Lots of Release Days! Scholarship opportunities for students at three Addison County schools. Wrapping up!
More Release Days!
At this time of the year, my schedule for each week contains at least two, often three, release days. The last five days were no different.
Before I comment on and provide photos from the two RDs that I attended most recently, I want to share the many great photos that Doug Zehner, of Central Vermont TU and the New Haven River Anglers Association, sent to me.
On May 17, I and several other volunteers helped three Addison County elementary schools conduct their releases on the South Branch of the Middlebury River. After assisting with the South Western Vermont Chapter of TU's clean up of the Batten Kill on Saturday, I was back at Ripton's Robert Frost site this past Tuesday to observe the Release Day of Melissa Muzzy's students at Vergennes Union High School. We anticipated a visit from Fish and Wildlife Commissioner Louis Porter. Unfortunately, Louis was called to another obligation, but Tom Jones and Adam Miller, of the Fish Culture Division, were able to join us. Joel Flewelling of the department was also an active Release Day participant, running the electrofishing demonstration not only for the Vergennes students but also those from Mt. Abe, who missed that activity at their Release Day.
Here are a few photos.
Wallingford Release Day
The day after the Vergennes release, I was up on the Roaring Brook to help Pat Bowen's students learn about macroinvertebrates. It was another beautiful day. Pat had organized four stations that the groups of students rotated through: electro-fishing, casting practice, riverine ecology, and macroinvertebrates.
Fish and Wildlife's Shawn Good found brookies, browns, and rainbows in the water, including one or two bigger than you might expect. As a completely unexpected but very nice touch, Pat presented each volunteer with trout-themed key chain as a thank-you gift.
Stocking East Creek
Because we were asking so much of Fish and Wildlife staff, especially for electro-fishing demonstrations, F&W asked if we might be able to find volunteers to help with one of their planned stocking operations. I didn't do a great job of finding volunteers--only Castleton University history professor Andre Fleche and I were able to assist--but the two of us had fun working with Shawn Good and Dave Jareckie for several hours. Together we put 750 "trophy" rainbows into five different sections of East Creek. I was amazed to consider that just about any Rutland boy or girl could walk to a beautiful river flowing through one of Vermont's larger cities with the hope of catching a beautiful, fat, 18" rainbow.
After Andre and had a couple of slices of Ramunto's pizza, I put my waders back on and returned to the stream, this time with my fly rod. Here a five photos of that day.
I was meant to end my week on Friday by helping Charlie Cummings and his 3rd grade students at Fisher Elementary School (Arlington) release their trout into a tributary of the Batten Kill that flows near their school. Given the cold, rainy, and windy conditions that were forecast for Friday morning, Charlie wisely decided to reschedule their Release Day. Since I hadn't had a chance to sleep in yet that week, I wasn't altogether disappointed.
Doug Zehner sent me a copy of a wonderful "good news" e-mail. Here's what it said:
The New Haven River Anglers Association will sponsor two different scholarships in your school system this year--one is for $500 for a graduating senior interested in the natural sciences, the other is for all costs associated with attending Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department's "Green Mountain Conservation Camp" for one week this summer for a 12 to 14 year old. One set of scholarships is available each for Middlebury, Vergennes, and Mt. Abe systems. If you know of any good candidates in your system, please pass his/her name on to your appropriate guidance department as they will help us make the selections. Not much in the way of application that I know of--no limitations. Just a good interested student.
Thank you for your help.
So, if you know of an appropriate student in one of these three school systems, contact the shool's guidance department. If you're not associated with any of these Addison County schools, maybe this will inspire you to fund-raise for and launch a similar program in your part of the state.
For those of you who have released your trout it's time to break down your equipment, clean it, and pack it away until next fall. Please review Chapter 10 of the Maryland/DC TIC Manual. You'll notice that this chapter, like many in the MD manual, is specific to the equipment they recommend, namely, the Fluval 406 filter and the TradeWind drop-in chiller.
If you're using different equipment, you should check the Web site of the manufacturer of your gear. (This fall, Lisa Marks, of Ludlow Elementary, discovered a black substance in her tank, which she suspects was due to the fact that water remained inside her flow-through chiller for six months.)
I need your data! We need your data!!
Please send me whatever you can of the following:
If you can submit your reports, preferably as Excel or Google spreadsheets, the other TIC coordinators and I will pour over these data intensively, looking trends that will indicate how we should modify our practice next year. We will also consult with F&W fisheries biologists and other scientists.
We're hoping particularly to fine-tune our basis for predicting swim-up. We also want to evaluate whether bacterial additives are helping our fish as much as folks at Ecological Laboratories say they should.
We will, of course, give you a full report on our investigations.
