Nice newspaper article. Photos of Lincoln trout. Pownal video. Fly tying at LES. The WHERE of Release Day. Stream tables!
Great article on Fairfax TIC students!
Melinda Carpenter, of Bellows Free Academy, sent me this regarding an article that appeared in the St. Albans Messenger about the TIC program at BFA-Fairfax and, especially, the excellent civic work their students did in response to Governor Scott's decision to close the Salisbury hatchery.
Today The Messenger came to our 6th grade classroom to talk to students about the Trout in the Classroom project and to learn more about how important it is to us.
Students did a wonderful job explaining all the things they do on a daily basis to maintain the fish and how they have advocated to keep the program going.
Thanks very much,
Here's a screenshot of the article, which is also a link to the newspaper's Web site.
Devin Schrock, of Lincoln Community School, perhaps Vermont's highest elevation school, sent me these photos of their good-looking fish. Enjoy!
Mike Carrano, at Pownal Elementary School, is one of our more experienced and successful TIC teachers. He also takes a unique approach by doubling up on filters and, this year, using three aerators. If you look at the video he sent me (below), you can't help but be impressed by the number of fish in his tank.
I asked Mike how many eggs he started with. He said 258, and that he now has between 220 and 230.
Last year, Mike's fish got very large, some exceeding three inches in length. I told Mike that, if his fish get as big as they did last year, his tank will be supporting quite a biomass total (the average weight of each fish multiplied by the number of fish). I'm sure that he couldn't get away with that if he didn't use two filters and three bubblers.
He also provided these details:
We are doing well here. We received our eggs on 1/16. On 1/31 all our eggs hatched out at a water temperature of 42. March 6 was our swim up, and the water temperature was 50. On March 18 we released our trout into the tank. Some of the bigger trout in our tank are around 1.5” long.
Congratulations, Mike and students!
Ludlow fly tyers
In previous blogs I've written about the wonderful contributions that Trout Unlimited volunteer Kathy Ehlers makes to several of our southwestern Vermont TIC schools, especially the program at Ludlow Elementary School.
Most recently, Kathy visited LES to demonstrate and teach students about fly tying. LES teacher Lisa Marks sent me these photos.
By the way, we have some equally cool things happening in Bennington (and, for all I know, in other areas of the state as well), where TU volunteers Christian Betit and Barry Mayer have been teaching students fly casting and fly tying in an after-school program. Unfortunately, I can't get either Barry or Christian to send me any pictures! (Hint, hint.)
The perfect release site
Experienced TIC teachers probably know where they want to release their fish: the place where they released them last year. But many new TIC teachers are probably looking for the right location, and even some experienced teachers may realize that there could be an even better site out there. For those still trying to decide where to release their fish, what should be considered?
Depending on where your school is located, you may have several fabulous release site options close by or you may have no good options without traveling a distance.
What's the perfect release site? I often describe it as "skinny water," a small tributary brook that's just big enough to support trout and the bugs that will sustain them but not so big that anyone, not even your most over-eager young student, can get into trouble. The other advantage of a small upland brook is that your fry are far less likely to get gobbled up within the first hours by hungry trout.
Here is my wish list of the ideal characteristics of a great release stream:
Below I've inserted a few pictures of streams that I consider good release sites.
What you don't want is a broad, deep stream or river, where kids could get into trouble.
Have a back-up plan too
Another thought: you can't count on the weather, and sometimes on your scheduled Release Day, your first-choice release site might be in flood stage.
Here's a photo I took this afternoon of the Castleton River not far from my house. As you can see, it's way out of its banks and overflowing into a nearby field. Our area got a lot of rain Sunday night and Monday, and almost four days later, this local stream is still at flood stage. If you had planned to hold your Release Day activities in this location, you'd be in trouble.
If instead you had originally chosen a small brook at higher elevation, you probably wouldn't be facing these problems. Why's that? Water flows downhill, right?
Water moves through a drainage consistent with the FIFO principle: first in, first out. When a heavy rain hits a mountain stream, waters rise fairly quickly, but water levels in those streams also drop equally quickly, often within a few hours of the end of the rain. (Actually, rain doesn't initially affect a mountain stream that much because such streams are typically surrounded by porous ground that, unless it's frozen or already saturated, can absorb a good deal of the early rain.)
While valley rivers can take a little longer to fill up (because it takes a while for the water in the tributary streams to drain down into them), when they do fill up, they take much longer to return to normal levels, usually several days. They are after all draining the accumulated precipitation of a whole watershed.
