COVID-19. What should you do to be prepared?
ADDITIONAL UPDATED COMMENTS PROVIDED IN ALL CAPS BELOW.
Do you know anybody who's not talking about the Novel Corona virus? I don't. But what does it mean for schools in the TIC program? Two things really: (1) making sure that concern over the infection doesn't lead to toxic substances getting into your tank and (2) being prepared in the event that your school is closed because of the disease.
Keeping toxic stuff out
No spraying! Some schools are quite eager to spray disinfectants in classrooms when there's widespread risk of infection. Spraying would almost certainly be disastrous for your trout. Please proactively speak to anyone who might be involved in such a project, or in authorizing it, and beg them to skip your classroom. Since every school that I know of has an integrated, building-wide air-handling system, even if you succeed in convincing the "powers that be" not to spray in your classroom, your fish could still be fatally impacted by spraying elsewhere in the school. For this reason, you should be prepared to cover your tank with a blanket when and if you anticipate that there will be spraying in the building. The foam insulation alone will probably not protect your trout. The same goes for wiping classroom surfaces. Keep that practice away from your tank too!
Watch those hand sanitizers! Lots of people I know are almost compulsively using hand sanitizers. Most of the time and in most settings that's a good practice, but not if you have a role in maintaining a brook trout tank. We always advise teachers and students to keep their hands out of the tank water if at all possible. If it's absolutely necessary to put your hands into the water, wash your hands well and throughly dry them before touching the tank water. The same goes for hand lotion. With all the extra hand washings, some of us are applying hand lotion more often too. Some hand lotions can be toxic for trout too, so follow the same washing and drying procedures.
What about TIC schools closing?
Several Vermont colleges have already announced that they're closing, perhaps for the rest of the academic year. A few schools have also decided to do that but only for a few days. It's conceivable that many Vermont schools could close for days or weeks or longer.
My first suggestion would be:
1. See if you can be given access to your school during the closing.
On the national TIC/SIC e-mail network, Juliette Guarino Berg asked this question
Good afternoon, In the event of a building closure due to the spread of COVID-19, what are your plans for your trout program?
Several helpful responses were offered.
You can always count on Maryland TIC coordinator Chuck Dinkel for a response. In this case:
Juliette, you could move the trout to a 5-gallon bucket with an aerator and frozen bottle of water, drain your tank, and have someone from school help you move it to your home or some other location where it could be set up and run again. Being an ex-New Yorker and your being in Manhattan, that may be easier said than done. Tanks are not something you'd want to move via the subway.
IF YOU'RE HOPING TO UTILIZE THIS STRATEGY, WHICH IS A GOOD ONE, TRY TO RECRUIT ONE OR TWO BACK-UPS WHO COULD TAKE OVER FOR YOU IN THE EVENT THAT YOU GET STRICKEN. (I thank Shoreham Elementary Principal Michael Lenox for that suggestion.)
2. So, consider taking your trout home with you.
Another respondent, Zachary Houle, of Taconic High School in Pittsfield, told us what his district is going to do:
We have a plan where one of the teachers is going to take them home if we close. She's already brought a big tank home and set it up and will bring one of our chillers the day of, if needed.
Working together! Great idea, Zachary.
3. Is there a possibility that you and several other area teachers could collaborate and all take your fish to one off-campus tank?
Heather Weiss said:
I was just talking to my head of school about this. In the event of a closure, I'm going to release the trout on my own and live stream it.
I don't know where Heather's school is and when they started raising their trout. (Some schools began this process early in the fall, and their trout are undoubtedly much larger than those in Vermont schools.) Given how small our fish are, I'd call this a worst case option for us.
4. Finally, if none of the options offered above will work for you and if your school is going to be shut down for an extended period, you may have to release your trout prematurely.
IF YOU DECIDE TO RELEASE YOUR TROUT, TWO SUGGESTIONS:
On a happier note, I want to bring the 10th annual Trout Camp sponsored by Vermont Trout Unlimited to your attention. Here's an announcement that TU volunteer Doug Zehner sent me.
Begin a Lifetime of Fly Fishing and Learning at the Vermont Trout Camp -- June 21-25
Trout Unlimited presents the 10th annual Vermont Trout Camp for teens at Jackson’s Lodge in Canaan, VT, June 21-25, 2020. Boys and girls age 13-16 interested in science, the out-of-doors, and learning to fly fish are invited to apply. The application deadline is April 15th. Details and an application are available at www.vermonttroutcamp.com
This is a marvelous opportunity for young people to experience the outdoors to the fullest. The camp program features instruction in basic and intermediate fly fishing skills (casting, knot tying, fly tying, fishing tactics), entomology, fish biology, conservation and cold water fisheries management and of course lots of time on the water fishing with knowledgeable guides. No experience is necessary, and all equipment is provided.
If you know of any young person who might be interested in attending camp, please encourage them to apply. Please visit the website for details about camp or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions.
