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.
Steve Flint's video
In our last blog I shared a photo of a two-headed embryo. In response, Steve Flint, of Mary Hogan School, sent me a short video of a two-headed alevin that hatched in his TIC tank two years ago. Enjoy!
Getting new ideas for TIC curricula
Two weeks ago a 3rd grade teacher in Virginia submitted a question to our TIC/SIC national e-mail group. Amy Lenz wrote, "I would love to hear how other teachers are making this program even more academically rigorous."
Two state coordinators were among those who responded, and each gave us all access to two resources I hadn't previously known about.
Judy Tumosa, watershed education specialist and TIC coordinator for NH Fish and Game, sent Amy a copy of the NH TIC Activity Guide.
Tracy Page, aquatic education coordinator for Michigan's Department of Natural Resources, sent Amy Michigan's Classroom Activity Guide for schools raising salmon.
Both of these activity guides provide numerous terrific and interesting ways in which you can extend the TIC program in your classroom. Check them out!
While we're on the subject, I should remind you of the two documents that connect TIC activities with the Common Core State Standards and the Next Generation Science Standards. Both of these are in the Google Docs collection on this Web site, but I've also linked them to those underlined phrases above.
And finally, don't overlook the curriculum resources that Trout Unlimited's national TIC coordinator maintains.
As you can see, the resources are organized by curricular area. Click here or on the image above to go directly to the TUTIC Web site.
More on mold
Jeff Walker, of Benson Village School, sent me this photo this morning and asked, "Is that mold?"
I said I thought it probably was and suggested that Jeff use his baster to remove the mold. Jeff replied that he had tried that, "But the baster didn't really do much. I think I'll have to transfer the eggs to another container and remove it then."
Then he reported:
Thanks for your help with the mold! I transferred the eggs to a beaker while I cleaned the basket and took this pic. When I got the mold out, I found that a decayed egg and a fry were caught up in the seam of the basket.
Here's a photo of his now mold-free eggs and alevin.
More unusual alevin
Laurie Graham, of Bakersfield Middle School, sent these images to Bob Wible, who forwarded them to me.
As you can see, this is a case of two alevin trying to make it through life by sharing a single yolk sac. I haven't seen that before.
Keep ice on hand!
Two teachers came back from the three-day weekend to find their chillers off and tank water temperature rapidly rising.
In one case it was likely because the school had experienced a short power outage and the chiller, plugged into a GFCI receptacle, didn't go back on after power was restored.
In the other case, the chiller's controller unit stopped functioning properly (and had to be replaced).
In both cases, what the teachers needed to do was grab those bottles of frozen dechlorinated water they were storing in a freezer in the school's kitchen and, depending on how warm the water had become, drop one or more of them into the tank.
Would you have several bottles of ice if you were to need them in a similar emergency?
I recommend four one-liter bottles.
P.S.: Because water expands when it freezes, fill your bottles only about 80% full. That way you won't blow the cap off the bottle as the water freezes!
Here's a photo Bob Wible sent me on Wednesday of a two-headed embryo in the breeder basket at Charlotte Central. Exciting, huh? (By the way, most likely this embryo will hatch and live for a short time, perhaps even several weeks. I've never known such a genetic mutation to survive to adulthood, however.)
Fabulous close-up video footage
Danielle Levine, of Schoolhouse Learning Center, sent me this wonderful YouTube video. The images are terrific, but I particularly love the enthusiasm and excitement of Danielle's young students. What a great way to introduce kids to the wonders of nature!
Danielle also sent several still images of parts of the alevin anatomy. Here they are. (If you come up with some cool photos and videos, send them along.)
Red Fox School
Here are some pictures Sarah Dube, at the Red Fox School, sent me.
Ludlow journal entry
Ludlow Elementary School 4th grade teacher Lisa Marks sent me this photo of one of her student's journal entries. It's great!
Prepare for emergencies!
As we anticipate what for much of Vermont could be a bigger winter storm than we've seen in a while, it might be a good to review steps that you can take to ensure the emergency doesn't have disastrous consequences for your fish. (Here's Friday's forecast weather map.)
So what are the risks to your trout of a big winter storm?
A power outage could be a big problem, especially if your appliances are plugged into a GFCI receptacle. (More on that later.)
First, an important point: make sure your school maintenance staff know to notify you in the case of a school power outage. Give them your contact information and explain why it's critical that they let you know as soon as they become aware of an emergency. That might include even a very brief power interruption. (See GFCI section below.)
