Field Notes
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Field Notes Entry   
Teaching Big River Ecology at the Big Muddy National Wildlife Refuge
Midwest Region, April 27, 2007
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A group of Eldon, Missouri high school students at visit Big Muddy NWR.
- FWS photo 
A group of Eldon, Missouri high school students at visit Big Muddy NWR.

- FWS photo 

- Photo Credit: n/a

A sunny day in April provided a great setting for an outdoor education day on the Big Muddy National Wildlife Refuge for some high school students from Eldon, Missouri. 


Columbia FRO fishery biologist Andrew Plauck spent a Friday morning talking with advanced biology students about large river systems, specifically the Missouri River. 


Thirty students and instructors broke up into three groups and rotated between Plauck, Big Muddy’s Tim Haller, and the chairman of the Friends of the Big Muddy, Troy Gordon. 


Troy talked about the history behind the refuge, the features available to the public and other details about volunteering.  Tim set out a turtle trap the night before which was successful in capturing several large turtles. 


He talked about the ecology of turtles and other animals which make the refuge their home.  Tim also discussed Rachel Carson and her work in honor of her 100th birthday. 


Plauck talked about the history of the Missouri River, modifications made by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the diversity of fish which inhabit the river. 


Live fish were collected the day before and kept alive to show the students some of adaptations of big river fish.  The shovelnose sturgeon was a big hit because none of the students had ever seen or touched one. 


One brave girl wanted to hold the fish when all of her classmates were afraid of the ancient looking creature.  Plauck also demonstrated some of the fishing gear used on the river by pulling a trawl and a trammel net along the parking lot. 


After talking about fish for a while, the students were encouraged to consider a career in the natural resources and given information on how they can work for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as a college student through the STEP program. 


The day ended with a trip down to the boat ramp to release the live fish back into the river. 

Opportunities such as this are great for the future generation of biologists.  These high school students were already taking college level biology, indicating their interest in the field at a young age. 


A few expressed interest in a career in the field of natural resources, while some just enjoyed being outside in the spring air.  Partnering with the Refuge for outreach and education events, such as this, are the perfect opportunity to introduce young adults to the natural resource fields. 


The Columbia FRO is committed to maintaining the strategic vision’s quest for partnerships in aquatic resources education. 

Contact Info: Larry Dean, 612-713-5312, Larry_Dean@fws.gov
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