At the same time this afternoon that the Castleton River was way out of its banks (photo above), its nearby tributary, Gully Brook, looked like this:
That site on Gully Brook, which would have been perfect for Release Day activities even today, was less than three miles from the flooded Castleton River location I photographed. By the way, the flooded Castleton River was 480 feet above sea level; the Gully Brook site was 700 feet higher, at 1180 feet in elevation.
So, if for whatever reasons, you prefer to use a lowland stream or river as your first-choice Release Day location, something we don't particularly recommend, try to also find a small-stream alternative higher up in the mountains.
Schedule a back-up date
It's always a good idea to schedule two Release Day dates, the second being your back-up date in case terrible weather or bad stream conditions prevail on your primary date. If you want the help of a sizable number of volunteers, you should let them know about both dates and ask them to "pencil them in" on their calendars.
In talking about water flowing downhill, we're getting into issues of hydrology and that, of course, is critically important to studying brook trout habitat.
A stream table is a great way to demonstrate hydrological phenomena to your students. This would show them, for example, how small, high-gradient streams (ones that drop steeply) lose the extra water dumped by a heavy rain long before lowland streams do.
Stream tables can be purchased; they can also be made. I'm even aware that some of Vermont's natural resource conservation districts own water tables and are probably willing to lend them to schools and maybe even send along an environmental scientist to demonstrate its use.
Here are a few YouTube videos that show how stream tables can be used as a teaching tool.
Poor bent baby!
Kelly Hill, of Essex High School, sent me this report on Monday:
For the most part our trout have been doing really well. We just had one die over the weekend, and the most noticeable issue was that it looked a bit bent. We are noticing another one today that seems bent as well and thought we would check in with you.
I've been told that a small number of deformities is completely normal in trout, just as it is in humans and other species.
Kelly sent this photo of her surviving bent fry.
Kelly also said,
Most of the trout are around two inches long.
That's not normal! Well, at least I suspect most TIC trout around the state are significantly smaller than two inches. How big are yours?
Art in the Classroom
Ludlow Elementary School enjoys the benefits of working with TIC Trout Unlimited volunteer Kathy Ehlers. Along with being a generous and dedicated supporter of LES and an excellent fisher-person, Kathy is also a talented artist whose favorite subjects are anything related to the outdoors. LES teacher Lisa Marks sent me these photos of one of the days Kathy visited her students.
Be careful with your temperature probe!
For the first time this year, two teachers at different TIC schools arrived at their classrooms (in the same week!) only to discover their tanks at 33 degrees and their chillers iced up! What?!
In both cases it quickly became clear that a student on tank duty had accidentally left the chiller's temperature probe out of the tank, so the chiller was reading the temperature of the room and--at the risk of anthropomorphizing--couldn't understand why, in spite of its best efforts, the temperature refused to go down.
I haven't gotten reports from the schools yet, but I'm hoping that most of their fish survived the stress of that sudden deep freeze. Certainly in nature in the dead of winter, streams will get close to freezing temperatures. That doesn't happen overnight though, and in January and February the smallest trout will be the "toddlers" who were born the previous spring, so presumably they might be hardier than our young fry.
Highgate Elementary School
Paul Legris, of Highgate Elementary School, sent me these photos of his tank and happy kids.
Getting help for your Release Day
Unless you intend a super "short and sweet" release day--and some teachers who engage their kids in fieldwork all year long do--you'll probably want to plan a number of fun and interesting activities on Release Day. I mentioned some of the options for RD activities in my April 2, 2018, blog, but the question of how ambitious your RD can be hinges on the number of people you can recruit to help. Who might some of those potential helpers be?
Many teachers recruit Release Day helpers both from within and without the school community. Here are some possibilities:
Regional Trout Unlimited chapter TIC liaisons
If you don't know where to find the volunteers you need, contact your local TU TIC liaison. They might be able to help. Here they are:
Natural Resources Conservation Districts
I mentioned above that potential volunteers/partners might be found at one of the "natural resources conservation districts" that are spread across the state. Here's a map of their distribution. Not every county has a NRCD, but many do.
These groups typically have staff with considerable expertise in environmental science, especially related to rivers and streams. The NRCDs also often own equipment that can be used at Release Days.
Click the button below to get more information on each of the state's NRCDs.