(The screenshot of the Trout Camp web site below is also a link to the site, so you can click on it.)
Vasanthi Merette, of Shelburne Community School, sent me this video today. I though you might want to see what another school's fry look like these days.
Photos from Bennington
TU volunteer Barry Mayer sent me these photos that he took while visiting Amy Newbold's tank at the Village School of North Bennington. Since Amy set up her tank in the school's library, she's taken some precautions to make sure guests don't accidentally bump into the tank.
Today Barry popped in on Emily Hunter, TIC teacher at Mount Anthony Union Middle School. Barry offered this brief report: Visited Emily’s tank this morning. Fish are all swimming up, and she’s feeding them very little at a time. Says she’s lost maybe five and chemistries have been good.
Riverside Middle School checks in
Joe Frigo, 7th grade science teacher at Riverside Middle School in Springfield, sent this report.
Nearly all of our trout are feeding and a few have escaped from the basket and are in the tank. They've proven to be hard to catch in order to put back in the basket! We are looking forward to releasing them from the breeder baskets sometime next week.
And he sent a couple of photos too. Thanks, Joe!
What's going on in Vermont's TIC tanks? Super trout sculptures! Great overview of TIC @ Newark Street School. When should you let your feeding fry out of the basket?
Reports from the field
On Tuesday, Joe Frigo, of Riverside Middle School, sent this update on his school's tank.
Anticipating swim up this week! After a week at 46 degrees I've increased the water temperature by a degree and have begun taking the front cover off of the tank during the day. The increase in movement has been noticeable and I think swim up should happen in the next few days. Our current DI is 81.98 and growing! I tried to put in a little bit of food this morning and saw one or two alevine swim up!
At right is a photo of Joe's attractive tank set up.
Below are two pictures of his alevin.
Wonderful hallway trout sculptures at MSS!
Suzanne Alfano, 5th/6th Grade Science Teacher at The Maple Street School, sent me the following message:
Look what's swimming down our halls at Maple Street thanks to the collaborative efforts of our art teacher Leslie Sullivan and whoever the TIC teacher was that shared the resource. Our 5th Graders loved this project and we will definitely be making it part our TIC curriculum every year.
Here are three photos Suzanne sent me. Cool, huh! How about those great shadows?!
Documenting TIC at Newark Street School
Cindy Mosedale, first-year TIC teacher at Newark Street School, sent me a document she produced that describes their Trout in the Classroom program to date.
But first, a bit about Newark, Vermont, which I had to research and which I suspect may be the smallest and most remote Vermont town to host a TIC project. (If you think your town deserves that distinction, let me know.) With a maximum elevation of 1,319 feet, Newark lies on the northern edge of Caledonia County. It is south of Island Pond, southeast of Lake Willoughby, north of Burke, and is bordered by a large untracked region to the east. Its population was 581 in the 2010 census, with a density of 16 people per square mile. The history of its population growth and decline is interesting. In 1800 it had eight residents; by 1880 that had grown to 679. That all-time high was followed by a long period of continuous decline, which bottomed out in 1970 when there were only 144 people in Newark. Since then, growth has returned. By the way, Lowell, with a slightly larger population (738), is more sparsely settled than Newark (13.2 people per square mile). What do your kids know about your community and how it compares to others around the state?
Here's a link to a list of all Vermont's towns, including population data, area, etc. The town with the smallest population, by the way, is Lewis (Essex County) with no residents. Somerset (Windham County) has three, and Glastenbury (Bennington County) has eight.
Click here to see Cindy's document. And below are screenshots from Cindy's document. Great work, Cindy!
Jail break follow-up
The day after I posted the last blog, I got this good news from Keith Harrington, of Poultney Elementary School:
Good Morning Joe,
After our breeder basket dumped all of our alevin into the tank, I have just been going about normal procedures. No need to panic. As I said to my students, "We have been very lucky over the years compared to some schools. Maybe this was just our time to not be lucky!"
When I came back from Spring Break armed with a new small net to try to collect some alevin to put back in the breeder basket to make sure they were eating, I got a nice surprise. I caught two and put them in the basket. The next thing I know many were swimming up from the rocks to the top of the tank so I fed them. They attacked the food. So I Iet the other two back out to join their friends. More and more are swimming up every day. I am quite pleased. Looks like we have a nice group of survivors so far.
I was also glad to see after being gone for a week that the water chemistry was good. Except for GH that was quite high, all readings were near perfect.
That's a great turn of events, Keith! I am very happy to hear it.
We get by with a little help from our friends!
Liz Volpe, of Orwell Village School, sent me a nice note that day too.
I'd like to send a huge shout out to Eoin Noonan of Orwell Village School. He diligently fed the fry and checked chemical levels all week during the February break.
All of the trout were alive and well upon my return. This was a very exciting way to start back to work.
Can we give him some public recognition?