If your school were to lose power, your filter, aerator, and, especially, your chiller would stop working. The biggest risk would be if your chiller were off for a long time, causing the temperature of your tank to rise excessively. Trout can handle temperatures into the mid-60s or even a bit higher (but not as high as 70 degrees). And the warmer the water gets, the less oxygen-carrying capacity it has. If your aerator is also not functioning, that's a double-whammy. So, (a) do everything you can to make sure you get notified if your school's power goes out and (b) take steps to address the problem. What does that mean?
If the power is going to be out for an extended period of time, you or someone else will need to get to the school to:
Many schools are using what are called
"ground-fault circuit interrupter" receptacles or outlets. They look like this.
This type of receptacle is considered safer than the conventional receptacle, but it has one decided disadvantage: when, after you've had a power outage, the electricity comes back on, the GFCI has to be manually reset. None of your appliances will have power until the receptacle is reset. So, you could have a very brief power interruption late on a Friday afternoon; and if your appliances are plugged into a GFCI, your chiller, filter, and aerator could be off for the entire weekend unless someone goes in to reset the outlet.
Here's a video that shows you how to reset a GFCI receptacle.
Even if the power remains on, a big snowstorm might mean the cancelation of school for several days. That could be a problem too. In the early stages of the TIC cycle, you could have a mold outbreak, and if that were to go unaddressed for too long, you could lose all your eggs or alevin.
Later in the season, an undetected water chemistry crisis could wipe out your fish.
So, if at all possible, someone should be checking the tank every two or, at worst, three days. That doesn't have to be you, especially if you live far away. In that case, try to recruit either one of your school maintenance staff/custodians or a colleague who lives near the school. Whoever is going to be doing the checking needs access permission, that is, a key. They also need some training. See Appendix 12, page 54, of the current Manual for some suggestions on emergency preparedness.
To be ready for a winter weather emergency:
In a future post, I'll address some of the other things that can go wrong with a TIC set-up.
They've started hatching!
Bob Wible sent me this cute "first baby of the year" birth announcement:
Please help me welcome our first hatched of the season. Delivered into the loving arms of the Bakersfield School on January 10 at 3:37pm. The newly hatched and family receives a year’s supply of food and a free ride to a local stream when he or she is of an appropriate age.
Alevin and family are doing fine.
Here's a photo Bob sent me. Can you spot the baby?
If you had difficulty finding the alevin in the photo above, here's an enlargement of it.
But also look down and to the right of the alevin. I think that might be the start of some mold, or it could be the old egg shell. In either case, try to get it out of there.
Are "preemies" normal?
It depends on what you mean by "normal." In any group of 100 eggs some will hatch early, some will hatch late, and many will hatch at about the time you'd expect them to.
It's just like human gestation. On average, women tend to deliver 280 days, or 40 weeks, after conception, but few deliver exactly at that time. The vast majority, however, will deliver in the four weeks that bracket the due date (from two weeks before the due date to two weeks after the due date). But some babies come much earlier than their due date, and a few are more than two weeks late.
Here's a chart of human gestation. Perhaps your students can produce a similar column chart of brook trout hatching dates.
Look out for mold!
A number of schools have reported finding mold on or near their eggs. Here's a photo Sarah Stebbins, of Cold Hollow Career Center, sent to a few of us.
Often this is the result of decaying egg shells. Regardless of the cause, it's very important to remove discarded egg shells and anything that looks like mold. Use your turkey baster to do this.
Magnified image of embryo
Danielle Levine, of Schoolhouse Learning Center, sent me several images of one of their embryos that she took using their "Dino-lite" microscope. Pretty cool!
Temperature and swim-up
As we've said often, temperature is the principal determinant of how quickly your fish develop. We've also said that in the past we've lost most of our fish during the swim-up stage, presumably because teachers didn't notice that their fish were swimming up and, therefore, needed to be fed (a tiny bit of food).
The challenges of noticing the swim-up stage can be greatly complicated by school vacations. So, if at all possible, you want to make sure that your fish don't swim up while you're away from your classroom. We do this by working with the spreadsheet provided on the Managing Swim-up and DI page of this Web site.
Using the details that pertained to SWVTTU schools, namely, that when eggs were delivered on 1/8/19, their Cumulative DI was 45.025, I've provided below three scenarios of how you might manage swim-up by regulating temperature. (The details will be slightly different if you got your eggs on a different date. You can use the "NEW 2019 Temp and DI record and swim-up calculator" to perform your own calculations.)
