Well it's over--for this year! How to take care of a "flow through" chiller before you pack it away. Excellent curriculum resources from Natasha. Lots more documentation of what you all did. Can you get me any more data??
Great GNAT video!
The combination of more Release Days than I can count, time spent cleaning and packing away stream study gear, a trip to NYC to see Hamilton, a little fishing, and a "Sailing Camp" (on Lake Bomoseen) to teach three of my grandkids to sail caused my TIC blog identity to "go dark" for--can you believe it?--20 days.
One of our southwest Vermont Release Days, that of Fisher Elementary School in Arlington, was attended by Ann Hammerle, a reporter/videographer from GNAT (Greater Northshire Area Television), who produced this excellent video of the great day we had on the Roaring Branch.
What to do before packing away a flow-through chiller
You may remember that second-year TIC teacher and all-around superwoman, Lisa Marks, of Ludlow Elementary School, lost all her fish this past year. This occurred in spite of the fact that she had had a very successful first season in 2015-2016. Several of us spent hours trying to explain this result. Was it water chemistry? Was it missing the swim-up? Or was it the black gunk that began to grow in her tank??? We never came up with a confident explanation. But when, before getting replacement fry, Lisa drained her chiller and LOTS of black gunk came out, we began to strongly suspect that this was the cause of her tank's total mortality.
So I'm pleased to be able to share with you the process Lisa, her community partner Kathy Ehlers, and Ludlow's custodian Troy Adams engaged in to properly "mothball" their chiller for the summer.
First, they took off all the hoses.
Blowing the water out of the chiller
Troy attached a hose and used an air compressor to blow out the water.
Then he attached the air compressor to the opposite side and blew it out again.
When using an air compressor, blow out the solution until no water comes out. Then rinse water through and blow our again. Make sure someone holds the tube, and WEAR GOGGLES so that you don't get get it into your eyes.
Then they poured a bleach/water solution into the chiller (one side at a time) and blew the solution out using the air compressor.
Finally, Troy poured bleach solution through the hoses and then ran water through the tubing and pushed a thin cloth through, to clean the tubing.
Thank you Lisa, Kathy, and Troy!!
Terrific curriculum ideas
Natasha Grey, of Charlotte Central School, sent me a link to the folder she developed of great TIC curriculum ideas. I highly recommend you visit Natasha's site. But I also encourage you to send me your version of this idea. Here's the link to Natasha's collection.
National TIC quilt project
Here's a photo of Emma Vastola (the one wearing a key an a lanyard) and her proud Mount Holly School class.
More RD photos
Several of you have sent me terrific photos of your Release Days. One of the largest collection of photos cam from Danielle Levine, at Schoolhouse Learning Center.
Thanks, Danielle! Danielle also sent a collection of photos across the TIC year. Here they are.
John Cioffi, of St. Albans City Elementary School, sent me this great video documenting their TIC project this year.
John also sent this link to their class Haiku Learning Web site.
Brian Crane sent these photos of Rutland Town School's first Release Day.
Anna Kovaliv, of Camels Hump Middle School, provided a nice report on their program as well as seven photos. (Because I had to "steal" the photos from a Google Doc Anna sent me, they're smaller than most.)
7th grade students have been raising trout in their science lab as part of a program sponsored by Trout Unlimited. They received 110 eggs in January and have been monitoring their development over the past five months. Watching the trout develop and understanding the changes has been a wonderful learning experience. Students monitored water chemistry and learned about nitrogen cycles.
This past week, the Grit and Spark teams released the surviving 82 trout into the Huntington River (far better than the 1% survival rate in the wild!). It was great to watch them react to their new environment. Students commented on how well their coloring camouflaged them against the sand and rocks of the stream.
Raising the trout provided a wonderful educational experience that ties in with so much of the 7th grade science curriculum. CHMS hopes to have trout in the classroom again next year. A special thanks to Trout Unlimited for supporting this program and to Bob Wible, a volunteer, who provided guidance to our team throughout the project.
Data, data, data!
Finally, if you haven't already--and many thanks to those of you who have sent in data--can you please send me your data? I'd love to get (a) water chemistry data (including information on mortality and bacteria added) and (b) your DI and swim-up data.
