Students work to spread word about zebra mussels: They divide into groups to plan strategyAfter a recent field trip to Lake L’Homme Dieu turned up more zebra mussels than they bargained for, students in John Esbjornsson’s environmental science classes at Jefferson High School (JHS) knew they needed to do more.
By: Celeste Beam, Alexandria Echo Press
After a recent field trip to Lake L’Homme Dieu turned up more zebra mussels than they bargained for, students in John Esbjornsson’s environmental science classes at Jefferson High School (JHS) knew they needed to do more.
The students want to spread the word and stop the infestation of the exotic species that has now found its way into Lakes L’Homme Dieu, Carlos and Geneva.
The class was divided into groups, with students working on several different projects.
One group designed a business card the students will be handing out to businesses that deal with lake home property owners such as dock removal or irrigation companies.
The cards will also be given to teachers who will hand them out to students who live near lakes.
The cards urge residents who find zebra mussels on area lakes – other than Carlos, L’Homme Dieu, Geneva, Victoria, Darling, Jesse and Alvin, which are already on the infested waters list – to report their findings to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The contact person at the DNR is Nathan Olson. He can be reached by calling (218) 739-7576, extension 259.
Other information can also be found on the business card, including:
•Zebra mussels are an invasive species that attach to anything hard.
•They are small, about the size of your fingernail.
•Zebra mussels filter lake water producing more weeds and less plankton for fish to eat, decreasing fish populations and size.
Another group of the high school students has been visiting with elementary classrooms at area schools. The students gave presentations at Voyager Elementary and have other presentations scheduled at Lincoln, Carlos and Garfield elementary schools.
A third group of students designed a website dedicated to zebra mussels and includes a video of the field trip students took to Lake L’Homme Dieu.
The link to the students’ website can be found on the homepage of School District 206’s website, www.alexandria.k12.mn.us. Click on the heading, “Hunting for Zebra Mussels,” on the right hand side of the page.
Besides the video, the website also includes a map that shows which lakes in Douglas County are labeled as infested waters, as well as links to other resources about zebra mussels.
The last group designed a flyer with information about zebra mussels and what people should do if they find them. The flyers will be posted at local businesses.
While studying zebra mussels, students in Esbjornsson’s class said they have learned a lot about the invasive species.
One student said he was shocked to learn how fast they can reproduce, while another student said he was surprised at how small the zebra mussel is and the effects they have on a lake.
Another student noted that zebra mussels can live out of water for five to seven days and that the mussels have a free-swimming stage. When eggs hatch, they’re in a microscopic floating stage. They’re about the size of the diameter of a human hair and invisible to the naked eye. They are in this stage for about 10 days and then, they will start attaching to rocks or other hard surfaces. Once they form a shell, they can live four to five years.
The environmental science teacher, Esbjornsson, has been a teacher at JHS for 33 years.
He said he has discussed zebra mussels in his classes since they invaded the Great Lakes 20 years ago, but not this extensively.
“We would spend a day on invasive species, but this year, we decided to spend much more time,” said Esbjornsson. “The students felt it was an important local issue.”