Sunday, December 09, 2012

Salmon Return to the Classroom

The school year holds many things to look forward to as we trudge along; back to school dance, Labor Day weekend, cross country, NYO, Halloween, haunted house fun, thanksgiving break, basketball season, Christmas and winter break.  There is one other time of the school year that the students start asking about around September..."When are we getting the salmon?", "Are we getting salmon again this year?", "Are the salmon eggs here yet?"  Well, the eggs arrived and the 10th graders have been caring for and monitoring the eggs since their arrival in Biology class each day.  And on December 5th, we had our first alevin hatch from its cozy egg sac and squirm out into the gravel.

During the weekends I make a habit of checking the tank just to make sure things are still going well in our little 30 gallon artificial habitat, and today I noticed that the egg basket was virtually empty.  That is right, there are only about 10 eggs left that did not hatch.  As in nature, not all will survive and I had to pull about 10 stillborns out of the tank and dispose of them.  But out of approximately 500 eyed eggs, we only had a 1-2% mortality rate.  I am very pleased with the outcomes of the project thus far, to say the least.

The fish tank is going to need some more routine maintenance before Christmas break.  The hatching of the eggs produces a foamy film that is toxic to the young alevin if it isn't removed, so we will have to perform some water changes to keep maintain good water quality.  We still may have some alevin that don't mature or die for other reasons and these will need to be removed (turkey baster style.)

By the time we are ready to leave for winter break, the alevin should be at a stable state where they simply lie on the gravel bottom and gradually consume their giant yolk sacs attached to their abdomen.  When we return from break in mid-January, we should start to see some of these alevin progressing into the next stage of development, the salmon fry stage.  This is when they start venturing up into the water column and taking air from the surface to fill their swim bladders.  Then they will remain in the water column getting stronger and feeding on the fish food that students add to the tank everyday.

The project will continue until the middle of May, when we have to wrap up the project and the school year in general.  Look forward to more salmon posts to keep everyone updated on the progress of this awesome project and incredible learning experience for our students.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Things to be Thankful for

This year for the Thanksgiving holiday, Katja and I traveled into Anchorage again.  The visit was full of new surprises that left me thankful for many reasons.

1. Anchorage has more snow than most other parts of SW Alaska, which meant that I needed to drag a packed ski bag for winter fun.  Molly and I got to skate ski a couple of times in some beautiful terrain.  Alaska does have some of the best skiing in the U.S. that is within minutes from your door (depending where in Alaska you live).  Molly also lives within a 2 minute walk from a nice sized park for letting the doggies run around.  The park  also has a small pond that was covered with enough snow to pack down a ski trail that we found ourselves on more than once, skiing, throwing frisbees for dogs, wrestling frisbees away from dogs, and observing doggie snow angels.  We also got down to Girdwood to tele ski for a few hours at Alyeska, which honestly could have used another 24 inches of snow.  It was good to jump on tele skis and make some turns.  It was even nicer to watch Molly make some masterful turns on her skis.  I've got a lot to learn.

2.  Katja is a little possessive of me and her things, which I guess she gets from having "only dog syndrome."  None the less I was thankful and impressed with her tolerance in meeting Molly's dogs, Scout and Cooper.  Scout happens to be Molly's possessive four legged friend, which caused a little tension with Katja.  Unfortunately, Katja also tended to take her tension out on Cooper dog also, who is nothing but four legs of furry lovin'.  There were moments of hostility, but overall the dogs seemed to get along all right and no one got injured (too badly).  Hopefully, the next doggie play date will be a much faster and smoother transition towards dog BFFs.

3.  My girlfriend is amazing and wonderful in so many ways.  Molly has an incredible circle of friends that are very fun and outgoing.  We had a wonderful dinner with her friends Stacy and Brady in their magnificent house.  The following night was dinner with her friends Carrie and Craig with a short introduction to the sauna.  Next time, maybe we can come ready to fully appreciate the experience.  My point is that Molly is a great friend to have and people recognize that.  And Molly is so willing to jump into any adventure that is thrown her way.   We both tackled our first home made pies complete with home made pie crust.  It may not sound like such a big deal to all you dessert aficionados, but we had our struggles (mostly me) and I'm happy to say, we worked through them beautifully and produced some fabulous pie crusts and in the end ... whole pies.  We had a busy busy schedule in the beginning, but managed to slow things down and enjoy some quiet time with just the two of us ... and the doggies of course.

It was a great way to spend Thanksgiving.  I hope to have many more Thanksgiving holidays that resemble this one.

I hope everyone else had an enjoyable Thanksgiving holiday where ever you were celebrating.