10TH Annual Amoskeag Fishways Lamprey Appreciation Day
On June 7, 2008, a few members from Anadromous Fish & Aquatic Invertebrate Research Lab, including Dr. Stacia Sower and UNH undergraduates Eileen Balz and Caryn MacDonald attended the 10th Annual Amoskeag Fishways Lamprey Appreciation Day. The tradition started ten years ago in an effort to educate and expose the public to the importance of these prehistoric creatures, the sea lamprey or Petromyzon marinus. It is interesting to learn that, though not the most attractive animal, sea lampreys have been on this earth far longer than the dinosaurs! The lampreys have existed for over 500 millions years and the dinosaurs existed from about 65 to 245 million years ago. Dave Kellam, Program Coordinator for the New Hampshire Estuaries Program, initiated the lamprey day with assistance from the Public Service of New Hampshire, PSNH, (Northeast Utilities System), New Hampshire Fish and Game (NHFG), Dr. Sower of UNH, NH Audubon, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFW). This year, the events were coordinated by Wendy Schoor, Amoskeag Fishways.
Amoskeag Fishways is an environmental education center located in Manchester, NH along the Merrimack River. Built with the help of Public Service of New Hampshire, the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), Amoskeag Fishways serves as a venue offering a wide variety of programs focusing on all there is to learn about the Merrimack River, including both its history and its ecosystems.
One of the most impressive aspects of the center is its fish ladder, which includes an indoor underwater viewing window. This viewing window allows visitors to see the anadromous fish, including sea lamprey, swimming by on their way upriver where they will reproduce and then die.
The festivities of Lamprey Appreciation Day included a parade, led by the Milford Fife and Drum Band, followed by speeches from the guests of honor, among which included Dave Kellam and Dr. Sower. The day then proceeded with interactive presentations, during which time children were given the opportunity to touch live sea lamprey. After presentations, the day concluded with an exploration of the various other activities the center offered, including an “Eel of Fortune” game and an arts and crafts station.
In the Sower laboratory, the study of lampreys has been ongoing for 28 years. Lampreys as basal vertebrates provide an outstanding model for understanding the molecular evolution of hormones and receptors. Thus the studies have helped to provide insight into the more complex systems of later evolved vertebrates.