Several of our Vermont TIC volunteers will be reviewing all the data we get to discern patterns that we can use in improving our systems next year. Your contributions to this "learning community" effort will be most appreciated.
Have a great summer!
May fly at sunset over Island Pond
Community volunteer Kathy Ehlers sent me this picture she took of a may fly resting on the back of her hand, with a gorgeous sunset over Island Pond as a backdrop.
And here's one on my back door screen last week.
Slowly releasing salmon at NCUHS!
Chris Murphy, of North Country Union High School, sent me this great slow-motion video as his class released the salmon they raised this year into the Clyde River. If you look closely, you'll see how some of the fry get "cold feet" at the last moment and swim back into the bucket. That strategy works only for so long however. Enjoy!
Bellows Free Academy
Bellows Free Academy's Melinda Carpenter also sent me lots of terrific information on their program. Along with send me their data and reporting that they released 71 fry, Melinda provided the link below to the class's excellent Web site. Make sure, among other links, you visit their "Pictures," where you'll find a 102-photo slideshow documenting the entire TIC process from start-up to clean-up. On the same page, don't miss the Videos link. It includes six cool videos, including one of trout eating caddis larvae.
Read what BFA students wrote in the class's TIC blog. There's also a whole page of Release Day pictures. Finally, you can't miss Creative Student Perspectives!
More end-of-year and Release Day reports
Benson Village School
Second-year TIC teacher Archie Clark, at BVS, provided this summary.
The kids had a fantastic year with the fish! I felt a lot more confident with the tank and the protocol since it was my second year. We were very successful and we actually released about 150 trout. I already have new ideas to incorporate with next years batch. In fact, I have laid the ground work to do a large interdisciplinary unit timed around the release of the trout with the math and Language Arts teacher on my team. I've used the philosophy of start small to go fast later.
Albert Bridge School
Community volunteer Audrey Halpert sent me this report today on their release.
We had a rain delay last week but we finally got our trout in the river today under cloudy skies but no rain. Brian Burkholder joined us from TU and did a great fly fishing demonstration station. We did water testing, macro invertebrates, water velocity, and stream habitat assessment along with the trout release.
We released 74 trout fry. Hopefully the fry do well despite the high water.
Waterville Elementary School
WES's Erin Paquette submitted this report as well as the photos that follow.
Seventy-six trout released today in an amazing K-6 afternoon event! Even though most of the program was with the 5/6 classroom (4th grade too at times), the entire school joined us for stations: Fishing 101, Fishing time, STEM Boat Challenge, Trout Release and Macroinvertebrate Hunt, Water Painting, and a Water Quest made by the 4-6th graders with the conservation organization. The 5/6 class also created a nonfiction story walk to the events. I can send more pictures as others send them to me. We had many positive comments and the hope for next year is to do an all day event!
PS: The classroom is very quiet now that the tank is off!
How about that giant golden stonefly!
You may recall that Ludlow Elementary School was one of several Vermont TIC schools that suffered total or nearly total die-off this year.
Thanks to the generous contributions of students in Castleton, Rutland Town, and Shrewsbury, Ludlow's tank was "restocked" with 45 immigrant brookies. That permitted Lisa Marks and her students to complete the program. So it was perhaps especially exciting for them to be able to release 41 of those 45 fish. Here are pictures from their Release Day at Hawk Mountain Resort on the Black River in Plymouth.
Shrewsbury Mountain School
Sabrina McDonough and her students at SMS enjoyed beautiful weather for their Release Day in the center of Shrewsbury, on the upper Cold River, just north of the W.E. Pierce Store. (One of our RD photos is even on the store's Facebook page as I write this.)
Here are photos from that outing. The second slideshow contains pictures of the teaching sessions Sabrina's students engaged in with SMS's Pre-K students.
Poultney Elementary School
On a day that threatened and then did rain, Keith Harrington's PES TIC students again released their trout into the Poultney River behind the Green Mountain College campus. Before the release, however, students convened in the Gorge Room at GMC to present their TIC-related research.
Here are a few pictures from the day.
