Dead chillers! Black gunk! Escaped alevin! All the things that can go wrong! Nice pictures from Matt Buck.
Oh, no! Our chiller has died!
The chillers we're buying these days are very reliable, but they can fail, as recently occurred at one of Mad Dog Chapter's schools. What do you do then!
First of all, every TIC programs should have several plastic bottles of frozen tank water in a freezer somewhere. As soon as you discover that your chiller isn't keeping the temperature as low as it should be, put some of those in the tank to cool the water. (You'll need either to have quite a few bottles or you'll need to start freezing new bottles as soon as you begin to use what's already frozen.)
Fortunately, on a statewide basis, we have three spare chillers for emergencies. These are typically well used and shouldn't be viewed as a permanent replacement for a dead chiller, but one of these can tide you over until you've been able to order and receive a new replacement chiller.
Bob Wible has two of these, and I've got a third.
What's that ugly black gunk?! And what about the foam?
Amanda Pierce and her students at Barre City Elementary & Middle School got very concerned Tuesday morning when they noticed (a) foam and (b) piece of black material about 30 mm. long. All of these were in the breeder basket.
Regarding the black material, Amanda reported several other details:
I quickly e-mailed four invaluable TIC supporters: Robb Cramer, Chuck Dinkel, Tara Granke, and Jeremy Whalen. Help!
The consensus opinions that came back were:
One of our TIC parent-volunteers e-mailed me this morning with the sad news that at the tank he's been supporting, all the alevin escaped from the breeder basket. He was worried that many of these might have been sucked into the filter. Oh, no!
Fortunately, he wrote back this afternoon to say that there were no dead alevin in the filter. Whew! The escapees were all nestled down in the gravel, almost hidden from view.
Nonetheless, this should serve as a reminder of the importance of putting mesh or netting over the filter intake. Here's a photo of how that's been done on the intake of a Fluval 406 filter.
(Those are Chuck Dinkel's hands, by the way.)
You never know when you're going to have alevin loose in the tank. Sometimes the breeder basket gets accidentally dropped. Occasionally a seam in the netting will open up. Fry have been known to jump out of the breeder basket when the water level is high.
So if it isn't covered already, cover your filter intake right now!
In doing so, use mesh or netting that's fine but not too fine. Fine enough so that skinny little alevin can't get through it--and your alevin will be very skinny after they've consumed their yolk sack and before they start eating. But not so fine that every little piece of waste or extra food gets caught on the surface of the netting.
As far as those escapees, their being on the bottom of a 22" high tank will make their swim-up for food more of a challenge. Being so far from the top of the water, where the food would normally be floating, the alevin will hardly notice food that doesn't sink down to the gravel.
One technique to try to address that situation is:
Nice photos from Matt Buck
Marion Cross School teacher Matt Buck sent some great pictures and posted some wonderful videos to the school's Google site. Here are Matt's pictures.
Matt also wrote about the way he, as a first-year 5th grade science teacher, is incorporating TIC into his classes.
Being our first year participating, we're learning about how to balance the TIC work along with other units that normally happen this time of year. For now I've found that dedicating one day a week to TIC (with all three sections of 5th grade) is working well. On this day we update DI spreadsheets, make scientific drawings of eyed eggs and sac fry, plus capture some pretty good video! Besides this whole class dedication I've been having two students per day come in 10 minutes early to collect our water and egg data each day. We're using a Google spreadsheet that seems to be working pretty well thus far. Pretty exciting stuff! The kids are loving it thus far.
Finally, Matt also described the method he used to capture the videos I've provided links to below.
I've an Elmo document camera that we project in HD to the front board. From there I simply took a video with my phone. So we actually lost a good deal of the video quality on the phone.
Not bad, Matt!
Links to Matt's videos.
STOP ADDING BACTERIA--for now--unless your temperature is at or near 50 degrees F.
Some of the members of Vermont's TIC support team have been busy lately! On Monday I met with local professional aquaculturist Lorena Schwarz. On Tuesday, I had two telephone conversations totaling 40" with Doug Dent, head scientist at Ecological Labs, the company that makes both Special Blend and Nite-Out II. Then that evening, I spoke with Maryland/DC TIC coordinator Chuck Dinkel. Finally, on Wednesday, four of us, Lorena Schwarz, Central Vermont coordinator Bob Wible, GUV coordinator Robb Cramer, and I had a conference call. All of these conversations focused on how the two bacteria we add to our tanks work, especially in cold water.
