AUGUST 29, 2008

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Murray State College Veterinary Technology Students Create Learning Partnership with the Tishomingo National Fish Hatchery

Photo of MSC vet tech student and hatchery employee.
A Murray State College vet tech student gains experience working with staff at the Tishomingo National Fish Hatchery.

Some say that what is happening between the Murray State College Veterinary Program and the Tishomingo National Fish Hatchery, a division of the U. S. Fish & Wildlife Service, located in Reagan, Okla., is more than a unique classroom opportunity.

Last spring the MSC vet tech students had the opportunity to help the hatchery staff spawn paddlefish. Most of the students of the program had never even seen a paddlefish, let alone knew what the importance of this on-going endeavor was prior to stepping into a pair of borrowed marine-green waders.

This large prehistoric-looking fish, also known as “spoonbill” has suffered from the construction of dams and over-harvest to the point where the species is almost non-existent in the western portion of its native habitat in Oklahoma.
According to Dr. Carey Floyd, director of the Murray State College veterinary technology program, the experience was a welcomed opportunity to expand her students’ knowledge.

“We believe that even though our students are here to get a veterinary technology degree, we have a responsibility to ‘make their world bigger’ as part of that education. Even though our students may not ever spawn paddlefish, this gave us an opportunity to work cooperatively with another group (Fish and Wildlife), something that they will have to do regardless of where their career leads. We were also able to see a fish anesthetized (a first for all of us) and this skill may come in handy for some of those who want to work at aquariums or with exotic animals. Plus this is something they are not likely to see in every vet tech program.”

Kerry Graves, project leader of the fish hatchery, realizes the impact of the opportunities for this partnership with the Murray State College students.

“We certainly welcome the assistance and expertise of the vet yech staff and students.”

Production of the April 2008 spawn yielded approximately 10,000 paddlefish. Raised all summer by the fish hatchery staff to a length of 14.inches, the fish are currently being tagged for release into waters across the state, such as Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees, Lake Eufaula and John Redmann Reservoir in Kansas.

In addition to assisting with paddlefish, the students were also introduced to captive rearing of the alligator snapping turtle, another native species of Oklahoma suffering a similar plight as the paddlefish. Students learned the difference between the common snapping turtle and the imperiled alligator snapping turtle, as well as many of the considerations that have to be addressed before releasing captive-reared animals into the wild, such as genetics, health, and monitoring after release. The Murray vet tech staff also radio-graphed several female turtles which were released last year to see if they were carrying eggs. Information such as this is critical to the post-release monitoring process.

“Kerry was also very good to talk to the students about why it is necessary to have this project, so they got a bit of the conservation prospective,” stated Dr. Floyd.

With the fall semester quickly approaching, Dr. Floyd and her MSC Veterinary Technology students hope to continue their active participation in discoveries at the fish hatchery.

“We do hope to work with the fish hatchery again, on the spawning project. We were able to help them with some different instruments and types of suture, which seemed to make the surgery go more smoothly and we would love to use some of our monitoring equipment on the anesthetized fish to see how their vital signs respond to anesthesia,” stated Floyd.