Besser students participate in Salmon Release Day

News Photo by Julie Goldberg MSU Extension educator Brandon Schroeder, left, teaches Besser Elementary School students about macroinvertebrates on Monday at Rotary Island Mill.

ALPENA — Besser Elementary School fourth- and fifth-graders were at Rotary Island Mill on Monday participating in the Department of Natural Resources Salmon in the Classroom program.

The students spent the day rotating through different stations. The stations were salmon migration, life cycles, macroinvertebrates, water chemistry, salmon weights and lengths, data collections, and wetlands.

“Today is really about connecting the Salmon in the Classroom project to the local community, the local ecosystem and the Thunder Bay River and Lake Huron,” MSU Extension educator Brandon Schroeder said.

Schroeder’s station had the students collecting macroinvertebrates from the water to study the diversity of life that will be an ecosystem the salmon are calling home.

“Essentially, we’re looking at biodiversity and trying to ask the question of what kinds of food items would salmon have if released in the river,” he said. “Then also secondarily, just using the critters we’re collecting to determine the water quality.”

Schroeder said it’s protocol that the Michigan Micro Program has an assessment of the data collected.

“We’re collecting some high quality data to see how the water quality is doing, so basically we’re studying the ecosystem and looking for diversity of life,” Schroeder said.

Schroeder said an exciting thing about the program is that 30 schools across Northeast Michigan are partners of the Northeast Michigan Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative.

“The idea is that every time we have a school that wants to do this, the network can surround them with partners that can make this happen,” Schroeder said. “Because of the proximity of schools to this place, we actually have students on Rotary Island quite a bit.”

Community partners from DTE Energy, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, and River Rats helped the students at the different stations on Monday.

Students measured and weighed the salmon and after doing that, they were able to release the salmon into the water. The data collected from the salmon will be sent to the DNR.

Fifth-grader Spencer Speaks said the salmon he had was gooey when he touched it. Other students said the salmon were slimy, squishy and moved a lot when they were measuring them.

Fifth-grader Lucas Weil was in charge of writing down the measurements and weight of the salmon for his group. He said the length of the salmon varied between six and eight centimeters long.

The event on Monday was made possible through a grant teacher Allison Elliott received from NEMGLSI and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Bay Watershed Education and Training Program. The grant helped pay for the supplies and equipment that was needed to take care of the salmon.

Julie Goldberg can be reached via email at or by phone at 358-5688.