E25: Something Fishy is Happening in Palisade!

On today’s Postcard from Palisade, we learn all about Palisade High School’s unique fish hatchery program, the fish they raise, and how they are released from the hatchery team. It’s a fishy good time!

For more about the hatchery, check out their website

Music: Riverbend by Geoff Roper.  

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Transcript:

Welcome to Postcards From Palisade, where we hear from the people who are shaping our slice of western Colorado – and beyond. I’m Lisa McNamara.

Nestled behind Palisade High School, there are a couple small, nondescript buildings perched on the bluff above the Colorado River. As you approach the old concrete block astronomy shed, you start to hear the sound of humming pumps and filters and smell the fresh aroma of live fish. But you’d still never guess that behind the door of the modest shed lies an efficient hatchery that is capable of raising 250 endangered razorback suckerfishes each year, carefully tended by a few dedicated student hatchery technicians.

This small operation is measurably impacting the Colorado River by releasing these 250 fish into the river each spring during a release day event that celebrates the hard work of these students, their long-term impact on the Colorado River ecosystem, and the fish themselves.

A local community favorite event, this year’s release will take place on Friday, May 3rd at 1:30pm at the boat launch at Riverbend Park.

On today’s Postcard from Palisade, we learn all about Palisade High School’s unique fish hatchery program, the fish they raise, and the release day from the key members of the fish hatchery team:

Kiera: hi, I’m Kiera. I am a hatchery technician. I’m a senior at Palisade.

Kale: I’m Kale. And I’m a hatchery technician, too. And I’m also a senior.

PS: I’m, Patrick Steele. I’m a science teacher at Palisade and run our hatchery program.

MG: And I am Mike Gross. I work for U.S. fish and wildlife service out of the Ouray national fish hatchery here in Grand Junction.

Join us to hear about the important fishy work happening in our community.

Let’s start at the beginning – how did PHS get a fish hatchery, anyway?

PS: the idea started where it was presented, to me, about ten years ago now, maybe eleven years ago, we took, my class to, the Ouray national fish hatchery, grand Valley unit in grand junction. And we did a tour there, and we’d been doing some tours there for a few years. and Mike, was always our tour guide. And, he just mentioned one of his goals was to get a fish hatchery at a high school at some point. and that’s when I said, well, Palisade high school is the perfect place for it. and so, basically from that moment on, we started talking about it and planning, and, after about five years of that, ah, planning and fundraising and all those things, we finally were able to make it happen.

LM: Why was this a goal for you personally?

MG: Way back in college, Lisa One of the cool classes I had in fish class, we got to tour a lot of the real small aquaculture operations in northern California. And one of the things that came up was a middle school that was raising endangered coho salmon. And that always just kind of stuck in my brain as, wow, what an incredible thing for a school to have as a utility for science. and yeah, so it’s always stuck in my brain. And again, I end up working with a lot of teachers here in the grand valley. And Mr. Steele’s class, every tour that would come into the fish hatchery for Mr. Steele’s classes just their questions were so on point, and his enthusiasm was so on point that it just seemed like kind of a no-brainer partnership if we could make it happen.

LM: So, Kiera and Kale, how did you get involved with this as students or what made you interested?

Kale: my mom works here at the school and she told me that there was a fish hatchery started up that was gonna be started up. The year that I came in was gonna be the year that they actually got fish and it was gonna be endangered fish with partnership, with the US fish and wildlife. I’m like, oh, that sounds fun. I love fishing. I love the outdoors. That’s something that I want to be a part of. So, when I first came to Palisade my freshman year, I had an environmental science class with Mr. Steele and I asked him about it. He’s like, you want to join? Fill out this little Google form. So I filled it out and then he was like, okay, you’re in. You can start going down doing some stuff. And we kept going down there with my class too, and did a bunch of stuff down there and it just really stuck with me.

Kiera: I knew about it my freshman year. like, I had a few friends who, you know, were closer to it than I. Than I was. I mean, I’d never had a class with Mr. Steele. but then my sophomore year, I developed an interest in doing marine biology as a potential career path. And I was like, how am I going to get any experience with this if I live, you know, in a landlocked state? And so I reached out to Mr. Steele and, it was like in the middle of the year, so I was able to take part in some of the end of the year activities, like pit tagging, and the release day. And then come my junior year, I started to get really involved. And that’s when I started going down every morning, and doing like the daily, hatchery activities and maintenance and stuff.

