Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Science Sleuths: Fish

Monday, we headed out to Ox Bow Park after going strawberry picking so the older boys could attend Science Sleuths through Elkhart County Parks. There was only one class and this was a BIG group. As we waited for others to arrive, it was interesting to see the naturally occurring activities between all the children.

A group started throwing a ball to each other. We almost always have a few balls in the van--they've helped so much to have impromptu outdoor recreational activities.

Another family had home made bubble solution and wands to make huge bubbles. They were cool!

The kids loved them!

After everyone arrived, we walked over to the river launch area. We waited just a little bit for the biologist to arrive, so the children explored the shores, made fish faces, and came up with somewhat funny fish jokes! I'll have to keep playing with "river bank", "catfish", "scales", and "dogfish" to see what we might be funny. Here are a few to get you started!

Fish! The team had just done a fish shocking in Middlebury and brought fish along, as there had been technical issues due to the high waters.

Daragh Deegan had a good supply of fish on hand for the children to see (and curious moms with cameras!). I'm glad I just checked out his information on the city of Elkhart's website, as there are pictures and descriptions to most, if not all, the fish we saw.

This Mottled Sculpin is both predator and prey. It is unique looking! It likes very cold water.

This is nicknamed the "Kisser" fish, though it's a Northern Hogsucker. It is an insectavore and a good sign of low pollution levels in water. It has a flat head and is sticky under the fins. This allows the fish to move along the rocks at the bottom of a river. The fish were passed around for the children to see and touch, if they chose, taking care to keep the fish hydrated.

Curious and interested eyes and fingers!

I'm not sure the kids knew what to think! Awe, curiousity, what is that?!? We saw two stages of the Chestnut Lamprey. It goes through metamorphosis, like a butterfly. I like that he related it to something the children could understand--scaffolding at its finest! As a larva, it has no real mouth and no eyes. It smells to find food and feeds on leaves. It's often found buried in the mud.

It is a parasite and is a version of a leech. While that induces the yuck reflex for many of us, it is a sign of low pollution, so it really is a good species to find, even if we don't like to think of it "sucking blood" and living off other fish. It has tiny black dots for eyes in the adult version. It has an efficient suction cup mouth. The kids got to try out how it feels if they wanted. There are hundreds of tiny little sandpaper teeth. It has been around 400 million years, well before the dinosaurs roamed the earth. My son "didn't taste very good" as the lamprey didn't "stick" to him. In Lake Michigan there is a Sea Lamprey which is invasive; however, it has not been found in the area. The Chestnut Lamprey is native and a good find!

Daragh has several summer interns working with him. They put on protective waders and took the smaller device out to do a fish shocking demonstration. The waders protect them from the 1500 volts of electricity used to shock the fish. It is enough to harm a human; however, the much smaller fish are "shocked" but not harmed. It is similar to being tased with a taser gun. (I asked my husband how to spell tased while writing this and now he is insisting on getting me a taser gun for my upcoming birthday--no thanks!).

Daragh reminded the children before he left that they could be interns doing this. They can study biology and get PAID to spend quality time with fish.

The interns put the probe in the water and nearby fish then float to the top and are caught with the nets. They are then put in a bucket to see in more depth. As the waters were very high, mostly small fish were caught today. The fish quickly perked back up again after a short time.

I think he sees one! My son found an interesting leaf that stuck to his finger near the water. The poison ivy is slowly getting better.

This is the newer group of fish. They are mostly smaller.

The kids helped put them back in the river. They were excited to help!

It's such a different experience to actually touch and look at these creatures up close! While I am glad there are websites with lots of information about the fish, I also appreciate what I can learn by observing and touching rather than just reading. 

I took lots of notes on all these fish, but won't be able to remember which is which from my pictures. However, there is a great list of information about each species HERE. What have you found in the rivers nearby? 

On the way back, the children sanitized their hands and had an appropriate goldfish cracker snack!

We've seen similar presentations and fish shows numerous places, such as at Riverbend Festival in Middlebury, Kids Day at the Elkhart YMCA, and Cub Scout Day Camp. Daragh will be at Goshen First Fridays this Friday evening, at Rhapsody in Green on Saturday, and will make a return trip to Cub Scout Day Camp. It will be fun to reinforce what we've been learning about fish! There are also several freshwater fish from Daragh at Woodlawn Nature Center in Elkhart.