Advice on tank temperature and tank cleanliness, great new photos, and a national TIC quilt project opportunity!
Here's some great advice from Bob Wible:
Hi, Joe. I set the tank temperature at 44 because it seemed that at that setting the water near the eggs was averaging 45 degrees. Going to the DI chart, at 45 degrees 100% hatch would occur on January 24. (When I got eggs on 1/6, the DI was 30.37.) If teachers increased water temperature to 48 degrees on 3/8 and to 52 on 3/9, swim-up should happen around March 13.
Trip Westcott, community volunteer for Proctor Elementary School and Wallingford Elementary School (pictured below) also happens to have decades of experience raising salmon, when he was a teacher at the Lothrop School in Pittsfield.
Here's some advice he's offered about tank and breeder basket cleanliness:
Folks: Get any foam out of the tank and away from young fish. It is egg whites and shell waste. Humans don't live and sleep with their placenta. If left , it will rot and cause bacteria growth. Bail it out with a cup. ANOTHER TEACHER LEFT IT ONCE AND IT BEGAN TO GET STINKY AND KILLED FISH [salmon] . This is especially a problem when they're crowded together in a small basket. In a river it gets flushed downstream.
Below is another report from a Vermont school indicating the risks of dirty breeder baskets. Early Wednesday morning I got this e-mail message from a teacher:
Feeling horrible since we lost 16 fish today, mainly from one of our breeder baskets. I removed 5 gallons of water and replaced it with treated 5 gallons and added 30ml of Nite-Out II. Suggestions?
After reviewing data from the school, I sent this reply:
I'm sorry to hear that. Based on your water chemistry numbers, I would not have expected those deaths. How clean/dirty are the breeder baskets, particularly the one in which most of the deaths occurred?
Here's the teacher's response:
It seemed pretty clean but on closer examination, I think that some of the fish in the "dirty" basket had died a few days ago and therefore affected the health of the breeder basket. I had to spend 30 minutes or so closely observing the alevin to see if they were alive or not. I moved the basket to see if that helped and have removed quite a bit of the dead egg parts from that basket.
Close-up photos from Schoolhouse Learning Center
Danielle Levine, of Schoolhouse Learning Center, sent in this report.
Today we had 3 and a half hatchlings... We found one that still had part of its tail in the egg and was struggling to get out... Here is a video of the struggle:
And here are some pictures I took with my phone camera. The kids thought the eggs were bloody and bleeding until we zoomed in and could see the veins! Very cool!
Ludlow Elementary School report
I also got some great photos from Ludlow Elementary School's Lisa Marks of a visit to her class by community volunteer Kathy Ehlers. Here's what Lisa said:
Kathy visited today. She is so great and I always love how she talks to the kids about so many different things. We learned about transparent animals, bear tracking, trout flies and her trip to Belize.
We are down to 193 babies and we have one with two tails. He is struggling to get around but fun to look at for the moment.
Photos from Mount Holly School
These were provided on 2/1/17 by volunteer Kathy Ehlers.
TIC quilt project--deadline 2/3!
Each year TIC teachers across the country and their students are invited to participate in the national TIC project. Here's an announcement from Tara Granke, national TIC coordinator, of that opportunity.
All each class has to do is decorate quilt squares – 8” x 8” pieces of fabric, usually about 25 total – and send them to the other participating schools. In return, you’ll receive squares from around the country, which you can sew together as seen at http://www.troutintheclassroom.org/tapestry2012.
Note that this year’s theme is SYMBIOSIS.
If you’re interested, sign up via google form by February 3rd. Signing up is a commitment to make and send out the ~25 squares. You’ll have about a month to decorate the squares and write letters to your fellow TIC/SIC classes; squares will be due out to the other schools by March 6th.
Detailed instructions are included in the PDF file attached to this note. That way, if you wanted to get started early on your craft project, you totally can! Remember, this year’s theme is SYMBIOSIS. See the attached file for more information.
A more detailed set of instructions and full mailing list will be sent out by February 8th. This year we are creating quilts that do not need to be washable. This expands the types of media you can use on your quilt. It does not need to be waterproof, but should stand up to many excited students handling the square when they receive it.
To sign up, click here to fill out the form by February 3rd.
[Some of what follows appeared in a 11/15/16 blog I wrote. I've also broken this piece up with three nice pictures of students at Bellows Free Academy. Thanks, Melinda!]