LM: So being a hatchery technician is. It’s different than just being in one of your classes, right? There’s more responsibilities involved with it?

PS: Absolutely. our technicians basically run the hatchery. every morning I, come in and, write them a little to do list of things that we need to get done that morning and that day. and they come in and bust that to do list out, you know. and then, my classes will come down and, we kind, of do more of the monitoring of water chemistry. You know, we’ll come down once a week or every other week and really hash out like the deep, the fine details of the water chemistry. and then also they’re involved. My class are also involved with kind of our days where we have to, weigh all the fish and do a feed to weight, ratio calculations and things like that. and so, they’re involved with that. These guys come down and help out and teach how to do all those things to my students. So they’re very well versed in all of those, techniques as well. So, when I say that our technicians are students, trying to make this a student run, kind of operation, it absolutely is. And they could run it themselves, any day. So it’s pretty awesome.

LM: That’s an awesome experience. And just, it’s so much more hands on. Like, personally, I think I learn so much more when I’m actually doing something than just, you know, hearing about it or reading about it. so you mentioned you were inspired, Mike, by a, hatchery in a middle school. How many, like, how many schools around the country have hatcheries? How common is this?

MG: very few around the country. Probably less than twelve. All said and done. And what is extra unique about this fish hatchery at Palisade High School is with them growing endangered razorback sucker. Every other student operated fish hatchery in the country pretty much raises salmon. and for the most part, in pretty, I don’t want to say wealthy parts of the country, but pretty wealthy parts of the country where this is a different operation is that these students and faculty are concentrating on kind of underappreciated endangered species and, making, making a big difference. There’s a long term vision of this with community involvement, raising these endangered species. That is somewhat of a game changer, it seems.

LM: Can you talk a little bit more about the endangered fish and why are they important? Like, why should people care about, the fact that we need to put endangered fish back in the river?

MG: So, so razorback suckers they’re really unique animals, and, yeah, a lot of really unique things about them. They’re the largest sucker fish in North America. So, so these animals, they get three, maybe even a little bigger than 3ft long. So they’re not like a little suckerfish in your aquarium. They’re like small puppy dog size. But more than that, being the largest suckerfish in North America, lots of other unique things and very important aspects of them. They play a very important part maintaining the health of the river out there. They’re like little vacuums out there, constantly cleaning. if there’s dead fish, they’ll suck on the dead fish, they’ll slurp up the slime. They’re opportunistic little cleaners out there. And so they play a very important part in maintaining the health of the river. Another very important thing about this species is they play a very important part in the food chain. What do impressive birds like to eat? Like bald eagles, they eat native fish, and bears eat native fish. And all of these animals depend on these native fish. And when these populations diminish and maybe even disappear, all of those animals are consequently affected as well. Another notable thing about them, they’re the only species in the genus Xyrauchen, which gets a little sciency. But for a science fish geek like myself, it’s a cool, notable aspect of these fish. Very unique animals.

LM: So if the palisade fish hatchery wasn’t growing, in addition to fish Hatchery you work at, if they weren’t growing and releasing them, would there be any in the river?

MG: There’s a lot of research going on, monitoring populations of these fish, trying to figure out a lot of these aspects. yeah, what’s going on with the populations? And that is kind of all to be determined.

LM: yeah it’s speculation.

PS: Hard to say. But I think, like, even when this whole, you know, you know, endangered fish Hatchery program started back in the nineties, in the mid nineties to late nineties, you know, when biologists were coming through this area trying to see if this was, you know, something that we need to, investigate a little bit more, you know, they found, I think, 13 razorback suckers in I don’t know how long, how many river miles, but across the entire valley, even into Utah. And I mean, that’s concerning, you know, that’s pretty concerning and that’s a lot of river miles, with a native fish, we’re very limited native fish population, knowing their importance in the ecosystem. And so, I think regardless, you know, our hatchery is a small operation, but, you know, every, healthy fish that we’re able to put back into the river and help to grow that population, is pretty important. And the awesome part of it is our students, you know, had a hand in that and they know, that they’re contributing to that.

Kale: And I can say like, I’ve helped out quite a bit and like going out on the river surveying fish and stuff and I’ve noticed like a big difference in like two years of doing stuff like that, that there’s been a little bit more because we caught, over 20 razorback suckers in 3 miles rather than 13 in 100.

PS: Yeah.

