Field Notes
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Field Notes Entry   
TOGIAK: Biologists Guide Dillingham Students Through Fieldwork
Alaska Region, December 16, 2011
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Mark Lisac instructs students on how to set up and use a backpack electroshocker.
Mark Lisac instructs students on how to set up and use a backpack electroshocker. - Photo Credit: USFWS/Togiak Refuge
The Payoff: Students gather to determine the specifics of the species that have been collected.
The Payoff: Students gather to determine the specifics of the species that have been collected. - Photo Credit: USFWS/Togiak Refuge

The familiar Chinese proverb states that if you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. If you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime. Dillingham High School Science teacher Clint Reigh saw the wisdom of that proverb and decided to take it a step further: Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime. But show a man how to apply scientific principles and techniques to fish and you equip him with skills to pursue a career in a Science or natural resources related field.


Enter Advanced Biology, a new class being taught by Reigh at DHS. As a part of the class- a class he was determined would have more of a hands-on approach to it- Reigh was able to match up students with professionals from the Science community in Dillingham, including Tim Sands, a biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Todd Radenbaugh, University of Alaska Fairbanks- Bristol Bay Campus and biologists Mark Lisac, Michael Swaim and Michael Winfree of Togiak National Wildlife Refuge.

The objective for the class was to gather a simple data set to compare at least two elements of a local biological community. Based on the data gathered, students were to draw conclusions based on their knowledge of the complex interactions within the ecosystem studied by their group. The course also aimed to introduce high school students to the scientific method and real-world techniques for conducting field work.

Each group leader was paired with four to six students and created for their group a real life science task (based on their own particular backgrounds) to tackle. The projects that were created included assessing and mapping water quality and flow (Michael Winfree), estimating and mapping the density and distribution of non-native plants (Michael Swaim), estimating fish populations (Mark Lisac), small stream fish species sampling (Tim Sands) and data collection of marine invertebrates (Todd Radenbaugh).

The field work for this class took place a few weeks back, to universal acclaim from instructors. Michael Winfree commented that the students did well and were enthusiastic. The group that worked with Mark Lisac was extremely focused and engaged while using a pack mounted unit to electroshock fish while doing population estimates. And of his group, Michael Swaim had the following to say, “Things went great and the students were quite proud of their results. They produced useful information that the city government and Bristol Bay Native Association are interested in using.”

Students will spend the rest of the semester analyzing the data they collected and putting together papers and presentations. In addition, eight of the class’s twenty-five students also took advantage of an opportunity to cash in on a one credit course offered by UAF-BBC. As a part of that course, participating students will present their projects at the upcoming 2012 Western Alaska Interdisciplinary Science Conference, which will be held in Dillingham in March. According to Professor Radenbaugh, participation at this conference will allow those students to completely follow the scientific method, from hypothesis testing to presenting what was learned to an audience.

Contact Info: Terry Fuller, 907-842-1063 ext. 8419, terry_fuller@fws.gov
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