Two recent Release Days, including Steve Flint's RD extravaganza. Amy Clapp's "Naturally Literate" checklist. Stowe stream flow study.
Recent Release Days
Release Days had me on the road twice this week.
Manchester Elementary-Middle School had their release on Tuesday in PERFECT weather. MEMS teachers Seth Bonnett and Melissa Rice and their students had been working at the Tutorial Center at Smokey House all year long. Since early fall, MEMS's two 6th grade classes have spent one Tuesday a month working with Tutorial Center staff on Smokey House's more than 5,000 acres in Danby, Vermont. This allowed them to study and collect data on the property's streams, ponds, and vernal pools in every season, even taking ice thickness measurements on a frigid January day. They also learned about the watershed that feeds the tributary of Mill Brook that would be their release site.
While, on Tuesday morning, MEMS's students conducted their penultimate field work at Smokey House, community volunteer Gary Saunders and I took an aerated cooler to the school and collected their 65 fry. By the time we delivered the trout to the Tutorial Center, students and faculty were ready for sandwiches and celebratory cupcakes.
After lunch, students performed one last activity: finding and classifying macroinvertebrates living in a tributary of Mill Brook. (This was not the first time they did this, so they needed little instruction.) There were many, and virtually all were species that can't tolerate pollution. So, good sign!
Finally, students released their trout. Another great year of TIC at MEMS!
On a lark, after the MEMS's school bus departed, I broke out my fly rod, tied on a small elk wing caddis fly, and headed back to the same Mill Brook tributary where we'd just collected macros. It seemed unlikely that, having had their little stream so recently disturbed by tromping 6th graders, any resident trout would be in the mood to eat. Far from it! In the exact spot that got some of the heaviest traffic, I had several "hits" from tiny trout--probably only three inches long--too small to be hooked. But then, upstream a bit, I caught a pretty little 5" fish. Here's the quick photo I took before returning it to the water.
Mary Hogan School
Mary Hogan's release was Wednesday, a day on which the temperature hit 91 degrees as I drove home. As always, MHS STEM teacher Steve Flint did an extraordinary job organizing the complex plan he'd developed for the day that would allow approximately 100 students from three Addison County TIC schools to participate in the release. Steve could have managed D-Day!!
Part of what makes Steve's release days great are the many partner organizations that he's connected to. Helping pull off this "Cecil B. DeMille production" yesterday were representatives of:
Here's a map of the two paths, one red, one green, that the groups travelled.
Each group went to a station focused on"ecology." This, staffed by Audubon Society volunteers, introduced students to the Middlebury River's "riparian zone," including the bird life that can be found in it. A second station gave students the opportunity to collect and identify macroinvertebrates; a third examined the physical characteristics of the river, especially as they relate to trout habitat. Always most popular was the electrofishing demonstration conducted this year by Shawn Good, of Vermont F&W.
At one point in the day, students either got to release their trout or met with Salisbury Community School teacher Amy Clapp and were given a copy of the wonderful Naturally Literate book she assembled. (More on this later.)
Here's Steve's schedule for the day's stations.
And here's Steve's plan for what would happen at each of the four stations.
As an indication of how busy Steve Flint was on Wednesday, here's a picture I took of the lunch table at the end of lunch. All the great (Middlebury Co-op) sandwiches were gone but two: our electro-fisherman Shawn Good and Steve's. Thanks for all your hard work, Steve!
Naturally Literate by Amy Clapp
As I mentioned, at Steve's release there was a point in the day when some of the students went to the stream to release their trout while others met Salisbury Community School science (and TIC) teacher Amy Clapp and got a copy of the wonderful "Checklist for the Beginner Naturalist" that she has developed. (Of course, eventually all students got to participate in both activities.)
Here's Amy and her son handing out copies of Naturally Literate at the Mary Hogan release.
Amy's mission is to get Vermont kids to tune into the plant and animal species living in the environment that surrounds them. She hopes that children will use her book to keep a record of the species they have encountered. What Amy would really like is for Salisbury Community School students--and others--to be able to demonstrate considerable "nature literacy" by the time they complete 6th grade.
Here's a slideshow of pages from her book.
You can order copies of Naturally Literate by contacting Amy at email@example.com.
Great work, Amy!!
Stream flow study in Stowe
I got a great report from Stowe Elementary's Mike Rapoport. After his tenth TIC season--get that: tenth!--Mike and his students released 191 fry. Way to go Stowe! Mike also sent me this beautiful photo of him and his class.
When I commented on his hardiness for standing in the river in shorts, Mike confessed that the photo was taken last September.
What I also learned is that on that occasion, Mike was conducting a stream flow study with his students, using colored dye. I asked Mike for more information. Here's what he provided.
It turns out that the stream flow study was part of a much larger 5th grade Ecological Interdependence curriculum. Check it out. It's very comprehensive.
