Fishing for Answers

Fishing for Answers
Posted on 03/15/2024
Kaylee Johnson

As a student in the CTE Agriculture and Natural Resource Management program of study, Tennessee High School Senior Kaylee Johnson recently undertook an experiment that has not only enriched her academic experience but also contributed valuable insights to the field of aquaculture.

At the heart of Kaylee's project was an exploration into the rearing conditions of brook trout, a species in which the Erwin National Hatchery has noted a greater mortality compared to the other species of trout they raise. By adjusting the water temperatures in which the trout were raised, Kaylee sought to uncover the optimal conditions for their development.

The findings of Kaylee’s study were clear and have potential implications for fisheries management and conservation efforts: The tank with the lower temperature, 46 degrees, had a better rearing rate than the tank with the higher temperature, 52 degrees.


Kaylee's project was more than an academic exercise; it was a deep dive into the practical challenges facing today's aquaculture industry. "The amount of deformities in the warmer tank was significantly higher; I found that really interesting," Kaylee said. She further reflected on her observations, which included a startling range of spinal deformities among the trout. This hands-on research not only advanced her understanding of marine biology but also underscored the real-world impact of scientific research.

The support of educators like Lori Givney, teacher for the program of study at THS, has been instrumental in guiding students through such pioneering work. Givney, who has spearheaded the Trout in the Classroom program for more than 15 years, emphasized the importance of connecting students with projects that have tangible benefits for the community. "It's been a really good hook to get the students on board. It’s actual research that the National Hatchery is probably going to take a look at and try to use what we’ve done to see if they can modify how they are doing things, which is much more impactful to students," Givney said.

Kaylee's aspirations extend beyond the classroom. Aiming for a Phd in marine science, she views this project as a foundational experience for her future career. "Working with fish and doing this experimental research is pretty important considering that's what I'll be doing for the rest of my life," she said, underscoring the project's relevance to her long-term goals.


As the chapter gears up for the 96th FFA State Convention in Gatlinburg, Kaylee will share her discoveries with students from across the state. She will also be presenting the results of her project to the Overmountain Chapter of Trout Unlimited, who sponsor our classroom tanks along with the Erwin National Hatchery.

This initiative is just one of many for the FFA chapter during its inaugural year. From landscape and forestry judging to leadership training and state competitions, the members have showcased their talents and commitment to agricultural education. Their active engagement extends to college visits, participation in a rodeo, and hosting industry leaders.

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