What's with this weather?
Yuck! When will this weather become more seasonally appropriate? Here's what the Castleton River looked like this afternoon when I drove back from a visit to West Rutland School.
And what did I see in West Rutland? Some very big and beefy young brook trout. WRS science teacher Jennifer Jackson greeted me at the end of her school day to show off the very healthy fish she and English teacher Zach Eastman have been raising. Their bigger fry were more than two inches long! Pretty impressive for early April! (BTW, they chose the "hot and fast" temperature approach.)
In response to Blog #21, I heard from quite a few teachers, several of whom sent photos of their fish or students.
Janis Boubol, Sharon Elementary School, wrote:
At Sharon we have had several fish languishing at the bottom and looking listless. We have been losing 1-2 fish per day for the last 2 weeks. We have checked the numbers, done water changes and have been watching the strong fry feed well. We did not have this experience last year so I am wondering what else we can do.
I said that I suspected those small, weak fish were pinheads that never learned to eat and would almost certainly die. As long as the healthy-appearing fish don't start looking weak too, I though the survivors would be fine.
Keith Harrington, Poultney Elementary School, sent this report:
Our trout have been released from the breeder basket and into the tank and seem to be doing well. We had a run where we were losing one or so a day right before we let them into the tank. It seems to be that these fish were just not eating enough and were either not learning how to eat or being outworked to get to the food by the others that were more developed.
As far as fish being trapped against the filter, or going through the filter is concerned, that has not been a problem at all. One thing I did differently this year is to leave them in the breeder basket longer. They were bigger when I let them into the tank, and I think that is paying off.
For release day in the past I have done several things. One year we had students write poems about their experience with TIC to read before the release. Last year each student or group of students did a Powerpoint presentation that we shared on the stage at Green Mountain College on the big screen. We also have worked with GMC professors and Poultney/ Mettowee Watershed Conservation District staff to put together a series of hands-on station activities at the Poultney River during the day.
Water table work
Danielle Levine, at Schoolhouse Learning Center, borrowed a "water table" from the Resource Room at the ECHO Science Museum in Burlington. This allowed her to demonstrate to her young students how precipitation moves through a watershed and its streams and rivers. Pretty cool, huh!
More school reports
Dan Ruddell, of White River Partnership, provided this update on a couple of schools in the eastern part of the state:
There seemed to be some possible discoloration (darkened) around the gills on one that I looked at [at Sharon Elementary], but not dramatically so. As Janis mentioned they looked listless and the gills appeared to be fluttering; nothing else obvious, but the body was also not as large as many of the others. Last week the filter had stopped functioning for a bit (less than a day) due to a fine mesh over the filter intake becoming clogged. I removed and rinsed it with tap water, then rinsed well with tank water before replacing; filter worked fine at that point. The ammonia had risen temporarily to 1.0, nitrite to 3, nitrates to 80. Ammonia came back down to 0.25, but nitrite has stayed up around 3; nitrate had dropped back to 40. They had lost around 20 fish. We did a partial water change yesterday and drew another bucket. Their water is relatively hard.
Braintree has also lost 20 or so in the last week or two, some similar issues with listless fish and fluttering gills on ones I saw but no signs of discoloration. They said a number of the mortalities seemed smaller/weaker; they had lowered the basket but have been placing weak ones back into it again. Filter is functioning fine, ammonia mostly 0 with one or two 0.25 readings; nitrite all less than 0.5 and nitrates mostly 20 or less.
I was thinking we may be seeing some mortality of pinheads as the yolk sac reserves are now pretty depleted and some of these fish are still not really responding to feeding, but there may be more going on; not clear about what that is though.
Charlotte Central School's Tasha Grey sent this report, question, and photo:
I came in this morning to discover a head hanging out of our largest fry's mouth! We popped him in the breeder basket until we can figure out what to do- another teacher dubbed it a "time out." Should we try to remove the dead fish from his mouth? Or simply let him deal (or not) with his own problem?
I said don't try to remove the dead fry.
Bob Wible added this:
I would leave the aggressive fry in the basket for a week. Also feed him just once a day so the others can grow a little more than he does. Then a day before you before you release him back to the tank feed him as you do the others.
Jen Grilly, at th Bridge School proudly sent me this video of her fish eating breakfast. Jen also pointed of the "little guy on the bottom with a crooked tail."
The TIC team at Dorset School, Holly Hjelt, Brenda LoPresti, and Karli Love, had their students write trout haikus. Here's a sampling of what the students produced that I found posted on the bulletin board outside their classroom. Great job kids!
Because three teachers with three different classrooms are working together on TIC at Dorset, Karli, Brenda, and Holly have had to define which students will focus on what aspects of TIC when. Some of this is laid out on a bulletin board outside Karli's classroom. Here are some pictures I took of the BB. (I also couldn't resist snapping a few photos of the tank in Karli's room.)
I love this photo that Meg Ritter, Crossett Brook Middle School, sent me today. It shows the concentration her 7th graders invest in water testing.
Salisbury Community School's Amy Clapp sent this report and the following photos.
We did the slow and cold method, and the fish seem so little. We had about 6-7 die in the swim up phase. I think they were pinheads, but once we released into the big tank, die-off seemed to stop. Students have been comparing and contrasting life cycles of fish compared to other animals and plants....they make lots of connections. I love it when the pre-schoolers come to look at the tank.....working on release day...think we are going to tour the Salisbury Hatchery and release on the same day with Paul Urband. We also have been doing "Fish Friday" where each Friday I do a lesson for 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th graders about some aspect of fish and/or tank. Here are some photos.
As soon as Charlie Cummings, 3rd grade teacher at Fisher Elementary School, got his eggs, he thought one group of them looked very different from all the others. As those eggs hatched and grew, they continued to look unlike the rest of the fish. Over the months, we've begun to wonder whether they might be landlocked Atlantic salmon. Here are three photos of those mystery fish. What do you think?
Emma Vastola sent this great information and related images on an activity she's got her 1st graders doing:
The first graders are making Trout Journals this year. They are learning how to make scientific observations and exploring the Performance Standard: I can tell how parents and their children are alike and different. Attached are a few photos of the students doing their Brook Trout Observations.
My next blog will return to the topic of Release Day planning.
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.