Photo courtesy Abi KingPhoto courtesy Abi KingPhoto courtesy Abi King

Bringing science to life

Jack Creek Preserve Foundation (JCPF) hosted the Ennis Schools 8th grade science class to participate in a fish sampling effort with Confluence Consulting in Jack Creek

A thoughtful donation, a motivated science teacher, patient biologists and 23 engaged eighth grade students all came together to study Jack Creek and bring science to life at the Jack Creek Preserve on a beautiful fall day.

A donation from co-founder and board member, Jon Fossel, made it possible to hire Confluence Consulting, Inc. (Confluence) to evaluate the riparian habitat on Jack Creek Preserve and provide recommendations for improvements. Their work has included a habitat assessment, and water quality and biological sampling on the upper 1-mile reach of Jack Creek and portions of two of its tributaries. Confluence biologists planned to conduct fish sampling on Tuesday, Oct. 5 and Ennis Schools science teacher, Anthony Gossack, expressed interest in his class participating in the effort.

"Science comes alive when we can get our hands dirty. Getting to help catch fish, hold fish, and count fish showed the 8th graders how science applies to real life situations! A huge thanks to Jack Creek Preserve Foundation and patient biologists for giving us this unique opportunity," said Gossack. Twenty-three 8th grade science students joined JCPF’s Executive Director, Abi King, at the Jack Creek trailhead at 9 a.m. During the 2.5-mile hike to the sampling location the group had a few discussions about Jack Creek Preserve Foundation’s mission, programs and why riparian habitat restoration is important. Mr. Gossack also assigned a scavenger hunt; having the students find different items along the way such as scat and wildlife tracks.

When the group reached the starting point for the sampling location, they joined Confluence Biologists, Mike Sanctuary and Caroline Neighbor; Madison River Foundation Executive Director, Jon Malovich; local fishing guide for the Tackle Shop, James ‘Jim Bob’ Terry; Madison Conservation District Conservation Intern, Raeya Gordon; and JCPF Property Manager, Jim Giglinto. The time and expertise provided by these volunteers was essential to the sampling effort. A backpack electro shocker was used to stun the fish to capture them throughout a 1,000 foot section of Jack Creek. This effort was completed twice to get as many fish present as possible. The fish were then transported in buckets to a live car downstream to temporarily hold them. Students watched the process and learned how the electro shocker works. To process the fish, students got some hands-on experience in fish identification, proper handling techniques, weighing and measuring the fish. Mike Sanctuary also addressed habitat needs for fish and pros and cons of the habitat that they were assessing. Before hiking back out, students enjoyed their packed lunches with Lone, Cedar, and Fan Mountains in the background.

King wrapped up the day, “For our mission of “Preserving wildlife and its habitat by educating youth about the importance of conservation”, we focus on various educational programs and sound management of the 4500 acres that make up the Preserve. It is extremely rewarding to have both efforts come together for this field trip and have the students be so engaged throughout the day. As a biologist in my previous career, I remember how impactful this type of experience is; we may have some future fisheries biologists in this group!”

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The Madisonian

65 N. MT Hwy 287
Ennis, MT 59729

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