Not only New York state biologists have been testing the aquatic life of Cazenovia Lake. An education program offered by Cazenovia College’s Office of Extended Learning has given area children the chance to monitor indigenous fish.
On May 17, a group of young Cazenovians wrapped up their participation in the newly-established educational program, “Creatures of the Deep,” by charting the differences between numerous species of fish found in the local lake.
“During each week of the program, trap-nets were placed in water six to 12-feet-deep to collect fish from two different habitats. In Cazenovia Lake, we’ve sometimes collected over 100 fish of 10 or more different species overnight in one of these nets,” said Thad Yorks, the program’s director and associate professor of environmental biology at Cazenovia College. “After fish were moved from net to boat, students identified and measured the lengths of all fish and weights of some of the larger fish for data analyses. We also collected a few scales — it doesn’t harm the fish — from a small number of fish for age estimation.”
During each day of the four-day program, small teams of students spent half of their time working from a boat to collect and observe fish from Cazenovia Lake, and half onshore completing fun aquatic ecology activities and charting the data.
The program, which was designed for kids in grades 5 through 8, evolved from an earlier program put on by the Office of Extended Learning known as “Creatures of the Shallows,” which has been offered since 2008. August will mark the fifth year of the program, which allows children ages 8 to 11 to collect aquatic life in water no higher than their knees. Since the program’s inception, more than 40 children have visited local bodies of water such as Stoney Pond and Cazenovia Lake to collect and observe fish, amphibians and invertebrates.
Much of the funding for “Creatures of the Deep” was provided by Time Warner Cable’s Connect a Million Minds program. Yorks, along with Cazenovia College’s Director of Corporate, Foundation and Government Relations Matthew Clark and Associate Professor of Education Kim Wieczorek, helped to draft a grant proposal for purchase of a boat and outboard motor to get kids out on the water collecting the same types of data that professional scientists collect.
Participating pupils also learned about fish anatomy and morphology, identification and data analysis. The roles of invertebrates and vegetation in aquatic systems, as well as the importance of measuring and understanding water quality were also emphasized during the program.
Yorks said the students were engaged and interested both offshore and onshore, telling one of their favorite activities was “Fish Twister,” an identification game created by Renee Adams, a Chittenango-native and recent graduate of the college’s inclusive early childhood education program, who has assisted with these types of programs for four years.
“I enjoy teaching the middle school students about fish and Cazenovia Lake, so they can better understand what is located in their area and in the lake,” Adams said. “[It is important] because I think they should know all about the environment around them and how to take care of it.”
The CAMM grant also allowed several students to earn partial or full scholarships through helping to set and gather trap-nets and other equipment at the beginning and end of each session.
Together with the Cazenovia College Office of Extended Learning, Cazenovia’s Willow Bank Yacht Club also helped facilitate the program by allowing the group to store the boat at its marina. The Cazenovia Lake Association assisted as well, by purchasing of one of the trap-nets for the students’ use.
“I’m very proud that the OEL has the opportunity to host this summer program. With the support of Time Warner Cable, we’re able to provide scholarships, and Professor Yorks has been able to secure upgraded equipment,” said Office of Extended Learning Director Lesley Owens-Pelton. “The lessons the students learn in this program will serve them well. Young minds expand through learning, and these will be the young people who go onto into the fields of science and technology in the decades to come. The smiling faces in the photos are our future. Time Warner has helped us invest in this future.”
For more information on the college’s office of extended learning and other programs offered to area residents, visit Cazenovia.edu/extendedlearning.
Pierce Smith is editor of the Cazenovia Republican. He can be reached at 434-8889 ext. 338 or firstname.lastname@example.org.