Eyed eggs and fry, oh my!


SourDough News | August 27, 2014


Students in the Coho in the Classroom program make fly ties.
Students in the Coho in the Classroom program make fly ties to mimic the aquatic macroinvertabrates they are studying.

Hummingbird landing in a hand
Students from Naukati Bay School learn about the five species of Pacific Salmon in the Coho in the Classroom program presented by the Thorne Bay Ranger District.

Coho in the Classroom and Beyond on Prince of Wales Island 
This past February, the Thorne Bay Ranger District joined the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and the Klawock Hatchery Association to bring Coho in the Classroom once again to one of the nine communities on Prince of Wales Island. Last year, 25 junior and senior aquaculture and science students from Craig High School participated in the program with instructor Ashley Hutton and me as guides. This year, after two years in Craig, we returned to the Southeast Island School District and led the session for 21 elementary, middle, and high school students from Naukati Bay School. We were joined by two new teachers, Crystal and Ryan Nelson.
A 50-gallon aquarium was set up with coho salmon fry. The aquarium had a refrigerated recirculating system that allowed us to slowly increase temperature over time to mimic natural systems. We measured water quality parameters such as pH, nitrite, nitrate, and ammonium levels on a daily basis. We also recorded daily temperatures with accumulated thermal units, and periodically monitored the dissolved oxygen and chlorine content. 
The eggs need to accumulate a certain amount of thermal degrees or thermal units to trigger life stage growth in the natural stream. Due to unseasonably warm weather, the salmon fry were actively hatching during the time we normally still have eyed eggs when picking them up to transport, which was a first.
We studied the salmon life cycle, fish habitat, karst watersheds, water quality and chemistry, point source pollution, and the food web, focusing on aquatic macro invertebrates (water bugs). The students took daily notes, kept journals, and researched all five salmon life cycles. They learned how to identify fry, juveniles, and adults. Each week they chose to do a writing, art, or research assignment to share on a topic related to fish and watersheds of their choice. Students also practiced the art of making fly ties to mimic the aquatic macroinvertabrates and talk about seasonal patterns and cycles. 
Students participated in online explorations, in-depth discussions, and field trips. They learned about cultures that depend on fisheries as well as potential fisheries careers. They were able to apply the science and math they learned in the classroom to the practical tasks of caring for the salmon.
The students became teachers themselves as they shared their assignments and stories of what they had learned in weekly presentations to the class. At the end of the semester, they presented their final team research project via a slide show from each team to the school, parents, and community members. It was another busy spring full of Coho in the Classroom kids. We hope to continue to present the program to future budding fisheries biologists, hydrologists, and watershed specialists.


Brandy Prefontaine, Fisheries Technician, Tongass National Forest