Belfast fifth graders do real world science, for sake of salmon

Posted:  Saturday, November 4, 2017 - 9:00pm

Fifth graders from Captain Albert Stevens School, in Belfast, are working on a year-long project involving the release of salmon into the Wescott Stream through the Belfast Bay Watershed Coalition (BBWC) Salmon-in-Schools Program.

Students are focusing on the question: What is a viable community, and how do individuals fit in?

To do this, students are identifying local terrestrial and aquatic plant and animal species, as well as obtaining current water quality data to find out if the Wescott Stream is a viable place to release salmon fry.

In addition, students will compare the Ducktrap River, which has a native salmon population, to the Wescott Stream.

Students are trying to find benthic macroinvertebrates that are sensitive to decreased water quality (such as mayflies, stoneflies, and case-building caddisflies) since salmon need clean water for every stage of their life cycle (spending up to three years in freshwater before migrating to the ocean and returning to freshwater to spawn.)

Students just conducted their bioassessments for the fall at three different locations —  the Muck, the Ducktrap River, and Wescott Stream.

John Tipping from LOTIC, Inc., and who is a board member of BBWC, and Tanglewood Camp 4-H staff and other BBWC and parent volunteers assisted students with their data collection.

In addition, Christian Robinson of Dirigo Drone Services involved the students in aerial reconnaissance of the Wescott Stream for a mapping project.

His maps of the Ducktrap River from the Tanglewood 4-H camp to the ocean and the Wescott Stream salmon release site to the ocean will help students to identify species vectors and physical barriers for the movement of salmon up and down and stream.

Students will be completing the same bioassessments in the spring to track seasonal changes and to release their salmon fry. Students are now uploading their findings to the Gulf of Maine Research Institute (GMRI) Vital Signs website where they will collaboration with scientists and resource managers to answer research questions and utilize their data.