By Chloe Sommer,
More than 120 Davis High students sacrificed their late start Wednesday and piled into buses on the morning of Oct. 8. The buses departed on an all-day field trip for environmental science classes to observe salmon spawning in the wild.
While the trip’s furthest destination was Lake Tahoe, the buses made a few stops along the way. The first location students got to visit was the Nimbus Dam, with its nearby hatchery and visitor center.
“There were no fish there,” junior Darya Taghadomi Saberi said.
The salmon ladder adjacent to the Nimbus Dam had been drained, as it was spawning season for the American River’s salmon, and not the time for major migrations.
“I gained a wonderful experience of learning about eggs,” Taghadomi Saberi added.
Though the river itself lacked a great spectacle, the nearby visitor center housed plenty of interactive, informative exhibits on the life cycles of salmon.
Giant replicas of salmon eggs formed the centerpiece of the visitor center, and painted wooden cutouts of Chinook salmon adorned the ceiling. From water pollution to survival rates, displays further educated students on topics discussed in class.
From the dam, the buses drove a lengthy portion of the trip to Taylor Creek. There, students got up close and personal with Kokanee salmon and were able to walk just a few feet away from spawning grounds.
By visiting both the Nimbus Dam and Taylor Creek, students learned about Chinook and Kokanee salmon.
“We have the opportunity to see two different runs of salmon with two totally different locations,” environmental science teacher Eric Bastin said.
At Taylor Creek, male Kokanee salmon could be seen fighting each other for the right to spawn with particular females. Meanwhile, the female salmon whipped their tales, stirring up rocks along the creek bottom to create redds (nests) for their eggs.
“It’s like Romeo and Juliet, but with, like, six zillion Romeos and that one Juliet,” senior Giulia McIsaac said.
McIsaac stood observing the salmon’s habits for several minutes alongside her classmates. The section of creek they watched was very male-dominant, with up to 12 males seen at a time competing for one female.
“We saw a lot of dead fish,” junior Hannah Siemens said. Decomposing fish carcasses covered the riverbed in some sections of Taylor Creek. This showed students another aspect of the salmon lifecycle–Kokanee salmon generally die within a week of spawning.
The excursions finished with the short bus ride from Taylor Creek to Lake Tahoe, where students hung out on the beach and swam in the lake.
After swimming and socializing, students gathered in a circle to watch three acts perform in an environmental science tradition: Lake Tahoe Idol.
“My favorite part of this field trip was the talent show at Tahoe,” senior Kyle Clancy said.
The show featured stand-up comedy, a salmon skit and even a live musical performance by senior Scott Lucio.
Finally, after a long day of learning and entertainment, the students filed into the buses one last time and headed back to Davis.