Poultney High School
On June 1, Kaitlin Cioffi-Grote's PHS class in Marine Biology walked from class to the bank of the Poultney River behind their school to release their 86 fish. Here are a few photos.
More fry totals
Addison County volunteer Paul Urband sent me these numbers for schools he and his sidekick Doug Zehner work with.
Whew! What a busy time of year.
Over the last two weeks, I've attended seven Release Days, with three more to go this week. And you've had your own to worry about, all of which require a lot of preparation and, after they're done, time spent cleaning, drying, and reorganizing. There's hardly time to write a blog!
Here's what my lawn looks like after a typical release day.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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!
MEMS @ Smokey House Center
The two 6th grade classes at Manchester Elementary-Middle School have enjoyed a wonderful yearlong outdoor education program through the Tutorial Center of Danby's Smokey House Center.
Starting in August, on the third Tuesday of each month, all MEMS 6th graders spent most of their school day learning in nature. Staff of the Tutorial Center introduced students as well as teachers Melissa Rice and Seth Bonnett to the diverse ecology of Smokey House's 5,000 acres. Regardless of weather, students assessed the characteristics of each habitat, conducted measurements, and studied how various aspects of the environment interact and affect each other.
(Here are pictures I took this past Tuesday, when I spent several rainy hours at Smokey House with Melissa, Seth, and their students.)
As part of these investigations, students have learned about the different water sources on the property--pond, beaver pond, brooks, stream, and vernal pools--all of which comprise the watershed of Mill Brook, the stream into which they will release their trout on May 16. One winter day when the temperature didn't break 10 degrees, students even measured the thickness of ice on Smokey House's farm pond.
As the year and this wonderful program winds down, students are now working in groups to prepare project reports, which they will deliver to two separate audiences: Smokey House and Tutorial Center staff and, on the following day, their parents. Projects include such topics as the impact the construction of a dock has on a pond and its inhabitants and developing a land-management plan for a region of the Smokey House grounds.
(After spending this terrific day with the MEMS classes, I told Melissa that I would like to interview her and her students and, with video editing help from some of her students, turn the interviews into a YouTube video. If I succeed in doing this, you'll find news of the video in a future blog.)
More wildflower photos
The time I spent with MEMS 6th graders recently gave me the opportunity to photograph a few more wildflowers. Here they are.
Wonderful Vermont ETV resources.
Every week I DVR Vermont Public Television's Outdoor Journal. Usually each half-hour episode has at least one segment that appeals to my outdoor (and TIC) interests.
I've provided a link to the YouTube video collection.
Below is an interesting piece that focuses on efforts to educate highway department personnel and others about stream dynamics and how these need to be considered when in-stream work is done, especially following a heavy storm event. It relates quite directly to the "After the Flood" article I posted as part of my March 6th blog.
The moral of the story is that everybody--citizens, property owner, scientists, bulldozer operators, sportspeople, etc.--needs to understand how streams work, what constitutes good habitat for a stream's aquatic life, and how by human intervention we could either make our streams better or worse.
The following story describes how spawning landlocked salmon leave Lake Champlain and swim up the Winooski River until they're blocked by the first of three hydroelectric dams. That's where an inventive system traps the salmon, allowing them to be netted and transported by truck to a section of the river above the third dam, where they have a chance of spawning successfully.
I think your students will like the video
Latest list of Release Day details
Here again is a link to the current list of Release Days, which now includes details on 38 schools.
Our first Release Days--two of them--will be held on Friday, May 5. On Wednesday, May 3, I will publish the next blog, which will provide some nitty gritty information on such processes as netting the trout out of the tank and transporting them. Look for that.
But in the meantime, try to get some publicity for your program and for your Release Day. Good luck!
After the early tease, spring comes SLOWLY to Vermont
I just got back from spending a week in Maryland, where my younger daughter and her family live and where on Sunday it was 84 degrees! Not so in Castleton on Friday. Instead, the temperature was struggling to get out of the 40s, and the Castleton River was a mere 44 degrees.
