The blue stripe on the Bay Boat Club dock

Hanna Bergmann, Joe Beauchesne, Paul Moody and Corbin Estepp paint the dock at Bay Boat Club.

We came together in the fall of 2019 as strangers from four different schools. We formed Team Zebra, and are now the sixth-grade Ohio State Champion and a Regional Finalist for the eCyberMission STEM competition. Our project involved finding a solution to the zebra mussel and algae growth problem on the dock at Bay Boat Club.

In the summer with the high Lake Erie water levels, the boat dock is underwater and covered with algae and zebra mussels, making it slippery and dangerous. One interesting fact that we learned while researching for this project is that zebra mussels are contributing to the growth of algae in Lake Erie by filtering the water. They are improving water clarity, which then allows the sun to penetrate deeper and support algae growth.

The algae on the dock are a breeding ground for zebra mussels; one female zebra mussel can produce over one million free-floating eggs in a year. Algae act as an incubator for the eggs, which, when hatched, are known as veligers until they grow into adults.

Over the winter months, Team Zebra conducted several experiments using lake water containing algae, zebra mussels, and a piece of concrete coated with swimming pool paint. We also had a second jar with a bit of copper pipe and a control jar of lake water with plain concrete. We wanted to see the effects of copper on the zebra mussels. Our experiment with the copper pipe confirmed research already conducted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. We learned from our study that the element copper, while in small amounts is beneficial to aquatic life, in excess kills off all marine life. That ruled out a copper-based coating.

In February, we were fortunate to have a 50-degree day with a south wind that allowed us to move our pool paint experiment out to Bay Boat Club. We wanted to see if the paint would inhibit algae growth on the deck and the zebra mussel veligers which harbor and grow in the algae. The officers and trustees of the club had permitted us to paint a test strip on the dock using the chlorinated rubberized swimming pool paint. Now in June, as the lake level reaches its maximum level and the dock is under 3-12 inches of water, the algae and zebra veligers have formed a thick coating on it. 

The good news comes from club trustee, Bela Persanyi, who stated after power washing the algae off the dock that the painted strip swept clean so much easier. The Bay Boat Club officers and trustees approved painting the whole dock in the fall when the water level drops. The bright blue dock may even be visible from the space station.

Team Zebra are members of Explorer Club 360, a Boy Scouts of America middle school youth group chartered by Bay Sea Scouts Inc. Now great friends, Hanna Bergmann attends St. Paul Lutheran School, Paul Moody is at University School, Joe Beauchesne attends Bay Middle School and  Corbin Estepp is homeschooled. Each fall, Sea Scout and Explorer Club teams compete in the U.S. Army-sponsored eCyberMission STEM challenge.

Hanna Bergmann, Paul Moody, Corbin Estepp and Joe Beauchesne

Sea Scout Ship 41

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Volume 12, Issue 12, Posted 9:49 AM, 06.16.2020