Monday, October 29, 2012

Rozalia Project visits the windy city and gets national press!

Rozalia Project headed out to Chicago for 5 days of debris clean up, outreach, and research from October 9-14.  We began our trip working with 20 colloquium students from the Lindblom Math and Science Academy.  These eager and excited students visit the Judd Goldman Sailing Center, part of the Chicago Parks District, on Burnham Harbor, Lake Michigan each week to learn everything from how to sail, to environmental issue that affect their lake to soon, building their own Sea Perch ROVs! Rachael and I joined them our first full day in Chicago to pick up marine debris, introduce them to our state-of-the-art VideoRay ROV and run some of our STEM activities.

The first piece of debris we removed from the lake was a chair, lifted from the lake floor by the ROV and pulled onto the dock with our own hands to shrieks as mud, cold water, and zebra mussels dripped from this eerie piece of trash.  We continued trash hunting, removing cups, fishing lures, tires, and beach towels, but one of the coolest discoveries was when a crayfish crawled out from inside a tire that we removed.  While the students yelped, I lifted the small creature up to allow everyone to examine the important aquatic animal that had made its home out of marine debris. 

Following our underwater trash hunt, the students removed 731 pieces of debris from off the land and after a wind shift, the students bravely laid on their bellies on the dock unable to stop themselves from picking up over 40 pieces of debris floating on the surface of the water using their hands.  We had so much fun working with these students and look forward to hearing about their continued efforts to pick up marine debris and as they make their own ROVs!

Later that afternoon we worked with 10 more students at the Judd Goldman Sailing Center from the Afterschool Matters program wrapping up the day with a very intact and useable fishing pole recovery.  The next day we journeyed to Philip Rogers Elementary School where we worked with over 200 students and heard some great, intriguing questions from the students about marine debris.  Following the elementary school, Rozalia Project went to Chicago Yacht Club to work with 60 high school sailors.  Again, the enthusiastic students helped us remove over 300 pieces of debris from the land surround the yacht club and about 20 pieces of debris from the water, a majority of it plastic cups (yes, many of them with the CYC logo).  That evening we presented our work to the Chicago Yacht Club members who then joined us to remove even more plastic cups from the water using the ROV.

On Friday, we had the unique opportunity to work with The McCormick Bridgehouse and Chicago River Museum and The Friends of Chicago River.  Though it was quite cold, and of course very breezy, we removed plastic bags, sunglasses, and a broken street lamp from the Chicago River and worked with close to 100 Chicago residents and visitors who stopped by our tent outside the museum.  The river was a beautiful setting to trash hunt and the museum and Friends of Chicago River were gracious hosts who we can’t wait to work with again in the future!

In the afternoon on Friday, Rachael, our newest intern Carly, Karen from US sailing and I rigged up our neuston net on a whaler from Columbia Yacht Club to research floating microplastics in Chicago’s urban waters of Lake Michigan.  We found very few pieces per square kilometer, though this could be due to the fact that this is not the busy season for the city and there was an onshore breeze instead of an offshore breeze.  As always with Rozalia Project, this work was very eye-opening, rewarding and so much fun.  Lake Michigan is a wonderful place to do research and the shoreline of Chicago is stunning, especially decked out in Fall colors.

That night, NBC Chicago featured our work on the evening news and on their website with this excellent video:!/multimedia/Underwater-Robot-Collects-Trash/173790191

Our final two days in Chicago were spent at Coloumbia Yacht Club where we worked with students from Rickover Naval Academy, the yacht club’s junior sailors, and Program Directors who were attending the regional US Sailing Programs Meeting.  Saturday evening we had another great opportunity to set up a table and work with participants as part of the US Sailing Speaker Series where Dave Perry came to discuss racing tactics.  Over two days at Columbia Yacht Club we picked up a shoe, a glove, more plastic bags and cups and rounded out our visit by removing another chair from the waters around the yacht club!

Rozalia Project had a very successful trip to Chicago and we are thankful for the hospitality and collaboration of our hosts: The Lindblom Math and Science Academy, the Judd Goldman Sailing Center, Philip Rogers Elementary School, Chicago Yacht Club, The McCormick Bridgehouse and Chicago River Museum, The Friends of the Chicago River, Columbia Yacht Club, the Rickover Naval Academy, Carly, Jeanie, Judy and Linda.  We can’t wait to return to the windy city and look forward to continuing our National Trash Tour in California in two weeks! 

Check out photos and videos from our trip on, and 

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