Predicting and controlling when swim-up happens
At this fall's TIC workshop, we discussed two of the biggest challenges of raising brook trout:
when the fry swim up. A future post will talk about how to keep the breeder basket clean.
"Swim-up" is a stage that occurs when alevin become fully developed. Prior to that point, alevin have been living on the bottom of the breeder basket, but when they approach being 100% developed, they start making tentative movements towards the surface. Experienced fisheries biologists like Roxbury hatchery's Jeremy Whalen can recognize the fairly subtle cues that indicate the alevin have reached the swim-up stage (when they'll be called fry). But TIC teachers and volunteers, who observe only a comparatively small number of alevin and who raise trout just once a year, usually find it very difficult to spot the telltale signs of the swim-up stage. As a result, we need to use data to predict when fry will swim up.
And for this, we've created a data entry sheet and a special "swim-up calculator," which you can find here. (You can also find this spreadsheet in a folder called "Calculating Development Index," which is in the TIC Google Docs Collection, available from the TIC Resources page of this Web site.)
Thanks to the efforts of Lorena Schwarz and with some help from Castleton University statistics professor Abbess Rajia, this new file is much improved over the one we demonstrated at the workshop. A quick note about the Excel file attached to the link above: it contains four worksheets. The first provides instructions, the second is used to PREDICT swim-up and to record water temperature data, the third will allow you to DETERMINE or CONTROL when the alevin swim up, and the fourth you won't need to use, it simply allows a formula to perform a "lookup" function. Below I've included a screenshot of the four tabs that give you access to the three worksheets you'll need to use.
Predicting the swim-up stage
Development is a function of water temperature and time. With each day that hatchery or tank water is at a particular temperature, a constant is added to the previous day's cumulative Development Index (DI). This chart (below) shows the relationship between temperature (in tenths of a degree, which appear at the top of the columns) and the constant that is to be added to DI.
So, for example, at 49.3 degrees, the value of 1.146 is added to whatever the cumulative DI was on the previous day.
When schools got their eggs earlier this month, you should have entered the date you received your eggs into cell B4 in the "mm/dd" format, e.g., "01/06" would represent January 6 (image below). Either hatchery staff or your egg deliverer will be able to tell you how developed the eggs are on that day, that is, what their Cumulative DI is. This number is very important and should be entered into cell C5 of Sheet B.
From that point forward, all you needed to do is enter the daily water temperature into the cell in Column B that corresponds to the correct date. The spreadsheet will automatically calculate the new Cumulative DI.
It is important to enter water temperature data for every day, including weekends and school breaks, even if you haven't checked the tank temperature. For those days when you don't/didn't visit the tank, estimate (or "interpolate") the water temperature. So if the temperature was 51 when you left on Friday afternoon and it was 49 when you returned to the classroom on Monday morning, enter a temperature of 50 for each of the weekend days.
And don't let the bottom of the net breeder get too dirty! (More on this later.)
Controlling the swim-up stage
But what happens if you realize that swim-up is likely to occur when your school is scheduled to be on vacation or at a time when, perhaps because of a conference trip or personnel leave, you won't be able to diligently monitor your fish, looking for those subtle signs of the swim-up stage?
Here's an exchange between teacher Ted Nathanson (of East Montpelier Elementary School), volunteer Shawn Nailor, and Roxbury hatchery supervisor Jeremy Whalen:
TN to SN: Hope you had a nice weekend! Wanted to give you an update. On 1/11/17 we had 2 eggs that hatched. When I got in this morning we had 6 more over the weekend for a total of 8. Now at 3 o'clock, we have almost 30 total. They are going crazy!
The water temperature is at 52.2 and the water chemistry is all normal. Our pH is at 8, is that an ok level? Should we stay on track with the water temp of 52? Thanks!
SN to JW: Any suggestions or is this 'normal'?
JW to SN: At 52 degrees, this is normal. They must be pushing 58 DI at this point. If he stays at 52, though, the fish will start feeding before or during the next break. If his goal was to start feeding after February break, he needs to cool the tank off. (I later learned that Ted's DI was 53.67 on 1/16.)
SN to TN: I sent along your email to Jeremy and here's his reply (above).