Yes, we can! Thank you, Eoin!!
When should you release your fry into the tank?
This morning, Joe Frigo, science teacher at Riverside Middle School, sent me this question:
Most of my trout are feeding and swimming around the breeder basket. Do you think it is ok to put the basket in a position that allows the more adventurous trout to swim out into the tank?
When I asked Joe when he started feeding his fish, he said last Friday. That prompted me to respond, "Keep them in the breeder basket for at least another week." Releasing fry into the tank too soon can be a major cause of die-offs. We recommend that you keep them in the basket for at least two weeks after they've all been feeding.
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 "NEW 2019 Temp and DI record and swim-up calculator" (using the Temp entry and DI record worksheet after you've opened the spreadsheet in Numbers). 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.
National TIC/SIC network discussions
I'm sure you recall that I participate in the TU national TIC/SIC network. Here Areva few extracts from recent exchanges on that network's e-mail list serve.
Teacher Douglas Bell, of Lyons, Colorado, raised two issues in a recent e-mail to the group (BTW, Colorado's TIC program starts much earlier in the fall): he reported inter-fish aggression resulting in casualties and wanted to know how many of his fish he should expect to carry through to their release day (they now have 70 in their 55-gallon tank).
Scott Hood from Oklahoma answered:
A good question ... but one you will only answer when you are one your way to the release point.
Be delighted when you have 20. I got a text this morning from one of my schools ... all trout dead. Seems the school janitorial staff had orders to spray the school with disinfectant for flu virus. In spite of signs to Please Do Not Spray in the area of the tank, they did it anyway! Very sad day for these students.
Doug replied in turn:
Oof, I'm sorry to hear that. We had a substitute cleaning staff turn off our power strip over the weekend when the fish were pretty small. They weathered it, but now we're always on guard.
Scott, came back with:
Douglas, power failures due to weather or construction, accidental and not so accidental unplugs by helpful janitorial staff, and anti-bacterial soap on little hands that find there way into the water ... number one killers.
However, we've had huge celebratory releases for as few as 3 surviving trout before with class of over 75 kids. Some have gone to the release area with zero. We always go.
Chuck Dinkel, my favorite TIC support person, contributed this:
A school in Maryland had the exact same result when their school was sprayed 4 times with a mist to control the flu virus. This was a first for us. If the teacher had had advanced warning of this would there have been some way of covering the tank to protect the fish?
Lessons to be learned
So what's the take-away from these conversations?
As far as Doug's question about how many fish to expect to still be alive at the end of the process, there really is not great answer.
Paradoxically, having all your fish survive may give kids the wrong message. They might graduate from the program thinking that brook trout are hardy, can tolerate all sorts of suboptimal conditions, and have high survival rates in nature. No, no, and no!
What's a "trophic cascade"? National TIC/SIC quilt project. Trout mural. Cumulative DI and swim-up--again!
Reintroducing the grey wolf in Yellowstone NP
What does this topic have to do with trout?? What til you see!
Recently, while volunteering in the Four Winds environmental education program at my granddaughter's school, I learned about this amazing video that illustrates just how interconnected nature is. The adults in the room as well as all the fourth graders were astonished to learn that in nature "one thing can lead to another." In fact, it almost always does.
The Trout in the Classroom program is about raising and learning about brook trout, of course; but ideally, once we get students interested in their fish and the habitat needed to support them, it will be comparatively easy to get them curious about how that ecological niche fits into the larger picture.
How are wolves, deer, elk, bear, coyotes, rabbits, mice, birds, flowers, bushes, trees, beaver, and even rivers and their inhabitants interconnected? Watch this to find out! When it comes to learning about nature, it may be the best four and a half minutes a person could spend.
National quilt project--last chance!
If you want to participate in this year's TIC/SIC national quilt project and haven't yet signed up, you're running out of time. The deadline is February 17. Just to remind you of what can result from this project (along with the geographic learning and language arts practice), here are two photos of past quilts.
Cumulative DI and swim-up
Early in the week, I got e-mails from two different teachers, each of whom, coincidentally, had Cumulative DIs of 70. (If you're interested, their temperatures were 44.4 and 46 degrees F.) They were corresponding because they wanted to make sure that swim-up will occur on schedule, that is, when they were going to be around, not when they were away on a school break. Important questions!
If you've been using the "Temp and DI record and swim-up calculator," you should be able to figure that out. If you haven't been using it, reach out to your regional TIC support person or to me.
How are you doing in that regard?
Alevin escape at Poultney Elementary
I was greeted this morning by this e-mail from Keith Harrington of Poultney Elementary School.
