2 high school students hatching salmon eggs at home

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SPEARFISH, S.D. (AP) — Two high school students in western South Dakota are hatching Chinook salmon eggs at home in an experiment that could lead to an increase in survival rates of salmon eggs at fish hatcheries.

Gretchen Blain and Hannah Neumiller, both juniors at Spearfish High School, began their experiment in late October and are receiving guidance from the manager of a state fish hatchery, the Black Hills Pioneer (http://bit.ly/1NQwXVU ) reported. The students are incubating the eggs in a cooler and a petri dish and then testing water change intervals.

"In the end we're doing a mortality comparison," Blain said.

In some dishes, the students changed the water every day, in others every three days and in some others once a week. Once the eggs reached their eyed-up stage, the students abandoned the once-a-week change and changed them once every three days.

Neumiller's eggs were kept in a cooler around 54 degrees and Blain's were maintained around 48.

"My survival rate was around 50 percent and Gretchen's around 70 percent survival," Neumiller said. "I don't know if it was my warmer temperature or if it was that there were 15 eggs in a dish. But none of my dishes still have 15 eggs left. A lot are lower than 10."

Blain's petri dishes contained 10 eggs each, while Neumiller's had 15.

Mike Barnes, who manages the McNenny State Fish Hatchery in Spearfish, is guiding the students. He said the hatchery recognized the need to improve the survivability of Chinook salmon eggs about a decade ago. He said the hatchery thought about incubating a small number of eggs in a refrigerator, but the experiment would have required more attention than what could be provided with a small staff.

"I'm impressed with the initial data," Barnes said of the students' experiment. "Subsequent experiments we can manipulate the variables to try and prove survivability."

Blain and Neumiller aren't the first students who have worked with the hatchery to run an experiment, but Barnes said, "it is rare for high schoolers to conduct an experiment with results of scientific quality."

Barnes plans on helping the students get their paper regarding the experiment published in a peer-reviewed science journal.


Information from: Black Hills Pioneer, http://www.bhpioneer.com

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