VERMONT'S NATURAL RESOURCES CONSERVATION DISTRICTS
All across the state of Vermont you will find a variety of watershed groups. Here's a map of their distribution. I bet there's one near your school. (Click on the map to access a cool interactive watershed group Web page.)
Many of those blue water droplets represent groups that have a special interest in a local river. Some focus not so much on a single river but rather on the extended watershed of that river. Here are some of the rivers covered by these organizations:
Below I've provided a link to a Web page listing all these organizations as well as others.
RIVER AND WATERSHED GROUPS
Here's an example of the Web site of just one of these groups.
Members of the various Audubon Society chapters around the state have also in the past assisted schools with their Release Days. Here is some contact information on each of Vermont's seven Audubon Society chapters. I'll bet there's one in your neighborhood!
UVM Sea Grant program
Finally, schools in the Lake Champlain drainage might be able to get Release Day (and other) support for TIC fieldwork from the faculty and students of UVM's Sea Grant program. Such a collaboration would also allow your students to meet and work with inspiring young adults who are pursuing careers in science.
Click the logo below to go to the Sea Grant Web site.
Schedule your Release Day!
TIC programs generally release their trout in the second half of May or the first two weeks of June. So it's time to get serious about planning Release Day. In this and future blogs, I'll address the four questions that have to be considered when thinking about Release Day:
On the subject of WHAT
First-time TIC teachers should watch a few of the Release Day videos we have on this Web site (click link to access a page of RD videos). Here's one example of such a video, but there are many more.
Release Days can range from simple, 20-minute long events to four-hour long programs that include several different fieldwork activities. Chapter 9 of the current VTTIC Manual describes a "sample agenda" for a TIC release day.
Schools that take the brief approach to Release Day are typically those that have engaged their students in fieldwork all year long. For example, Guy Merolle, science teacher at my local school, Castleton Village School, enjoys the luxury (because of the proximity of a nearby trout stream) of having his kids doing work in the Castleton River, just north of CVS, from August to June.
When the end of the TIC program approaches, Guy doesn't need to provide additional fieldwork opportunities for his students, so he embeds the release of their fish into an annual service project that the whole school performs at Lake Bomoseen State Park. All the kids are transported to their release site. Guy and some students make a few speeches; they put their fry into a tributary of the Castleton River; everybody cheers; and then they get back on the buses and go on to Lake Bomoseen, where they pull water chestnuts or some other invasive species. A great Release Day for CVS!
But most schools don't have the option of year-round fieldwork, so they choose to augment the release of their fish with fieldwork activities. Here's a list of activities that many Vermont schools have included in past Release Days.
You can find details on how to conduct these various activities (a) in our VTTIC Google Docs folder, (b) at the national TIC Web site, or (c) on the Internet. Before you get committed to an ambitious, exciting plan for Release Day, however, make sure you can recruit the volunteers you'll need. I'll address the question of WHO can help with your RD in my next blog.
If I've listed above an activity you'd like to use on your Release Day and you can't find details on how to conduct it, let me know and I'll provide instructions or a description of the activity.
Think about TRANSPORTATION
Except for those few schools who can walk their kids to a local stream--lucky you!--just about everyone else has to arrange transportation. At a private school that might mean parent cars, but usually it means scheduling a school bus. Occasionally, at a school with a really tight budget, it might even mean fundraising (or finding a donor) to cover the cost of the bus.
Red Fox School
I was able to visit Sarah Dube, at the Red Fox School, a few weeks ago. While there, I got to see the impressive stand that a grandparent built. Here are some pictures I took that day of the stand, trout art, and a step stool that's perfect for looking into and working on a tall tank. I found a folding two-step Cosco-brand version available at Walmart here for $25.27.
Water chemistry worries
Sadly, some of our TIC teachers (and I) are losing sleep over water chemistry challenges. A good example is what's going on at Mt. Anthony Union Middle School, where Emily Hunter has struggled for many days to bring down high nitrite and nitrate levels. Starting about five days ago, Emily's nitrite hit 3 ppm and her nitrate reached 80 ppm.
Over the next few days, Emily did several water changes, and her nitrate dropped some, reaching 20 ppm today, but nitrite remained high, even registering 5 ppm a couple of days ago.
So what can we advise Emily?
Dropping the basket at SLC
Here's a video that Danielle Levine, of Schoolhouse Learning Center, sent me of the day she and her students lowered the breeder basket and released their fry into the wide world of their 55-gallon tank.
Danielle also provided these photos of her liberated fish.
Thanks for those submissions, Danielle!
