BY CHRIS OLDS, ALPENA FWCO
Alpena Public School teacher Bob Thomson frequently invites Alpena Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office (FWCO) biologists to come in and give talks about the work they do. However, on December 9, 2014 fish biologists Chris Olds and Adam Kowalski brought their work to Mr. Thomson’s class of 5th graders. Mr. Thomson’s class raises lake trout from eggs to the “fingerling” stage in collaboration with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. Some students, however, had never had the opportunity to see or handle an adult lake trout. So Chris and Adam brought six adult lake trout collected during the FWCO’s fall lake trout assessment at Six Fathom Bank Refuge for the kids to examine and dissect. Needless to say the kids were a little overwhelmed at the sheer size of the lake trout, but that amazement quickly turned to all smiles as they began to go through the dissection process.
The dissection process followed the same format as that used by the FWCO’s Lake Huron Fisheries Assessment Unit when collecting biological information from lake trout captured during surveys on Lake Huron. The students examined the external surface of the fish for fin clips, sea lamprey wounding, and any abnormalities on the surface of the fish. Then they looked at the gills, and all internal organs identifying form and function of each. Plus, as an added bonus the kids were able to find different parasites in the swim bladder, stomach, intestine, and pyloric caeca. Parasites were placed on slides and viewed under the microscope to examine the anatomy and the function of the parasites while in its host. If the big fish didn’t get the kids excited the large intestinal tapeworms and nematodes in the swim bladder definitely did. By the ended the day all the kids left with a better understanding of fish anatomy and biology and had rejuvenated their enthusiasm about their own lake trout culture program in class.
Outreach events such as this support the US Fish and Wildlife Service priority of Connecting People with Nature. Through augmenting school science curriculums, Service biologists hope to encourage students to become scientifically literate citizens and passionate conservationists in the future.