Category Archives: Education

More TITC Brook Trout Fingerling Releases in Shu Swamp

This past Monday was a beautiful day at Shu Swamp. For one thing red trillium has emerged and is blooming. Also known as Stinking Benjamin, this is a protected plant in New York (New York State Conservationist Article). According to the article, “it cannot be ‘picked, plucked, severed, removed, damaged, or carried away’ without consent of the landowner”. Apparently if you pick the flower you can actually kill the entire plant.

Not too far from the trillium is the upstream footbridge. I was surprised to see scores of fingerling brook trout trying to keep pace in the swift water running under the footbridge. It turns out East Meadows Middle School TITC program had just released about 200 fish at the site right before I got there. The above video is taken looking straight down from the footbridge. I ran into teachers and students from the school a little later. They were making a day of it at Shu Swamp, taking water samples, birding, and doing plant identification. It’s nice to see the kids get to explore nature’s classroom.

Newsday Article on Trout in the Classroom in Longwood School District

An article about TITC in Longwood School District was published yesterday in Newsday:

Trout Release a Rite of Spring in Longwood Schools

I have just started corresponding with the teachers involved in TITC in this district. As the article mentions, they hope to get involved in radiotagging brook trout for release in Peconic River if they can get some funds for tags.  I have offered to help with surgery, equipment, and training.

Bay Shore High School TITC Trout Release

Last Friday Bay Shore High School students in Denise Kaplar’s and Kami Horsley’s classes released into Beaver Brook the brook trout they had raised from eggs to fingerlings. They started with 300 eggs from the Cold Spring Harbor Fish Hatchery. The 4 fingerlings ranged in size from 36 to 54 mm and .3 to 1.2 grams. This video is an underwater view of the release.

I think the students had a great time. For one thing they got out of the classroom on a beautiful early spring day. And of course they got to see what brook trout habitat is actually like. John Fischer of LITU had the students take some kick net samples. There were plenty of scuds but also quite a few caddisfly larvae too.

Caddisfly larvae on left (partially hidden by debris)  and two scuds on right.

Caddisfly larvae on left (partially hidden by debris) and two scuds on right.

I also saw an adult brook lamprey about 8″ swimming upstream. Presumably this is the time of year they spawn. Unfortunately I don’t have a picture but here is a picture of a juvenile (called an ammocoete we caught electrofishing last year.


Lamprey are jawless fish – the Bay Shore students actually knew this as well as their phylum (Agnatha). The juvenile is a filter feeder while the adult brook lamprey is nonfeeding unlike the more more well known parasitic sea lamprey (USGS fact sheet). The adult just exists to reproduce.

More PIT-tagged and Radio-tagged Trout Released

Last Friday we released 34 PIT-tagged 8-9″ brookies into Beaver Brook just upstream of the concrete bridge. Three of them were tagged with the three remaining large radiotags donated by LITU. I was helped by my two graduate students, Maryanne and Brian, as well as two of the Commack High School crew, Eric and Alinur.

The two trout  that were released April 10 are still alive and kicking. One has remained in the same spot well upstream since April 25 while the other is still in the same general area in the lake sincei it entered the lake April 20 despite the fact that surface water temperatures have reached 29 C (84 F). While I couldn’t get a visual confirmation on this trout signal strength was changing when pointing the antenna at fixed spot indicating it was moving.

I checked the whereabouts of the newly released radiotagged fish yesterday and was able to locate all three. One was at the release site, another was about 25 yards upstream, and the third was at the mouth of Beaver Brook where it enters the lake. Surface temperatures in all three places were around 21 C (70 F).

Commack High School’s “Team Trout” visits Shu Swamp

May 15, Rich Kurtz’s research students visited Shu Swamp for a hands-on experience with radiotelemetry. We were able to find both of the radiotagged fish, 101 and 102, still in their respective locations: well upstream in Beaver Brook and along the east bank of the Beaver Lake. We had took two canoes to get to 102’s location. “Team Trout” also helped out by carrying batteries to and from the two RFID stations. I am looking forward to the the team  helping out in the field.

Adopt-A-Trout Teachers Workshop at Hofstra

Eight teachers from Mineola, Malverne, Oceanside, Seaford, East Northport, Farmingdale, and Jericho middle and high schools attended the workshop John Fischer of LITU and I gave at Hofstra last Wednesday. The teachers were quite interested in the TiTC program so I think there may be some recruits for the next season. Here are the teachers trying out their radiotracking skills.2013-04-24-18.52.15-web

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.

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!

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!

Adopt-A-Trout Educator’s Workshop to be held April 24 and 27

I will be running a workshop on the Adopt-A-Trout program and curriculum in April upon to all educators. Thhere are two parts:

TITC Introduction Wed. 4/24, 2013 4 – 8 pm at Hofstra University
This workshop is a general introduction to the Adopt‐a‐Trout program and the related
classroom modules that are available. Participants will learn about the research objectives and
procedures of the Adopt‐A‐Trout study in which teachers and their students can participate. The
program website and teaching modules developed for classroom use will be demonstrated, and
will be available for use by attendees.

TITC Field Experience Sat. 4/27, 2013 9 am – 1 pm
This workshop will present the “hands‐on” portion of the program, including a live
demonstration of the telemetry techniques that will be used to track the trout. Workshop #1 is a

Download the registration form or find out more under the Curriculum link in the menu