Subject: Disaster in Poultney
Good morning Joe:
I came in to a disaster at Poultney Elementary this morning. Our breeder basket had dislodged and was floating upside down in the tank. I don't know what happened other than I was using a new type of basket that uses suction cups to attach to the tank instead of metal hooks. It has been fine, but for some reason the basket broke away from the cups. Everything was fine when I left. We had mesh covering on the filter but checked just to make sure. Nothing was in there but the usual waste. They must have gone straight down into the rocks. I have seen a couple swimming around down there when I stirred things up. Is it possible that they will survive down there and swim up when it is time? Should we attempt to vacuum them out or just leave them alone?
As I told the students, we have had several very successful years and have been lucky. Some schools have not been as fortunate. Sometimes things happen.
Here's how I responded:
You’re probably safer leaving them in the gravel at this point. I think vacuuming them up could be stressful. If, however, they start coming out of the gravel a bit such that you’d be able to net some of them and put them back in the breeder basket, I’d recommend you do that.
Your alevin are doing what they would do if they were in the wild. The hardest part of having them out of the basket is that you’ll have a difficulty seeing when some of them die. As a result, their decaying bodies will contribute to ammonia and nitrite problems. (In nature, of course, that problematical water chemistry would just be diluted and flushed away by the flowing stream.)
The other problem is that way down on the bottom where they are—20” below the surface of the water where the dry food will float—the fry won’t be as likely to notice food when it is offered to them. In the breeder basket, they’re only about five inches from floating food.
You might want to show your students the Brook Trout Life Cycle and/or The Way Of a Trout videos that are on the VTTIC Website.
Here's the Brook Trout Life Cycle. It's less than four minutes long.
Here's The Way Of a Trout video. It's 30 minutes long but, in my opinion, well worth the time. Both can be found on the Other Trout Videos page of the VTTIC Web site.
On Monday, two different teachers sent me photos of deformed alevin.
Suzanne Alfano, of Maple Street School, sent this e-mail:
I pulled this guy out because I thought he was a goner, and then he started swimming around. Have we seen this before? Alevin with a bent tail?
I responded by saying that, while I've never seen an alevin exactly like hers, a number of teachers over the years have reported and sent me photos of alevin/fry with bent tails.
Then soon after, I heard from Dawn Adams, at Rutland High School, wrote, "Thought you might like to see this."
And I thought you might like to see Dawn's e-mail signature:
o Dawn S. Adams O
o Rutland High School O
><(((*> Science Department o O
><(((*> Alpine Coach o
<*)))>< ><(((*> ><(((*>
So how many other deformed fish are there out there? And, if we distributed roughly 10,000 eggs, what's the percentage of deformities? How does that compare to abnormalities in humans and other species?
Salinity (What's in your water?, part 1)
I also got an interesting e-mail from Rich Carter, at the Greenwood School, who sent this:
Trout are all doing well so far and hoping that continues!
We have recently been investigating the relationship between conductivity and the intensity of road salting within our local watershed. This brought up the question of how much salt may be getting into our school's ground/well water. We tested a number of locations of the school's drinking water (various taps, pre and post water softener, pre and post chlorination, direct from the well pump) and found the numbers coming out of our taps are considerably higher (150 vs 450 µS/cm) than or local streams. We then decided to check our trout tank and discovered the numbers were even higher still (600 µS/cm). Last year we had very low ammonia and nitrite numbers (below 0.5) yet still lost around 70% of the fish. Any chance conductivity is playing an issue in our fish loss?
I asked whether the school had a water softener.
In a follow-up e-mail, Rich added this:
It does have a water softener. I figured that was the culprit, but we sampled before and after the softener (according to out facilities guy) and the numbers were the same- both around 450. Before it hits the softener, it gets chlorinated and pumped to a holding tank. Straight from the well (before chlorine and holding tank) the numbers were around 250. From a little digging, I gather the chlorine can increase conductivity, though we add a conditioner to the water before putting it in the tank.
But what causes it to increase from 250 to 450? Hmmm! I also sent Rich's question to some of our more knowledgeable TIC experts.
Here's how Robb Cramer replied:
600 is a bit high for a closed system for sure but not that much higher than levels often found in water ways. Not being a trout biologist, I can’t specifically comment if that level would affect young developing brook trout. It is higher, as they noted, then you would normally find in a healthy Vermont trout stream.
My Maryland friend Chuck Dinkel came back with this.
Several years ago one of my Frederick County schools lost its alevin as well as the fish I replaced them with. The teacher and I had a conversation with the building engineer and we found out a water softener had been installed on the school's water supply. The engineer was able to provide us with water pre-softener and the next load of fish did great. I am attaching an article with information I researched during that time. ... I'm also a firm believer in well water.
(The article Chuck sent us in short and interesting. It forces you to think about the unintended consequences of modern conveniences we take for granted, e.g., in some situations, water softener use can be like dumping a 40# bag of salt into your local river!)
Fractions, proportions, and salinity
One of our correspondents in this chain mentioned that the salinity of the water in Rich's tank might be at least partly due to evaporation. How does that work?
