|10/20/2011 12:10:14 PM|
The students were tracking and collecting rusty crayfish, an aquatic invasive species that has invaded and taken over the Black River. The project was done in support of a Great Lakes-wide effort to promote awareness and education about aquatic invasive species.
Donning waders, the students collected 420 rusty crayfish on the day with no native species found. “This was an awesome learning opportunity. I would have expected to find at least one native crayfish,” said LeAnne Fenstermaker, one of the students.
According to Schroeder, the crayfish is just one example of how destructive aquatic invasive species have become in the local river. He said that in this case native crayfish might be entirely displaced without anyone ever realizing the biological change has occurred.
The study of Black River also uncovered several examples of dead native mussel shells covered by zebra mussels, another slightly better known aquatic invasive species. Invasive species are redesigning the watershed ecosystem, which will eventually negatively alter the productivity and food webs of Lake Huron. Invasive species are constantly challenging the aquatic ecosystems in northeast Michigan.
As part of their involvement with the Northeast Michigan Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative, the project was an example of the many environmental stewardship projects the students have been conducting and leading.
“The survey work of these Onaway students is certainly raising local awareness about aquatic invasive species,” said Schroeder. The crayfish samples collected by the students will be preserved in acrylic blocks as a part of a regional Great Lakes education kit. The student-led research will benefit partners and educators around the Great Lakes region in educating others about impacts of invasive species.
“This project is an outstanding example of how schools and community partners can work together toward real, meaningful accomplishments. This is a powerful partnership benefiting both significant contributors to our Great Lakes Sea Grant educational initiative and a wonderful hands-on learning opportunity for students involved,” said Schroeder.
Environmental science teacher Scott Steensma also sees the value in what his students have been a part of. “This is a great educational opportunity for students. While in the water, besides having fun, students are learning about water quality and aquatic ecology, food webs and ecosystem function and how these ecosystems can be so easily disrupted by invasive species,” said Steensma.
The students coordinated the effort entirely on their own, from planning with Schroeder to recruiting student volunteers and leading the field trip. Myranda Anglin was one of the students who helped coordinate the effort. “Our class had a lot of fun learning about and catching rusty crayfish. We are glad that we could catch so many of the invasive species. While we know we probably did not even put a dent in the population, we are excited to be contributing to a Great Lakes-wide invasive species education effort,” said Anglin.
The study at Black River was possible through partnerships with the Onaway High School environmental science class, Northeast Michigan Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative, Sturgeon for Tomorrow, Michigan State University Extension 4-H youth programs, Project FISH and Michigan Sea Grant.
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