Fishy infections and other problems
Along with water chemistry challenges, some of our schools have been trying to deal with tank fungus and fish infections.
This message from Audrey Halpert, at Albert Bridge School, provides an example of one such problem.
I am having a massive die-off. Most seemed to be up and feeding well for two or three weeks then they started to get skinny and lie on the bottom of the basket. The dead and dying each have white patches that look like fungus on their operculum. We have lost 20 of our 70 and there are 10-15 more sick. I have tried to separate sick from healthy in separate baskets. Our water parameters are fine except the high Gh. What can I do? I don’t want to lose them all. Is this ick?
By the way, Audrey's water chemistry numbers were all perfect.
Here are a couple of pictures of Audrey's fish with their "white patches."
I asked Audrey if the white stuff looked like Saprolegnia. She responded with:
Joe, I wouldn’t say it's that cottony or fluffy, but maybe I should scrape some and look at it under a microscope. It definitely shows up on the operculum, not on other parts of the body yet. It seems to affect their breathing. I'm afraid I may lose them all.
After she looked at it under a microscope, she also though it didn't look like ich, which two different experts on the TIC/SIC network suggested it might be.
Stumped, I sent Audrey's photos to Dartmouth Professor Robb Cramer. He sent me this reply:
Based on those 2 photos, it does not look like a fungus to me. It is hard to say what it is based on those 2 photos. The lack of feeding indicates something is wrong, but super hard to figure out the cause with limited information. There is some chance it is a disease called Columanaris, but just speculating.
My global advice in these situations is to do a 50% water change ASAP. Clean the gravel with the siphon. Separate any sick fish and put them in another small tank if you can.
Audrey came back with the photo below and this:
It’s odd that the patches are always on the gills.
I may remove the dying to a home tank in a cool workroom I think they are goners any way.
Even though things weren't going well, and I hadn't been able to be helpful at all, I complimented Audrey on her photography skills. See these closeups (the second is taken at a later date).
Robb recommended two treatments, first an API fish antibiotic and, if that didn't solve the problem, an API anti-fungal treatment. They look like this.
After all Audrey's worrying and Robb and Audrey's efforts, it's not clear that her fish are going to make it.
Most of these long-distance consultations aren't this challenging and work out better.
By the way, when I complimented Audrey for the great closeup photos she was sending, she said that she took them using a ProScope attachment for her iPad. Here's what that $149 device looks like.
Two-headed trout still with us!
Mary Fiedler, of Cambridge Elementary School, sent this picture on 3/15/18 of her school's two-headed alevin. Still hanging in there!
Too much suction!
Jaclyn Bristol, of Guilford Central School, sent me this e-mail.
We have a high number of fish dying this week. It looks like even with our filter end covered, they get sucked onto it and cannot get off, resulting in them dying. We have moved them back into the cribs for now. We are down to 77 fish. What are the rough die rates?
I told Jaclyn that the problem was that her fish weren't yet strong enough to swim off the filter-end netting. Her decision to put the trout back into the breeder basket was a good one. That way they can get stronger and should be able to resist the suck of the filter in a week or two. Another option is to reduce the rate of flow of the filter. (We normally urge teachers to keep their filters at maximum flow, but this situation is an exception to that rule.)
For those who have the AquaClear 110 filter, page 12 of your Instruction Manual contains this image, showing where the nob is to adjust flow rate. (It's that red thing poking up!)
Most other filters will have similar ways to adjust flow rate.
Regarding Jaclyn's question about mortality rates, I answered that the 2016-2017 survival rate was 59% and that the rate last year (2017-2018) was 47%.
Here is a ranked list of the principal causes of mortality during 2017-2018. The number at the end of each line is the number of schools (of the 21 completing a Survey Monkey questionnaire I sent them) indicating that that particular item was a principal cause of their fish losses.
This is why we worry so much about catching the swim-up stage.
Send your swim-up data! We still need to hear from more schools.
Student TIC presentation
Suzanne Alfano, of Maple Street School, sent me a link to a great Google Slides presentation by her 5th grade students. Here's what Suzanne said in sending me the link.
Here is a copy of the Google Slides presentation that the 5th graders gave at our all-school meeting. I gave the students the format for what they should include, and they did all the research and slide building.
The close-ups that the one teacher is providing are unbelievable! (Way to go, Danielle!)
We are collaborating with the history teacher and English teacher on a civics/letter writing/science lesson.