To keep things simple, let's assume (1) that Rich's measure of "conductivity" can be used as a proxy for salinity, (2) that he starts out with 50 gallons of water in his tank, (3) that every month 50% of the water evaporates and is replaced. and that (4) the salinity of the Greenwood School's tap water is 200. So:
Get the idea? Evaporation can almost continuously raise the salinity. You can use this exercise to help students practice fractions and proportions.
Winter road treatments
I write this after two consecutive "snow days," when a large portion of Vermont's schools were closed. And over those two days, what was happening out on our roads?
The state, town, and city trucks were plowing, yes. But they were also sanding and salting.
Rich Carter's interest in/concern about salinity led me to look up the State of Vermont's snow and ice control plan. You can click the link to read it for yourself, but it describes sodium chloride as the "primary snow and ice control material" and adds that "unless combined with other chemicals, sodium chloride is only effective down to approximately 15 degrees F."
One of the other materials used is brine. The plan says, "Salt brine is road salt dissolved in water." It mentions that brine can be combined with deicing liquids, which typically include a "corrosion inhibitor."
I know that it's become important for people to travel in winter and, if they're going to do that, they need to be safe, but all of this sounds a bit mysterious to me.
The question for me--and perhaps for Rich and his students, is: Where does all that salt, brine, deicing liquids, and corrosion inhibitors end up going?
Some of your students might want to investigate a question like that.
Alevins, alevins, alevins!
The reports I've received suggest that all our eggs have hatched and that Vermont is full of many new batches of alevins. By the way, how do you say "alevin"? Here's a YouTube video offering the correct pronunciation.
Photos from Vermont schools
I was also pleased to get a number of photos from teachers.
On Monday, Keith Harrington, at Poultney Elementary School sent this photo of his breeder basket with its alevin. (Notice the bubbles in the middle of the bottom netting? That usually means that the breeder basket may be a bit too close to the airstone. It's not a big problem unless the netting starts bulging up too high.)
Paul Legris, of Cambridge Elementary School, reported that they just had their big hatch last Friday (1/24/20).
Schoolhouse Learning Center
Those of you who have been in our TIC program in the past will remember the great close-up photography that Schoolhouse Learning Center's Danielle Levine has shared with us. Well she's at it again! Look at these beautiful images!
And like many of you, Danielle gets her kids involved in all sorts of interesting and creative activities. Here are photos of her kids while they were making models of--what, Danielle? Embryos?
Benson Village School
Jeff Walker, sent me this report and these photos from Benson Village School. Lots of cute kids behaving cutely!
Here's some pics of our kindergartners visiting the middle school (and 1st and 2nd graders too) to see the newly-arrived eggs. Love the magnifying glass skills!
Development Index (DI)
One of our first-time TIC teachers asked me to remind him about DI. This becomes increasingly important as we approach the stage when we can start expecting our fish to "swim up." Here's what I told him.
DI stands for Development Index, and really ought to be called Cumulative Development Index. It's a measure of how developed your eggs and alevin are. It starts at zero when the eggs are fertilized and goes up to 100 (more or less) when all fish are feeding. At that point, what used to be called alevin are then called "fry." (We find that the strain of brook trout that we raise actually starts feeding closer to a DI of 85 or 90.)
DI increases every day the temperature is above 32 degrees F. There's a table (part of the "Temp and DI record and swim-up calculator") that shows you, depending on what the temperature is, what the constant is that gets added to Cumulative DI.
When the tank water temperature is only 35 degrees Fahrenheit, only 0.333 gets added to the Cumulative DI each day; at 45 degrees, 0.815 gets added; and at 55 degrees, the DI jumps by 1.728 each day.
More about Redds
In my December 30, 2019 blog, I wrote about the "field trip" Janni Jacobs and her Braintree Elementary School students (accompanied by Rudi Ruddell) took to a local river, hoping to find some "redds" AKA trout nests.
Well, just today, I got an e-mail from Trout Unlimited reporting on similar "redd hunts" in Michigan.
This photo is from that online article. If you click on it, you should be able to read the story. BONUS ALERT: the article includes a link to a free document that is TU's Redd Survey Handbook. (Click on the handbook title to access it.)
National quilt project
Every year, Trout Unlimited's TIC coordinator Tara Granke organizes a national quilt project for all TIC and SIC schools. This is a wonderful opportunity for your students to do several things:
Just in the last few days I got this message from Tara, announcing the quilt project:
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 Mountains to City to Sea!
Enhance STEAM learning by joining the 2020 Trout Quilt Project. Participating classes create 25 fabric art squares based on your classroom's learning in the SIC/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, tgranke @ tu.org.
Each class has a simple and fun task: decorate your quilt squares** – 8” x 8” pieces of fabric, usually about 25 total – and send them to the other participating schools! In return, you’ll receive squares from around the country, which you can sew together as seen at www.facebook.com/ticsic in the Quilt Albums.