LM: that’s really cool. That’s so cool to be able to see that impact that you’re having.

MG: and there is speculation that razorbacks will hopefully be down-listed from endangered to threatened in the very near future. And if that does happen, that will be a pretty giant conservation win for fishes of the upper Colorado river.

LM: So the fish that are next door in the hatchery are now about how big? Maybe six inches big?

Kale: Probably four inches to ten inches.

LM: Okay, four to ten. So when you get them, at ah, the start of the year, how big are they?

Kale: About a half inch, I’d say maybe an inch. Maybe an inch.

LM: just little minnows. And then you raise them throughout the entire school year. And then what happens in May?

Kiera: in May we load them up into a trailer and we bring them to Riverbend park, where we release them. But during the release, it’s really special because we release each fish individually and it’s a huge community event. So we have members from all over the community, all over grand junction, all over the valley, as well as the students from our school. it’s really rewarding on that day to see all of your classmates lined up on the banks of the river, and we have a tradition where every release we have to kiss the fish, to, you know, wish it good luck on its journey through the river. but it’s a really special day.

MG: a neat thing about this year’s fish release outside of the fantastic work that all of these folks have done. And, ah, that’s the main purpose of the event, is to celebrate these folks, one of the people that are coming to celebrate the students and faculty is Jeff Corwin, the tv conservationist, which is incredible in my mind, just that he even knows about these guys operation. So something to look forward to.

PS: And I think too, you know, these guys here, students here have been a part of not just like a big community event like the release day, but they also take time out of their schedule to work different, community events to educate our public about these fish. They both have been involved with the, with the palisade outdoor heritage days, that the, that, CPW puts on. And they take fish from our hatchery and put them down there, for the public to see, and then they’re there to, educate those folks as they come by. And they’ve done an awesome job with that the last few years. they’ve also been involved with the. The water festival, at Los Colonias park. Right. And so they’ve, been part of, that, operation and education outreach program, too. And so, And so these students that run our hatchery aren’t just working at our hatchery. They’re doing what they have with what they can do, and they’re putting themselves out there, to educate the public as well, which is awesome. It’s great that it’s coming from students.

LM: how many fish do you release at a time, usually each year?

Kiera: Each year? we release, like, about Kale: about 250.

LM: Okay. Okay. And I saw this year’s special because it’s a special number of fish that are being released. Right.

Kiera: This is our, officially 1,000th fish released.

LM: So do you feel a little sad at all when you release them after you’ve spent the whole year raising them and growing them?

Kiera: personally, for me, it’s a little bit bittersweet. like, yes, we’ve been down here every single day raising these fish. but with that also comes a lot of pride in seeing what you have helped kind of grow, like, be, introduced into the ecosystem and the river and their new home. And so it’s very special, and it’s a little bit sad, but it’s mostly good feelings.

Kale: Yeah, I feel the same way. It’s kind of bittersweet. You hate to see them go, but you love to see them leave, because they’re kind of like your children for the year. You take care of them, feed them, give them water, clean up their tanks, and then you throw them into the river.

PS: Hope they survive.

Kale: Hope they survive.

PS: I think what’s awesome, too, with our students is they spend so much time with these fish that they get to know these fish almost personally. Right. We’ve had years where we had names for a lot of fish, you know? and, you know, this year we definitely have some character, unique characteristics of a few fish that, you know, that students identify, and they definitely give those fish some special names. So it’s really a, cool way, you know, that they grow that relationship with these fish, and that’s why it is bittersweet to them. You know, it is like, kind of like letting your puppy dog go and hoping for the best. And, yeah, our excitement is getting to see down the road when, you know, the, fish biologists, that are out collecting population samples come across our fish every once in a while, and, that’s a huge celebration, for us, knowing that they’re surviving and hopefully, getting to the age where they’re reproducing and being able to carry on the palisade hatchery, logo, name, whatever tag number. That’s right.

MG: And just to elaborate on what these folks were saying. Oh, one of the more technical, more technical things that they do throughout the school year, fish related, is putting in pit tags, which are passive integrated transponders, which are a permanent tag that goes inside the fish. And, these razorback suckers, they live to be upwards of 40 years old. And so when kale and Kiera are, what, like 57 years old, these fish that they’re growing this year, they’re hopefully still going to be swimming around out there, and the tags that they put in them will still be working. And, yeah, it’s hard to say all of the information that will come out of these fish in the next four decades, but it’s really cool.

