It’s a cold February morning at River Bend Park in Oroville. We’re standing with UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences’ Carson Jeffres, waiting patiently for the bus to arrive from Red Bluff High School. A truck towing a boat backs down the boat ramp where we’re waiting to meet the high school students that have participated in the Spinning Salmon in the Classroom project this winter.
Red Bluff High School is one of 13 schools in Glenn, Colusa, Tehama, Sacramento, and Solano counties participating in the project during the 2022-2023 school year. After piloting the project last year, the Center for Community and Citizen Science has continued collaboration with scientists from NOAA and the Center for Watershed Sciences, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Aquarium in the Classroom program.
This collaboration has allowed about 250 students to observe and submit behavior and mortality data on untreated hatchery eggs. These eggs come from the only 30 females at the Feather River Fish Hatchery that are untreated for thiamine deficiency complex (TDC). TDC was first observed in California’s salmon in 2020, and data collected by students during this project are helping researchers better understand the effects of TDC and ultimately contribute to better management of hatchery salmon populations.
At the boat launch, we realize this boat is one full of California Department of Fish and Wildlife divers that are about to start their search for redds, a depression in gravel that salmon build as a “nest” for their eggs. This ended up being an amazing opportunity for students to talk with biologists about what they do for the fish and how they ended up in their careers.
Students then released the salmon they observed growing in their classroom tanks back into the Sacramento River or Feather River. Each classroom was paired with a member of the research team, many of whom were able to join the field trips. Jeffres is a scientist from the research team who joined the field trip and helped send off the surviving fish. He also discussed more about what’s involved in the research, salmon biology, the function of fisheries, and different career paths. Afterwards, students visited the Feather River Fish Hatchery in Oroville. They received a tour through the facility where their fish eggs came from and a behind-the-scenes look at the many different functioning parts to the hatchery.
Field trips like this one took place for nine of the project’s participating high schools. The purpose of these field trips were to connect the students’ classroom learning to meaningful watershed experiences. Community partners, like Solano Land Trust, also offered field trip options to deepen student learning.
Field trips for the Glenn, Colusa, and Tehama County schools were supported by the UC Davis School of Education’s GEAR UP Rural Valley Partnership Program. Field trips for the Solano County schools were supported by the NOAA B-WET grant through Solano County Office of Education.