Students from Redmond Elementary School’s Quest classes had their last field trip of the school year this week as they checked out aquatic fish and insects at Bear Creek.
Students explored the fish trap, various fish species and more on Tuesday and Wednesday as instructors kept them busy with a variety of activities.
Chuck Janovick is a Nature Vision educator who was guiding students as they poked around plastic tubs filled with water, aquatic plants and tiny critters, which make for great fish food.
“They get to see the small invertebrate food sources that live in the stream,” he said.
Janovick told the students that based on the biodiversity of the bugs in the water samples, the stream was relatively healthy, with some species who die quickly after exposure to pollutants being found in the samples.
Quest teacher Tara Emitu said the classes are full of high-performing students who test into the program. Field trips and in-class presentations are the norm for her students.
“It’s definitely giving them a hands-on experience,” she said.
A few meters away, another group of students clustered around another instructor, who was scooping various fish species out of a tank and putting them in a water-filled container.
She explained to students the various features of the different species and gave them a chance to touch the fish too.
The fish included in the presentations ranged from native species to invasive, and the students eagerly stuck their hands in the water to pet the various fish.
Finally, students were able to watch the large fish trap, which sits on the creek on a floating dock.
A wide water-turbine propelled by the stream’s current lets fish swim in but not out, allowing researchers to observe them and tag some to study their movement through Lake Washington and beyond.
Emitu said experiences like this help students learn.
“We’re pretty lucky that we’re right across the street,” she said. “…I really hope that we continue to have this opportunity.”
Bear Creek runs through Redmond before intersecting with the Sammamish River slough as it crosses under state Route 520.
The slough then runs north before turning west in Woodinville and cutting through Bothell and Kenmore to Lake Washington.
Bear Creek, along with North Creek, provide some of the most essential salmon-spawning locations in the north Lake Washington ecosystem, as documented by the Bothell-Kenmore Reporter last year.
Salmon runs in the Cedar River-Lake Washington watershed have been declining.
According to data from the Department of Fish and Wildlife, which has tracked Chinook salmon runs based on live fish in the Sammamish River and Lake Washington since 1983, there is a severe decline in the salmon population.
In 1983, there were an estimated 550 naturally-spawning Chinook salmon in the region, reaching low points of 33 salmon in 1996 and 2011.
In 2004, tracking began for hatchery-spawned salmon with an estimated 784 hatchery fish and 228 natural salmon in the region.
Both populations nose-dived between 2014 and 2015, with a combined total population of 1,578 Chinook salmon in 2014, dropping to only 482 in 2015, only 35 of which were naturally-spawning.
Chinook salmon are an important part of Puget Sound and northwest’s resident Orca population as their preferred source of food.