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Rainbow trout raised and released by Paintsville High students

These rainbow trout were hatched and raised at Paintsville High School and now swim free in Little Paint Creek. Photo provided by Hans Doderer.

These rainbow trout were hatched and raised at Paintsville High School and now swim free in Little Paint Creek. Photo provided by Hans Doderer.

For months, Paintsville High School students have been raising rainbow trout from eggs into fingerlings, under the direction of science teacher Hans Doderer. On March 10, when they released the last of the trout into Little Paint Creek, PRIDE surprised them with an award for their Trout in the Classroom Project.

The project began last November when Mr. Doderer obtained 600 rainbow trout eggs at the Wolf Creek Dam National Fish Hatchery in Jamestown — Kentucky’s only cold water hatchery. The eggs were placed into breeder baskets in the school’s 120-gallon aquarium, which had been adapted to maintain the cold water temperature needed by the eggs (52? F).

Students then worked hard for four months to maintain the conditions necessary to hatch and grow these very sensitive fish. PHS biology, ecology and chemistry students monitored pH, Nitrate, Nitrite, Dissolved Oxygen, conductivity and water temperature levels.

Unfortunately, they discovered that fish were dying in mid-February. They investigated likely causes for the die-off and then corrected the problem, which was related to a brief buildup of toxins.

Thankfully, about 200 rainbow trout survived. In late February and again today, a group of PHS ecology students released the small trout into a section of the Little Paint Creek. The site is within the Little Paint Creek Wildlife Management area, located at the tail waters of the Paintsville Lake in Johnson County.

The Trout in the Classroom Project will not end today. Students will be producing and editing a documentary based on the project, including oral histories they collected from community members about local water quality. When it is warmer outside, the students will visit a stream to test water quality by measuring dissolved oxygen and conductivity and counting macroinvertebrates.

“Students, you should be very proud of what you have learned and accomplished,” said Tammie Wilson, PRIDE President/CEO. “Raising rainbow trout is extremely difficult, but you succeeded. This was a tough assignment, and you rose to the challenge.”

Ms. Wilson presented Mr. Doderer and his students with the PRIDE Environmental Education Project of the Month Award, which recognizes creative, effective ways of promoting environmental awareness and stewardship. PRIDE presents one award each month to an education project within the 42 counties of southern and eastern Kentucky.

“It is an honor for both my students and I to receive such recognition from PRIDE,” Mr. Doderer said. “I’m sure our administration will be proud of what the students have accomplished during their involvement with the TIC project. There is so much that can be learned from such a project.”

The interdisciplinary project involved ecology, biology, chemistry, history and art students. The goal has been to develop their environmental literacy, as well as a deeper appreciation for the environment, water resources and water quality in eastern Kentucky.

PHS used a $500 PRIDE grant toward the project, which was also funded by Kentucky Association for Environmental Education, and Appalachian Renaissance Initiative-Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative.

Doderer thanked Principal Chuck McClure for his support during the project. He also thanked the guest speakers who have worked with the students on the project over the past few months. They were: Jason Russell, a fisheries biologist at the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife; Daniel Fraley of the Kentucky Division of Water; Matt Hodges, a graduate student from Eastern Kentucky University’s Division of Natural Areas; and Nina McCoy, who is a retired biology teacher and a board member of the Big Sandy Watershed.

To learn more about rainbow trout, Mr. Doderer recommended visiting this website: http://www.fws.gov/wolfcreek/.

PRIDE is a nonprofit organization supporting environmental cleanup and education efforts in the region.

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