School Programs

Every September since 2006, high school students in Williams Lake have had the opportunity to pull on their gumboots and wade into the river to haul slippery, fighting Chinook salmon onto the bank of the Quesnel River. It’s a highlight of a three-day science adventure made possible by teachers, Scout Island Nature Centre staff, Fisheries and Oceans Canada biologists, local and undergraduate researchers, Gavin Lake, and Quesnel River Research Centre staff. Students directly experience and contribute to scientific research for the understanding and enhancement of salmon populations. For the first time since 2006, we extended the trip to three full days and stayed at Gavin Lake.

This year the trip was jointly funded by: Williams Lake Kiwanis Club, Columneetza PAC, Williams Lake Secondary PAC, Gavin Lake Camp, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), Scout Island Nature Centre (SINC), SD 27, and Quesnel River Research Centre (QRRC).

The 20 students from WL Secondary and Columneetza Secondary who were selected to go were mentored by:

Teachers: Nara Riplinger and Laura Storochuk
Fisheries and Oceans Canada:Roy Argue, Guy Scharf, and Dave Reedman
Scout Island Nature Centre: Sue Hemphill
Quesnel River Research Centre: Sam Albers and Laszlo Enyedy
UNBC Researchers: Alex Koiter, Deirdre Clark, Marjolein Vogels, and Ben Anderson
Northern Shuswap Tribal Council: Gord Sterritt
Esketemc Band: Chief Fred Robbins
Volunteers: Mike Doherty (retired art teacher), Bruce Mack, Karen Sokolan, Doug Lord

Activities 2012

Wednesday September 19

8:30 am: Organize and leave
11:30 am: Arrival at Gavin Lake, Lunch, welcome, introductions and canoe safety talk
12-4:30 pm: Students alternated between two activities:
  • Canoed across lake and walked Rainbow trail - Focus: Understanding the two forest ecosystems and the riparian edge.
  • Planted native trees at Forest Camp and identified aquatic invertebrates and learned about their habitat needs

4:30-6 pm: Life cycle and habitat needs of salmon presentation by Shelby Derkson (student returning for third year) and Roy Argue
6 pm Dinner: — provided by Gavin Lake Staff (spaghetti, salad). Students provided dessert.
7-9 pm: Ecoprint discussion and how it relates to this trip. Students presented their initial ideas for projects and received feedback
9-11 pm: Students had free time. Many chose to have a sauna and jump in the lake.

Fish dissection
Students from the 2011 trip guided
the 2012 students through dissection

Thursday September 20

7:30-8 am: Breakfast provided by Gavin Lake Camp Staff
All made and packed their lunches, using food provided by our program (much of it local)
9am-1 pm: Gamete collection at Quesnel River: This took four sets of the net before we successfully had eggs and sperm. Gord Sterritt from the Northern Shuswap Tribal Council gave a talk about First Nations fisheries. Chief Fred Robbins (Esketemc Band) welcomed us. He chose one of the Chinook that had been caught for gametes to cook for our dinner. He also talked about First Nations history in the area and the deep connection they have with salmon.

Preparing sockeye salmon
Chief Fred Robbins shows students how to
prepare sockeye for cooking over a fire.

1:30 pm: At the QRRC for fertilization, enumeration and disinfection of eggs: Students estimated using enumeration of sub-samples of total eggs, fertilized, and disinfected eggs using ovadine. Eggs were placed in incubation trays for development. The eggs were distributed to schools in mid October at the eyed stage.
3-4:30 pm: At Gavin Lake
Students were led in dissection and discussion of anatomy, adaptation and species identification of salmon by three returning students, Evan Fontaine, Austin Lord and Jake Stewart using coho salmon from Chilliwack River Hatchery. While this was happening, Chief Robbins prepared the Chinook he had chosen for oven baking.

Making fish prints
It was late but everyone wanted to try
their hand at Gyotaku (Japanese fish prints)

4:30-6:30 pm: First Nations Discussion — Gord Sterritt and Chief Fred Robbins
Chief Fred Robbins had two students prepare two sockeye salmon (donated by Gord) in the traditional way for cooking over a fire. This included many stories and discussion. Dinner was a combined effort. Gavin Lake staff cooked corn from Laura Storochuk’s farm, vegetables from Sue Hemphill’s garden, and salmon from Gord Sterritt. Our second course was the salmon hot from cooking over the fire (watched over by Bruce Mack) After dinner: A beautiful clear night around the fire at the edge of the lake. Gord, Bruce and Chief Robbins remained with us until 9pm. The students were engaged and touched by the stories that the Chief had to share with us. Roy presented a gift to Gord and the Chief.
9-11 pm: Student free time. Many went in the sauna and many came up to the dining hall to make Gyotaku (Japanese fish prints) using male Chinook salmon from brood stock capture.

Sumie ink painting
Sumie ink painting — another way
to appreciate nature

Friday September 21

7:30 am: Breakfast - cooked by Gavin Lake staff
All made and packed their lunches using food provided by our program (much of it local)
Packed up, cabins swept, and departed by 8:30
9am-1 pm: QRRC
Students alternated between two activities:

  1. Mike Doherty led students in a drawing session. They looked at patterns in nature and how we see them repeated from macro to micro, then had a sumie ink painting session which taught them the technique and allowed them to interpret the ideas of patterns such as tree bark, leaves and branches, rocks and other forms. This was a most engaging activity that even drew in some of the researchers to take part.
  2. Students chose to work with one of four researchers:
    • Alex Koiter - Sediment source tracing under flume simulations
    • Deirdre Clark - Gravel bed storage of sediment
    • Marjolein Vogels - Sedimentation in river floodplains
    • Ben Anderson - Sedimentation in post-forest fire area

Student salmon presentation
Shelby (returning student): presentation to her
fellow students on salmon life cycle and habitat needs.
Collecting chinook gametes
This is one of the Chinook that
gametes were taken from
Student answers questions
UNBC grad student answers questions after students have helped him with his field work.

1-2 pm: Students were asked to sit by themselves and reflect on the three days. They then wrote about the two activities that made the greatest impression on them. Here are a few responses:

  • When Alex Koiter (UNBC researcher) went into depth about sediment transport, it made me think of what I can accidentally put into rivers and streams.
  • I liked when we got to help out with the research university students. I found this helpful in me deciding what I want to do after high school. Also, it’s way more fun if you get to actually help out, instead of just watching.
  • Listening to Fred speak was the memory I treasure most. It is amazing how much one’s views can change after spending half a day with one man. I completely adored the stories and the reasons behind the tales and legend Chief Fred told us. The way his people respect the land, how at peace they are with nature. It made me feel like such a horrible person, seeing how wonderful of a man he is.
  • The political wars for the salmon really interest me. I could definitely see myself fighting for them.
  • I have always been terrified that I will end up in a robot’s job. That seems impossible when it comes to working with nature.
  • Getting to work with my two fellow project partners and rack the brain of a PhD candidate was priceless! Ecology is not my favourite science, but he drew me in and had me asking a million questions. He taught about chemistry aspects and did his best to answer all of my questions. He also answered some questions I’ve had about schooling and university. He was enthusiastic and fun and I loved how he didn’t treat us like ‘children’. I fed off his passion and got to experience a part of science I never had.
  • I loved taking the canoe across the lake and going on the hike. I enjoyed learning about all the different plants on the riparian edge.
  • I loved the art in the watershed. It was a great way to relax and cool off our brains after storing all the new information. It was great to take the plants and recreate them.

2013 Group Photo

The 2015 Salmon trip page

1305 A Borland Rd.
Williams Lake, BC
V2G 5K5


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