Click the image above to go to the presentation by Suzanne's students.
NH students work on habitat
The current issue of the fine publication Forest Notes contains a great story about how students at Kearsarge Regional High School are partnering with the Forest Society to improve native brook trout habitat. Here's what the story looks like. Click on either of the page images below or on the name of the magazine (above) to access the story, which you'll find on pages 12 and 13.
Research on the Batten Kill
Vermont Fish and Wildlife fisheries biologist Lee Simard recently sent me several interesting reports on the Batten Kill, its trout population, and the work that has been done to improve trout habitat on what's known in southwestern Vermont as "the Kill."
Depending on the age, reading ability, and interest of your students, these might make good "complex texts" for them to read. Whether or not it's appropriate reading material for your students, there's a lot to be learned about trout, trout habitat, and the kind of scientific research that career fisheries biologists engage in.
Here are the four research reports.
Using telemetry to track trout movement
Click on the title above to access the study. The image below shows you what a telemetry transmitter looks like.
Assessment of "cover" on Batten Kill
Click on the title above to access this report, which studied not only the Batten Kill but four other Vermont rivers, some of which might be closer to you: the Castleton, Dog, Mettawee, and Poultney Rivers.
Trout population response to cover
Click on the title above to access the study. Here's a photo of the kind of in-stream "cover habitat" that can increase trout populations.
Also, click on the image below to see the Fish and Wildlife Department's plan for management of the Batten Kill. (I think you can probably find other river management plans that the F&W Department has developed.)
It's me again: What's the relationship between DI and swim-up?
Every year, we want to refine our understanding of the relationship between DI, as we calculate it using our home-grown "Temp and DI record and swim-up calculator." We can't do that without input from you.
Here's what some past data look like.
As you can see, the first signs of swim-up occurred as early as a DI of 82, but several more schools began to notice swim-up behavior when their DI hit 85. Most fish had swam up when the DI was 93. But these generalizations are based on data from just eight schools, so I'd like to expand our pool of data by including your numbers.
Here's some of the 2019 data teachers have already submitted:
So what happened at your school?
Please send in your data. Most helpful would be
Cool trout-themed designs
Lisa Marks, of Ludlow Elementary School, is always looking for previously undiscovered TIC-related materials on the Internet and in her local stores. Often she finds things I never knew of--like this.
Apparently this product line, which Lisa found in a store in Ludlow, also includes, bookmarks, tee-shirts, and refrigerator magnets.
BVS TIC media
Jeff Walker, new TIC teacher at Benson Village School, sent me some great examples of what his students are doing with TIC at his school.
Here is a photo of posters they created.
Even more unusual was the interpretive dance one of Jeff's students performed (below). Way to go Jeff and student!
Every year some if not most (all?) of our TIC tanks observe one or more forms of biological anomalies.
Here's yet another sent in on February 8 by Mary Fiedler, of Cambridge Elementary School.
Can you spot the two-headed alevin? (It's near the bottom of the image.)
Schoolhouse Learning Center images
Danielle Levine, of SchoolHouse Learning Center, sent several great images. Here's the caption she submitted with the following photo.
Our trout are swimming up and feeding. And some have escaped through a little hole in our breeder basket. We are calling them Houdini.
Based on the size and color of some of Danielle's fry, I'd guess that she and her students used the "warm and fast" temperature protocol. Good looking fish, huh?
Here's a photo of the SLC tank with their escaped "Houdini fry."
Danielle also sent me some close-up images of their beautiful fry. Thanks, Danielle. You do a service to us all by sharing these gorgeous close-up photos!
Essex High School fry
Kelly Hill, of Essex High School, sent this video of their fish. It's always great to see what the fry look like at other schools.
Nice publicity for Milton MS TIC!
Bob Wible told me about a great article that appeared in the Milton Independent. Some of the facts are a bit off, but it's great publicity for the program. Click the image below to read it.
Temperature and bacteria
A few schools are still keeping their tanks cold. We don't recommend that at this stage of the process. For one, the good bacteria we put in the tank, NovAqua Plus in our case, really don't grow at temperatures below 50. This means that they will not become those "biological machines" that
(You'll control nitrate levels by periodic partial water changes.)
Secondly, at colder temperatures, you may find that your alevin/fry aren't likely to swim up. The swim-up instinct is correlated with a certain degree of development--a DI of approximately 85 by our method of calculation. But it's also tied to light and to water temperature. That's why at this point we urge you to raise your temperature to 52 degrees and to remove the top and front foam panels during the school day.