Note that this year’s theme is Mountains to city to sea to highlight the journey of a drop of water and how it moves through a watershed. Your squares can reflect any aspect of the water cycle or the watershed! Use of imagination is highly encouraged and required. :)
If you’re interested, fill out this sign-up form by Monday, February 17. Then follow these VERY IMPORTANT INSTRUCTIONS:
1. An email to confirm your participation will be sent from Tara Granke to the email you provide on 2/18. You must reply to confirm your participation by 2/24.
2. Once everyone confirms, instructions will be sent via email. Instructions will be sent out the week of 2/24.
3. Signing up is a commitment to make and send out the 25 squares.
4. You’ll have a little over two months to decorate the squares and write letters to your fellow TIC/SIC classes;squares will be due out to the other schools by May 1st. This means postmarked by May 1, 2020.
We'll post a Quilt Gallery on the National SIC/TIC Facebook page, so please share your classroom's finished piece or squares with Tara: email@example.com. Happy creating!
**Classrooms must purchase or find materials to make the squares as described in the instructions. Supplies needed include fabric and materials to decorate the squares. Postage costs are also incurred when mailing the letter and square to each school. Associated costs with this project are the responsibility of the participating classroom or school.**
To join or for more information (also pasted below) visit: https://forms.gle/pZU5k1DwTgDuxbGUA
One final comment (from Joe): It's probably the case that most teachers have never made a quilt, so a TIC quilt project could seem a bit daunting at first. But consider this:
Lincoln Community School
A couple of years ago, Mikaela Frank and Mollie Sprague, at Lincoln Community School, did something both cool and beautiful. They attached their 5th and 6th graders TIC quilt squares to colorful poster paper and made a fantastic bulletin board out of them.
Here's what resulted
Cassidy Shaw, Fish Culture Operations Manager for the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife, sent me this helpful two-page document explaining why and how F&W creates triploid eggs. Click on the image to access both pages.
Those fickle switches!
Seth Bonnett, of Manchester Elementary and Middle School, sent me this report recently:
Just wanted to share a mishap (fish are doing fine).
I have my tank set up in a new area in my classroom this year. The chiller is sitting to the right of the tank and I didn't realize the power switch was also easily accessible by students. I set up a workstation directly next to the chiller, and on Wednesday of last week a kid must have kicked/bumped the switch. Needless to say, when I checked the tank temp on Friday (we had a snow day on Thursday), I was very confused as to why a large portion of the trout had hatched. I then realized the temp of the tank was at 17 degrees C and found out what had happned. The temp had probably been up for two full days.
Anyway, the trout all seem fine from their warm-up and I have not noticed any issues arising.
Close call! Let this be a lesson to us all. Do everything you can to protect those switches. That includes:
Thanks for the helpful story, Seth.
More egg deliveries. Teacher workshop and learning opportunities. Photos/videos of early hatchlings. Data sharing.
SWVTTU egg deliveries
On Tuesday, nine volunteers delivered over 2,200 brook trout eggs to 21 southwest Vermont schools. Four other SWVT schools will get their eggs at a later date. When we arrived at many schools, people--from the principal to the school secretary to the maintenance guy--were excitedly waiting for us.
Free teacher workshop
Colleen Hickey, Education and Outreach Coordinator for the Lake Champlain Basin Program, recently asked me to let you know about a special opportunity that will take place later this month. As part of LCBP's celebration of the Year of the Salmon, they will hold a free workshop for teachers on Saturday, January 25. The following topics will be addressed:
To learn more about the Year of the Salmon, click here.
As I said in my last blog post, while it's early for trout eggs to be hatching, some undoubtedly will hatch way before the normal time. In fact, Lisa Marks and her students at Ludlow Elementary School discovered a hatchling among the eggs that had been delivered to their classroom. (I guess it was born during the car drive from the hatchery.) Here are a couple of pictures of the first egg to hatch at LES.
You might consider getting your students to keep track of the days on which eggs hatch and have them turn that into a chart. Instead or in addition, you could have them graph hatching as a function of Cumulative DI.
Active eggs/alevin at Orwell!
Liz Volpe, new TIC teacher at Orwell Village School, sent me this video on Thursday. When those embryos are trying to hatch, they sure get active!!
Photos from Riverside Middle School in Springfield.
New TIC teacher Joseph Frigo sent me a couple of photos, one of his neat tank setup and one of his eggs in their breeder basket.
Academy School report
Sarah Kaltenbaugh, of Academy School, provided this report on her school's egg delivery experience:
My sixth graders were thrilled to have Paul drop off the trout eggs last week. I'm not sure that he was ready for such eager, curious kids, but he handled them brilliantly. They love being the class scientist for the day and testing the water and reading the thermometer (which has a scale of 2, so it is great practice for our Number Systems unit).
And a couple of photos.
Melinda Carpenter, 6th grade science teacher at BFA-Fairfax sent these three photos. Do some of those aberrant eggs look like any of yours?
