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Updated 10:00 AM September 12, 2005




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Spotlight: A passion for the Great Lakes

As a frequent vacationer to the shores of the Great Lakes, Joyce Daniels is enthusiastic about their survival. She dedicates her career to providing education and awareness about the lakes in a unique way—by writing articles and lesson plans to inform others about their splendor.
Photo by Scott Galvin

Serving as editor at Michigan Sea Grant, a federally and state-funded program located on both the U-M and Michigan State University campuses, Daniels produces the quarterly newsletter, "Upwellings." She summarizes Great Lakes research, and writes articles in collaboration with colleagues around the state. "I like learning about the Great Lakes and what researchers and others are doing to make them great," she says.

Daniels says she learns something new every time she writes, including information she gained while writing an article on rip currents in the Great Lakes. "I didn't know much about them but now have a better idea of how these dangerous currents can develop," she says.

She also is involved in a project designed to bring Great Lakes education to schools.

Beginning in August 2004, Daniels started Project FLOW: Fisheries Learning On the Web with Elizabeth LaPorte, communications director and education program co-leader; Anna Switzer, education specialist; and Todd Marsee, senior graphic artist.

Project FLOW is a series of online lesson plans written for K-12 educators about the Great Lakes. When the Great Lakes Fishery Trust called for proposals for new projects, Michigan Sea Grant jumped at the chance to fill what staff members thought was a gap in online education—instruction about the Great Lakes.

The challenge, Daniels says, is to take the material and make it interesting and easy to follow online. For example, in the lesson titled "Great Lakes Most Unwanted," Daniels has attempted to introduce educators and students to the problem of invasive species.

Using a collection of cards, students try to match each species with its impact on the Great Lakes. A set of invasive species posters complements the lesson.

Daniels says she tries to put herself in the place of a reader when she writes lessons for Project FLOW, and she has made a point to include context and the purpose for each lesson.

"Each lesson has real-world implications," Daniels says. "Some of the topics include water quality and quantity, biodiversity, and the importance of wetlands." Daniels also considers the audience for which the lesson is written and tries to imagine if students would have fun doing the classroom activities.

"It was difficult, not only editing the texts and links, but the flow of FLOW," Daniels says. But to her, every step has been worth it if it helps educate others.

"I'm not a policy person at all so this is one way I can contribute," she says. "Hopefully this will ensure that future generations will have the same opportunity I had growing up to enjoy the Great Lakes."

The Project FLOW Web site,, earned an honorable mention award in the category of best Web-based outreach effort from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Sea Grant.

Daniels values the input of her four-year-old son, Calvin, who enjoys reading the invasive species poster series that accompanies Project FLOW.

"It's important for the younger generation to be passionate about the Great Lakes," she says.

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