Wednesday, 23 January 2013

The eggs have hatched!

The trial for Trout and About continues to go from strength to strength. The fry are getting bigger and stronger and this morning I entered the office to discover the first of our eggs had hatched and the alevin are feeding off the yolk sacs.There have been a few eggs that haven't made it - these are white and opaque so they need to be removed from the tank in order to maintain the hygiene of the general tank conditions, but this is to be expected and the survivors look strong and healthy.

You can see the black eyes of the alevin in the photo. They will stay at the bottom of the tank for a while now, feeding off the protein in their yolk sacs. Of course, in the wild, they would be camouflaged amongst the gravel of the river bed, keeping safe from predators. It's brilliant being able to watch this transition from egg to fish close up, something that would be almost impossible to come across in the wild. Luckily, thanks to the wonders of technology, I found this wonderful video online which shows this this transformation happening in fantastic detail. You can watch it here. It's part of a blog from the Trout in the Town project for urban river restoration from the Wild Trout Trust

Taken from Paul Gaskell's Trout in the Town blog (see above)

In a few weeks I will be putting tanks into school classrooms across Bristol. I really hope that the trout will inspire young people to think about their local rivers, streams and lakes differently and encourage them to protect and explore their local natural environment.

Monday, 21 January 2013

The trout are thriving....

So far, so good! The fry seem to be enjoying their new home and the eggs are due to hatch any day. Recently, my colleague, Jo Morris, had an exciting 
parcel arrive in the post..... an underwater camera that she was planning to trial for her new Wild Schools filming project. Of course this was a prime opportunity to see what life was like as a trout living at the AWT headquarters. So we tentatively tested it, plunging it into the cool waters of the tank. To our surprise, there was a smooth transition as the camera filmed both inside and outside of the tank, and the fish seemed quite happy too.

Jo made a fantastic short movie that sums up the project so far, so take a look for a close up of our trout and their lovely abode.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

We're going Trout and About!

After much anticipation, this week saw the arrival of some new wildlife to the offices at Avon Wildlife Trust. As part of the new 'Trout and About' learning project, starting in schools mid February, I will be rearing trout in the foyer at our Jacobs Wells Road office.

Fry and eggs ready for their temporary new home
Much planning, tank designing and learning about trout has been happening over the last few months and, finally, the tank arrived and Tony Donnelly from Bristol Water, brought in his little tub of fish eggs and fry to put in their new home. 
Navigating around staff who were having their lunch and looking on very bemused, we filled the tank and checked the chiller, flow and filter were all working correctly. We then introduced  the fish eggs and fry which by this point, in an office of Wildlife Trust staff, had became quite a talking point. 
Filling the tank

So, it all started off well but when I arrived the next morning I discovered a few fatalities. In the natural world this is inevitable, in fact 95% of trout don't make it passed the age of 1 in the wild but this was an artificial environment designed to facilitate the development of the eggs in the most productive way. A quick check of the cooler system told me why. With the cupboard doors below the tank closed there wasn't enough airflow and the chiller wasn't working effectively. This rise in temperature, in addition to the change of water and transportation of the fish was too much. Note to self, make some alterations to the chiller cabinet to allow better airflow. All is not lost, we live and learn and we are still having a better survival rate than in the wild. 

In they go!
The Trout and About project has been kindly funded by Bristol Water as part of their catchment management work to improve water courses in the area and supports Avon Wildlife Trust's learning strategy by providing hands on learning opportunities to link schools with their local natural environment. Schools in Bristol will have tanks in their classrooms and will rear trout from eggs over a four week period. 

This is a fantastic opportunity to provide real, memorable learning experiences to support teaching across the KS2 curriculum, whilst allowing schools to participate in a local, conservation project. During the project pupils will visit a local water course to learn about the ecology of rivers. This will provide a connection with their local natural environment, making the project more relevant to their own lives and neighbourhood, whilst providing hands-on learning experiences. At the end of the project pupils will be invited on a field trip where they will be able to release their young trout, visit the hatchery at Blagdon and explore the associated wildlife around the lake. 

Before it gets to the schools though I will be trialing the project myself, so follow my progress on this blog and see how I get on.