Field Notes
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Field Notes Entry   
The Wonderful World of Ecology
Midwest Region, May 2, 2009
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One of the most challenging yet rewarding outreach events we at Columbia NFWCO participate in is the Wonders of Wildlife (WOW) School.  This weekend-long outdoor school is designed to introduce families to all that the outdoors has to offer.  People come to camp, learn about nature, and have an all around good time.  WOW participants have a wide variety of classes to choose from, so they can really tailor the weekend to meet their individual interests.  One of the many classes offered was River Ecology.


We were prepared to teach River Ecology, but there was one problem - we didn’t have a river.  Due to flooding on the Missouri River we were forced to move the class to Finger Lakes State Park, which contains several lakes but no river.  So naturally River Ecology became River and Lake Ecology. 


We began the class talking about Missouri River Ecology, after all this is what the students signed up for.  Topics included habitat alteration, invasive species, hydrology, and endangered species.  Although we didn’t have the river in front of us, we did bring along preserved Missouri River fish and invertebrates for a little show-and-tell.  Students were fascinated by the intriguing appearances of fish such as the shovelnose sturgeon and chestnut lamprey.  Having access to the lakes gave us a great opportunity to compare and contrast river and lake ecology.  Concepts such as food webs, water chemistry, thermal stratification, and species diversity were discussed.


 After a short lecture and a lively question and answer session the students were ready for some hands-on work.  We donned waders and hip boots and grabbed our seines.  After a few short seine hauls we had captured several species of fish and aquatic insects.  Instructors Colby Wrasse and Patty Herman demonstrated how to properly identify these species while also describing some of their interesting characteristics.  Unexpectedly, students had the opportunity to see the relatively rare starhead topminnow.  This small species of fish is normally found in the swamps of southeastern Missouri; however we collected a few in this central Missouri lake, well outside its native range.


Overall, the students seemed to enjoy the class and were quite attentive.  We hope it was a wonderful learning experience for them and that they will continue to explore and care about our aquatic resources.  


Colby Wrasse and Patty Herman

Contact Info: Colby Wrasse, 573-234-2132 x30, colby_wrasse@fws.gov
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