intently. The cage settled into place among some rocks encrusted with zebra mussels.
Although no one on the dock could hear it, the speaker then began to play a continuous loop of grunting sounds that Higgs, a professor at the University of Windsor, in Canada, described to the Observer as “a male round goby wanting to have sex.” The grunting sounds were recorded by University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee fisheries ecologist John Janssen, another scientist the students enlisted in their project.
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