Under the microscope


Eighth graders take a scientific look at the lake

All summer long, teens see the lake as a fun place.  A spot where they can swim, boat, or simply float.  Now that the school year has begun, the lake has become a scientific laboratory.


Valerie Southgate’s eighth grade Oceanography class recently traveled to City Beach to work as lake scientists.  The Clear Lake Middle School excursion was a new take on a lesson Southgate taught while in North Carolina.

“I developed the oceanography program at John T. Hoggard High School when I taught in North Carolina for 11 years,” she explained.  “The Oceanography and Marine Biology classes were so popular.   When I came to Iowa, I wanted to share my love of the ocean with my students.  I was lucky enough to have a supportive principal who let me go with it.”

Southgate enlisted the help of Scott Grummer and Kurt Meek, both Iowa Department of Natural Resources Fisheries Biologists, who taught students to pull seine nets through the shallow water at the shoreline.  The students brought up a variety of different species of fish including yellow bass, white crappie, blue gill, and spot tail shiners.  Students brought the live catch back to school to keep in the classroom aquariums. The species will be used for scientific identification and to compare them to marine species.

David Knoll, with the CLEAR Project, and Todd Von Ehwegen, naturalist for Cerro Gordo County, assisted students with water quality testing.  They taught students to check the lake water for water clarity by using a secchi disk.  Students also tested for nitrites, nitrates, phosphates and dissolved oxygen.  

In addition, students pulled a plankton net to sample the upper water microplankton of the lake.  The sample was brought back to the classroom and viewed by sixth graders who practiced making a wet-mount slide, improved upon their microscope skills, and analyzed the different species of plankton that were captured.

“Something I learned was that there are more fish that live by the shore than most people think,” said eighth grader Selena Borrill.

Kyle Calaguas echoed her assessment, adding “I learned that there is a large quantity of blue - Read More Via e-Edition

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