Red Lake Nation News - Babaamaajimowinan (Telling of news in different places)

By Pat Brown
Red Lake DNR 

Schools out for the summer: Students end the school year with lake sturgeon release


A middle school student releases a lake sturgeon fingerling into a stream that connects to the Red Lakes. Photo courtesy of Ryan Jorgenson/Red Lake Middle School.

On a sunny day in May, students from Red Lake Middle School said goodbye to some of their new friends from the 2017-2018 school year - fingerling lake sturgeon.

These students care for lake sturgeon fingerlings over the course of the school year before releasing them into the wild. Imagine spending months caring for an animal that could grow to six feet long and live up to 150 years!

"The most memorable experience is when the sturgeon are released in the spring each year," said Ryan Jorgenson, Red Lake Middle School teacher. "Students say their goodbyes and always wonder if they will catch them someday."

The Sturgeon in Classrooms program is part of the Red Lake Department of Natural Resources lake sturgeon recovery efforts, which has released approximately 10,000 sturgeon fingerlings each fall for over a decade. But for the last two years, some fingerlings are given a little more time to grow-up before they are released. About 30 fish spend the academic year in classrooms and help students learn about aquatic resources. Students interact with the fish and learn about their feeding behavior and swimming style.

"Some of our students have never seen a sturgeon before," said Karen Lavine, Red Lake Middle School teacher. "Knowing that they are a part of a recovery effort makes them take the responsibility seriously."

"Living classrooms work and they keep the kids interested in science," said Jorgenson. "The more hands on activities that we can include in the curricula, the more the students will retain. It keeps them enthusiastic about learning and also connects them to nature."

Lake sturgeon disappeared in the Red Lake watershed in the 1950s due to overfishing and habitat loss. Since 2006, the Red Lake Department of Natural Resources has used U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Tribal Wildlife Grant funds for rehabilitation, evaluation and monitoring lake sturgeon. The Sturgeon in Classrooms program was created by biologists and teachers to engage our youth in wildlife conservation. Each fall students visit the Red Lake Tribal Fish Hatchery, and biologists visit the classrooms later in the school year.

A group of students watch fingerling lake sturgeon in their classroom tank. Photo courtesy of Ryan Jorgenson /Red Lake Middle School.

"These kids will be future leaders and will be the ones protecting this resource for future generations," said Lavine. "Our hope is that because of this classroom experience they will help protect sturgeon in the future and that they will be able to teach their parents and their children about the importance of sturgeon to the Red Lake fish community."

The Sturgeon in Classrooms program is just one element of the success story of lake sturgeon recovery. Populations will be sustained into the future through public support and by pooling the expertise of each partner. Cooperation between agencies is critical for restoration efforts to succeed. The multi-agency restoration effort between Red Lake Band of Chippewa, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, and White Earth Band of Chippewa Indians endeavours to restore a self-sustainable population for future generations to enjoy and protect.


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