Hatching too early or normal?
Here are some photos taken at Crossett Brook Middle School of early hatching eggs. In sending the pictures, Meg Ritter wrote:
We have two alevins and more on the way. Our intrepid photographer is a seventh grade student, taking the most recent pictures under the microscope (see attached). We even have a photo of an empty egg.
I've been getting a lot of inquiries from teachers regarding egg hatches--questions like:
Danielle Levine, of the Schoolhouse Learning Center, wrote this:
I keep having early hatchers. They are the ones the we put under the microscope; since they get warmed up, that makes sense. However, they seem to hatch and not make it. Any ideas on what I can do to help their survival? Are they just too small and victims of our need to study or is there something I can do?
Not sure. I assume that the “preemies” are biologically weaker than their normal-hatching peers. It may be that they are too weak to handle the additional stress of removal from the basket and exposure to the microscope light.
As long as you don’t have an epidemic of “early risers,” I think it’s okay. If you suspect it’s the warming of the microscope light, can you shorten the exposure time of use non-illuminated magnification?
Regardless, the educational benefits you’re providing your students are terrific and, IMHO, worth the casualties. If, however, alevin that haven’t been exposed to the microscope light keep dying, let us know.
Bob Wible offered this opinion:
I suspect two possibilities:
1. Light shock - strong UVA light, camera flashes, microscope light, etc. are detrimental.
2. Temperature change shock - great than 5 degrees. I assume you remove the egg from 52 degree water put it into a small container with a little tank water look at it for a while then return it to 52 degrees. While the egg is out of the tank its temp is rising well above 52. Can you ease it back into the tank 52 degrees so it doesn’t go from maybe 65 to 52 in one millisecond?? Maybe take 15 minutes or so.
Just some thoughts.
Both Bob and I both shared Danielle's question with Jeremy Whalen, Roxbury hatchery supervisor. On 1/25/18, he wrote back with this:
Teachers should start seeing some hatching at this point, your calculations are correct and the eggs should be around 53 DI. The DI chart says 90% hatched at 58 DI, so it’s not uncommon to see some early hatch’s. At 43 degrees teachers are gaining 0.69 DI daily, which puts 58 DI about 7 days away.
Then Poultney Elementary's Keith Harrington sent me this message today.
I was just wondering if anyone else was reporting preemies. We had two last week, neither of which survived. When I came in this morning, I had three more. Although they were swimming when I jiggled the breeder basket, I am concerned that they will suffer the same fate as the others. My tank has been kept at a steady 43 degrees since the eggs arrived. Thoughts?
So, a few conclusions from these exchanges:
Most important don't feed alevin at this stage. Unless you're running a high temperature, "the "swim-up" stage is still weeks away. As Jeremy said above, currently DI in most tanks should be in the mid-50s. Swim-up (for about 50% of the alevin) won't occur until the DI gets to about 85 or 90.
Photos from Schoolhouse Learning Center
Here are some great pictures of Danielle Levine's 4th grader as their share their TIC expertise with younger students. Here's what Danielle said in transmitting these great shots. Here are pictures of my 4th graders presenting the trout project to our preschoolers (4 year olds). They explained the tank, the lifecycle and then showed them the eggs under magnifying glasses and a microscope!
A fungus amongus?!
Three days ago, Bob Wible sent me two pictures of fungus that developed in one of the TIC tanks of the Central Vermont Chapter area. Here's one of those photos.
I sent the photos to some of our TIC supporters. Robb Cramer, Greater Upper Valley chapter TIC liaison and Dartmouth professor, sent an e-mail back to me saying, "Saprolegnia [the scientific name of the fungus]. Eggs probably won’t make it.
Our TU national TIC coordinator Tara Granke provided this response.
Here’s a post from the National Google Group with more information about Saprolegnia (aka water mold or common fungus):
It spreads very rapidly and is difficult to get rid of once it has spread to a majority of the eggs. It can be prevented by removing dead eggs daily or more often. It can also grow on gravel, plants, and live fish!
So what's the take-away? Make sure you remove those dead eggs ASAP!
BTW, that link that Tara provided also includes instructions on how to clean your tank if you're able to get a new batch of eggs or alevin. (You may need to join the national TIC Google Group to access that link.)
A leaky tank?