Unusually for me, I haven't written a new blog post in several weeks. Normally I try to post a new blog every five to seven days, but a trifecta of distractions--running for our town's select board, a two-week visit with my younger daughter's family in MD, and 10 days of a bad cold--cut into my time at the keyboard.
I have, however, been hearing from and responding to TIC teachers, including questions related to swim-up.
A fair number of teachers have reported that their fish have swum up and are eating. Yea! In several of those cases, teachers found that the swim-up occurred at or around a DI of 85. Yea, again! (That's what past experience has suggested might be the moment when swim-up would occur, but that conclusion is based on too little data, so we desperately want more data to modify or confirm our DI target.
In a few cases, however, teachers whose DIs were in the neighborhood of 85 reported that they couldn't observe any swim-up activity. When I asked follow up questions, I learned that the water in those tanks was in the mid-40s, and the teachers still had the tank fully shrouded with foam. So, if your fish haven't swum up yet, do this:
Problems across TIC country
Most days those of us on the national TIC/SIC e-mail network get several messages, either from teachers asking questions or from more experienced teachers and volunteers who think they might have answers to offer. Here are some representative exchanges.
On 2/18, teacher Michele Ferrel posted this message:
My fish are eating each other and have been since the beginning. As of Friday I was down to 11 fish. Ten fish have been eaten in less than two weeks. I am trying to balance feeding them the right amount without creating too much waste to make the parameters go too high. I have been doing this for years and this is the first time I have had fish being eaten at this rate.
Later that day, Maryland TIC coordinator Chuck Dinkel offered this response:
When predation takes place in the tank, the big fish eat the little ones. Usually there are only a few big fish involved in the predation. One of the suggestions we make to teachers in Maryland who experience this problem is to net the big fish, put the breeder basket back in your tank, and give the big fish a "time out."
One of the reasons that there can be a big size difference among the fish in your tank is that the smaller fish hang out near the bottom and don't get much of the food added to the tank because it tends to float awhile before sinking, The bigger fish get it first.
The solution is to clear a quarter of your tank's bottom at one of the ends. Then fill a beaker with a small amount of tank water. Add fish food to this water and let it soak until it sinks. Suck it up with your turkey baster, point the baster towards the gravel-free portion of the tank and shoot the food to that area. The bottom-dwelling small fry will eat it and eventually get big enough that they don't become a meal for the big guys. You still need to put a small amount of food in the breeder basket for the big fish. Eventually the size difference will be minimized, and you can return the big fish back to the tank.
Gross build-up in hoses
On 2/19, Mary Soriano posted this (you may recalled that I described Mary as the TIC Godmother; after decades when she wasn't raising trout, she just rejoined the program this year):
Hi there. Our levels are testing good but look at our piping. Is this normal? My chiller from 30 years ago was a canister chiller so I didn’t have piping like this. Anyone else experience this?
Here are two photos Mary attached to her e-mail.
One of the first responses came from "Stetson," of the Arizona TIC program, who wrote:
Those are the clumps of cells that make up the colonies of your nitrifying bacteria, which can be opaque white to brownish in color . What you see are actually clumps of bacteria stuck together in their own slim matrix or as we like to say the "bacterial biofilm". Some people "worry" and are "not happy" about the appearance. That is why some filter manufacturers use colored or opaque tubing for their filters.
If you have a gram stain kit and a microscope, you may find it interesting to identify whether the bacteria are gram negative or gram positive and whether they are rod shaped or cocci.
A brush and some diluted Chlorox bleach will clean the tubing at the end of the year, or you can go to your local hardware store and get new tubing to start with next year.
Our Maryland friend Chuck Dinkel added this to the conversation:
Mary, Following up on Stetson's hose cleaning advice. Make sure you clean the hoses as soon as the fish are released. If you allow the tubing to dry out, it becomes more difficult to clean. Get a bottle brush the fits the diameter of the tubing, remove the tubing from the chiller, run a stiff piece of wire (I use electrical wire) through the tubing and then attach the bottle brush. Bend the wire around the end of the brush. You can now pull the brush all the way through the tubing and clean the entire piece of tubing. This also works for any hoses that you may have for the filter.
So you can see the benefits of our national TIC/SIC support system!
The TIC enthusiasm of youth!
While visiting my younger daughter and her family in Maryland recently, I took my four-year-old grandson to the local TIC school, North Bethesda Middle School. I loved seeing him get excited about the school's rainbow fry!
