Tuesday, August 9, 2011

My Life Aquatic 2011 - Teaching Youth About Fisheries Technology

Hello again readers! The last few weeks have been filled with Youth Fisheries Academy (YFA) camps taking place around the Olympia area, down to Centralia, and all the way out to Neah Bay. We worked with youth as young as 4 and as old as 15 and each camp presented unique challenges and opportunities for our education team. We learned a great deal as we adapted to each situation and were met with enthusiasm and raving reviews from the kids every time! Their zest for learning has been positively inspiring! The main components of the YFA camps are stream sampling and water quality; fish health and identification; fish anatomy and physiology (dissections); and my station – fisheries technology and tracking. We also incorporated teambuilding activities and art components, such as fish printing and salmon life cycle bracelets, for the younger campers.

Looking for hidden radio collars
As I said, I led the station focused on the use of technology in research conducted by FWS and similar entities. I first introduced the campers to PIT tags (similar to pet ID microchips) and demonstrated how they work (hands-on activity) and are implanted in fish, followed by group discussions of how this technology is used for fisheries conservation projects. The next activity focused on radio telemetry, which is also used to track the movement of animals but with much greater range and detail. As they searched for hidden radio collars, campers were able to use the telemetry equipment to practice the same skills that professional biologists apply in their field work. Campers also gained experience using GPS technology, an essential tool for field studies. With the help of our fantastic outreach volunteers Barry and Loretta Brown, participants used GPS units to find hidden "caches" (peanut butter jars in this case) in a high-tech treasure hunt known as "geocaching".

The campers were very clever with the technology and proved to be great young trackers. I was also impressed by how much information they retained from my lesson and how they were able to provide thorough answers to most of my questions. One telling moment was at a camp with 4th through 6th grade summer school students in Centralia. At one point, the rest of the school had recess during one of my technology modules. One camper commented that they were missing recess, but the kids quickly agreed that "this is better than recess!" That kind of excitement for learning is truly inspirational and we hope to continue fostering enthusiasm like this in the Youth Fisheries Academy camps to come.

- Claire Wood, STEP Fisheries Technician