Students at Appoquinimink High School got an up close look at the first fish in space Friday afternoon.
This semester, Samantha Neubert's Animal Science class will work hands on in breeding Fundulus heteroclitus, also known as the mummichog or mud minnows, in a project aimed to help the fishing industry.
The ultimate goal of the project is to answer the question, Neubert said, is if a native species can be saved by human intervention and ingenuity.
"We have been doing weekly water readings," Neubert said. "We will monitor their growth and mortality rate."
On Sept. 28, Delaware State University Graduate Research Assistant Cory Janiak presented her experiments involving mummichogs to the Level Two Animal Science class at Appoquinimink High School.
Over the past few weeks, students in Neubert's level two class has been monitoring three tanks of water, a control tank, a small fish tank where the eggs will be placed, and the larger pond where the fish will go once they reach a certain size.
Soon, they will get their own shipment of mummichogs that they will monitor.
"The students involved in the mummichog project will acquire knowledge that isn't taught by books," Neubert said. "They'll be challenged to accurately and systematically collect data, answer questions and analyze a real world problem."
Janiak showed the students the egg collectors that she designed to assist the mummichogs with reproduction.
The female fish lay the eggs and then the male fish come along and fertilize them, she explained. The egg collector keeps the first from eating the eggs and it keeps debris from entangling with them.
Janiak also shared a fun fact with the students – that the mummichog was the first fish NASA ever sent into outer space.
The hatch experiment will help with Janiak's research, Neubert said. Students will log what they observe and keep track of how many eggs hatch and the mortality rate of the species.
"It's a cool end goal," Neubert said. "It'll see what minimum care does for the fish to stay healthy."
The students in her class will spend about two to three months on the project. When the fish are small, they will stay in a smaller tank, then when they are larger, they will be let loose into the pond in the school's laboratory.
Neubert said that the project will be fun for students, and it is one of those cool, random things that interest students in the animal science field.