Friday, January 11, 2013

Keep on Learning - Local opportunities

This week I attend a couple workshops.  I’ll always be a lifelong learner and I especially like to learn about science, environmental protection, and how to be a better educator.  One of the workshops was an all-day training by Fortin Consulting on Winter Parking Lot and Sidewalk Maintenance held at the Natural Resources Research Institute and organized by the Regional Stormwater Protection Team.  Over twenty people attended who plow and do parking lot clearing or road salting for a municipality, university, or apartments.  We learned a lot at the workshop on salts, removal of snow/ice, and how to apply effectively.  In the past, sand was the most used material on parking lots and roads to increase traction.  As salt, typically NaCl, is to applied to paved areas and steps in winter.  When spring comes there is a surge of melting with the salt going down the storm drains and into waterways.  A growing concern is that Chloride levels are becoming higher in waterways.  In fact, the consultant is funded through the Minnesota Pollution Agency to attempt to reduce salt use before the state may need to begin creating laws to limit use as the chloride levels rise.  Other presenters at that workshop were Rich Axler from NRRI and he showed data from and definitely pulses of higher conductivity in Duluth streams during the early spring or anytime temperatures became higher and melting occurred.  Another guest was a salt distributor but had experience working for the Minnesota Department of Transportation and he offered ways to reduce salt by using it as a brine solution and apply the salt solution as a drip before the bad weather may begin.  Everyone did recommend to remove as much snow and ice through mechanical means - plowing, brushing, etc.  The airport in Grand Rapids, MN was mentioned that they don’t use any salt on their sidewalks – they have a sweeper that does the job.  I linked the Fortin video “Improved Winter Maintenance: Good Choices for Clean Water to the city of Superior website and it’s being shown on Superior Community Television.  I recommend homeowners stop in and watch it at    
The other workshop I attended was on Aquatic Invasive Species.  It’s part of an educator series coordinated by Great Lakes Aquarium in Duluth. The Science Institute for Educators 2012-2013: The Story After the Storm includes nine workshops which began in the fall and will go through April.  The topic on Tuesday was the 4th workshop in the series.  At a workshop the first hour is spent doing activities teaching science concepts or issues.  The word “activity” is right because we often are moving in the classroom.  On Tuesday, we did a musical chairs activity representing the effect that ruffe would have on the walleye in an area.  The second half of each training has been a talk by an expert in the field.  There are 5 more of the workshops to go.  The one later this month is Post-Flood Nutrients in Lake Superior and the St. Louis River Estuary.  If you are an educator and would like to participate in these free programs contact the Great Lakes Aquarium.  The Great Lakes Aquarium also has several educator kits with many activities to aid in teaching.  The use of the kits is at no cost.  Go to www. for more information.    

-Written by Wendy Grethen

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