Recently Prattville High School students from Amy Boyd’s Advanced Placement Environmental Science class reinforced their classroom studies with a field trip to the Alabama Wildlife Federation’s (AWF) Alabama Nature Center (ANC) in Millbrook. As part of the field trip the students helped AWF to assess the catfish populations in their ponds, measure the chemical water quality of a pond, and collected aquatic insects and fish from a stream.
“Prattville students have been monitoring our main pond for several years,” said Rebecca Bearden, ANC’s Conservation Education Programs Specialist. “We have catfish in our Tadpole Pond as well, and wanted to assess the condition of those fish too.”
To collect the catfish for study they were concentrated in one location of the pond by feeding them. The students then waded into the water with a seine (large net), and captured 83 catfish to be measured and weighed. The fish were also tagged before being released back into the pond. For many of the students this was the first time they had held a catfish.
Assisting the students was Doug Darr, Aquatic Education Coordinator for the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division. “The students conducted practical fisheries work in the morning, and after lunch they collected invertebrates and fish from a stream on the property,” Darr said. “One of the most interesting finds in the stream was a larval lamprey eel.”
Boyd was pleased with her students’ experience with the hands-on science. “The experience provided by AWF and the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division will hopefully translate into higher scores on the Advanced Placement test,” Boyd said. “The kids are having fun today, but they are also learning about the real-life applications of class work.”
AWF occasionally opens its ponds to the public for catch and release fishing, The ANC is also open to the public one weekend each month for hiking and various nature based programs. For more information on ANC fishing events and general public weekends, visit www.alabamawildlife.org.
The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) promotes wise stewardship, management and enjoyment of Alabama’s natural resources through five divisions: Marine Police, Marine Resources, State Parks, State Lands, and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. To learn more about ADCNR, visit www.outdooralabama.com.
Photo: Prattville High School students collect fish and invertebrates in a stream at the Alabama Nature Center.