Monthly Archives: March 2013

New Lesson Plan

A version of the lesson plan I used for my Forrestal Elementary School visit is now posted at the Curriculum Link under Short Lesson Plan. I have modified the lesson so it is totally standalone, that is, teachers can demonstrate telemetry in the classroom without having to use in telemetry equipment. This version of the plan is probably most appropriate for elementary school. Someday soon I will add standards and also make a more advanced version for older students.

Young of the Year are everywhere at Shu Swamp

Between the old concrete bridge and the upstream pedestrian footbridge, a distance of about a 500 meters, I saw 15 young of the year. They were pretty much anywhere I looked along the banks in shallow slow-moving water, especially if there were sticks and debris available to hide in. Here is a video (look toward the top third in middle and you will see what looks at first like a leaf waving back and forth in the stream).

Water depths in these spots is about an inch or so.

Latest PIT-Tag Release (UPDATE)

Last Thursday (3/21/2013) Brian and Maryanne released 16 PIT-tagged trout (8-9 inches) in Shu Swamp. Today I changed batteries and uploaded data from the two antennae. At Shu Swamp 9 of the 16 fish were detected, 8 in the first 12 hours after release. In the past the proportion has been more like 30-35%. Perhaps this is because of the cold water temperatures (about 7 C). Two trout were detected at the Beaver Lake antenna within about 24 hours of release. This brings to 4 detected at the dam of the 100 released thus far. And all of these are detected within 24 hours after release.

UPDATE (3/28/2013): I have observed a lot of osprey activity in Beaver Lake. While I was there yesterday I saw an osprey catch a fish. I couldn’t tell whether it was a trout or not. The water depth in the lake is one a couple of feet so any fish out in the open is going to be in a lot of trouble. I imagine that the lake represents a formidable obstacle to a migrating fish, whether trout or alewife.

While I was at the Shu Swamp antenna I had this visitor who was very curious about my activities:Swan at the Railroad Bridge

Fortunately it is isn’t nesting season yet.

Thank you Long Island Trout Unlimited!

Top - Lotek NTQ-1. Smallest tag in the business. Bottom: NTC-3-2.

Top – Lotek NTQ-1. Smallest tag in the business. Bottom: NTC-3-2.

I just received five new radiotags courtesy of a generous donation from Long Island Trout Unlimited. These larger tags – they weigh 1.1 grams compared to the .25 g for the NTQ-1 tags – will be used to tag brook trout between 8 and 9 inches length. Because they are bigger they have the advantage of lasting around 150 days compared to 40 days for the NTQ-1 tags. We use the smaller tags to tag immature trout (4-6 inches). I am particularly grateful to John Fischer for lobbying for me to the LITU executive committee.


Adopt-A-Trout Visits J.V. Forrestal Elementary School

Tuesday I visited Debra Waage’s 2nd grade class at J.V. Forrestal Elementary School in Beacon, NY, located where Fishkill Creek meets the Hudson River. The area has a very different terrain than Long Island, lots of hills and babbling brooks.

Fishkill Creek from a bridge in downtown Beacon, NY

Fishkill Creek from a bridge in downtown Beacon, NY

Debra’s class participates in the TITC program. They are raising brown trout from eggs, which she picked up at the TITC workshop this past October. The kids are clearly having a great time taking care of their trout. They will be releasing them in the Fishkill in April or May.Brown trout fingerlings in Debra’s classroom.

Brown trout fingerlings in Debra's classroom.

Brown trout fingerlings in Debra’s classroom.

The curriculum we had originally developed for the Adopt-A-Trout Program (posted online) is focused on middle to high school audiences and it is supposed to be implemented over several weeks. A two hour presentation to a 2nd grade class clearly required a different approach.First I talked to the students about the different types of trout we find around here, which are native and which are introduced.

Slide show presentation.

Slide show presentation.

Then I got the students to tell me what things they were providing for the fry they were raising: 1) food, 2) clean environment and 3) shelter. We  went on to talk about how life was going to change for their trout once they were released. I introduced them to the food (prey) they might encounter in their environment with the aid of a slide presentation and live animals. I brought in some bugs we had collected on Long Island: scuds, a water strider, a diving beetle, and a crayfish. The students also learned how these different types of food might be caught, either waiting in midstream for food to float by or by actively foraging.

A live water strider we caught this weekend from Beaver Brook.

A live water strider we caught this weekend from Beaver Brook.