Here are a few photos of our visit to the tank. Look at that beautiful window-covering mural the kids painted to shield the tank from the sunlight!
Are your fish swimming up yet?
Some teachers have reported that their fish have swum up and are eating. These are at classrooms that used the "warm and fast" temperature protocol. Most, schools, however, have kept their tanks cooler--perhaps 43 degrees or so--in order to have the swim-up occur after the winter break.
As we've discussed both at the fall workshop and in previous blogs, the key to knowing when your fish are likely to swim up is tracking DI (Development Index). You do this by entering daily temperatures, including estimated temperatures over weekends and school breaks, in the spreadsheet titled "2019 Temp and DI record and swim-up calculator" (using the Temp entry and DI record worksheet after you've opened the spreadsheet in Excel). Even if you haven't been keeping up this spreadsheet, as long as you've been recording temperature, you can reconstruct the Temp and DI record and find out what your DI is.
So what DI are we looking for? The experiences of TIC teachers in the past suggest that a DI of 82 is the time to be hyper vigilant. We believe that most fry will start swimming up between DIs of 82 and 87.
When your fry swim up, you should try feeding them a tiny bit of food. If the alevin don't eat it fairly quickly, scoop it out and discard.
Over the next couple of weeks, it will be critical that teachers and students whose fish haven't yet swum up are watching their alevin/fry very carefully, looking for signs that the alevin are getting ready to swim up. Here's a short video that tries to explain what that swim-up readiness looks like.
Great Manchester Journal article
The Manchester Journal recently ran a nice article about the TIC program at Maple Street School.
Teacher Suzanne Alfano reached out to the editor, Darren Marcy, who became interested in the program and said that he'd like to publish a monthly article on TIC. That would be great exposure for the TIC program.
Click the image below, to read the article.
Updates on Salisbury
A lot has happened in the last week regarding Governor Scott's proposal to close the especially important Salisbury hatchery, where our trout eggs are developed.
Yesterday, outdoors writer Dennis Jensen published a piece in the Rutland Herald and the Times Argus. The image below links to the article.
A lengthy editorial, with lots of important details, also appeared in the Addison Independent. Here it is.
From what I understand, numerous TIC students, teachers, and even parents have sent letters to the governor and to local representatives. Thanks for those! They can make a difference.
Finally, on Wednesday morning, a group of interested citizens met with Governor Scott to express their concerns about the consequences of the hatchery closing. As I understand it, these groups, including Trout Unlimited, will be sending letters to the governor reiterating and expanding on their concerns.
All of this makes me hopeful that our political leaders will find an alternative to closing the hatchery. But keep sending those letters!
Salisbury hatchery could close!
Because of budget concerns, the "nursery" where our brook trout started their young lives may close. The Fish and Wildlife Department has developed a plan for the closure of the hatchery within the next year.
Click this link (or the image below) to access a Vermont Public Radio story about the possible closure.
While Vermont currently has five state hatcheries, Salisbury is particularly important because it is where what are called the "broodstock" are raised.
Broodstock are the mature, large female and male fish that provide the eggs and milt, respectively, used in the fertilization process. The closure of Salisbury could have three very serious consequences:
Assuming that we can find a way to cover the cost of the eggs and their shipment, it may be possible to continue the TIC program by obtaining eggs from an out-of-state source. This is not assured, however, because I/we would have to obtain a "Fish Importation Permit," and that would be granted only if the out-of-state source is judged to pass Vermont's "fish health standards." (Vermont's standards are based on the Northeastern Fish Health Guidelines [link to document]. Other factors, too, could be considered in reviewing our FIP application.)
So this could be a time for civic action by you and your students. If you want to go that route--some schools have already done so--contact the Governor and your local representatives (click here), explain how important the TIC program is, and tell them you don't want the Salisbury hatchery to be shut down.
Here's a link to a report titled Salisbury Fish Culture Station Decommissioning Analysis prepared by Adam Miller, Fish Culture Operational Chief for Vermont's Fish and Wildlife Department.
More great videos of alevin
The great TIC content provider, Danielle Levine, of Schoolhouse Learning Center, sent three more wonderful videos of alevin at close quarters. This is a great way to teach your students about trout anatomy and physiology. Enjoy!
That's great camera work, Danielle. Please keep those media files coming! And I encourage other teachers to send in their work too.
PS: Here's a link to Danielle's "Dinoscope" images.