LM: How big is the tag?

Kale: It’s like the size of a grain of rice.

Kiera: Yeah.

LM: Oh, wow.

Kale: when we inject it into them there, they’re

Kiera: they’re very aware.

Kale: They’re taking a nap.

MG: Yeah. And then kind of another cool thing about those tags is, like Mr. Steele said, a lot of these fish literally have names, and those names are going to be in the database. So decades down the road, somebody will be able to scan that, that tag and see, that’s Timmy number three. There’s Chad, ol Chad swimming around down in Ruby Horse thief, doing his thing, living the sucker life.

LM: That’s amazing. That’s so cool. So, how many students are involved with being hatchery technicians?

Kiera: right now?

Kale: Right now we have about three. Three that come down every day.

PS: We kind of range from five or six down to. We’ve had just two before. Right. and then, you know, and so that’s. That’s it’s a commitment. Right. There’s a level of commitment that’s involved with being down here every morning. and then also, you know, these, these technicians are. We rely on them on holidays and weekends and we’re on Christmas break and spring break and those types of things. And so, And so, you know, that’s. It takes that level of commitment and these students are, you know, special students that see that value and understand that responsibility. and so, yeah, it takes a different level of commitment, different than what we would just do in a regular class kind of thing. The nice part is, now that we’ve been doing this for a few years and students are becoming more and more aware of it and they’re involved with the release days. I think I’m sitting at ten students that want to be technicians next year, you know, and so, and so, yeah, we’re excited about those opportunities. We’re incorporating, a career pathway and slash internship program here at our school, to kind of focus on, you know, not just, well, the fish hatchery work, but also just kind of focusing more on natural resources in general and using the fish hatchery as a way to kind of, ah, help steer students into that path, that career pathway. and so, you know, as we build those programs, you know, we’ll definitely have more and more students, involved with that technician piece.

LM: Yeah, because you’re probably the VIPs on the release day. That’s probably a lot of fun.

PS: They run it all. It’s them, you know, we get to stand back and let them, celebrate their work, for sure.

Kale: They give the initial speech and then it’s all on us. Pass the torch.

PS: That’s right.

LM: And you are probably getting future co workers out of this. Out of this program, Mike. Right.

MG: Hopefully. All said and done. Yeah. I’m, very curious to see where Kale and Kiera are ten years from now in their professional world. See if this program actually did have an impact. But I’m very optimistic that these two folks in particular are going fishy places in the world.

PS: Absolutely. And the awesome part about that is already just in our short time of having, you know, our hatchery program here at Palisade High School. We have, students that are focusing on, that line of work, in school. You know, we have graduates that are in the fisheries fish, biology, program m at western state. And we have, a student that was involved in our very first planning stage of the hatchery and helping to fund raise. And she has graduated from Texas A and m and is working for, the, us fish and wildlife in California. And she’s doing a lot of the same kind of work, but with. On different fish species. and so, we have students that weren’t necessarily involved in the hatchery, per se, but they used the fish hatchery as lines of study, for their other science classes, in particular in our international baccalaureate program. And so, they’re, interested in. In that wildlife biology, in pursuing those. And so you never know where those degrees will take them and where they maybe, hopefully want to come back to their roots, and come back into this area and make this a focus of study. we had a graduate, from Palisade high school that didn’t have anything to do with the fish hatchery. And he was kind of a non traditional, college student. And he went back and got his fisheries biology degree at western and used our fish hatchery as part of. Of his senior seminar, project. And, Yeah, and so, I mean, it’s amazing, like, the lines of education and career paths that, this is, you know, kind of slowly starting to, take the students from here. Kiera: I know personally for me, like, you know, my freshman year coming into high school, I had no idea what I wanted to do. I was, like, kind of freaked out about it. I know it’s a freshman, a little crazy, but, you know, and I joined the Hatchery with the intention of doing marine biology. but over the past few years, just working with the Hatchery, I, like, this is what I want to do for the rest of my life. And I wouldn’t have gained that understanding without participating in the Hatchery. And so now I plan on pursuing a career in biology, and hopefully sticking to freshwater biology as opposed to marine biology. And, you know, that path wouldn’t have happened without the Hatchery. Kale: Yeah, same thing with me. When I first joined, I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do with my life. Still, I had a few different ideas, but being a part of the Hatchery really solidified that I want to work with fish and be a part of some sort of fish and wildlife agency or parks and wildlife something, and deal with, like, animals and fish.