One day while in the D.C. area, I rented a rowboat at Fletchers Cove Boathouse and got out on the Potomac River for an hour and a half of fishing. The shad were running, and, using my 9-weight fly rod and, as you can see, a glittery gold "shad dart," I landed and released 16 of these fat and feisty anadromous fish (one pictured below). I can't think of many world capitals where, within the city limits, you can catch healthy, wild fish, much less on fly fishing gear. (Do you need to look up the definition of "anadromous"?)
This map shows you how close I was to downtown D.C., including to the White House.
Aron Merrill, of Williston Central School, sent me an interesting e-mail on Wednesday. Aron let me know when WCS will be having its Release Day (May 12 on Lewis Creek in Starksboro), but he also provided this:
We have had (fingers crossed) an amazing survival rate--so many in the tank we can't count them all. And we are running Trout Week May 8-12. Activities include: fly casting, water and trout science, lure making, fish and wildlife digest scavenger hunt, trout poetry. and art.
How cool is that!
Resources for field work
There are a number of documents available in the Google Docs collection on the VTTIC Web site that can support your efforts to learn and teach about stream.
One of these, an attractive PDF called "My Healthy Stream," was produced by Trout Unlimited.
Another, "Living in Harmony with Streams," was developed by a consortium of Vermont conservation organizations.
Here are links to the two documents.
Measuring stream speed
Along with many other potentially exciting field work projects, some TIC teachers have their students measure stream volume and speed. If you Google phrases like "measuring stream speed" or "measuring stream volume," you will find excellent instructional videos like the following.
Dissecting a trout
There's hardly anything that you can't learn to do on YouTube! That includes dissecting a trout. Here's one of many examples of videos you can find on the Internet that demonstrate the dissection process. You can use it either to (a) teach yourself how to perform a dissection in front of your students, (b) teach your students so they can dissect a trout, or (c) just have your students learn about trout anatomy by watching it.
Many supermarkets sell whole farm-raised rainbow trout, but you could also consider using locally caught warm-water fish like perch or bluegills. The anatomy will be essentially the same.
Here are three grant programs that could allow teachers to enhance their TIC work.
NCTM Accepting Applications for Projects Connecting Mathematics to Other 9-12 Grade Subject Areas
DEADLINE: November 3, 2017
Grants of up to $4,000 will be awarded for the development of senior high classroom materials or lessons that connect mathematics to other fields....
Toshiba America Foundation Accepting Applications for Science, Math Projects
Grants will be awarded to middle- and high-school teachers who are passionate about making science and mathematics more engaging for their students....
National Science Teachers Association Invites Nominations for Shell Science Teaching Award
DEADLINE: December 15, 2017
The annual $10,000 prize recognizes an outstanding classroom science teacher (K-12) who has had a positive impact on his or her students, school, and community through exemplary classroom science teaching...
Release Day schedule.
The list of dates and locations for Vermont's TIC Release Days continues to grow. The button below will take you to the latest version of the list.
But spring is here!
I started this blog post complaining about the temperature on Friday, but since then, the weather has gotten better. Here are three pictures I took this afternoon. The first is of the Castleton River near my home; the second and third are photos of trout lilies growing alongside the river. They are one of my favorite signs of spring!
If you're curious about how this delicate flower got its name, look carefully at one of the leaves.
Spring has hit the southland! Release Days starting to be scheduled. Hatchery field trip. More RD ideas.
It hit 83 degrees in Rutland County yesterday! The pussy willows along the Mettawee River in Pawlet were almost ready to pop.
Here's more evidence of the advancing season. Aren't these early spring yellows and reds beautiful?
Partial schedule of Release Days
Many schools are progressing with their Release Day planning. Here's a list of schools I've heard from with some of the particulars.
A close-up from Danielle
See the photo Danielle Levine, at School house Learning Center, sent me last week. Here's what Danielle said in transmitting the picture:
Check out how you can still see the trout anatomy through the trout! We were excited to see the digestive system as well as the heart and brain. So cool!
More ideas about Release Day
I belong to a national TIC e-mail group that often provides questions and answers of general interest. Recently, Kelsey Plourde, a New Hampshire teacher, posted the following question.
Wondering about some of your best strategies for release day! Ideally, I'd love to have each student release their own fish- them each with their own small container. How long can they be contained in a baggie or small container? I'm thinking about the goldfish that you can win at a carnival. If we kept the temperature cold, could this potentially work?
