Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Temperature Fluctuations - Only outside

I don't know if it's global warming that causes this region to always have a warm spell hit this time of year, or if it's just a natural cycle that I need to get used to. I do know that one weekend, I'm waxing skis and getting ready to hit the trails and the next weekend, I'm wiping mud off my boots and sweating in the classroom. It has warmed up, above freezing, for the past week, ever since the NYO team went to Chefornak one and a half weeks ago. And it's been raining almost non stop since then. Now, today it is finally cooling off below freezing again. There is still some light precipitation, but oh oh oh... only if all that precip we had earlier had been snow. We would wading through snow drifts up to our waists. Oh well, I guess we will have to wait a couple of weeks again.

One place that the temperature has been very stable is in our school's new Salmon Incubation Tank. Yes, we set up the tank on the 13th and 14th in preparation for the arrival of 500 Coho salmon eggs. I had four students, two high schoolers and two middle schoolers help set up the filtration system, cooling system, add the water, and insulate the outside of the tank. Then on Tuesday evening, we received our shipment of salmon eggs. Again, students helped to safely transfer the eggs from their chilled shipping environment to the tank water, which had been chilled to approximately 8 degrees C. (46.4 degrees F.) When I checked the eggs the next morning, there was only one casualty. I safely removed the dead egg with a turkey baster, and since then, all the eggs look viable.

My students then had to calculate the estimated time the "eyed" eggs would hatch. I wanted them to hatch close to our departure for Christmas break, so that we wouldn't have to worry about maintenance of the tank while we were gone. The egg development depends mostly on the temperature that we keep the water. Students have been measuring the water temperature everyday and calculating the ATUs (Accumulated Thermal Units). Coho salmon eggs hatch usually around 450 - 500 ATUs. Today, we calculated that the eggs have 371.5 ATUs at this time. We lowered the temperature of our tank to 7 degrees C. (44.6 degrees F.) so that the eggs would hatch around Dec. 11 - 13 and we would have enough time to do the 3 - 4 water changes necessary to maintain good water quality. During this time, we will lower the temperature of the tank down to 4 - 5 degrees C. in order to lower the biological activity.

While we are on Christmas break, the Alevin will be hiding deep in the rocks of the tank, slowly absorbing their gigantic yolk sacs. When they finally "button up", they will emerge from the rocks again and be free swimming salmon fry.

Overall, the students are pretty excited about the project. I usually don't have to ask for volunteers to help with maintenance and data recording for the tank. It actually presents another factor of classroom management that I have to deal with. Students love to just sit there and watch the "Salmon TV."

So stayed tuned for updates on Eek School's Salmon Incubation Project.
Thanks for reading!


Monday, November 08, 2010

Getting Ready for Winter Fun

Well the temperature has dipped below the freezing mark. We actually got snow back in the end of September. It didn't last long. I believe the current snow will be here until April.

So in preparation, I set up the ski waxing station and prepped my skate skis for my second season of ski fitness. I am very much an intermediate skier and even less experienced at waxing, but I was very happy with the outcome of my wax job this time. Waxing skis is a very detailed and scientific process. There are numerous different waxes for specific temperature ranges. There is wax for new snow and old snow. There is high temperature (iron temp) flourocarbon wax and lower grade wax that you have to apply more often. And its pretty darn expensive. Yeah, leave it to me to find an expensive hobby.

All this will hopefully lead me to be geared up for the Tour of Anchorage again this coming spring. 25 Kilometers of rolling, scenic, perfectly groomed ski trails around Anchorage. Last year, my first year, I was brutally humbled at my lack of fitness and my lack of preparation of enough fluids and energy food. This year, I hope to crush my time from last year.

More importantly, these preparations with the skis is getting Katja very excited for another season of skijoring. We actually went out on Saturday this weekend, although the amount of snow was a little lacking for skis just yet. I know this because I fell a couple of times due to my skis hitting rocks just under the snow. I fell hard. I have a bruise on my hip and a mangled elbow to prove it. But that will heal and leave me stronger and more armored for the rest of the season.

So for now, my fingers are crossed for more snow and suitable temperatures for outdoor fun and adventure. I do have a snow machine (snow mobile) this year as well, so that will be beckoning me to head out for longer adventures. I might even be able to scoot over to Quinhagak (35 miles away) to ski with some friends there.

And with that, I wish you all a wonderful winter with bountiful amounts of snow and sunshine. Happy Trails,
Dirk and Katja

Salmon Workshop

Hi all,
This event is actually quite old by now, but it is still worth posting. I had the great opportunity of venturing to Fairbanks for 4 days and attending a workshop to bring Salmon into the Classroom. It is a salmon incubation project to help expand the awareness and educate students about this amazing and extremely valuable Alaska resource.

We learned about some incredible information regarding ocean acidification, cultural history, life cycles of the different salmon species, and a host of great resources on line to enhance and supplement curriculum in all areas of education. We were actively engaged in many classroom activities related to salmon migrations, human impacts on salmon populations, and salmon anatomy.

I got lucky and was able to come back home with a complete kit for the Salmon Incubation Project and will be receiving 500 Coho (silver) Salmon eggs on Nov. 16th. My middle and high school students will then be in charge of caring for the eggs until they hatch and raising the young salmon fry until the end of the year.
Unfortunately, we will have to destroy the young smolt at the end of the school year, but next year I hope to take the project to the next level and actually collect eggs from our local Eek River. Then we can release the salmon smolt back into the Eek River again at the end of the year.
It was a very exciting and rewarding workshop and I am very "egg"cited to get started with our project. The students are excited too and keep asking me about when we are getting the eggs.

Stay tuned as I will try to write some posts on our progress with the project.
Until next time...