LM: one thing I would love to hear from everybody is your favorite fact about fish, or what’s your favorite thing about fish personally?

Kale: my favorite thing or saying about it is caudal peduncle. It’s the little skinny part right before the tail fins, and it’s called the caudal peduncle. It’s just fun to say.

MG: You’re making me proud, Kale.

LM: Yeah, we were talking about that the other day.

PS: how about you, Kiera?

Kiera: I don’t know. This is a really tough question.

LM: You can go last if you want. Okay.

Kiera: Yeah.

LM: Okay.

PS: I mean, I love the colors of the fish, honestly. I’m a fly fisherman, and I love catching, you know, different species of fish. And, I think that. I think that one, thing about these, about our razorback suckers is you. That kind of gets overlooked is that they really are a beautiful fish. They’re very unique fish. and they have some beautiful colors. and they’re different. It is so much different than catching a trout or catching any other type of fish that people consider a trophy fish. Those types of things. when you really look at these fish and the different colors that they portray and the changes that they. They go about, you know, through their lives, you know, from the shape, with their. With their big keel, you know, humpback keel on their back, and then the just different color changes as they go. I always think that’s awesome. I mean, we even, you know, look at, their color changes when they’re stressed out. You know, Mike’s taught us about that and how to. How to identify that. And, I mean, we know they’re stressed, but, man, it’s kind of a neat color change. It’s pretty. It’s pretty, you know. but we also know that’s an indicator of, hey, we got to get these back in the water and let them mellow out for a little while. So, that. So that’s me. I love. I love looking at the different changes in their color.

MG: Yeah, that’s a great question, Lisa, and made me ponder a lot of things, and I could probably ramble on for hours. But I think for these particular species of fish that are endangered here locally, what kind of really gets me going is razorback suckers have been swimming around palisade for 5 million years, and a lot’s happened in the last 5 million years. To put that in perspective, they’ve been around palisade longer than Hawaii has been islands. And, yeah, again, Yellowstone has erupted three times since they’ve been swimming around here in Palisade. And so that just very. Yeah, very intriguing to me. Everything that nature has thrown at these animals and they’ve been able to survive for 5 million years. Very adaptive little, little guys.

Kiera: This is a really, really tough question because there are so many fascinating things about these fish. and I’m fascinated by all of it personally. but one of the many, many things that I have learned, as my experience, or during my experience as a hatchery technician, is over the past few years, we’ve had a few blind fish. And what’s really interesting about that is all of the blind fish that we’ve had grow to be a very, very dark shade. So, like, all of the fish, as they’re really little, are more of a silvery color. And then they grow into like, green and kind, of yellowy. but if we have a blind fish, they will present more black. and I find that really fascinating.

Kale: because they grow to their environment to increase their chance of survival and so they can blend in with the river

Kiera: but if all they can see is dark, then

LM: that’s so cool.

MG: It’s fascinating.

At this point, Kale had to step out to go to work

Kale: OK I’m going to go to work

After which we went got into the story of how Mike and Patrick originally got into their parallel lines of work.

MG: I think I probably got into this field due to my love for fishing. Throughout my younger life. I was always the kid out fishing. I don’t want to say out cutting high school and fishing, but that’s kind of long ago where how I became enthusiastic in this field. But, Yeah, so I have a love for fish, a love for nature, and it’s kind of manifested throughout the years for a love for just conservation in general. And, yeah, my whole family grew up here in the grand valley. We used to go fishing on the Colorado river here locally and down in ruby horse thief and whatnot. And we used to catch these fish before they were endangered. And it was a good part of my childhood, very good memories. And so being able to hopefully protect these fish and bring them back for future generations to enjoy, it’s a magical thing, kind of bringing full circle in my life.

