After a deep and searching discussion with Dr. Boyd Kynard, we have decided that we must conclude the Living Rivers School. The reason we made this decision is because the effects of climate change have made it impossible to reliably schedule and conduct our classes.
We have offered 2 classes during the first two weeks of August for the last five years, and only two of them provided environmental conditions that allowed the collection of aquatic vegetation and baby fish. In 2020, COVID made it impossible to operate, and in 2021 and 2023 the Connecticut River was flooded. Until very recently, August was the perfect month for conducting biological research in the river, but those days are behind us. Last year was the hottest year on record, and experts expect environmental conditions to become increasingly more dangerous.
Last year, Boyd’s business BKriverfish LLC was left without work when we had to cancel, and it is understandable that BKriverfish can’t commit to another roll of the climate change dice.
We are feeling a bit morose, yet are philosophical, about the closing of the Living Rivers School. Attendance was robust and every year we attracted bright students who wanted to experience what real conservation biology research is. We can’t force the weather to do what we want it to, however, and that is that. Anthropogenic global warming shut us down; and we think back just a few years ago when we were assured that these awful weather events were going to happen decades from now.
In the coming months, we will analyze the 2 years of data we collected and fold them into a report that will be published by a scientific journal, and students who participated will be credited in it. That was one of the main goals of our project. Another goal was to provide scientists, citizens and policy makers with data that can be used to bring health to our biome. Though our project is ending, we will achieve those goals.
Thank you so much for your support for our noble undertaking. Without it, we could not have achieved anything. We wanted the Living River School to be a model for kindred efforts—and we will do our best to ensure it is. The reports Dr. Kynard publishes will be cutting edge and innovative, exposing new findings that will inform and inspire every person who wants our rivers, and the creatures who inhabit it, to live!
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.
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.
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.
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.
BK-Riverfish LLC is an environmental consulting business focused on migratory fish behavior, ecology, and fish passage. It is staffed by Boyd Kynard, PhD in Fish Biology, Univ. of Washington, Seattle, WN, in 1971, and by his son, Brian Kynard, BS in Biology, Univ. of Massachusetts, Amherst, in 2006.
At the University of Massachusetts and at the S. O. Conte Anadromous Fish Research Center (USGS), Turners Falls, MA, Boyd spent 40 years studying behavior, ecology, and fish passage of migratory fish, including the endangered shortnose sturgeon, in the Connecticut River, particularly in the Massachusetts reach. Boyd has an international reputation having studied riverine fish migration in Brazil, China, and Romania. Brian has 25 years working for the Natural Resources Department, Univ. of Massachusetts, Amherst, as a Technician or Project Leader on diverse field and laboratory research on Connecticut River migratory fish, including shortnose sturgeon, and on field and artificial stream studies on ecology of white sturgeon in the Kootenai River, Idaho-Canada. Both Boyd and Brian have taught nature, swimming, and canoeing classes to middle and high school students. BK-Riverfish has a fish behavior/hydraulics lab in Erving, MA, on the Millers River that will be the site of artificial stream trials and data analyses.