Fabulous video from Albert Bridge School. Tree plantings by TIC school. Great RD reports. Insect art and trout anatomy constructions!
TIC video you've got to see!
Audrey Halpert, of Albert Bridge School, sent me this fabulous video of her school's TIC project. It covers the whole almost-six-month-long process, from visiting the hatchery, watching the embryos develop, seeing the eggs hatch, etc.
Audrey managed to get some marvelous video footage of individual fry. Many students will benefit from watching the show. Her young students also provided a wonderful voice-over narration.
Thanks so much for doing this, Audrey and, especially, for sharing your fine work.
Tree planting work by TIC kids
Brett Morrison, of Connecticut River Conservancy (CRC), sent me this report about Marion Cross School, which released its trout in a stream that the MCS students had earlier helped rehabilitate.
Here's Brett's enthusiastic account of these two interrelated projects:
Dear Joe: I thought you might be pleased to see an Upper Valley example of the synergy between the TU [Trout Unlimited] classroom program and dam removals.
Norwich, Vermont’s, Marion Cross students were back at the local dam and stream restoration area on Tuesday, 6/4, to release trout they’ve been growing in their classroom: “114 new brook trout released right at the old dam site.” CRC had welcomed them out to the site to help plant trees earlier last month. Ron Rhodes, CRC River Steward & Vice Chair of Vermont TU's State Council, wrote:
"Grass is growing, stream has settled in, and critters are moving around freely! We'll be back planting more trees/shrubs on Monday, June 24. (In all we will have planted 2,000 stems.)"
Thank you Joe, Trout Unlimited, and Marion Cross Elementary students!
Here are some pictures Brett sent me.
RELEASE DAYS EVERYWHERE!
Maple Street School RD report
Maple Street School science teacher Suzanne Alfano submitted this report on her school's first Release Day:
The entire Maple Street School gathered today to release 138 trout into Munson Brook. Chris Alexopoulos was able to come and join us and made sure that each K-8 student had an opportunity to release at least one trout. The students loved putting them in the brook and then hanging out to watch their behavior in the first few moments of their freedom.
The day was documented by Darren Marcy from the Manchester Journal and I would expect a story to run later this week or next. Darren was also on hand last Friday when we welcomed two educators from Shelburne Farms to our campus to run a study of the quality of water in Munson Brook. The students learned about dissolved oxygen levels and how macroinvertebrates are an indicator of the quality of water in a stream. Thankfully, all our research showed that the quality in Munson Brook was great and ready for our brookies. A great day was spent at the brook, and it was nice to see the kids so engaged, especially in the last few days of school.
Thanks for all you do to make this program happen, I cannot express how worthwhile our entire community found it, especially my 5th grade life scientists!
MSS is one of those very fortunate schools that has a release site within a short walk of school--actually, Munson Brook forms the southern border of the school property. As a result, for them, Release Day was an all-school event. Here are numerous great pictures from the MSS Release Day.
Cambridge and Highgate joint RD
Paul Legris sent me these photos of the joint RD Highgate and Cambridge Elementary had together.
Ludlow Elementary School
Teacher Lisa Mark and community volunteer Kathy Ehlers were all set to hold their Release Day at Hawk Mountain Resort, which borders the Black River where they've held it before; but when early on RD morning, Kathy checked the river, she deemed it too high and unsafe, so she went scouting for an alternative location. Fortunately, with just enough time to spare, Kathy found an upland tributary brook where the water level was perfect. That allowed the LES students to have a beautiful and safe release Day. Thanks, Kathy, for doing all that extra work!
Here are some photos from the LES release.
Kathy also sent me a short video of Ludlow's RD.
Mount Holly School
The ever present Kathy Ehlers and I also assisted Emma Vastola and her 1st graders collect macros, learn to fly cast, and release their fry. We had a beautiful day for playing--and learning--in an unnamed tributary of the Mill River.
While we didn't have a professional photographer documenting the day's activities like some schools, we got a few snapshots nonetheless.
The Mount Holly release also scored a nice front page article in the Vermont Journal newspaper. Click the image below to read the article.
Wallingford Release Day
Pat Bowen, who's retiring this year, held her last release on Roaring Brook. Like all the others she's organized, it was a highly successful event, with many volunteers and lots of interesting activities for the students to engage in. We will miss Pat very much, but I'm grateful to her for having recruited an enthusiastic teacher to step into her big shoes.
By the way, in speaking to her students and the volunteers at the end of Release Day activities, Pat said that TIC was the most exciting and engaging curricular initiative she'd ever used in her classroom. High praise from a distinguished teacher of 35 years!
West Rutland School
Danielle Liqouri drove her class's fry to the local recreation park while her West Rutland School students walked to the park, which borders the Clarendon River. After several activities that included a scavenger hunt, each of the students released a few brook trout.