Send photos and videos!
Finally, I'd like to give your TIC program exposure through this blog. Send accounts of your activities and especially photos and movies of your students' work. (It's best if you put your movies on YouTube and send me a link to them.)
Finally spring is definitely here. Enjoy it!
Ugg. Power outages! Water temp 45 degrees?! A fish-eye view of TIC. Nile watershed residents visit TIC. Castleton Village School students present. More trout photos and videos.
Power outage in the Rutland area
At 5:31 pm on May 5, Pat Bowen, of Wallingford Elementary, sent me an e-mail reporting that her school had lost its power due to a ferocious wind storm. (I was in Clinton, NJ, at the Northeast Regional meeting of TU.) Here's what I wrote Pat in response.
There are three issues.
1) Dissolved oxygen. Try to pick up one or two battery-powered aerators. Many sporting goods stores, including bait stores, will sell them. You should be able to plug one of them into your air stone. I suspect Walmart will sell them too. Places like PETCO might have them as well as air stones larger than the one that comes with the battery operated aerator.
2) Temperature. The TIC manual recommends that you keep frozen dechlorinated water in a freezer at your school. If you haven't done that, put ice cubes in a well-sealed plastic bag and put that inside another plastic bag and seal it well. You may need several of these to keep your tank's temperature from rising excessively. You'll probably need to replace these every 8 to 12 hours.
3) Filtering. We can't do much about this unless your school has a back-up generator that, using lots of LONG extension cords, you can plug your filter into it. Don't feed the fish while the power is off. If water chemistry becomes a problem, water changes would help.
Good luck! Keep me posted. Let me know how it goes. Our best hope is that the power comes back on quickly. (Make sure your custodian knows that you'll want to know when the power returns.)
So, how'd it go?
Pat borrowed a battery-powered aerator from MSES's Jenn Tifft and took the fish home with her. (I called that their first sleepover!) By 8:30 Saturday morning, the power was back on. All fish survived. Here's a photo of Pat's fish in the bucket she used to take them home.
That's right! Your eyes didn't deceive you. When I measured the temperature of the Castleton River this afternoon, it was 45 degrees! You may remember that a mere two weeks ago the temperature of the same river was 56 degrees. So, if you have a release coming up in the next week and can't check the temperature of your release stream, I'd suggest that you keep the temperature at or below 50 degrees. For those releasing in two weeks or later, I'm hopeful that streams will be into the 50s by then.
A great report from Pownal Elementary
Mike Carrano, of Pownal Elementary School, sent me a terrific GoPro video he shot inside his classroom tank. As I said to Mike, "You're fish certainly are not camera shy." Enjoy!
Mike also sent me a link to a great Bennington Banner article on the TIC program at his school. Here's a link to it and a screen shot.
And Mike let me know that the American Museum of Fly Fishing has been writing a blog about his school's TIC program and including it in their Web site. Here's a link to it.
Nile watershed visitors? No way!?
On Thursday, I got this fascinating message from Dan "Rudi" Ruddell, of White River Partnership, who supports four TIC schools in the White River drainage.
Hi Joe - Attached are some pictures of South Royalton school 3rd and 9th graders engaged in a musical presentation and discussion of river issues with members of the Nile Project, as well as the visiting artists introduction to Lisa Dragon's high schoolers' trout tank.
The Nile Project is a collective of 35 musicians from 11 nations that share the resources of the Nile River. They presented a fascinating window into the challenges of bridging widely divergent world views to foster greater harmony and understanding among those bound by a common thread. As Mary Russ quipped afterward: "Watershed work in a nutshell!" It struck me that TIC plays a very similar role to their music.
Here are the pictures Rudi sent.
Student presentations at CVS
Guy Merolle and his 6th graders at Castleton Village School enjoy the advantage of being within walking distance of the Castleton River. As a result, Guy has his students spend the year working in and analyzing the characteristics of that trout-bearing waterway.
On April 28, Castleton University Associate Professor of Biology Andy Vermilyea and I attended some very impressive presentations by Guy's 40 students. Take a look at some of the students' slides. They cover the broad range of topics and questions that the students researched.
After the presentations, Andy put the students through their paces by asking a series of probing follow-up questions. It was amazing how much the students had learned this year!
More great publicity
Jason Gragen's NewBrook School in Newfane also received some nice Brattleboro Reformer publicity on their rainy Release Day last Friday.
Two more TIC videos
Two more recent Vermont TIC videos were sent to me today. The first, from Tiffany Tucker, is of the Hartland Cooperative Nursery School fish; the second, sent by Jenn Tifft, features the fry at Middletown Springs Elementary School.
