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Local Students Build and Manage Their Own Wetland Nursery

Published January 30, 2013

Through the National Aquarium’s Wetland Nursery Program, students at Hereford High School are raising wetland grasses and native fish in their own schoolyard! Students who participate in Hereford’s environmental club (HOPE) are gaining first-hand experience in project management, plant nursery operations and aquaculture systems. Read about the experience in their own words:

Finally!  Our system is up, running, and has all needed organisms to make it an ecosystem. It was a long process, but luckily we were able to learn along the way. Thanks to the help of Laura Cattell Noll from the National Aquarium, HOPE members, our advisor, and many others...without them this wouldn’t have been possible. This post covers the process it took for us to establish the AquaEcosystem at our school.

Phase One: Planning

The reconstruction process began with an inventory of what we could save from the storm. Key things we were able to recover were: the tank itself, the bioball-filter chamber, and some tubing/connectors.  From there we started calculating how much material we needed to purchase and how much money we would have to request from the Chesapeake Bay Trust’s Mini-Grant Program. As soon as we received a check in the mail, the project was a-go!

Phase Two: Construction

Let’s say that for a bunch of girls, this was quite an experience. Transporting, sawing, and bolting plywood was something new! The instructions that came with the project called for a 10‘x10’ base for the bay grasses. In order for the ecosystem to fit our new greenhouse, we had to make a blueprint of a longer 4’ x 16’ frame. When that was done, we had to get some help lifting the frame into the greenhouse (it’s quite heavy!).

construction phase

Phase Three: Transplanting

Now that the bed for the plants was built, we ordered the bay grasses. It took a lot of club effort to transplant 1,200 plugs of Spartina altemiflora into larger plug sheets. Due to after school sports, it was a little rough getting everyone to come and help on one day, but over the course of a week, the job was done.

transplant phase

Phase Four: Adding Fish!

In order to prep for the fish we let the system run for a couple weeks. We faced a lot of problems with our pump. Either the breaker would trip, something would clog the tubing, water would evaporate, air would accumulate in the tubes….something! It was always something, which made it really difficult and frustrating to pinpoint the problem each time. National Aquarium staff helped explain some of the sources of our problems as well as go over basic care tips for the fish, such as what to look out for when they undergo stress, how much food to feed them, and ideal salinity levels.

adding fish

In the spring of 2013, HOPE will plant the bay grasses and release the fish in the Chesapeake Bay. To keep the members active in the project, we have a weekly fish feeding schedule!

If you are interested in helping restore wetlands in your community, check out the National Aquarium’s upcoming Conservation Events!

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