CCS Salmon in the Classroom

Spinning Salmon

High school classrooms help contribute data towards ongoing research into the cause of thiamine deficiency in Pacific salmon


Project Duration



Solano, Sacramento, Glenn, Colusa, and Tehama Counties, California


Thiamine Deficiency Complex (TDC) was first documented in California’s salmon in 2020, when hatchery staff noticed offspring swimming in circles and dying at elevated rates. They traced the condition to a deficiency of thiamine, or vitamin B1, passed on from the returning adults to their offspring. Impacts to naturally spawning populations remain the greatest unknown and could be an unrecognized factor affecting harvest opportunities and impede salmon recovery.

The Aquarium in the Classroom program through the California Department of Fish and Wildlife provides students grades K-12 with salmon eggs to hatch and grow in their classrooms. The team at the Center for Community and Citizen Science, in collaboration with researchers at the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Department of Fish and Wildlife are developing an Observation Protocol as part of the Aquariums In the Classroom Program to help gather observation data of salmon during these critical stages of the salmon life cycle.

As a part of our work, the data collected through the Aquarium in the Classroom Program will be sent to support the efforts of the broad coalition of scientists working on figuring out the TDC puzzle. The student data contributions to this project are not only utilizing a citizen science approach to gathering important data, but also developing further research protocols. 


Gear Up STEM Rural Valley Partnership, NOAA, California Department of Fish and Wildlife Proposition 1 Agreement #Q2196012, Anonymous Donors


Solano County Office of Education, UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences, UC Davis School of Education, California Department of Fish & Wildlife, Solano Land Trust, Fairfield-Suisun Sewer District, Dye Creek Preserve, Tehama County Resource Conservation District


View teaching resources created for the project here.

Blog entry Sarah Angulo Peggy Harte

Project Update: Connecting Classroom Content in Spinning Salmon Field Trips

“Bye, Spaghetti!” waved one high schooler as a tiny Chinkook salmon, so named Spaghetti, swam out of a plastic cup and into the murky Sacramento River. Across the boat ramp at Riverbend Park in Oroville, students said their farewells to the alevin in their own cups. This was the last chance for students to get an up close of the fish they spent raising in their classroom over the last 6 weeks.

Blog entry Peggy Harte

Spinning Salmon, Year Three: Deepening our Collaboration and Community Connections

Our Center specializes in helping educators and youth work together on real science – youth-focused community and citizen science. An especially powerful aspect of this approach is the opportunity to help youth connect directly with professional scientists, and with local partners in their own communities who are working on environmental challenges. The story of our Spinning Salmon project shows how these connections can evolve over time, as partnerships develop, and new opportunities for collaboration arise. 

Blog entry Sarah Angulo Peggy Harte

Project Update: Field Trips Wrap Up Another Successful Year of GEAR UP Partnership

Starting a collaborative community and citizen science project with high schools is no small feat. Try starting it during the pandemic. That’s what we did with the Center’s collaboration with GEAR UP STEM Rural Valley Partnership Spinning Salmon in the Classroom project. After managing a year of distance learning in 2021 and piloting in-person content in 2022, we had so much we were excited to do this year. 

Blog entry Sarah Angulo Peggy Harte

Project Update: Field trips connect to classroom learning

Spinning Salmon in the Classroom Project

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.

Blog entry

Project Update: Salmon in the Classroom

As scientists investigate the cause of  thiamine deficiency in California’s Central Valley salmon, high school classrooms in California’s Central Valley were given the unique opportunity to contribute data to this ongoing research.

Blog entry Peggy Harte

Engaging College Opportunity Programs, Researchers and Students through Citizen Science: Reimagining Possibilities of STEM and CTE

In January of 2020, the UC Davis Center for Community and Citizen Science (CCCS) began a new research practice partnership exploring STEM opportunities and developing teacher professional development with the college opportunity program GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs), serving students across Glenn, Colusa, and Tehama counties.

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