JACKSON, Wyo. — While some Jackson Hole Middle School seventh-graders thought the process of tagging trout was “gross,” the kids were tickled with the idea of adopting them.
Nearly 200 middle school students traveled to Spread Creek earlier this month to learn about trout tagging and get fish to track through Wyoming Trout Unlimited’s Adopt-a-Trout program.
“It will be fun, I think, because you know where a fish is,“ 13-year-old Jack Thomas said.
The students also learned about healthy water, the food web and macroinvertebrates during the Oct. 4 field trip to Spread Creek.
It was the beginning of a yearlong project for the kids to track cutthroat trout and learn about science.
“You’re going to follow along with where they go in this system, which is pretty darn cool,” Wyoming Trout Unlimited coordinator Scott Christy said.
This is the first year the Adopt-A-Trout program is happening in Jackson Hole, he said.
A Spread Creek dam removal project two years ago opened 50 miles of habitat for cutthroat trout, he said.
Government agencies are conducting a study on how climate change is affecting fish, Christy said.
Robert Al-Chokhachy, a research biologist with the U.S.
Geological Survey, explained the project to the students.
“Fish are kind of like lizards in a way,” he said. “The temperature affects how much they eat and how they grow. We’re trying to do some work with how fish grow and move in relation to climate.” The Geological Survey is trying to understand how warm years, like last winter, influenced the fish, he said.
“We’re also trying to understand how fish who live in Spread Creek here, why they go to the Snake River and what they do when they come back,” he said.
The students gathered around to see a trout get tagged. Montana State University graduate student Patrick Uthe made a shallow slit on the underside of the fish and slid the tag in.
This elicited many “ewws” from the squeamish middle school students.
“There’s no bleeding or anything, so he’s not getting hurt,” Uthe said.
Tissue grows around the tag so it stays with the fish indefinitely, Al-Chokhachy said.
“If they live to 8 to 10 years old, we get the information of what they did their entire life,” he said. “A project like this is so important. It’s not just about us and fishing. It’s about why this is such a neat area to live.” The fish can tell the Geological Survey and other agencies about the whole environment and all the animals that eat them.
“You guys are going to start figuring it out and asking lots of questions,” AlChokhachy said.
The trout-tracking class project is going to help students learn the scientific method, science teacher Andy Tankersley said.
“The kids will make a hypothesis about what they think their fish is going to do,” he said.
Tankersley had a theory of his own about the Adopt-ATrout project.
“My guess is the kids will get really into their own fish trying to figure out where their fish is going,” he said.
It’s great to show the kids real science that’s happening in their backyard, he said.
The students were embracing the adoption, too, even though they didn’t get to cuddle their trout or take them home.
Masha Johnstone and her friends came up with names for their trout like Quinn, Boudrou and Bonquiqui.
“I want to see my trout live,” Masha said. “What if it gets caught by a fisherperson?” Tait thought the whole field trip was “awesome.” “Instead of going to school and learning about it, we actually get to come do it,” she said.
Information from: Jackson Hole (Wyo.) News And Guide, http://www.jhnewsandguide.com