TN to SN: Thanks for looking into that. Our last day before break is Feb 24th and we don't return until March 8. When I use the swim-up calculator and set the swim up for March 9th, I need to get the tank down to 46 degrees. Our break is longer than normal and starts later than most schools with presidents week off. Should we still shoot for swim up after break? Does this sound like a good plan?
So, sometimes you have to take control of your tank and its temperature to ensure that you're around and able to give lots of attention to your fish when they start to swim up.
That's when you need to use the third tab of the Excel file we discussed above (see image below).
When you click on that tab, it will take you to this "calculator" form.
As long as you've been maintaining the DI total (by keeping up the "Temp. entry and DI record" spreadsheet, as described above), you will be able to enter the three data elements called for in Cells B5, B6, and B7. Once you've entered the third of those ("Total DIs as of today"), you'll find out what temperature (it'll appear in B12) you need to set your tank at in order to have your fish swim up on the day you've chosen.
If the specified temperature is more than five degrees lower or higher than what it currently is, you might want to step your tank down (or up) more gradually. In that case, I'd recommend that, after your tank temperature has reached the target number, you redo the calculation (using the Swim-up calculator a second time) with the new numbers for DI and dates. This will permit you to fine-tune the temperature setting.
In a future post, I'll discuss breeder basket cleanliness as well as some tips for identifying when alevin are approaching the swim-up moment.
What are the benefits of TIC? You tell me.
Here's a wonderful report I recently got from one of our terrific Vermont TIC teachers:
I have to tell you about one of my students. He is a very reluctant learner, comes from a long line of family members who don't have anything nice to say about education, and rarely smiles. Yesterday when he was about to be picked up, he ran outside and begged his mom to stay later until the eggs were officially in the tank and we were done adding the NiteOut II and Special Blend. She let him...she let him!
His wanting so much to stay with me and his mother's recognizing how important that was to him was worth the whole experience, regardless of what happens from now until May (well, sort of!).
If you look at the picture of our community volunteer talking to the kids he's the one in the red shirt. Note the SMILE on his face! That's a smile I have rarely seen.
As you encounter stories like this that illustrate the benefits of TIC, please share them with us.
Here are some new TIC photos provided by the team--Syl Stempel, Shawn Nailor, Gloria Nailor, and Mike Bard--that covered 227 miles last Friday to deliver eggs to Cambridge Elementary, Cold Hollow Technical Center, Eden Elementary, Hyde Park, and Waterville Elementary schools.
Chart hatching data
Many of you have experienced some early egg hatches. I've got a suggestion for you: keep good track of those data and then have your students turn them into a line or column chart. I'd love it if you'd then also send those charts or images of them to me. That way, we'll have better information to share with next year's teachers. In fact, if I can aggregate data from all submitting schools (especially if you'll also send me temperature data), I can generate a table of the patterns of hatching statewide. That will help future teachers decide whether their hatch patterns are "normal" or not.
Another idea is to have your students research rates of premature births in human ("gestational age at birth"). They could then calculate prematurity rates for their trout and then compare them to human rates. Here's an example of the kind of data on human births that you can find online.
You can find a larger version of this image here. The whole report from which I got that table is available here.
Good work at The Schoolhouse Learning Center
This afternoon Danielle Levine submitted this brief report:
Here is our data chart so far. Students are loving doing the testing. We observe the egg under a microscope and allow every kid to look once a week. In the 4/5 class, they are learning about how to do the testing, the ideal conditions for a trout and the chemistry. In the 2/3, they compared the trout egg to a chicken egg. In the K/1, we made 3-D models of the egg for each kid to take home. They can now identify the yolk, eyes, backbone and brain. Good fun!
Here's a link to a table of Danielle's data to date. (Below is the most critical excerpt from that table.) How do these numbers compare to yours? And below the table are some photos of the egg models Danielle's K/1 kids made. Nice, huh?
Report on SIC
While we have 71 tanks in Vermont raising salmonids, 68 of those raise brook trout. The other four raise landlocked Atlantic salmon because those schools are located near rivers that support spawning runs of salmon, either from Lake Champlain or from Lake Willoughby.
Here's a brief report from Chris Murphy, of North Country Union High School in Newport, Vermont.
I did want to send a quick check in an update. Our 200 salmon eggs were delivered right before the new year. A majority of them have hatched and things are going very well. The only issue that I faced was a small one-day outbreak of a little white fungus on a couple of dead eggs over a weekend. Luckily that's been removed and taken care of quickly. And fortunately we finally received our testing supplies that we ordered, and I am doing daily tests and recording that data!
