Release Days are underway!
As far as I'm aware, the first release of the year was this past Friday, when Jason Gragen and the students of NewBrook Elementary School released their fry into Grassy Brook in Brookline. Tomorrow Gary Saunders, another TIC volunteer, and I will be helping Seth Bonnett and Melissa Rice and the 6th graders of Manchester Elementary-Middle School release their fish into Mill Brook in Danby. One day every month (including in January!), Melissa and Seth's students have been visiting Smokey House in Danby to participate in a variety of environmental education activities. Mill brook, which the students studied earlier in the spring, runs through the Smokey House property. Here's a picture from last year's rainy MEMS release at Smokey House.
Let me know when and where your Release Day will be!
Macro ID charts
There are a number of great resources in various folders on the TIC Google Drive. There's a folder, for example, called "Macro charts." (Click that name; it links directly to the folder.) This contains four JPEG files for identifying stream and pond macroinvertebrates. The first and fourth of these charts mostly feature macros found in ponds, lakes, or slow-moving rivers. The second and third (pictures below), however, have lots of the macros species we're likely to find in Vermont streams appropriate for brook trout. I recommend that you print charts #2 and #3 (ideally on card stock) and laminate them (or laminate them back-to-back).
Another folder called "Insect identification, including charts" (also a link) includes a PowerPoint presentation on Macros and their identification. You'll also find a file called Biotic Index. This two-page document, like the colored macro charts, can be used to identify macro species (using black-and-white line drawings; the left image below) but it also permits you to calculate a stream's "biotic index," which is an important measure of its health. The biotic index methodology (explained in the right image below) assigns each macro species a number that reflects how pollution-tolerant or pollution-intolerant the species is. The fewer of the former and the more of the latter you find in a stream, the better the likely health of the stream. As with the colored macro charts, I recommend that you print these two pages on card stock and laminate them back-to-back. Then you can buy some Wet Erase felt-tip pens. This will allow your students to write on the laminated documents and, on the backside, do the calculations for determining your streams biotic index.
How do you collect macros?
So we're talking about identifying macros and using their presence in the stream to calculate "biotic index," a measure of the stream's health, but how do you collect them in the first place?
First you need to either buy some "kick nets" (sometimes called "aquatic kick nets") or buy or build some "kick screens." Here's a professional grade kick net. They cost around $200 apiece.
Here's a less expensive "student kick net." I found one on Amazon for about $80.
Commercial kick nets cost about the same price.
Having no budget for TIC, I elected to build half a dozen kick screens very inexpensively. I went to my local hardware store and bought:
So for less than $5.00, you can make a perfectly useable kick net. Here's what the completed kick screen looks like.
After your students have caught macros, what do they do with them?
If you're planning a macro collecting/classifying activity, you'll want to assemble one or more collecting kits. If, like many teachers, you choose to break your students up into small groups of four or five kids, each under the supervision of an adult volunteer, you will need a kit for each group. So, you'll have to acquire inexpensive materials.
Here's an example of a collecting kit.
None of these items was expensive, and all, with the possible exception of the pipettes, should be available locally.
I've laid out all but the "Dollar Store" wash basin on the foam board below.
Contents of collecting kit
Depending on the age and energy level of your students, you may want to plan to have them play the Macro Mayhem game. This involves teaching students (a) how, by specific movements, the different species of macroinvertebrates take in oxygen and (b) how different species are sensitive to pollution and low levels of dissolved oxygen. Then you set up the game, assigning different species and roles to all the students. Here's a very brief video I shot of the Middletown Springs Elementary School students playing Macro Mayhem.
Here's another video I found on YouTube.
Minnesota's Natural Resources agency has put together a very comprehensive curriculum guide for this activity/lesson. Click on the image below to access the lesson plan.
Finally, and I'll probably say this again, we need your data! Every year the TIC coordinators study data of two sorts:
Regarding water chemistry, please send the spreadsheet titled "Template for TIC data entry 2018" (or your local equivalent). If we're to learn from your submission, you'll also need to tell us when and how many eggs/alevin/fry you lost on which dates and/or how your fish were behaving at various points.
With your data and that from other teachers we will be able to learn more about TIC best practices with each successive year.
Have fun in this beautiful spring weather!
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.