Proctor Elementary School RD
Michael Manney, at Proctor Elementary School, sent me these pictures of his first Release Day, which took place on Sugar Hollow Brook in Pittsford. Congratulations, Michael.
My last Release Day of the year was with Emily Hunter's 7th graders at Mount Anthony Union Middle School. TU volunteer Barry Mayer and Bennington hatchery manager Monty Walker helped as well.
Building insect art
At Fisher Memorial School, teacher Charlie Cummings decided to have his students build examples of insects.
Anatomy lessons at Lincoln
Devon Schrock, at Lincoln Community School, sent me these images of anatomy models his students constructed. Nice work, kids!
2019 TIC season draws to a close
We still have a few Release Days to go but many are in the books. Send us your videos, photos, and reports! I'd also love to hear if you get any press coverage for your RD (or your TIC program in general).
Lincoln Community School RD
Devin Schrock, at Lincoln Community School, shared this link to his school's Web site, which features, right on its front page, a great slideshow of photos from their Release Day. LCS, by the way, is one of those fortunate Vermont schools that sits right at the edge of a lovely trout stream.
We had a great release on Monday with awesome volunteers, too. 78 fish made their maiden voyage in the New Haven : )
Fisher Elementary School RD
Fisher Elementary School had a fun, if cool and damp, Release Day on the Roaring Branch at Kelley Stand in Green Mountain National Forest.
As he always does, teacher Charlie Cummings came meticulously prepared. He had recruited numerous volunteers , including three US Forest Service staff one of whom was Martina Barnes, the brand new Ranger of the Green Mountain and Finger Lakes Forests. Charlie had an FES lanyard/name tag for each of us. Gear was neatly arranged, and each of his four activity stations was identified with a special sign. He got up early that day!
Proctor Elementary School RD
Michael Manney and his Proctor students had nicer weather for their Release Day at the Pittsford Recreation Area. The day started cloudy and cool but warmed as the morning wore on. Once the sun came out, it was delightful.
Volunteers Trip Westcott and Tom Culvert taught casting with both fly and spinning gear; Michael led a perspective drawing activity, and I staffed the macroinvertebrate collecting and classifying station.
One of the personal benefits of participating in these typically half-day RDs is that I can fish a stream I don't usually visit. The PES RD allowed me to "wet a fly" in Sugar Hollow Brook. Turns out there are brook trout in there!
Mike Carrano, of Pownal Elementary, Vermont's southwestern-most TIC school, is a very experienced and successful TIC teachers. This year has been another good year for Mike and his students, but for the first time ever, deep into the TIC season, one of Mike's otherwise seemingly healthy trout developed a deformity. A few days later, a second fish displayed similar symptons.
Mike wrote this about the situation:
Here is the video of the trout I have concerns about. It looks like we have a second trout starting to display the same sick behaviors. You can see at the end of the video the smaller trout’s spine is starting to get that “S” shape. The bigger one you can see the deformity.
Here's a super short video of the two quarantined fry.
I sent the video to Tom Jones, Fish Health Biologist for Vermont's Department of Fish and Wildlife. He responded with this:
This looks like a condition termed scoliosis (curvature of the spine in this fashion). In can be caused by many factors such as but not limited to water quality, nutrition, certain types of fish pathogens, genetics! The teacher mentioned Whirling Disease, but there is no biological link through the eggs that they have received! We have never detected WD in a Vermont fish culture facility. I'm not concerned about the stocking of these brook trout fry! My best advise is to euthanize the fish like this and continue with the release plans.
Being just a few miles from the state line, Mike knows the lead cold water fisheries biologist for the state of Massachusetts. Mike gave him all the info he had sent to me along with the video. The Massachusetts biologist thinks it’s Whirling Disease. That would be a great concern. I suggested to Mike that he see if the Massachusetts biologist would be able to conduct an autopsy or other form of investigation to establish conclusively what the problem is.
Devin Schrock, of Lincoln Community School, sent me some materials with this introduction:
Thanks for all the tidbits and advice you post on the blog! It's only my 2nd year with TIC so I'm finding it very useful. I'm sorry, however, that I haven't been more active in sharing our work from LCS. But, better late than never...here are resources for teaching external anatomy of the brook trout.
Here are four images of the final products.
Devin provided three documents to help other teachers lead their students in this anatomy activity:
Once your program is over, don't delay in cleaning your tank and other equipment. The longer you put off that process, the harder it becomes. Many teachers give students the opportunity to help with this.
Our current TIC Manual has instructions in Chapter 10, which starts on page 41. If you have a flow-through chiller, you may want to consider replacing the tubing if it's very grungy. Tubing isn't very expensive.