Here are some of the responses.
Here in Illinois, students are split into groups and rotate through a few activities. One group conducts the same water quality tests that are run on their aquarium – temperature, pH, ammonia, nitrate, nitrite, and phosphate. They compare these results to the results from the aquarium. Another group does some seining to find what insects, small bait fish, etc. are present in this stretch of the stream. The third group heads to a riffle area, and closely inspects some rocks to see what caddis, clinging mayflies, etc. may be present there. Most of the students at our TIC schools have never even been in a stream.
Regarding the method of transportation for the troutlings, we transport the trout in about a 30 quart cooler with a battery bait bucket aerator. The cooler is about ½ full with water from the aquarium. We place a zip lock bag of ice in the cooler to keep water temperature cool during transport. Once at the creek, we add some stream water to the cooler. At release time, we select a release site upstream from the prior activities, that allows the students to kneel right at the bank to release their fish. Fish are netted from the cooler by a TU volunteer or teacher, and placed one each in clear plastic party cup. We count the fish, and the students each take turns releasing. The actual release only takes about 15 – 20 minutes.
Marvin Strauch, Illinois
What we do here is require that the fish be bagged right before the release and transported in a cooler. When we get to the release site, we have a student take the temp of the release site and another take the temp of the water around the fish. We then bring the temps to within 5 degrees using mixing with the water from the release site. This may take 10-20 minutes as it can’t be rushed--especially when you are going from colder around the fish to warmer at the release site. I also go take temps at the release site days prior to the release and have the teachers adjust their chillers to that temp so the shock isn’t so great on the fish.
It depends on the age group but with the younger kids we dish the fish into small plastic clear cups and have them all hold them till we can do a mass release. We do this in about a 10-15 minute time span, so it goes pretty fast and it is usually cool here in the spring so the temp in the cup doesn’t really change. I would not hold them for a long period of time--15-20 minutes max.
For the older students we release the whole bag at once explaining that there is safety in numbers as the fish will school together.
Maggie Lindsey, South Dakota
We transport all fry in a large cooler with water from the tank and several ice packs to keep them cool. Once we get to the release site, one teacher scoops fry, one at a time, into a dixie cup while another distributes cups to children who have found and are standing at their release sites. Kids do not move around with the fish, teachers do. Once everyone has a fry, we sing "Bye-Bye, Trout" song. Kids know once they hear the song it's time to release. It's tons of fun!
Tina Minard, New Hampshire
Before the students get released for the trip, we transport our fish to the release site in coolers. As long as the creek isn't too high, they get transferred to a float box in the creek until we get back there to release them, or they stay in the cooler with the aerator. We use plastic quart containers to give the students fish, and they walk downstream to a marked off area to let them go--we put a piece of flagging across the creek to keep boots from smashing them walking back and forth.
Dave Andrews, Pennsylvania
Students in my class assess two different places on a river. Then, using the data collected, determine the best location for release (required to write an argument paper). Then on a difference day we bring a clean cooler filled with water from the tank that matches the river. We use dixie cups and each student gets to release a couple of trout. When we walk to the site, the person carrying the cooler tries there best to be steady and not slosh the fish around. Note also that we do a final assessment of habitat and look for any predators so the trout are released in the best place possible.
Sara Richards, New Hampshire
Visiting the Eisenhower hatchery
Emma Vastola, of Mount Holly School, took her 3rd and 4th graders to the Dwight D. Eisenhower National Fish Hatchery in Pittsford, on April 12. Here's what Emma said:
Our field trip to the fish hatchery in Chittenden today was a huge success! The students loved it and Henry Bouchard, the hatchery manager, gave us a great tour!
The students were able to see young alevin and fry from three different fish species (Brook Trout, Landlocked Salmon and Lake Trout) inside. Then we went outside. We were able to see fish of each species at the various stages of their life cycle. They were especially excited to see the adult fish and see a 13-year-old Lake Sturgeon!
Below are some photos.