Hundreds of miles and dozens of volunteers later, before kids left school on Friday, January 6, most of Vermont's TIC schools had their eggs. In southwest Vermont alone, eight of us delivered 3,150 eggs to 17 classrooms. It was great fun!
Here are some pictures of that day (but I hope I can add more shortly. Send them in).
Egg origin story
Here are some facts about the eggs you received:
Weird eggs, early hatching, and fungus
In one early report relayed by Addison County TIC volunteer Doug Zehner, Melissa Muzzy, of Vergennes Union HS, wondered whether this photo was of a set of Siamese twins.
I'm not sure, but when I zoomed in on the conjoined pair of eggs, I though it looked like it might be two fairly normal eggs connected by fungus.
Lisa Marks, of Ludlow ES, had what may have been the first hatchling of 2017. Here is a picture of her new baby. See the tail poking out in the center of the picture?
By the way, whenever an egg hatches, the shell is left behind. This should be removed using a pippette or turkey baster.
When Bob Wible asked Jeremy about such an early hatch, here's what Jeremy said:
An egg hatching at 40-41 DI is not uncommon. You will see some early hatching. When the DI hits 58, we would expect 100% to be hatched, but some will start hatching much sooner than that.
Along with looking for and removing dead eggs, you should also vigilant about fungus. When I delivered eggs to Fair Haven Grade School on Friday, it appeared to me that four eggs had little patches of fungus on them. I told teacher Amy Wright that I didn't think these had to be removed immediately, but I suggested that she monitor those eggs. Should the fungus grow or spread, then the eggs should be removed.
Keep track of data!
At this point in the TIC cycle, you or your students should be entering data into two spreadsheets every day:You'll no longer need to use the first of these once your fry are feeding, but the second should be used right up to Release Day.
Web site statistics
This past week, our Web site received its most traffic ever. Here's a chart of the "pageviews" for the week. (These were generated by 114 unique visitors.)
It's happening! Yesterday several schools received their eggs. Dozens more will be getting them tomorrow, so there's no turning back.
Here's a picture of the tank at Poultney High School, perfectly set up and at the right temperature (45 degrees) but lacking living matter, those precious eggs.
Especially for those of you who are new to TIC, here are some final instructions.
Bob Wible and I had essentially similar opinions: Keep an eye on it. It might be dying, but the evidence of that isn't yet conclusive. (See page 26 of the manual.)
If you don't know when your eggs will arrive, contact your community partner or regional TIC liaison ASAP. I don't know who all the community partners are, but here's a list, by county, of TIC liaisons:
Above, four nice "opening day" photos from Browns River Middle School.
Equipment failures and routine maintenance
While at a family gathering in Bridport on New Year's Day, I got a concerning e-mail from Archie Clark of Benson Village School. His one-year-old Fluval filter, which performed flawlessly last year and was running fine before the break, wasn't working when he went in to check it.
On Monday, through e-mails and phone calls, we engaged in collaborative trouble-shooting to no avail. So on Tuesday, I visited his class to get a better sense of the problem and its possible causes. Long story short, after a lengthy call to the manufacturer on Tuesday, I decided the our only choice was for me to run into Rutland to get a replacement filter--fortunately they had one, and it was even on sale! This morning, Archie reprted that everything was A-OK.
Yesterday, I also learned of a central Vermont school that had its chiller die recently.
Why do I bring this up? The Fluval customer support representative peppered me with questions about whether Archie had been following the routine maintenance procedures detailed in the manual. I didn't know what Archie had been doing; but I suspect that, as long as their equipment seems to be working fine, many teachers don't think to check the manuals to see what the "best practices" of routine maintenance are.
We can't say whether these two breakdows would have been prevented by maintenance, but these experiences can serve as a reminder that there is some minimal maintenance that we ought to be doing periodically. I don't want your filter or chiller to be the next to go!
Joe Mark, Lead Facilitator, Vermont Trout in the Classroom
In June 2012, I retired after 40 years in higher education, having spent the last 32 years of my career as dean at Castleton. One of the first things I volunteered to do in retirement was to work with Jim Mirenda to help the Dorset School, where his kids and my Vermont grandkids attend, start a TIC program. Gradually that commitment grew into my current role, which is both demanding and highly rewarding.