Learn about macros with DEC scientists!
One of our loyal TU/TIC volunteers, Kathy Ehlers, often brings items to my attention that she finds on Facebook. One such item related to an opportunity to help Department of Environmental Conservation staff classify and count benthic macroinvertebrates as a way to gauge the health of a stream or other body of water. After some sleuthing, I tracked down this operation to a "bio assessment lab" that DEC has setup on the VTC campus in Randolph.
Until the end of February, DEC's lab will be analyzing benthic macroinvertebrate specimens that their staff collected last summer as part of their efforts to monitor the quality of Vermont's streams and other bodies of water. I was pleased to learn that the department welcomes the contributions of aspiring "citizen scientists." This could include TIC teachers and volunteers who'd like to learn more about "macros," as they're called. The lab is also willing to train high school students (not those in lower grades) to help with this important project. Unfortunately, because the lab is small, the staff can't accommodate more than a few people at a time.
If you'd like to sign up for a shift assisting the staff in their water quality assessment work, contact Michelle Graziosi either by e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) or by phone (802-490-6145). Michelle is an environmental technician with the Monitoring and Assessment Program of the Watershed Management Division at DEC.
Here's a brief video in which she introduces herself and her work.
Fish Health Laboratory
In one of the several phone calls I made while trying to find people who worked at the bio-assessment lab, I learned that DEC also runs a fish health laboratory, which is also housed at VTC in Randolph. It turns out that you can arrange to visit the fish health lab and request a tour. Contact Rebecca Harvey, Director, Vermont Agriculture and Environmental Laboratory, 802-585-6073, or at email@example.com.
This past week, with major help from White River Partnership's Rudi Ruddell, I sent out two e-mails with links to two Google Sheets, one of which is to be used for tracking/predicting/controlling when swim-up occurs. This is extremely important as it is at the swim-up stage that in previous years TIC classrooms have experienced the highest mortality rates.
The second e-mail transmitted the spreadsheet that we hope all TIC teachers will use to record the following data:
If all our TIC classrooms can keep and share good data, we will be able to improve our practice every year.
Some schools will be receiving their eggs this week, but most got their eggs last week. Here's a photo that Central Vermont Trout Unlimited volunteer Syl Stemple sent me of the egg delivery crew he worked with. Syl (the handsome dude who's second from left) and his buddies brought eggs to schools in northern Vermont, including the Northeast Kingdom, where TIC interest is expanding.
Colleen Legris, at Founders Memorial School, sent me these photos of the eggs she received last week.
Most of those eggs look great, but there are a couple in the righthand photo that might be dying. Can you see the ones that appear to be opaque? I'd suggest keeping an eye on those. When and if they turn white, they should be removed. Also make sure you remove egg shells after the eggs have hatched and any mold that you notice.
Colleen also sent these photos of Bob Wible and one of her colleagues setting up their tank.
Eggs hatching already???
I've gotten a few inquiries from teachers who were surprised that some of their eggs have already hatched. Indeed, that is unusual but not unheard of. I checked last year's blond found that on January 14, I shared the following reports from teachers.
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.
Professor Facey visits Lowell Graded School
Some of you will recall that both at our November workshop and in this blog we've discussed what some might call ethical issues related to the TIC program. Some of these have to do with the use of triploid eggs; others were prompted by the Artifishal documentary that some teachers and students have watched.
That was the case at Lowell. Jennifer Blay and her students watched the documentary, and it left Jenn's students wanting to learn more, both about triploids and about hatcheries in general. In response, Jenn asked me if there might be experts available to meet with her students and answer some of their questions. I reached out to biology faculty at a few Vermont colleges and universities and was extremely pleased that Doug Facey, biology professor at St. Michael's College offered to visit Lowell Graded School to meet and talk with Jenn's students, which he did on January 8.
HI Joe - I visited Lowell today. Talked with 7th graders for about an hour, and then 5th, 6th, and 8th graders joined for about an hour. Some really good questions were raised, and I hope I answered them accurately.
I thought it went pretty well, and enjoyed the visit. I might even try to make it back in May for release day.
In addition, Jennifer, I'd be willing to spend some time on a return visit in Spring to hear more from the students about what they learned from the experience and how they feel about the issue of stocking. Are you going to ask them to make any kind of presentation, either individually or in groups? It could even be set up as a debate, with two "teams," each taking a different stand (pro/con) and defending their position (students could be assigned randomly, regardless of how they feel). That might be a bit of a leap for 5th- 8th grade, but it does help them recognize and seriously consider other points of view. Please let me know how things go with the eggs and fish (too bad about having to re-start the water seasoning) and what your plans are for spring.
Here's a video of part of the Q&A that Doug had with the students.
Where are those pesky data sheets?!