Highgate Elementary School photos
Paul Legris, of Highgate Elementary, sent me some nice photos of their tank and fis. They look healthy, Paul!
Keep up the good work!
Count before you release!! How do you catch those speedy fry? Dissection at Proctor. What do you transport fish in? Two takes on stream temperatures.
After publishing blog #21 last Thursday afternoon, I decided to hit one of the local streams for an hour or two of fly fishing. I caught (and released) my first trout of the year: a beautiful nine-inch native brown and a seven-inch brook trout that, by its colors, looked like it may have been stocked.
The back of my right hand also served as a landing pad for a virtually black mayfly, which I believe is known as Hexagenia bilineata. See photo below.
Here are some artificial flies that are designed to imitate the nymph/larval and adult versions of the March Brown.
And when I went to the Castleton River on Friday and threw in my thermometer, I found that the water was 56 degrees. That means that it rose 12 degrees in a week. Pretty amazing! If you can, start taking the temperature of your release stream.
Count those fry!
In the past, some schools have neglected to count their fish before releasing them. If you don't count them, you will probably never know how many you released. Why is that? Some teachers use what I call the "subtraction method." They make an assumption about how many eggs they started with and then subtract the eggs and fish they know they lost. But this approach, for reasons identified below, is never accurate. Indeed, some teachers I've worked with have discovered that their actual total number of fish is two or more dozen more that they thought they had. Sometimes it's fewer. Here are some explanations.
So, what's the best way to count them?
I know at least one teacher who builds counting the fry into the Release Day process. He sets up a recording station staffed by a couple of students. Then each team that has been given fry and released them goes to the recording station to report the number they released.
Most teachers, however, count fry as they remove them from the tank and transfer them to whatever container (more on containers later) they are going to use to transport the fry to the stream.
Here's what I recommend.
Dissection at Proctor Elementary School
On Friday, Danielle Fagan, at Proctor Elementary School, sent me a report and some photos of a dissection activity conducted by community volunteer Trip Westcott. Here's what Danielle had to say after the activity.
Thanks so much for teaching us about the anatomy of a trout. Everyone--the students, principal, and teachers present--thought it was very cool, especially the stomach contents. Later, we took a closer look at the scales, fin, and eyeball under the microscope.
Danielle sent these photos. As you can see, Danielle used the classroom's digital camera to project onto the screen an image of Trip's dissection work.
So how do you transport fish on Release Day?
You've been working very hard since January to keep your fish healthy. That has included ensuring the tank water was cool and well aerated. On Release Day you'll have to worry about these issues too.
Back on March 13, I wrote a blog post that included a section on adapting a traditional 48-quart picnic cooler so that it is aerated, using an inexpensive battery-powered bubbler, and so that you can easily monitor the temperature of the water. (This also assumed that you froze dechlorinated water in plastic bottles and had them on hand in case you needed to use them to keep the temperature cool.)
If you can put together something similar, it will give you lots of options for Release Day scheduling. If you can't, you need to think about how long your fish can manage without aeration. Here's a photo of happy fry in an aerated cooler.
Shawn Nailor, TIC liaison for the Mad Dog chapter of Trout Unlimited, wrote me with this question:
Question for you; any idea on how long the fish could stay in water without aeration and chilling? I'm trying to get a sense if a release spot is near a school if just a cooler with water could work for an hour.
I didn't have a good answer for Shawn, so I turned to the person I depend on most in these circumstances.
Here is his response.
When I transport fish to a release site, I aerate my cooler because I arrive early to collect the fish and get to the release site before the school buses. Generally when we're ready to start the release of fish I have someone help me carry the cooler to the stream. At that time I remove the aerator. I have never had fish die during the next hour and half to two hours during which kids rotate to the various stations of the release. I keep the cooler in the shade and will add water from the stream to replace that which the kids use up filling their cups. This helps keep the water in the cooler cool and aerated. I carry a battery operated aerator just in case it is a very warm day and feel the fish need the extra O2. I have probably used it once or twice. I think Shawn should be OK if he adds some stream water to the cooler as the release progresses.
Chuck Dinkel, MD TIC Coordinator
Here are two more ideas:
What temperatures are the streams?
Earlier in this post I mentioned that the Castleton River was all the way up to 56 degrees. Well, not all streams are that warm.
On Monday I spent an hour fishing Mad Tom Brook, which drains Bromley Mountain and hits Batten Kill in the town of East Dorset.
On a beautiful, sunny day (as you can see from the photo), MTB was 50 degrees. This means that you can't rely on my reports of stream conditions, especially if you live and work in a fairly different part of the state. Instead, it would be best if, within four or five days of your release date, you could plunk a thermometer into your stream (or an appropriate local surrogate) and take its temp.
These next few weeks will be very busy!
Have a great Release Day!
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.