Next we talked about predators: blue herons, snapping turtles, largemouth bass, otters, etc. The kids were very helpful here – many had stories of encounters with these animals. One student asked a really good question: “do big trout eat the little trout”? Why yes they can! I showed them pictures of the Young of the Year in Beaver Brook and the footprint evidence of possible predators nearby.

The take home message at this point is that trout need shelter with plenty of food. Therefore we might expect trout movements to be based on the availability of shelter and food. This brings us to how to study trout movements.

Here I introduced the two methods we use to monitor trout movements. I showed them a PIT tag and taped one to a brook trout plush toy. I gave the trout to a student and asked her to pretend like she was swimming by an antenna (the handheld reader) so the students could see how antennae can identify presence or absence of specific trout.

Student with "tagged" brook trout.

Student with “tagged” brook trout.

Then I showed them an activated radiotag which I also taped to a brook trout toy. I asked a student to hide the trout from me in the classroom and then I showed them how we use the Yagi antenna and tracker to find the trout.

Radiotracking a tagged toy trout hidden by a student.

Radiotracking a tagged toy trout hidden by a student.

They seemed to really like this part.Now we come to the last part of the presentation. I wanted the students to have some experience with the data and its interpretation. I had made maps of Beaver Brook on 11 by 17 inch paper with a simple grid of letters for columns and numbers for rows. The students had tables of grid locations for each of 4 trout we have tracked. Their assignment was, for a each trout, draw pictures of a fish at each of its locations and draw arrows showing direction of movement. It actually worked! For the most part the students were able to complete maps for all four fish. Then we talked about what the trout did.  Did the trout move a lot? Did they stay in one place? Which trout moved the most? Did trout like to stay in sheltered areas? I had added hypothetical locations of predators the trout might encounter on the map as they moved between shelters. In this way students could see that trout that move put themselves at great risk.

The whole lesson lasted about one hour 45 minutes. In the remaining 15 minutes before school ended, Debra asked the students to write some of things they had learned. We both were pleased with the outcome. And I believe it can be modified to present to older students up to the 10th grade level. I will be writing this lesson for teacher use and will post online soon.

I am used to teaching college students. What is my impression of the difference? These second graders have longer attention spans, ask better questions, are more curious, and don’t text during class!

More fingerling brook trout

We went to Beaver Brook to collect some water critters for a presentation I will be doing on Adopt-A-Trout for Debra Waage’s 2nd grade class at J.V. Forrestal Elementary School in Beacon, NY. We managed to collect a bunch of scuds, a diving beetle, and a water strider. We also saw four YOY Here are two that we managed to netfingerlings_3_17_13As you can they are about 1 inch. We found them right next to the foot bridge over the NW branch feeding into Beaver Brook (this is upstream from the concrete bridge). They were in about 1 inch of water, mostly resting on the bottom but occasionally swimming in place. What was really interesting was what we found on the sandy bank right next to them:

The blue heron is a notorious predator of trout so this gives you an idea of what our little brook trout face after they hatch and why it so important for them to find good hiding places.

Later we went to the pond and saw another sign of Spring, the return of the carp from Beaver Lake. Here is one of four we saw circling the boardwalk.CarpWe haven’t seen any largemouth bass or yellow perch in this area yet but it won’t be long if the weather warms up.


Young of the Year at Beaver Brook!! (UPDATED)

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Here are some pictures of YOY that Maryanne took while at Beaver Brook today. Just last week we electrofished here and found nothing so I guess they must have just emerged from the gravel in the last few days. YOY have now been documented in Beaver Brook in 2008, 2009, and 2013. There were no surveys from 2010-2012.

UPDATE: Maryanne saw 7 YOY just upstream of the concrete bridge.


Baby brookies in their new temporary home at Hofstra University.

Yesterday, Maryanne, Brian and I picked up mature (8-9″) trout and some fingerlings (about 1″) from Cold Spring Harbor Fish Hatchery. We will be PIT-tagging about 20-25 of the mature trout next week and releasing them in Beaver Brook. We will be growing the fingerlings up to about 4″ and then radiotagging some of them for release in a couple of months.

Art Flick Chapter of Trout Unlimited

I had the opportunity to address the Art Flick Chapter Trout Unlimited about the Adopt-A-Trout Program at their monthly meeting. I demonstrated how PIT-tags and radiotags work, talked a little about our results thus far and the education program. Great bunch of guys who asked lots of good questions. Experienced fly fishers know these trout up close and personal more than just about anyone, so they provide an excellent source of information and wisdom for us biologists. Thanks George Costa for inviting me!