PS: And I think, for me, I grew up here in Palisade, and, of course, spent a lot of time outdoors doing anything and everything that we could. you know, loved just getting out, period. Of course, we’d float the river and that kind of thing. And, I didn’t know about these fish growing up. It was never anything that I was ever taught or, ever just kind of came across, you know. and so, you know, my love for this area even just stems back to the knowing the importance of water through our area. And that was kind of where I, started, was kind of more in that conservation realm. And, becoming a teacher and things, that was kind of one of my goals is to just, you know, understand that, you know, you know, as we live here in this community, we have a direct connection with the Colorado river, with our agricultural areas and just being able to survive here. and then once I started learning as a teacher, started learning about these endangered species and that kind of thing, for me, to me, it was just like a light bulb kicked on. It was like, okay, here is our pathway to teach this correlation to really get students to connect with the river, and understanding that their responsibility of. Of helping to conserve water and understanding the connection that we all have with water here in western Colorado and specifically the Colorado river. And now we can bring something that’s living, that, relies on that water as well, not just us, but in a little bit different facet. and students can touch it and they can feel it and they can connect to it, and then they got to know that they’re releasing it into that river to, you know, hopefully sustain that ecosystem and also help sustain our population really, in the long run. And so, that was kind of my connection and my pathway to it all.

MG: this program has the potential, and it literally is serving as a blueprint for other operations like this that are popping up around the country. Currently, Uintah high School in near Vernal, Utah, is setting up, currently an operation modeled after this where they are going to be raising razorback sucker probably next year. And then, yeah, well, little, little operations are popping up like this, modeling after Mr. Steele’s fish hatchery here.

PS: Ah, which is. That’s pretty awesome. I think that that was kind of in the back of our minds, almost a goal for us, too, to show that if we can do this in this little 14 by 14 room and be able to, raise 250 fish a year and get so many students involved, those types of things that basically, if you, have access to water, our hatchery is run on city water. and so, that helps us a ton right there. We don’t have to clean it. We don’t have to disinfect it. It’s already ready to go. and so if you have access to water and you have, you know, some equipment, basic equipment, you can. You can have a hatchery, you know, as well. And, so getting schools to realize that it is a doable thing and it is a very valuable thing, I think is, incredible. And I also, think that, it’s just, it’s really an example of an awesome partnership, within our community, not just a partnership between Palisade high school and us fish and wildlife and, the upper Colorado river endangered species fish recovery program. Oh, my gosh. Anyways, but it’s also a partnership within community members, community entities that help to fund this project. and so many people, got involved with this, and the whole project has funded locally. we didn’t get out of the valley for any funding, which is amazing. and we well exceeded what we needed to get that which has helped to sustain the program and helped us to get equipment as we see fit. Because we didn’t know much about this going into it. I knew nothing about raising fish going into this, and so we’ve definitely, as a program, learned a ton about what goes into it all. And, the fact that we have students that are interested in it and that want, to be the people that are leading it and really running the program, is awesome. And so we’re excited that it, you know, that it will continue to grow and become mainstay here at Palisade High school. But also, like Mike said, a model for other schools.

Kiera: I know we touched on it a little bit, earlier, but, the hatchery has provided, students, myself and Mr. Steele’s classes with some incredible opportunities. Ah, for example, last year was the first year we got to go out and help spawn our fish. So, this batch is also special, not only because it’s our thousandth fish, but because we were a part of the spawning process for them. so we really were there from, like, you know, start to release, which was really special. And, for the past two years, we’ve had pathologists, ah, come out from. Where is it? Montana.

PS: Bozeman.

Kiera: Bozeman. Yeah, so every year we. In the past, we’ve sent samples of our fish to them so that way they can, you know, test it for, you know, any, harmful things that, you know, could accompany it into the river. and this year, and last year, that pathologist came out and did those tests with us. So we got to learn the process, of testing these fish as well as, you know, we got to get a much closer look at our fish. We got to dissect a few of them and see, you know, all of the inner workings of them, which was a really fascinating experience and.

LM: Yeah, you’re much less squeamish than I am.

Kiera: Well, I mean, it’s very like, you know, while it is sad that we have to cut into our fish, it is a good thing because we are able to test them for these potentially harmful bacteria and parasites and all that. but that was a really incredible opportunity. And I know, speaking for kale and myself, we have been able to gain a lot of connections, for future career paths with us fish and wildlife. and it’s just been an incredible opportunity.

MG: One of the neater things for me that I witnessed this year was watching Kiera present at the upper Colorado river endangered fish recovery program, their researchers meeting, where it’s. It’s a yearly event that has the top researchers up and down the Colorado river basin. I mean, really, really, really big hitters in the science community. And, yeah, Kiera presented there. She was the youngest person to ever present at that researchers meeting, which. Very impressive. Good job, Kiera.

Kiera: It was an incredible opportunity.