When it's all clean, make sure you put your equipment and especially the tank in a safe location. That means a place where it won't be "played with" or accidentally banged into.
It's starting to get beautiful--and very fishy--out there! Here's a picture I took yesterday of Giddings Brook in Hubbardton. The water temperature, by the way, was 56 degrees.
It's Release Day season
At this time of year there's probably a Release Day occurring somewhere in the state on every day of the week. It's exciting but also bittersweet to gather with your students on the banks of a stream as you prepare to let them go for good.
I love getting reports on your Release Days, and they're starting to trickle in, as are the photos and videos.
Jason Gragen and his students at NewBrook School had their release on May 10, when they put 86 carefully tended fry into their local stream. They also got a nice article in the Brattleboro Reformer covering their release. (Click on the image below if you want to read it.)
Essex HS RD video
Kelly Hill, of Essex High School, sent me a terrific video that they made on their Release Day. If you click on the image below, you'll go to the GoPro.com Web site where their video is hosted. (All the other videos I've put on the VTTIC Web site are ones I've uploaded to YouTube.) Since you'll leave the VTTIC Web site to watch the video, you might have to return to this site to continue reading the blog.
From raising fish to catching fish!
Adding fly casting to TIC
Several of our schools have augmented the usual TIC curriculum with activities related to fly fishing. I've talked about TU volunteer Kathy Ehlers, who demonstrates fly tying. Another TU volunteer, Barry Mayer, has taught middle schoolers fly tying. Most recently, Barry and a second TU volunteer, Christian Betit, taught students attending an after-school program at Shaftsbury Elementary School fly casting.
Here are some photos of the kids practicing.
Grad course for TIC teachers, but you have to act fast!
Yesterday Tara Granke, TU national TIC coordinator, sent me information about a graduate course that is being offered this summer--in fact, right now!--for teachers engaged in TIC.
Here's what Tara said in transmitting the course announcement.
I want to pass on this opportunity this summer for an online Graduate Summer Course through Mary Baldwin University. The Course is 100% online, is all about TIC, and the first of its kind! You will earn 3 hours of graduate credit. The cost of tuition is $1,040. See attached flyer for more details. The course started on May 20, but there should be time to still sign up. Contact Dr. Tamra Willis asap.
You can reach Dr. Willis at 540-887-7135 or email@example.com.
(Click on the image below to download the flyer.)
I recognize that the timing of this course and the super late notification about it will likely prohibit most if not all of you from participating. If, however, it seems like something you might have liked to do, say, if it were a summer course and you learned about it well in advance, let me know. Perhaps we can get Mary Baldwin to offer another section.
Schoolhouse Learning Center media
In the past, many of you have enjoyed the close-up photographs and videos sent by Danielle Levine, of the Schoolhouse Learning Center. Well, here are some more!
Thank you so much for these, Danielle. They're a gift to all of us!
An interesting way to expand the educational impact of the TIC program is by studying trout anatomy through a dissection activity. This requires, of course, that you obtain some dead fish. These need not be trout, as the anatomy of all fish are very similar. You might be able to get a few trout from a local hatchery, either public or private. If that's not an option, ask anyone you know who fishes.
Click on this image to access a PowerPoint slide show about trout dissection.
As is so often true, you can find many excellent resources on YouTube that can teach you about the dissection process. Here's one that's six minutes long.
Here's one that's 20 minutes long.
Local brook at flood stage
This, which took place a couple of weeks ago, is an indication of what can happen at this time of year. It's why you need to have a back-up plan for Release Day!
The power of the spawning impulse!
On a lighter note, here's a wonderful video I got from my friend and fellow TU/TIC volunteer Barry Mayer. Apparently as you approached this site, you encountered a sign saying, "Drive Slowly, Fish Crossing." The photographer added: "It happens in the vicinity of the Skokomish River, Shelton, Washington, USA. If the river floods, the salmon take short cuts swimming across the road to go upstream to spawn. Happens almost every year… awesome!!"
Barry Mayer, SWVTTU TIC volunteer also sent me this video that he shot on 5/2/19 at Mount Anthony Union Middle School while visiting Emily Hunter's 8th grade science class. The fish look good!
Count your fish
Unless you have very few fish, it's extremely difficult to get an accurate count of your trout when they're swimming around actively in the tank.
But I will want you to tell me how many trout you released, so the time to count them is when you're transferring them from the tank to the cooler you'll use to transport them to the release site.
Here's the procedure that I recommend:
Ice pop and trout
TIC volunteer Jim Mirenda sent me this photo of his daughter on a day they visited the Dorset School tank. Jim and I "cut our TIC teeth" in the fall of 2012 as co-volunteers at the Dorset School. That was the first time either of us had assisted with a TIC program.
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.
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.