Here's a bit of writing produced by one of Emma's 4th graders:
One rainy Wednesday, my class went to the Eisenhower Fish Hatchery in Pittsford. It was about 40 minutes from school. When we got the met our guide, Mr. Bouchard, who would give us a tour of the hatchery. The first thing we looked at where Brook Trout alevin. Then lake trout after we looked at the fish in big white tents. When we were looking at them we saw Brook Trout, Salmon, River Trout and a 13 year old Sturgeon!
Other Release Day activities
As e-mails above reveal, there are many ways to approach Release Day. Except for those schools that engage their students in fieldwork activities all year long, the vast majority of teachers plan a Release Day that includes at least some fieldwork.
Here's a link to one of the many Web pages you can find on the Internet that describes the Macro Mayhem game.
Well, today finally felt like spring! I even got out for half an hour at the end of the day to do my first stream fishing of the season. I hit a tiny brook within walking distance of my house and, even though the water temperature was well below 40, managed to catch a three-inch creek chub--well, maybe it was 2 and a half inches--on a size 16 bead-head nymph.
The tank's leaking!!
At 8:10 Wednesday morning, I got the following e-mail from Cynthia Fortin, of Northfield Middle/High School:
We have a major leak that developed! What size should we use as a replacement?
I answered Cynthia's question (55-gallon) and told her about how, on Mother's Day 2014, Mary Hogan School's Steve Flint got a call from his school's custodian, informing him that their new tank had sprung a major leak and had only an inch or two of water in it (see below).
Since no area store that sold tanks was open, Steve got to work improvising. He found the largest plastic storage bin available, filled it with treated water, and piece-by-piece transferred first the equipment--filter, chiller, aerator--to the storage bin and then the fish. Most of his fish didn't survive the mere inch of water, but the amazing thing is that 55 of them did. Nice job, Steve!
A little more than four hours later, Cynthia sent the following e-mail to Shawn Nailor, TIC liaison for the Mad Dog TU chapter, and me:
Hi Shawn and Joe!
I just purchased a new tank and it’s all set and the fish are happy! We are too! We still have 91 little ones happy to be in their bigger home (we let them out of their breeder nets today) and they seem to be doing fine. Our die-off has subsided and the ones remaining are looking strong!
Thanks so much for your support!
Release Day equipment
In the remainder of this post, I'll talk about resources that might support your Release Day activities.
Many TIC programs engage their students in stream studies, both during the school year and on Release Day. One of the most popular in-stream activities is collecting and classifying macroinvertebrates and then using the macro data to calculate the stream's "biotic index," a measure of its health.
To collect macros, a net of some sort is needed. Commercial nets--usually a rectangular or D-shaped net attached to a long handle--are available but can be expensive. I've provided links below to two examples, one (a "student" version") costs $29.95, the other, (probably designed for professionals) costs $201.
Another option is a "kick screen." A kick screen is essentially two vertical sticks with nylon netting attached to the sticks. Here's a commercial kick screen that costs $53.75.
But "kick screens" are also easy and inexpensive to make. All you need to do is buy a six-foot tomato stake and 36" of 24"-wide nylon screening at your local hardware store. Cut the stake in half, sharpen one end of each now-36" stake, and then staple or tack one end of the screening to the bottom of each stake. (You'll want to leave about two inches of stake below the bottom of the screening.) You can probably make five kick screens for under $10.
Here's a photo of MEMS students looking for bugs and other creatures on the kick screen they just used for collecting macros. Below the kick screen is a white plastic dish pan into which the students are transferring the insects.
Below is a photo of one of the eight kick screens I made a few years ago. Sometimes after a busy Release Day they need a little repair.
After your students have caught macros, what do they do with them?
If you're planning a macro collecting/classifying activity, you'll want to assemble one or more collecting kits. If, like many teachers, you choose to break your students up into small groups of four or five kids, each under the supervision of an adult volunteer, you will need a kit for each group. So, you'll have to acquire inexpensive materials.
Here's an example of a collecting kit.
None of these items was expensive, and all, with the possible exception of the pipettes, should be available locally.
I've laid out all but the "Dollar Store" wash basin on the foam board below.
Contents of collecting kit
That folder also contains a "Biotic Index" that allows students to use data on the macros they collected to calculate the health of the stream in which they were sampling.
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.