Raleigh Ecological Services Field Office
Conserving the Nature of America

Shad In Schools - Watershed GIS Activity

Purpose: Students will learn about the management of a coastal fishery and the conservation career of fishery biologist, while using GIS (Geographic Information System) data to locate which watershed they live in and then determine which dams in their river’s watershed should have fish passage placed in them.

Duration: 45 minutes to one hour


  • One foot-long piece of string for each student group.
  • Attachment 1 - Be a Fisheries Biologist for a Day: Watershed GIS Activity (1 per student)
  • Attachment 2 - American Shad profile (1 per student)
  • Attachment 3 -Profile of a Biologist (1 per student)
  • Map 1 (1 per group)
  • Map 2 (1 per group)
  • Map 3a, 3b, 3c, for each group of students. (1 per group)
  • Print out one copy of the Answer Sheet for your assessment of the students Attachment #1.


  • Give each student a copy Attachments 1, 2, 3
  • Have each student read and the answer questions on Attachment 1.
  • Break the students into small groups to do the Watershed GIS Activity.
  • Hand out a set of watershed maps (Maps 1, 2, and 3 a-c) and a piece of string to each group.
  • Have students review the watershed maps in order, follow the Directions on how to work with their watershed maps and answer the questions on their student worksheets.
  • Use the Answer Sheet for your assessment of students work on Attachment 1.

Extension Activity:

Computer Activity: Have students go to U.S. Geological Survey Water Watch Website. A map of the United States will appear with all of the river gauges in the U.S. that monitor river data. Students can click on North Carolina. They will be able to bring the cursor to each gauge and access the river conditions including flow in real time. They can then compare these current river flow rates to the flow rates that they calculated and answer the question:

  • Q: Why are your numbers higher or lower now?
  • A:Their numbers will be lower if there has been more rain in the watershed than the average rainfall and their numbers will be higher if there has been less rainfall than average.

Extra Readings on American Shad, Fish Passage Program:

Last Updated: August 6, 2015