What’s Cracking?

Whats Cracking?

Celeste Chavez and Zach McGunagle

  Recently, the student-run hatchery on campus has acquired some new additions: 20,000-40,000 eggs. Steelhead trout fish eggs, that is. With these new additions come new responsibilities for the hatchery students. Raising the fish and releasing them into the creek is all a part of the Field Studies United Anglers, the second year class after Environmental Conservation. The class has built up its reputation and respect as being the only student-run hatchery in the nation but simultaneously faces misconceptions about the specifics of the course and their importance to both the ecosystem and on the community.

   The director of the hatchery program on campus, science teacher Dan Hubacker, tells us more about this exciting semester.

   “The students not only get the idea of what it’s like to be a parent, and the responsibilities that tie in with it, but what’s really cool, is [that] every day you get to see development. They develop so fast. So those common ideas of how a cell divides, you can see it. And then after 14 days all of a sudden you have a thousand little eyeballs looking up at you, then they hatch which they are starting to do right now. What’s exciting about that is that they don’t look like fish, to begin with. … When you see it first hand, it just opens your eyes to a whole [different] level of science,” said Hubacker.

   Senior Vanessa Perez tells us more about taking care of the trout in the hatchery.

   “We’re surveying the many creeks of Petaluma, determining water quality, and raising our eggs. Each student that opts to get eggs, receives around 500. The eggs are currently ‘eyeing up’ which means they’re developing eyeballs,” said Perez.

   Another part of this semester’s program is redirecting the United Angler’s work on campus and influencing elementary schools by taking their knowledge outside of the classroom and into the lives of younger kids. Hubacker explains the impact on the younger generation and the benefits the high schoolers receive from doing so.

   “The department runs a ‘steelhead in the classroom’ program, in which the department of fish and wildlife allows each elementary school that’s interested, particular classrooms to raise about 30 steelheads. They start off as an egg, and you see the process similar to what we get to do, but on a smaller scale. To teach those kids about conservation, about fish, about wildlife as a whole, and get them excited at an early age … And when the students walk into that classroom, everything they say, everything they do, those kids are just looking up at them going ‘You’re the coolest!’ That’s so powerful, so unique. What a better way to be able to demonstrate your understanding of the material than to teach it?” said Hubacker.

   Often times, these two classes are misunderstood and pushed aside as irrelevant so Hubacker elaborates other misinterpretations on the program and their activities.

   “The first thing I tell new students is that it’s not about fish, it’s about wildlife, it’s about conservation, you can apply these practices to any animal. Say you like insects, there’s a conservation effort for that. Say you like bears, tigers, birds, it doesn’t matter. There’s so many animal and resources that need our support, and these same principles apply. And I haven’t run into many kids that are like ‘I don’t like animals’. Usually, once they see it, it’s contagious, and to know that they can leave an impression, an impact on their community, at 15, 16, 17 years of age, it’s amazing,” said Hubacker.

    Whether gathering data from fish species in the creeks or teaching elementary school kids, the Field Studies United Anglers program is consistently working on different ideas and ways to extend their influence onto the community.