I got another e-mail from Bob Wible over the weekend. In it he said:
Had a teacher contact me last week concerned about her tank leaking. I tried to get a feeling of how much leakage a day. Maybe a quart to a gallon. (Of course, a gallon of water on the floor is quite a mess). I suspected it was more like a quart. Anyway, I visited last Thursday and found the insulation was not tight around the tank. The sides were connected to the back but neither sides nor back were connected to the base. This allowed a large gap between the tank and the back insulation. I believe this allowed an air flow and lots of condensation to be made. By the way, the tank is at 43 degrees. Today she said that water was no longer accumulating around the base. So, I assume this problem was solved by tightening up the insulation to reduce condensation build up.
As you've probably noticed, having a tank of cold water in a warm classroom invariably generates a lot of condensation on the glass of the tank. (This phenomenon, in itself, is an interesting "teachable moment" to address with your students. What NGSS would it address?) Fortunately, putting tight-fitting foam insulation around the tank greatly reduces the condensation, especially if there's minimal air circulation between the tank and the insulation board.
Lesson learned? Make sure there's no extra space between your tank and its insulation.
A new source of science-related YouTube videos
During a breakfast meeting this morning TIC volunteer and aquaculturist Lorena Schwarz told me about a great YouTube channel that she came across. Here's an example of the content you will find on it.
In this super series, host Sabrina Cruz addresses numerous basic and complex concepts of science, with categories for Earth Science, Engineering, Life Science, Physical Science, and Space Science. Most categories include 12 three- to six-minute long videos, with a total of 65 videos in all. They were designed for a 5th grade audience, but I learned a lot from and enjoyed them. Wonderfully, each video includes information on the NGSS that it addresses.
Here's a link to the channel. Please check them out and let me know what you think.
Temperature not holding constant
Recently I got a question from Michael Luzader, of Currier Memorial School.
Now that we have eggs in our tank and we are collecting data I notice that the temperature in the tank fluctuates by 2 degrees (42 - 44). Depending on the time of day, our temperature could be anywhere between these two numbers, and while I am trying to check at the same time of day, for record keeping, it could still be different; can you offer any guidance?
Here's how I responded.
Your chiller is performing the way it should. Like all heating and cooling device that utilize a thermostat, there’s always a regular fluctuation in the temperature, with it bouncing above and below the desired target. As I recall, your chiller has a setting for the number of degrees off the target that the water has to be before the chiller kicks back on (or off).
One of the reasons for this is to reduce the strain on the chiller that would result if, for example, the chiller kicked on at 42.5 and kicked off at 43.5.
Either recording the temperature at the same time each day, as you’re doing, or averaging the daily high and low is about the best you can do. BTW, it gets even more complicated when you consider what the in-tank temperature variations might be. I suspect that if you had ten thermometers scattered throughout the tank, you’d find even larger variations.
At this stage, when we’re using temperature measurements to predict swim-up and “first feed” behavior, the most important temperature is that of the water close to the breeder basket.
Photos from more schools, nice teacher-written article, National Park passes for 4th graders, Web site activity.
The photos keep coming in and we love getting them. Here are pictures taken by TU volunteer Barry Mayer of egg delivery day at the Village School of North Bennington.
Barry also sent these photos from Mount Anthony Union Middle School.
Amanda Pierce, of Barre City Elementary School, sent me these pictures of her class and Shawn Nailor, TIC co-liaison for the Mad Dog Chapter region, who made the egg delivery.
More good publicity
Ted Nathanson, of East Montpelier Middle School, wrote a very nice article for the East Montpelier Signpost newsletter. Here's what it looks like, but that's probably too small for you to read. To access the whole newsletter, click here. Ted's article is on page 6.
Wonderful opportunity for 4th graders and their families!
Chris Alexopoulos told me about this terrific program.
This fabulous program allows all fourth graders and their families to have free access to our National parks for a year. Pretty great, huh!
Here's the link to sign up for your personal pass.
Web site activity.
Our Web site vermonttroutintheclassroom.weebly.com has been getting a fair bit of action. Here's a summary of the last week's activity.
TIC volunteer and Southwestern Vermont TU Vice President Barry Mayer sets a container of eggs he just delivered to the Village School of North Bennington in this photo that appeared in Monday's Bennington Banner. (Click on the image above to access the full newspaper article.)
Here's what SWVTTU President Chad Walz said in reporting on the coverage.
Just wanted to let everyone know that Erin and Barry made the Village School TIC launch a huge success today. I hear it was quite the shindig!
