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Students, faculty, DNR maintain school's pond
GA DNR Fisheries biologist Chris Harper discusses largemouth bass anatomy and breeding with RHMS seventh-graders, with MES Principal Bivens Miller looking on earlier this month. Others who participated, included Venessa Matuzak, Ava Bowling, Addie Hunter, Cameron Vatistas, Garner Casella, Chris Wells, Samantha Cuson, Alexis Krupp, Vanessa Ramos, Jonathan Altman, Caleb Johnson and teacher and field studies coordinator Bob Hodgon. Photo provided - photo by Photo provided.

During the construction of McAllister Elementary School, a large borrow pit behind the school was turned into a retention pond to handle storm run-off from the elevated building site.

As is the case with all new ponds, there wasn’t a lot of aquatic biodiversity. In the fall of 2015, students from the Richmond Hill Schools Field Studies Program profiled the pond, checking water chemistry, drawing depth maps and conducting seine surveys to determine what type of macroinvertebrates and fish had managed to make it into the pond.

In addition to insect larvae and nymphs, small fish can be seeded into ponds when eggs, or even tiny newborn fish stick to the legs of wading birds and are transported to a different area.

The students’ biological survey indicated there was a good base of small minnows in the pond which were feeding on even smaller insect larvae and nymphs. A few bluegill also turned up in the nets.

Data from the survey were then used by Georgia Department of Natural Resources Fisheries biologists Chris Harper and Jason Howard to determine a stocking formula for the pond. That fall, middle school field studies members returned to the pond to assist the biologists in stocking the pond with 700 bluegill and 400 channel catfish fry.

Fifth grade students from McAllister joined this activity and many got to release live fish.

The field studies students returned early this school year to conduct another seine survey to see how many of the fish were surviving. The health of the pond was still good, even after a brutal summer.

While doing this survey, Harper, assisted by students, set eight artificial fish attractors around the pond. The students made these fish attractors using abandoned materials such as buckets, PVC pipe and other things. On Valentine’s Day, RHMS seventh grader, some who are in the field studies, joined McAllister’s Assistant Principal Dr. Eileen Emerson and Principal Bivens Miller in stocking 25 juvenile largemouth bass in the pond to help maintain a balanced ecosystem.

Field studies students will return one more time toward the end of the year to do another survey. Fish will be netted or caught using rods, identified, weighed, measured, marked and then released back into the pond. Surveys will continue at least one time per year over the next several years as part of a long time monitoring project being carried out by seventh- grade life science students as part of their ecology unit.

The pond is closed and is not open to public fishing.

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