Living Rivers School

1 Week Intensives

The Living Rivers School introduces students ages 10-16 to complex environmental issues by teaming them with established river conservation biologists in field research activities.

This summer, Dr. Boyd Kynard completes his second year of small fish habitat- and sea lamprey- data collection with the assistance of 6 students. 

This is a rare opportunity for students to get real conservation biology research experience, and is offered to help nurture our future environmental leaders.


  • work alongside professional scientists and get a behind-the-scenes view of how data is collected, analyzed and used to reach conclusions.
  • participate in biological research that, when published and shared, increases public knowledge of the living systems that sustain us.
  • gain awareness of the cultural, political, economic and regulatory dimensions of the conservation of fish species in the Connecticut River.

For middle or high -school age students, Living Rivers

  • is physical, mental, social, high-energy fun. Adventure learning!
  • provides an enriching life experience that jump-starts a career in the environmental and political -sciences.
  • invites them take their love for nature to the level of actively knowing and caring for it.
  • prepares them to be environmental leaders.

This summer, students will assist world-renowned river fish expert Dr. Boyd Kynard as he conducts three studies to determine the extent and quality of Connecticut River fish habitat between the Holyoke and Turners Falls dams.

They’ll have lots of fun as they motorboat, kayak, canoe, snorkel, riverwalk, swim, float and scramble—collecting data at his direction. After collecting and evaluating the data we collect, Dr. Kynard will publish his reports on what we’ve found in juried academic journals, giving credit to the students who assisted him. Our students will share what we’ve learned to the communities in the central Connecticut River Valley via social media and presentations.

The Living Rivers School will help Dr. Kynard to bring health to our river, and to save our fish.


We are offering 1 week intensives: M-F, 10am-3pm. Class sizes are small, ensuring highest levels of safety and educational quality.

Project #1: Where Do the Small Fish Live? & #2: In Which Tributaries Do Sea Lamprey Live? (Concurrent)

July 31 – Aug. 4
Aug. 7-11

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Project 1

Where do small fish live?

This project tests the hypothesis that small riverine fish in the mainstem Connecticut River live in submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) habitat, not in open river sandy habitat.

Conservation significance: Project will show if small fish significantly use aquatic vegetation patches more than open habitat, and identify importance relative to species and size. The study will show the importance of aquatic vegetation patches to small fish (including larval sea lamprey) ecology and production in the river.

Project 2

In which tributaries do sea lamprey live?

Previous surveys in tributaries show sea lamprey larvae occur in eight of the 33 tributaries in Massachusetts. We will survey the remaining tributaries of the Connecticut River in Massachusetts for the presence of anadromous sea lamprey. The presence of larvae rearing in the lower reaches of a tributary shows that spawning habitat exists upstream because 0-4 year-old larvae will always be in their home stream. Thus, we can determine if sea lampreys spawn and rear in a tributary simply by sampling for larvae.

Conservation significance: The information will be helpful to the future program of the Connecticut River Anadromous Fish Restoration Committee to restore sea lamprey to the Connecticut River. Streams without sea lamprey can be examined for the cause of their absence, which can lead to solutions like fish passage at dams or creation/restoration of spawning habitat.

Living Rivers is a Biocitizen Corps program that introduces students to complex conservation issues in a hands-on experiential way. They learn the biological, environmental, economic and political dimensions of the issue through traditional methods (readings, lectures), and they apply what they’ve learned to their field studies. Our primary goal is to give students a quick and exciting introduction the world of conservation sciences, so they can see if they like it. Our longer term goal is to nurture our future environmental leaders by giving them real life experience in how we save endangered fish species.

If you would like to learn more, please call 413.320.0522 and speak with Kurt Heidinger or send a note