Emily Gabert, a freelance correspondent for the Bennington Banner (who attended the Village School!), and Banner photographer Holly Pelcyznski were on hand when the eggs arrived. Adam Agnew, a TU member, also took photos and answered trout questions. Other attendees included Norton Kennedy, Village School Board Member Ray Mullineaux, Judie Brower (who called the Banner), Brendan McKenna (husband of teacher, Kathleen), and TU board member Erin Lyon's mom (the Village School art teacher).
Barry gave an EXCELLENT presentation and the kids were totally mesmerized by him and his knowledge. They even knew what "equilibrium" meant!
Erin passed out treats: Swedish fish and Goldfish crackers. And Norton passed out the Encounter outfits and a copy of the Orvis guide to fly fishing and two TU hats and some other swag. Erin said he was beaming with pride afterward.
It sounds like it was really special. Well done, all around. Congratulations!
Thanks to SWVTTU board member Erin Lyons for obtaining the donation that allowed VSNB to join the TIC program--and for bringing the snacks!
Proctor Elementary School egg delivery
Here are some pictures from Danielle Fagan, of Proctor Elementary School, documenting the arrival of their eggs on Friday.
Mount Holly School
On Saturday, Emma Vastola, of Mt. Holly School, sent out this note with its attached pictures, to parents of her 1st grade students.
Dear First Grade Families,
Today was an exciting day in First Grade because our Trout in the Classroom volunteer, Kathy Elhers, came to deliver our Brook Trout fish eggs! Over the next few months the first graders will be learning about animal and plant habitats in Vermont and the importance of water quality and animal life-cycles by raising and releasing Brook Trout. Along the way the students will be learn the practice of science and data collection, to say the least.
From now till Release day in May/June the students will be spending Friday afternoons learning all about things 'fish'. With that in mind, I was wondering if any parents might want to volunteer to make fish themed snacks on Fridays? If you are interested, please let me know!
I have attached a few photos of our first Fish Friday! Included are the students who successfully estimated the correct number of fish! Exactly 100!
Asking for your help
Experienced TIC teacher Steve Flint, of Marty Hogan School, posed this question:
Does anyone know of any books or magazines for elementary students to help them learn more about brook trout? Titles can include comparing brook trout to other fish, their habitats, etc. Most resources we find are focused on fly fishing or too technical for 3rd graders. The unit we are working on developing for next year will likely include comparing the needs of brook trout in Vermont to another type of fish in another part of the world. Any resources that might be appropriate for this would also be helpful.
One of my responses to Steve's inquiry was to suggest that he visit national Trout Unlimited's TIC Web site, especially the "Library List" within its "Resources" section. Find the Library List here.
But we'd like to hear from you. Let Steve and me know what reading materials you'd recommend for his students.
More deliveries. What do we do now? What do some of our tanks look like? How many schools are doing TIC/SIC?
Lots of deliveries!
Our earliest deliveries occurred on 1/4/18, as we reported on in the first blog of the new year. On the 10th, Dan "Rudi" Ruddell, of the White River Partnership, picked up and delivered eggs for Greater Upper Valley TIC schools.
The GUVTU-WRP eggs all got delivered yesterday; thankful for a day of good traveling weather and a friendly, competent and helpful crew at the hatchery as well as all the work that has gone into paving the way to this point. Fingers crossed from here.
Thursday, Shawn and Gloria Nailor brought more than a thousand eggs to schools in the Mad Dog Chapter region. Yesterday Peder Rude did the same for the schools of the Connecticut River Valley Chapter area. Also yesterday, a team of nine of us delivered the eggs of most (23 of 26) schools of the Southwestern Vermont Chapter region.
Our chapter's delivery day was often very wet, but the temperatures never got below 36 degrees (in Roxbury, of course) and were often well above 50 degrees, so Gary Saunders and I, who made the trip to the hatchery, encountered no ice. While there was the threat of rivers flooding, we never encountered anything more than big puddles. After I pulled into our driveway at the end of delivery day, I found that my 4Runner's odometer revealed that I'd put 191 miles on our car. Well worth it!
Here are some pictures from our day.
Thanks to all our SWVTTU helpers: Kathy Ehlers, Joe Kraus, Erin Lyons, Nancy Mark, Barry Mayer, Gary Saunders, Deb Squires, and Trip Westcott. Thanks too to Jeremy and Nate at the Roxbury hatchery. When we arrived at 9:30, all our eggs were already packed in their containers and the food was boxed up.
So what do we do now?