SCENARIO #1, Hot and Fast
SCENARIO #3, Vacation ends 3/4
In deciding how to manage temperature and the swim-up stage, it's critical that you plan to keep the fry in the breeder basket for 10 days to two weeks after they are all feeding. If you release the fry too early, some are not likely to feed effectively in the "big waters" of the 55-gallon tank. These fry, which get skinnier and skinnier and are called "pinheads," eventually die.
An early snow day!
Since it looks like quite a few Vermont schools are having a first snow day today and considering that some teachers may have a little extra time to spend on the Internet, I decided to publish the second blog post of the week.
Yesterday, eight volunteers delivered 3,000 eggs to 25 Southwestern Vermont TU and five Connecticut River Valley TU schools. Here are some photos from our "egg marathon." (I'm pretty sure additional deliveries were taking place in other regions of the state.)
Advice for new trout moms and dads
Our little eggs--they are small, aren't they!--are at the most delicate stage of their existence, and they need TLC. Here's some advice for their care during this tender period of development:
Egg delivery in Ludlow
Lisa Marks, 4th grade teacher at Ludlow Elementary School, sent these photos of when VTTIC volunteer Kathy Ehlers brought the eggs to LES.
Some unplanned "sleepovers"
At least two of our new TIC schools weren't quite ready to receive their eggs yesterday. Their tanks were still way to warm. So the volunteer deliverers improvised. They recruited two other area schools to offer to "babysit" their eggs for a few days. I've begun to speak of this as the first sleepover for these little babies. I hope they had a wonderful time!
Data, data, data!
Experienced TIC teachers probably get sick of me saying this, but it's important that you keep good data records, using two spreadsheets that I've linked to below. Why is this important? Well, for one, regularly using the "NEW 2019 Temp and DI record and swim-up calculator" spreadsheet will almost ensure that you don't miss the swim-up stage, the time frame when, as I said, most schools lose most of their fish. (Once all your fish are "swimming up," you can stop entering data into this file.)
The other reason why it's important that teachers keep good records (and share them with our TIC support team near the end of the project) is that we are trying to learn and improve our program every year. There's surprisingly little scientific literature about what we're doing, that is, trying to raise sensitive brook trout in a classroom tank. So I think of our whole statewide TIC team of teachers as a "learning community." Together, by pooling our data and experiences, we can learn more about how to do TIC right every successive year.
The spreadsheet you should enter data into now and up to the day you release your fish is this file: "Template for TIC data entry 2019."
Many teachers set up a schedule whereby all students, working in small teams, will do water testing for a couple of weeks. But often these teachers also assign the job of recording the data (in the spreadsheet mentioned above) to a couple of the class's more responsible students. What's critical is that the students overseeing the whole water testing process and performing data entry make sure (a) that water testing gets done when it's supposed to and (b) that it's done and recorded accurately.
National TIC/SIC Quilt Project!
Annually for the past several years, Trout Unlimited's national coordinator of TIC/SIC--these days Tara Granke--has organized a Quilt Project. Many of our Vermont schools have participated and have reported that it was a fun and rewarding learning experience for teachers and students alike.
Here are some photos of the wonderful and unique quilts produced by TIC students, mostly in Vermont schools. (As we learned at our TIC workshop this fall, last year Wallingford Elementary School decided to turn their collection of quilt squares into a beautiful book rather than a quilt.)
The idea behind the Quilt Project is the following:
Consider signing up! Here are the details from Tara:
Dear Educators, Coordinators, and Salmonid enthusiasts:
It's that moment you've all been waiting for: it's time to sign up for the S/TIC Quilt Square Exchange Project. This year's theme is Stream Stewards!!
Enhance STEAM learning by joining the 2019 Trout Quilt Project. Participating classes create 25 fabric art squares based on your classroom's learning in the S/TIC program. Finished squares and class letters are sent to classrooms across the country! It is a unique opportunity to share your experiences with other classrooms and you get the surprise of receiving quilt squares in the mail. The result—after sewn together—will be a beautiful, colorful quilt!
Trout Unlimited staff contact is Tara Granke, firstname.lastname@example.org.
To join or for more information visit: https://goo.gl/forms/ik8MKqaGIZBVDyGI3
Eggs and the government shutdown
Addison County schools got their eggs yesterday. Bennington, Rutland, and Windham County schools (and perhaps others) should get their eggs tomorrow. That is, depending on the weather, which I think will be okay.
