Guest story by Queen of Peace School

Do salmon need a certain temperature to develop? How do salmon absorb food while they are in their egg? How do the eggs stay in the redd when there is a river current? Does the color of the eggs have to do with the water conditions? What is pH and why is that important in the river?

Third grade students at Queen of Peace School raised Chinook salmon in their classroom under the S.T.E.P. (Salmon and Trout Enhancement Program). Journaling the life stages from October through December, students noted changes from egg stage to the release of their fry. They documented behavioral changes in the fish as well as chemical changes of the water in the chilled aquarium. Each day, calculations measured by thermal units told students when the salmon would reach the fry stage for release.

Raising salmon fry in the classroom.

Classroom discussions evolved into why it was important for scientists to collect and share data. Through their experiences, students stated that data was important because…

• You need to look for clues when problems arise.

• We need to watch for patterns over time.

• It is important to see the beauty and the life in nature.

The third week in December the students and their fry headed to the release site at Roaring River Park.  Walking along the riparian zone, students determined which area would be best suited for the release. They looked carefully for calm water conditions along with leaves, grasses and rocky hiding areas to protect the fry from predators.

Salmon fry ready for release.

As a group, they located the ideal stretch of the river for their fish release. Using a water monitoring kit, the students recorded the pH as 7.0, the temperature of 6 degrees Celsius, dissolved oxygen was 4ppm and turbidity registered as 0.1 NTU. The water chemistry was perfect. The students then looked for bioindicators, macroinvertebrates. Macros are more difficult to identify in the river during late fall and early winter. However, the students found small caddisfly cases and egg masses we believe to be that of a mayfly.

Students test the water quality of their local stream as part of the EarthEcho Water Challenge.

As the students bid farewell to their salmon, they returned home with a sense of pride knowing that they located the perfect site for their fish to thrive.

Editor’s Note: Queen of Peace School in Salem, OR is an EarthEcho Water Challenge test kit donation recipient. We are honored to support students’ efforts to monitor the quality of their local watersheds as they take action to improve the health of these environments.

Checking the pH of the river.