We spend a lot of time trying to predict and control process like egg hatching and alevin swim-up. But most of what we have to say about that is based on summary data that apply to most cases. Get that? Most cases, not all cases.
Here's a report from Central Vermont TU's volunteer Chuck Goller:
Sarah Stebbins at Cold Hollow Career Center in Enosburg Falls may have the first early hatch! It appears her batch of eggs has one fish anxious to get an early jump on its peers. See the small tail emerging from the egg circled in the photo below. This might be an indicator for you to start looking for your own signs of activity. It is a bit early but there are always a few early birds looking to get the worm. Sorry, couldn’t help using that expression!
Here's the photo Chuck sent.
So, be on the look-out. Nature is full of aberrations.
Some good looking southwestern Vermont tank set-ups (waiting for eggs).
Village School of North Bennington, teacher Kathleen Backus
Mount Anthony Union Middle School, teacher Emily Hunter
How many Vermont TIC/SIC schools this year?
Every year more schools join the Trout in the Classroom program. So how many are we up to?
That's right, 86 schools; but, because two of our schools, one in the GUV area and the other in Mad Dog's region, each have two tanks, we're actually up to 88 tanks. Not bad for a program that started with five schools in 2012! Here's the current list.
Local stream conditions
Every so often I like to inspect our local streams. When I got back from our very rainy "the big egg run" yesterday, I drove down to the Castleton River, where I was also able to observe the condition of one of the Castleton's tributaries, Pond Hill Brook. Both were very swollen to say the least.
The egg deliveries begin!
After months of anticipation, many of our schools got their eggs earlier this week; most of the rest will get theirs before the week is out.
Here's Bob Wible's report on January 4 deliveries to TIC schools supported by the Central Vermont Chapter of Trout Unlimited.
Thanks to Paul Urband, Landon Dennison, Dick Giard, Frank Hagerty, Barry Parker, John Quinn, Chuck Goller, Jack Price, and Syl Stemple, 3,200 eggs were delivered to 30 schools in five counties. These generous individuals have volunteered their time to a very important Trout Unlimited program. Now the fun starts with the students getting involved and maybe finding a connection to their watersheds.
Ingenuity in Hartland
You may recall the urgent plea for help, back in December, sent out by Tiffany Tucker, of Hartland Cooperative Nursery School, when she discovered that one of the metal joints of her tank--where the crossbar in the middle of the top of the tank met the side of the frame--was coming apart. As a result, the sides of her tank were starting to bulge outward. Yikes! Here's what that joint looked like.
Well, I'm pleased to report that Tiffany came up with a great and inexpensive solution. First she tried using silicone cement, but that didn't work. Then she became more creative. Below you'll find a slideshow of three photos that illustrate what Tiffany's repaired tank now looks like.
Two of our southwestern Vermont schools don't yet have their chillers operating, so two area teachers and their students have volunteered to "egg-sit" for these classes. As a result, on Friday when we deliver eggs to 23 of our 26 schools, two of those schools won't be getting any eggs--yet!--and two schools will be getting double-batches of eggs. Thanks to Seth Bonnett and Melissa Rice, of Manchester Elementary and Middle School, and to Guy Merolle, at Castleton Village School, and to their students for taking good care of a neighboring school's eggs.
Pick your temperature plan!
Please review the discussion in the 12/18/17 blog about picking a temperature to use as your trout move through the egg, alevin, and fry stages. You may recall that we are encouraging that you choose--and stick to--one of three options.
Option 1: Cool and slow (especially for southern Vermont schools receiving eggs on 1/12)
The goal of this approach is to prevent your fish from swimming up while you're away on your (comparatively early) winter break and to have them swim up after you and your students are back in school. Here's what you should do:
Option 2: Cool and slow (especially for north-central and northwestern Vermont schools receiving eggs on 1/4)
The goal of this approach is to prevent your fish from swimming up while you're away on February break and to have them swim up after you and your students are back in school. Here's what you should do:
Option 3: Warm and quick (especially for north-central and northwestern Vermont schools receiving eggs on 1/4)
The goal of this approach is to get your fish swimming up before your February break. Here's what you should do:
My local stream today
As often as I can, I visit a local stream to see what it looks like. (You may want to do the same. If you do, please send me any photos you take,) While I drove past a few small streams completely encased in a snow-and-ice cocoon, the Castleton River nearest my house looks like this. (Kinda makes you want to get out into nature, doesn't it?)
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.