Field Notes
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Field Notes Entry   
It’s a Shark!
Midwest Region, May 14, 2010
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Actually it wasn’t a shark, but that common exclamation from Hallsville’s fourth grade class made for a great lead-in to my monologue on shovelnose sturgeon.  I can understand how a fourth grader could mistake a shovelnose sturgeon for a shark; both come from ancient lineages of fishes and they do share some similar characteristics, for example:  the whip like heterocercal caudal fin, the cartilaginous skeleton, and a face only a mother could love. 

I guess it’s not surprising that kids are more familiar with sharks than sturgeon.  After all, Hollywood hasn’t made any blockbuster films starring sturgeon nor are they regulars on Animal Planet.   It’s hard to get much press when you spend your time slinking along the bottom of a muddy river sucking up bugs.  Still, it’s a little sad that these kids knew so much about sharks living in oceans thousands of miles from Missouri, but knew so little about the sturgeon that practically swim through their backyards .  But that’s why we were in Hallsville, to teach kids about sturgeon and other Missouri River fish.

The event was Hallsville Aquatic Day, an annual event that has been celebrated for 25 years in this small Missouri town located just outside of Columbia.  Aquatic Day gives the entire Hallsville fourth grade class the opportunity to learn about and experience local aquatic resources. 

Activities included: fishing for bass and bluegill in a well stocked pond, collecting aquatic invertebrates, a water rescue demonstration, fishy art projects, and singing creative songs about fish.  For our part we presented an interactive live fish display.  Columbia FWCO, represented by Colby Wrasse and Cliff Wilson, brought the aforementioned shovelnose sturgeon, along with three species of catfish, freshwater drum and common carp for the kids to marvel at, touch, and ask questions about. 

Having the fish as visual aids generated great interest from the students and provided us the opportunity to talk about broad ecological concepts, such as: habitat loss, invasive species, and evolutionary adaptations.  Each group of students had twenty minutes to spend with the fish, enough time for them to learn a little about these fish and hopefully spark an interest in the Missouri River and the fish that inhabit it.

Cliff Wilson also amazed the children with his catfishing prowess, landing a hefty channel catfish from the small pond, a fish that continued to grow as the news spread.   Aquatic Day culminated with an afternoon fish fry – the very fish the kids caught earlier in the day.  This was the sixth year Columbia FWCO has taken part in Aquatic Day.  The event is a great way to reconnect children with nature, and now an entire class of fourth graders knows the difference between sharks and sturgeon.


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