One hundred fifteen students from around the state met at the Booker Fowler Fish Hatchery on March 5 and 7 to participate in the paddlefish spawn.

The middle school and high school students are involved with the Native Fish in the Classroom Projectwhich is coordinated by the LDWF Education Program. Students learned more about the steps in the fertilization process as they rotated through several informational stations. Bobby Reed, LDWF Inland Fisheries senior technical advisor, performed a paddlefish dissection, allowing students to investigate and compare paddlefish anatomy with largemouth bass anatomy.

The Louisiana Sea Grant College Program, along with LSU’s Scope on a Rope Program, hosted a microscope lab which allowed students to view plankton, paddlefish and bass eggs, along with embryonic fish.  Additional aquatic samples were provided so students could make their own slides to examine.  Chase Chatelain and Brody Meche, LDWF fisheries biologists, explained how biologists use fish ear bones (otoliths) and paddlefish jawbones to age fish.  Paul Whitehead, LDWF hatchery biologist supervisor, also provided tours of the hatchery.

Students and teachers received paddlefish eggs at the end of the day to bring back to their classroom’s nursery fish tank.  The program goal entails raising fingerling paddlefish for release into local waterways. As the fish grow, students will learn about water quality and biology as they maintain habitat for their nursery tank fish population.  In May, the paddlefish fingerlings will be released at an LDWF-approved site that provides suitable habitat for this big river fish species.

There are currently 17 schools, representing 11 parishes, involved with this aquaculture stewardship project.  The project’s hands-on approach provides a learning experience that strives to teach students about aquatic ecosystems and develop an attitude of stewardship for the state’s natural resources.

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