PS: I think another awesome part that. The fact that we’re here at a school, and so we have viewed this, Hatchery as like a living lab, you know, we have had students that have set up experiments, students like Kiera in our IB program, used the Hatchery, as her science, one of her science studies that she had to submit to the IB. And so she ran a year long study on the different feed types that we’ve been using and how it’s impacted growth rates. We’ve had students you use know the Hatchery to look at how light can, impact growth rate, in terms of the daylight time as it changes through the year. We’ve had students compare the Hatchery growth in terms of an indoor Hatchery versus, an ah, outdoor Hatchery, growths, in other areas, that grow razorback suckers, And so I think that’s the awesome part. Part of it is that we view it as a living lab and students that have ideas and that want to run tests and to see, help us understand these fish more and more. It’s pretty awesome. It’s pretty awesome opportunity for us. And then also, we’re working with the US fish and wildlife in terms of even the anesthesia, compounds that we use for our fish when we pit tag and when we do our final weigh and length tests, is an experimental piece, with razorback suckers. And so we’re excited to be able to conduct that study and report that data to us fish and wildlife. And hopefully our little hatchery can have a big impact, on some of those things down the road.

Kiera: another thing that I have been able to find through my work at the hatchery is, an internship, through Hutton. It’s a Hutton internship, and it’s run through American fisheries society. And essentially you apply and you get paired up with a mentor at a fish hatchery that is in your area. And It’s a summer internship program, and you get to go and spend the summer with your mentor doing all sorts of things, involving fish. So, for example, I would be going out with, them on the boat looking for my fish and the fish that we’ve raised here.

LM: And, you know, that’s awesome. So you’re going to be doing that this summer?

Kiera: hopefully. Fingers crossed. If it all works out.

LM: I’m sure it will!

PS: But then we, you know, and I think what’s cool about this is like, so our program just at our school is, has been spread through the valley. We have students. So Isabella’s here from Plateau Valley that wanted some opportunities to get involved in the fish hatchery. And so she comes down from Ponto valley once a week and does little things in the fish hatchery to help her learn more and more about that career, path as well. And so, yeah, word is spreading and, students are wanting to or seeing as a great opportunity to get involved with, and so it’s really starting to pick up more and more each year. We even have an art class, this semester that is working on, doing some old Japanese art styles with our razorbacks. And so, they’re gonna be doing a, it’s basically like a fish press with, rice paper and ink and things. And so they’re practicing on some models. We bought some toy, razorback suckers that they’re practicing on. And then, you know, we’ll, Yeah, anyways, get to be able to see their work from that. So we’re really excited about that.

LM: That’s cool. This is amazing. It’s just so cool to hear about all of this happening here. It’s pretty special.

PS: Absolutely.

LM: if people want to like just general community members, if anybody is interested in learning more beyond coming to the release party, what’s the best way for people to reach out and get involved or donate if they want to?

PS: We have a student generated website available, ah, On our palisade high school website, and if you go to, I think, the programs tab, if I recall. But you could even just do a simple search on the website itself and you’ll find the PHS fish hatchery website. And there’s a lot of information there that one of our former students put together and did that as a prize project. and then, Also there is opportunity for questions, or even setting up visits per se, those types of things. We have some platforms for them to fill out some information there. And then, yeah, and then if donations, you know, there’s some instructions on people, that would like to donate as well. So, yeah, without. Yeah, without donations and without funding. And we, you know, we’re trying to, you know, still maintain a lot of the. This kind of daily costs and things like that. and so, yeah, it’s. That helps a ton. So every little bit helps.

Kiera: We also have an Instagram as well @Phsfishhatchery.

Follow the @Phsfishhatchery insta for the latest about everything the PHS fish hatchery team is working on, including the release day…

MG: Hope to see you all there May 3 at 1:30 at Riverbend park. Come kiss a fish, Lisa.

LM: No, thanks. okay, well, thank you so much for spending time with me and also just for everything you do. This is really cool to learn about and such an exciting thing to have here.

LM: PHS’s school motto is:

Kiera: think globally, act locally.

LM: Think globally, act locally. The hatchery is a perfect example of that concept. Not only does it have an impact on the local environment, it has set off a chain reaction by inspiring other schools to open hatcheries and by inspiring students from other schools to come to Palisade to build on the foundation already in place here. I was blown away to learn about the important work being done by these community members.

Go check out the release day and celebrate their hard work!

Thanks for listening. With love, from Palisade.

Thanks to Geoff Roper for the music.  

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