Students use trout to study water quailty

By Olivia Richards, Staff Writer — Recently, there was a new addition added to the STEM, lab which is visible through the lab window, there is a fish tank filled with 100 trout.

The students in STEM have partnered with an organization called Trout Unlimited in this new project to learn about water quality and its impact on the environment.

Trout Unlimited is a national non-profit organization, founded in Michigan in 1959, with 147,000 members who are dedicated to its mission to conserve, protect and restore North America’s cold water fisheries and their watersheds. One of the projects the organization offers is to partner with local schools to raise trout and study them before releasing them into the wild.

Freshman Gavin Nupp became a member of Trout Unlimited because he was interested in its conservation minded activities. He took part in the summer camp that they have. At one of the meetings he went to, the idea of this conservation project was briefly mentioned. Nupp was immediately interested and decided to ask the STEM teachers if they could pursue it. The teacher’s response was “whoa and what.” This then led to the project coming to life inside of the STEM lab.

The leaders of this project include STEM teachers Shaun Kimbrough and Chad Palmer, as well as Nupp.

During this project, the students have been learning many new skills. Although the fish tank did not initially tie into class very much the teachers have found a way to imply to their currently objectives the class is learning about.

“We have been learning very basic chemistry, but recently we have been learning about pH and solutions. This project has also gotten us thinking about water resources and aquatic life,” Nupp said.

The building of the tank itself only took a few days. STEM had received $1000 to pay for the equipment through Trout Unlimited. They may keep the equipment as long as they do the project each year.

Most of the building process was spent on the mechanics of the tank so that it would work properly.

By the end of the first week, both the fish and equipment had arrived. Once the fish were drip acclimated to the tank water, the students were able to get to work on learning about the fish.

“We hope to learn about the water quality and ammonia levels and how that correlates with the life span of the fish,” Nupp said.

By the time the project is over, it is expected that there will be at least 75 trout left. Students in STEM monitor the fish each day. If one appears to be sick they put it in the “hospital” which is a basket at the top of the tank. They then feed the fish on its own away from the others. They hope to reduce the amount that die using this idea.

“Hopefully a few will live and grow to the 16-inch range,” Nupp said.

The plans for these little fish are quite simple. STEM intends to keep these fish, take care of them and learn about them until May. The state has given them permission to release them, so the fish will be taken to Apple Creek and released back into the wild. For the fish that manage to survive after the release, they will supplement the trout fishery in the stream. Students are hopeful that the fish will grow to be larger in size after the release.

[Updated Aug. 12, 2017: This article has been reformatted for consistency.]