Wednesday, however, doesn't look as good!
This year for the first time, we're getting our eggs from the federal Eisenhower hatchery in Pittsford, Vermont.
We had a scare when we learned that U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which oversees hatcheries, was included in the partial government shutdown.
Some of you may have seen the Rutland Herald article that described how the shutdown has affected the hatchery and its operations. Fortunately, hatchery supervisor Henry Bouchard (below) and two of his staff will continue working part-time--but unpaid--to keep their 350,000 fish alive and healthy. So, in spite of the shutdown, I expect to pick up 3,000 brook trout eggs at 8:30 tomorrow morning. Thank you, Henry!
What about water temperature?
On Monday, the water at the hatchery was 41 degrees. Last week I recommended that you set your chiller to 43 degrees. That should be just fine for now, but more on this topic below.
Your eggs will arrive in a covered container. We recommend (VTTIC Manual, Chapter 4, section D.) that you "float" the container, still securely covered, in your tank water for 20 to 30 minutes before pouring the eggs into your breeder basket. This will allow the water in the egg container to come up or down to the temperature of your tank's water.
By the way, TAKE PICTURES when your eggs arrive and as you and your students work with them.
How many eggs did you get?
In virtually every case, schools should expect to get approximately 100 eggs. Hatchery staff typically use the Von Bayer method, which involves lining eggs up side-by-side in a foot-long V-trough. This approach, however, assumes that all the eggs are of exactly the same diameter. Undoubtedly they're not. So you might have gotten 100 eggs or 122 or 81. You won't know until you count them--or have your students do so.
Some teachers challenge their students, perhaps by working in teams, to come up with an effective method for performing an accurate count. One method some teachers use is to photograph the eggs once they're spread out in a single layer on the bottom of the breeder basket. Then they either project the photo on the classroom's screen or print a few copies of the image and give them to the student teams. Let us know what your students decide to do.
If you teach older students and if some of them are very technologically minded, you might share this article with them and challenge them to replicate the methodology in this article.
Water temperature and trout development
The rate at which your eggs will hatch and, in general, the rate at which your trout will develop is directly related to water temperature.
In the early stages of development, we use Development Index (DI) to quantify and keep track of development. Here's a table that provides the DI constant that is added to Cumulative DI for every day that the water is at a certain temperature.
In this table, which is also on page 81 of the Manual, you can see that, e.g., at a temperature of 43.5 F, you will be adding a DI value of 0.720 to whatever the Cumulative Development Index had been on the previous day. By contrast, if your tank temperature was 52.1 F, you'd be adding a DI constant of 1.411 to the cumulative DI.
N.B.: This table was developed for Atlantic salmon and isn't completely accurate for brook trout, which develop more quickly than do Atlantic salmon. So, where the chart suggests that 90% of your eggs will be hatched when the Cumulative DI hits 58%, they will almost certainly all be hatched before your Cumulative DI gets to that point. Similarly, our experience has taught us that brook trout will hatch well before Cumulative DI hits 100.
DI, "swim-up," and school vacations
So, why do we care about DI? Most schools lose most of their fish during the swim-up stage, either because the teachers didn't know what the swim-up stage looked like or because the swim-up stage occurred while the teacher was away from the classroom. For that reason, I've created several Web pages, available through this site, to help teachers understand, plan for, and schedule swim-up. You'll find access to them here. This is important stuff. Please take time to review these pages.
Most teachers will want to have their alevin swim-up after the winter break. Those teachers can keep their tanks at 43 degrees F for a while. But those who want to use what we call the "Hot and Fast" approach to get their fish feeding before winter break will want to raise the tank temperature to 55 degrees F as quickly as they can while not raising it more than three degrees in any one day.
We learn more about the pre-cycling process almost every day. Last week I wrote about Steve Flint, of Mary Hogan School, whose nitrite hit 10.0. Levels of either ammonia or nitrite at or above 5.0 are highly toxic, including for the good bacteria contained in Nite-Out II. So Robb Cramer's advice to Steve was:
Rapidly dropping pH and cloudy water
Charlie Cummings, of Fisher Elementary School, recently reported two developments: (1) his pH plummeted from 7.6 to 6.0 in a single day and (2) his water became extremely cloudy.
Robb's responses were to do a 50% water change to raise the pH and that the cloudy water was a good sign. It likely indicates a "bacterial bloom" and should clear up in a couple of days.