Several teachers have contacted me to ask how to find the data sheets for recording water chemistry data (and other things) as well as for predicting/controlling "swim up." I've sent them as attachments before and included a link to the folder containing them in a previous blog post. But I recognize that we all get way more e-mail than we want, and it can be difficult to find the message we're looking for when we need it. The good news is those teachers remembered that those spreadsheets exist and must be stored somewhere.
So, here's my response for any of you who may need to find those spreadsheets:
Earlier, I had suggested that you save your data spreadsheets to the "Individual school spreadsheets" folder, but Rudi Ruddell has told me to say that that might not be an option for teachers. He has offered a couple of suggestions for how to make that work. (It would be very helpful to all of us who are managing the TIC program to have easy access to that data.)
Rudi and I will confer get back to you shortly with instructions for saving your data files on the Google Docs site.
Send photos and movies as well as reports on how your trout are doing.
You may recall that several weeks ago, back when it was still late fall, I mentioned that it was the time of year when you and your students could go out to a trout stream and look for "redds," that is trout spawning beds. Well, Janni Jacob's class of 5th and 6th graders at Braintree Elementary School did just that, and I was pleased to receive a report from Rudi Ruddell, of White River Partnership, about the expedition. Here's what Rudi wrote.
Janni Jacobs' intrepid crew did, in fact, enjoy a 'redd hunt' on a sunny and relatively warm day on November 21 (relatively warm, considering early snows had already arrived and there had been some previous hard freezes). Though we saw some relatively clean patches of gravel, it was pretty hard to know if we were actually seeing redds, and there had been some recent high flows ahead of our outing.
Fisheries Biologist Bret Ladago from VT Fish & Wildlife noted, "Finding redds in smaller more mountainous streams can be challenging as the gravel tends to have less silt and therefore redds are less obvious. You would also be primarily looking for brook trout redds which are much smaller than the brown trout redds found in the Deerfield. Water temperatures are cold during spawning and students may encounter a small patch of clean gravel if they are lucky, but trout are rarely observed on the redd. Timing is also challenging and can be difficult to predict unless folks are closely monitoring weather patterns and flow rates."
It was still a fun outing with a great crew, and we got to check out a few macros that were still active; a few pictures attached from grandparent Peter Evans who accompanied.
Congratulations, Janni and kids, for getting out there in the interest of science! Here are five pictures that Rudi sent me from the outing.
Celebrating eight years of stream restoration work
On December 29, the Associated Press carried a story about stream restoration work in Vermont's Northeast Kingdom for the benefit of brook trout. That news report was originally carried in the Caledonian Record, looking like this:
Here's the full text of the AP article.
LEWIS, Vt. (AP) — The Department of Fish and Wildlife is celebrating eight years of improving trout habitat in northeastern Vermont rivers and streams.
Trout thrive in streams that offer places to hide, such as under trees that have fallen into the streams. Fallen trees also create a mix of pools and shallow areas that are used by trout for feeding, reproducing, avoiding high flows and hiding from predators.
The Caledonian Record reports that more than 27 miles of brook trout streams have been improved by the placement of large trees in strategic locations.
A six-year study in the East Branch Nulhegan River watershed found that on average brook trout abundance tripled in just three years at sites with added trees.
“By adding this large woody material to streams, we are helping to reverse the legacy of historic clear cutting and repeated log drives on these streams,” said Vermont fisheries biologist Jud Kratzer.
The fallen trees store sediment and organic material, helping to reducing the flow downstream of sediment, nutrients and slow runoff, reducing downstream flooding.
The work has been done by a variety of organizations, including Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department and Trout Unlimited, on lands owned by Weyerhaeuser and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
This is an important comment on some of the characteristics that are critical to good brook trout habitat. As the article mentioned, not only the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department but also volunteer organizations like Trout Unlimited invest a great deal of money, time, and energy each year in improving habitat by adding "woody debris," large boulders, and stream bank trees (to provide "cover").
Here's a five minute video that describes what's called the "chop and drop" approach to improving stream habitat.
Of course, Vermont is not the only state concerned about restoring/improving stream habitat. When I searched for "improving trout habitat" on YouTube, I got dozens of hits, including one for Vermont's "chop and drop" program above. Here's an image of the results page. It's a link, so feel free to click on it.
Let's get this party started! (And hope for good driving weather)
Plans are well underway for the several trips that will be necessary to pick up eggs at the Dwight D. Eisenhower National Fish Hatchery in North Chittenden, Vermont. As far as I'm aware, the first deliveries will be made on 1/7 and will continue through that and the following week. Our deliveries in southwestern Vermont are planned for 1/14, depending on the weather of course.
Based on the reports I've received, it sounds like pre-cycling is going well across the state. A day or two before you expect to receive your eggs, you should get your water temperature to somewhere between 43 and 45degrees. Presumably you've been thinking about temperature protocols as they relate to when swim-up will occur at your school.
If you still need to get up to speed on temperature and the swim-up process, I've got two resources for you.
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.