Scoil Mocheallóg engaged in a river walk with biodiversity expert, Geoff Hunt. They visited their local river, the River Loobagh in Kilmallock. The aim of their trip was to learn about the life and food cycle of the river.
This is an account of their trip by 6th class student, Áine Dwane:
On Wednesday 3rd of May, 5th and 6th class in our school took part in a river walk to learn about the wildlife and food cycle of the river. We were really looking forward to a hands-on experience and a chance to learn about the life in the river that we may never have noticed! For our exploration, we were equipped with nets to catch the creatures, trays and basins to store the creatures we found and sample containers to examine the creatures.
To begin, Geoff explained the first stage of the food cycle- the plants growing in the river. The first plant we studied was the river crowfoot. The second stage of the food cycle refers to the underwater creatures. Geoff instructed us that the best method to catch the creatures was to scoop your net in and out of the crowfoot swiftly as many creatures’ habitats lie beneath the crowfoot. Another method that Geoff showed us was to select a loose rock in the water and dislodge it while having your net facing the flow of the river, ready to catch any creatures that were lodged beneath the rock.
We discovered many water creatures, with the help of Geoff’s clever techniques. We saw lots of minnows which are a common fresh water fish. Unlike the common minnows, the crayfish were very scarce and we saw very few of them. Crayfish cannot tolerate polluted water. We also caught fresh water shrimps which are recyclers, as they eat dead plants. That means that they are known as detritivores. We were lucky to come across some and mayflies (both nymph and sub-adult) who live in streams and rivers. They have a very short lifespan, only living for a few days when they reach adult hood. They get the name mayfly from the fact that they fly from May to September. Another creature we encountered was the caddisfly nymph. The caddisfly builds their home by sticking stones and twigs together using silk. They then wrap it around themselves. Caddisflies are also herbivores as they consume the algae that grows on the stone. We also located lamprey and stickle back fish.
We learned about more plant life near the River Loobagh. Along with the crowfoot on the surface of the water, Geoff also pointed out the stems of irises on the river bank, though unfortunately, they were not in bloom yet. On the route to the river, we noticed a very invasive plant which previously we had learned about in school. This plant is called Japanese knotweed. It can be a major threat to houses and buildings near-by as its roots can break through solid materials such as tarmac and concrete. Geoff explained to us that in order to remove this plant, the owner of the land has to hire professionals to dispose of it properly.
The third stage of the food cycles involves the birds, who were watching the activity from a short distance. Swallows were the only birds on view this day, but another time we may be lucky enough to see a heron or even a kingfisher along the banks.
After about an hour, we returned to the classroom knowing a lot more about our local river. Geoff summarised what we had seen and explored. We even drew pictures of three of the creatures. At the end of the day, we had the opportunity to view many of the creatures which we had caught through the microscope, in great detail.
We would like to thank Geoff Hunt for our wonderful experience. All the class had great fun and learned many facts about our local river, the Loobagh.
By Áine Dwane, 6th class