To round out our video series on the Tłı̨chǫ Aquatic Ecosystem Monitoring Program (TAEMP), we’ve added two new educational videos that can be used in schools. The videos will also be of interest to anyone who would like to learn more about the kind of information that can be collected on fish, water and sediments, how it is collected, and how that information can help develop a picture of the health of fish and fish habitat in an area.
Education is an important part of fish camp. These videos focus on the scientific sampling that takes place, but there is a whole spectrum of learning that also happens on site. Elders, youth and scientists spend five days together on the land, sharing their observations and knowledge of fish and the aquatic environment around them.
As part of the TAEMP, each year a fish camp is held near one of the four Tłı̨chǫ communities. At fish camp, scientists, fishers, elders and youth work together to collect fish, water and sediment samples to be sent out for testing. Sampling gives valuable baseline information by describing conditions in the area at that time. The videos describe what the various data can tell us – from the exact age of a fish that has been sampled to what materials are suspended in the water or deposited in the sediments.
That information can then be compared with information collected in future, and allow us to see whether there are any changes to fish or water over time. “We have something now to compare later in time on which way it goes,” fisheries biologist Paul Vecsei, Golder Associates, said. “It may never change and it may stay as it is, but we have to be able to assess it periodically.”
In this first video, Paul leads a demonstration on fish sampling and the kinds of information that can be learned on site by measuring and weighing the fish, recording its sex, and observing the general appearance of the fish. Along the way, Paul points out interesting features in a fish’s anatomy, such as the balloon-like fish bladder that gives a fish its buoyancy, and the otolith, a tiny bone in the head that has rings that can be counted to determine the fish’s age. Paul also discusses the unique characteristics that each species of fish has to make it best adapted for their lifestyle and the places they live in.
In the second video, youth learn how to use scientific sampling methods and equipment for water and sediments and use their new skills out on the water. Sean Richardson, Wildlife Coordinator, Tłı̨chǫ Government, spoke about the purpose of the camp, “having youth and elders participate to have a better understanding of how the samples are done and why”. Sean led an on-shore demonstration of procedures to follow when taking water samples to help determine the amount of solid matter suspended in the water and how “cloudy” it was, the dissolved oxygen, how acidic the water was, the levels of nutrients and various metals, and water temperature. The video takes us out on the lake and shows the youth using an Ekman sampler to grab sediment samples from the bottom of the lake used to test for metals.
The learning that happens at fish camp is something that can be taken further. “My personal hopes to come out of this,” Sean said, “ is to have youth opened up to the scientific and exploration and sampling part so eventually these youth will help me work myself out of job. They’re the ones to take everything further.”
“It will be the youth here in the community,” he continued, “who will come up with areas for fish and water sampling in the future so it’s the communities who can monitor any development and watch for changes.”
Now that the videos are posted on the WRRB website, some copies will be distributed to schools and communities in Wek’èezhìı.