Students wade into conservation at Lock 7

MARC SCHULTZ/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER
At Lock 7 Park, Niskayuna, ECOS teamed up with the DEC for Day in the Life of the River program.  Here Russell Moore, DEC Region 4 Fisheries Technician shows students a walleye from the Mohawk River. Also ECOS caught fish for school groups to help identify, giving them a peek below the surface to experience the incredible biodiversity in our Mohawk River.MARC SCHULTZ/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER At Lock 7 Park, Niskayuna, ECOS teamed up with the DEC for Day in the Life of the River program. Here Russell Moore, DEC Region 4 Fisheries Technician shows students a walleye from the Mohawk River. Also ECOS caught fish for school groups to help identify, giving them a peek below the surface to experience the incredible biodiversity in our Mohawk River.

Hands-on learning was on the agenda Thursday in Lock 7 Park, as Niskayuna-based environmental group ECOS hosted a Day in the Life of the River program.

Around two dozen children from RiverRun Community Montessori School, as well as some home-schooled children, tested river water, touched fish and watched a kayak and a canoe go through the lock.

“Care for the environment is very important in the Montessori curriculum,” said teacher Amy Poole. “We take every opportunity to get out into the community and learn to be stewards of the Earth.”

Specialists from different state organizations were on hand to provide demonstrations. Russell Moore, of the DEC’s Fisheries Bureau, showed off different species of live fish that are found in the Mohawk River, including walleye, small-mouth bass and even a large goldfish.

“It was huge,” Ava Demeo, 6, said of the goldfish.

Nadia Tell, 11, also though the goldfish was interesting.

“I did not know there were goldfish in the Mohawk,” she said.

ECOS executive director Leah Akins and zoologist Matt Schlesinger attempted to catch fish in a sein — a net attached to two wooden dowels. Akins and Schlesinger stretched the net and put the dowels vertically under the water before walking toward shore, hoping to scoop up some fish along the way. Early attempts yielded mostly plant life.

Up the hill, another group of students held instruments above their heads to measure wind speed at the river’s edge. They also measured the turbidity of a water sample.

Closer to the lock, State Canal Corps representatives used a model to demonstrate how locks work and talked about the history of the Erie Canal.

Halfway through the morning, ECOS members paddled a canoe and a kayak into Lock 7, and the students watched the boats descend and exit the lock.

“Any introduction or reintroduction to the world around us is a super thing,” said ECOS President Will Seyse.

While the students could have learned about the fish of the Mohawk River in the classroom or online, the opportunity to touch a bass caused shrieks of delight that online experiences lack.

A Day in the Life of the River is a statewide DEC program with thousands of schoolchildren participating in conservation programs, primarily at locations along the Hudson River.

Akins aims to raise the profile of the river and call attention to conservation efforts underway in Schenectady County.

This was the first Day in the Life of the River event in the county, but it won’t be the last; Akins plans to host the event again next year and hopes for even greater school and community participation.