You may have heard Danielle discussing "oil ... circles on its belly" with her students.
Well on 2/3/19, Marion Cross School teacher Matt Buck asked Robb Cramer and me this question:
The kids and I are curious if you know what the small circles appearing on the yolk sack are. It showed up on most, if not all, of the alevin we had out for observation.
Here's the video he was referring to.
Quickly, Matt's colleague Lindsay Putnam responded with this:
I see that all the other alevin close-ups show these structures, too. Here [click "Here" to link to technical article Lindsay found] is the only reference I could find. From this, it sounds like they are "yolk drops", which contain cholesterol. There are 2 types, vacuolated and "smooth" which are more liquid. Presumably to be absorbed? As the alevin age, the vacuolated yolk drops melt into liquid oils and the yolk sac material is all liquid in appearance.
Great observations and investigative work, Marion Cross!
White yolk sac??
On 2/4, Danielle Levine sent this question with accompanying photos.
We have a trout that has what looks like a white yolk sac. When we looked at it closer with our eyes and a microscope it seems that it has a yellow yolk like normal that is encased in a larger white sac. Has anyone seen this before? Should we be worried?
Has anyone seen this? Not having encountered this irregularity before, I told Danielle that I wasn't optimistic.
4th graders' TIC blog
Amy Newbold, of the Village School of North Bennington, sent me a link to the inaugural video blog, called Trout Tuesdays, prepared by two VSNB 4th graders.
Amy has set up the VSNB tank in the school library, so all of the students at the school have been introduced to the fish. As a result, school-wide buy-in is very high. Because of this, these two particularly enthusiastic TIC fans wanted to make sure that all of their school-mates got regular updates on how the trout were doing.
Great job, boys! We look forward to future installments of Trout Tuesday.
Science journal cover
Lisa Marks, of Ludlow Elementary School, sent me a photo of the cover of her students' science, AKA TIC, journals. Here it is:
That beautiful brook trout artwork was created by SWVTTU volunteer Kathy Ehlers. Thanks Kathy for allowing us to use your gorgeous rendering!
Wild winter weather! Fantastic videos!! Test strip question. Great presentation on stream bugs. DI and hatching.
Snowstorm, flooding, freezing!
We've had some wild weather lately. It can be hard for us humans to negotiate the snowy roads, the flooded roads, the icy roads, but think of the fish!
We enjoy the protection of our steel vehicles and then get to retreat to our heated, winterized homes. We're most fortunate. The stream-residing trout of Vermont, however, have no such protections. Ask your students to imagine what the trout might have been doing on a day like last Thursday, when many rivers looked something like this.
And what do the trout do when the rivers freeze up? What are their options when, as sometimes happens, the river ice goes all the way to the bottom?
Great videos from our teachers
Nathaniel Moore, at South Burlington High School, shared this fabulous video of, as he calls it, a "conjoined trout." Thanks so much for recording the footage, Nathaniel, and, especially, for annotating it.
Jen Grilly, of the Bridge School, sent me this video of one lone unhatched egg amidst numerous active alevin. Here's how Jen described the situation:
Life is so hard when you are trying to hatch and your sibling rams into you!
Reading the ammonia test strip
This past Monday, Lisa Marks, of Ludlow Elementary School, sent this question:
When you read the ammonia strip do you read the yellow side or the white side?
Because I haven't used the API test strip system much since we switched away from the solution-based water test kit, I needed help answering that question, so I contacted the API company. Very quickly, API Consumer Relations Technician "Taylor K." responded with this:
You should use the yellow side. That side has the regent on it to react with water.
This is important. Reading the wrong side could give you incorrect information that might be way off the actual ammonia level.
Paul Urband and Doug Zehner will be giving a presentation on macroinvertebrates to students at Shoreham Elementary School on February 6. Doug put together a very nice PowerPoint slideshow called "What will our trout eat?" for this purpose, and he and Paul invited me to share it with you. Because the file is rather large, I put it in the Google Docs folder. Click on the opening slide below or on the title above to go straight to the folder that contains the full presentation.
DI and hatching
I'm still eager to collect as much information as you can send me about what the DI was when your eggs hatched. Here are four teachers' reports:
P.S.: I'll be even more interested in getting analogous data for when, that is, at what Cumulative DI level, your fish "swim up." So keep tracking those numbers.
Joe Mark is Lead Facilitator of Vermont's Trout in the Classroom program.
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 a parent-friend 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.