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Local youths study Caz Lake ‘Creatures of the Deep’

Cazenovia College Extended Learning helps students learn about life beneath the surface

Cazenovia College Associate Professor of Environmental Biology Thad Yorks, center, hauls a net containing walleye and perch on board the research vessel with the assistance of students participating in “Creatures of the Deep” program, May 17 on Cazenovia Lake.

Cazenovia College Associate Professor of Environmental Biology Thad Yorks, center, hauls a net containing walleye and perch on board the research vessel with the assistance of students participating in “Creatures of the Deep” program, May 17 on Cazenovia Lake. Photo by Pierce Smith.

— 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.

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