Here's a ThatPetPlace article on the subject.
(Below is a short slideshow of Melinda Carpenter's students at Bellows Free Academy doing a water change. What kids doesn't love playing with water?)
Your bacteria need to eat too!
As our instructions say (pages 19 & 20 of the Manual), once your tank has cycled, you need to make sure that you "feed" the bacteria. That includes during the upcoming December-January break.
Since most teachers are likely to find it difficult to get into school frequently to feed their bacteria, API makes a product to do that job for you.
Here's a link to the Amazon page where you can buy this product, which is meant to feed your fish for up to 14 days.
Three weeks to egg delivery!
The Vermont Trout in the Classroom program plans to conduct egg deliveries during the week of January 7, 2019. These are coordinated in each region by the chapter liaison. If you haven't heard from your coordinator yet, feel free to reach out to that individual. You can find the list of Chapter Liaisons on the Contact Us Web page of this site.
Here's what the egg delivery map looks like for the Southwestern Vermont Trout Unlimited chapter:
I hope you're doing well. Please send your photos, videos, ideas, suggestions, and questions.
First I had to learn what a "phenomenon" was!
On December 7, Mary Fiedler, 5th & 6th grade science teacher at Cambridge Elementary School, asked this question:
I was wondering if anyone has any catchy phenomena to begin the TIC unit? Last year's teacher used "what caused the fish kill" and had a lovely few pics of dead fish, but I used that question for my watershed unit earlier this year. Does anyone have any suggestions?
A few of you responded with good ideas for kicking off the TIC project, which we'll get to in a bit, but first, "What is a phenomenon in the NGSS context?"
It wasn't all that easy for me, an outsider to the world of the NGSS, to answer that question, but here's a definition that I found:
Phenomena are observable events in nature (or our lives) that connect to multiple NGSS disciplinary core ideas, such as Finnish Snow Trees or the behavior of bees. Throughout a unit, students work towards explaining the science concepts behind the phenomenon in their own words.
I didn't find that very helpful but also came across this, which illuminated the topic better:
Phenomena are commonly thought to be the "ewwwww, weird, oh man!!" kinds of traditional science demos which (while still really fun for teachers & students) are not always academically productive. Phenomena should drive units and keep students working to "figure out" rather than "learning about."
I found the statements above at this Web site that has many examples and is searchable. The Web site also allows you to submit your own phenomena to the shared database.
So, I'm hoping that some of you can provide examples of phenomena you use or plan to use with your TIC students.
I'm getting lots of reports of schools that are either in or through the pre-cycling process. As I mentioned in my e-mail a few days ago, a fair number of teachers missed the message that, if BOTH your ammonia and nitrite hadn't hit 1.0 ppm or more, you needed to add more ammonium chloride.
I also got an e-mail from Steve Flint, of Mary Hogan School, saying that his ammonia went up and down, as it should do during the nitrogen cycle, but that his nitrite was 10.0. Whoa! I relayed that to Robb Cramer, and he recommended a 50% water change. Steve was also wondering whether that very high measurement might be an artifact of the test strip water testing system he is using.
Let's remember what's supposed to happen in the nitrogen cycle.
More ways to kick off TIC
Last week, my wife and I visited our granddaughter's 3rd grade class to teach a Four Winds lesson on erosion. We began by asking the kids what they remembered of Tropical Storm Irene, which had a terribly destructive impact on most of Vermont in August 2011. Fortunately almost all of these eight and nine year olds had vivid memories of the floods and raging rivers that Irene brought to their neighborhoods.
That turned out to be a great way to initiate a conversation about erosion. I suspect it might not be a bad way to start talking about trout habitat.
A quick Internet or YouTube search will turn up numerous dramatic videos illustrating Irene's destructive force.
Here's one, shot in Taftsville, that includes oil and propane tanks racing down the Ottaquechee River. How's that going to affect the habitat?
This longer video by Seven Days covers many areas of the state. (There is a bleep-able word at 1:02".)
What happens to the trout when this is going on?
In addition to riveting videos like these, for older kids that are some great text-and-photos resources available about the impact of Irene.
Here's a great story from Trout Unlimited's Trout magazine about the consequences of the flood and the conditions that made it worse.
This is a Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department report on the impact of Irene on Vermont rivers and their inhabitants. As you can see, it's more technical and text-heavy but has good data and great charts.
Let us know your ideas about how to introduce students to the TIC project!
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.