Tebughna School students bundled up to wade the frosty streams of Tyonek in exploration of baby salmon habitat. Just outside their school building, juvenile salmon flourish in small streams and ponds before heading out to the saltwater to hopefully later return as big, delicious table fare. In a partnership with Project GRAD Kenai Peninsula (PGKP) and the Kachemak Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (KBNERR), Tebughna students were coached to sample salmon and trout using electrofishing, and then sample creek bottoms with kick nets to see what those baby salmon might be eating.
KBNERR researcher Jacob Argueta and KBNERR educator Dana Nelson visited with Tebughna’s K-12 students to provide the equipment and instruction. Following a morning in the field, collected samples were brought back to the school and classrooms were converted to wet labs. Students, staff, and community members were fascinated to discover that the gravel and leaf litter of the creek bottom teemed with thousands of invertebrates- from larval flies to earth worms. Using special magnifying glasses, the captivated students learned how to use dichotomous keys to identify the various organisms collected from the creek a stone’s throw from their classroom.
As part of a research project exploring groundwater recharge, KBNERR is engaging villages in KPBSD to identify how communities value groundwater. Often times, the conversation quickly leads to healthy salmon habitat. Over the course of KBNERR’s two-day visit there were lively discussions regarding how groundwater cycles valuable nutrients into salmon streams.
In addition to introducing the students to research methods and a great field trip, the visit from KBNERR also served as a follow-up to a trip four Tebughna High School students made to Homer. Sharon Jones, Reka Smoke, Alicia Smoke, and Dulcinea Moon had the opportunity to join KBNERR to sample salmon habitat and peatlands near Stariski Creek just north of Anchor Point. Back at Tyonek, the four students presented on their experience and helped lead the KBNERR team in the field with Tebughna’s younger students.
A big thanks is warranted for the KBNERR staff, Native Village of Tyonek, and Tebughna’s staff for coordinating such a high-quality fieldtrip experience delivered to Tebughna School. Fortunately, KBNERR and Tebughna’s relationship will not end here. Future visits and engagement is in the works. Whether an interest in natural resource management or a more resilient commercial fisherman, PGKP’s partnership with KBNERR is providing the stepping-stones from classroom student to community provider.
Thank you to Kenny Daher, Project GRAD Kenai Peninsula, for contributing this story!