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What’s in the Lake? (JHARVNC)

Laboratory and Hands-on Activities - Food Chain / Web of Life
Wildlife - General
Participants will understand through hands-on investigations that the diversity of fish can help determine the health of the lake.
Recommended SettingShore of Wells Lake
LocationJanet Huckabee Arkansas River Valley Nature Center, Fort Smith

Education Program Coordinator, 479-452-3993

Duration30-45 minutes
Suggested Number of Participants20-30
Special Conditions
Weather permitting, outdoor activity
  • Participants will see that environmental factors influence the quality of water and how this directly impacts the life supported within the body of water.
  • Understand that human activity directly impacts the health of the water and the life it supports.
  • See that there is a surprising diversity of life in areas one might not consider.
Key Terms*
Native species
Water quality
Collection bowls

What are Fish?

  • Superclass osteichthyes (bony fish)


    • Characteristics: aquatic vertebrates, cold blooded, covered in  scales, gills
    • Major types of fish in Wells Lake
    • Sunfish
    • Trout
    • Catfish
    • Crappie
    • Bass



  1. Gather participants along the shore of Wells Lake, seated on walking trail if possible.
  2. Let small groups operate seine net for most of the program. Keep fish in bowls of water.
  3. Gather participants to observe and identify fish. List how many types were seined and how many of each type were caught.
  4. Discuss implications of kinds/numbers of fish caught on the overall health of the body of water
  5. Discuss why certain types or sizes were caught over others, and discuss benefits and disadvantages to this skewed study
  6. Last group helps to clean and put materials away.
  • The younger grades (K - 2 or 3) are probably too young to operate the seine net. Adults will seine and collect fish for the group to study. Participants can use individual nets to look for macroinvertebrates along the shore and incorporate this into the discussion of water quality.
  • Groups can take the information on fish species/water quality from Wells Lake and compare it to another body of water using a seine net.
  • What factors determine the quality of a body of water? What actions can improve water quality and overall health of a body of water?
  • What conclusions could be drawn if 10 species of fish were found in a lake seining field study?  What if two were found? Why?
  • Some species of fish and macroinvertebrates are more sensitive to environmental factors than other species. Give a few examples. Can these species indicate water quality? Why?

Environment – external factors influencing organisms


Fish – any of three classes (jawless, cartilaginous and bony) of cold-blooded vertebrate animals living in water and having fins, permanent gills for breathing, and, usually, scales


Habitat – an arrangement of food, water, shelter or cover, and space suitable to animals’ needs


Native species – one that normally lives in a particular ecosystem


Pollution – introduction of contaminants into an environment causing instability, disorder, harm or discomfort to the ecosystem


Seine – a large net with sinkers on one edge and floats on the other that hangs vertically in the water like a fence and can catch fish when its ends are pulled together or are drawn ashore


Water quality – describes the biological, chemical and physical characteristics of water, based on what is suitable for human consumption and personal hygiene