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Eel Migration in the Hudson Estuary (Middle School)

Unit Plan: Hudson Data Literacy ActivitiesTime: one 40 minute class period Setting: Classroom
6-8Data Exploration & NOS, Hudson River Ecology
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Students will understand variability in the abundance of American eels (Anguilla rostrata) in tributaries of the Hudson River by comparing data from different locations over time.


    This lesson should follow a comprehensive introduction to the DEC Eel Project. Students should enter this lesson with knowledge about the American Eel species (Anguilla rostrata) and its life cycle, how the data is collected, why the project is important, and the basic geography of the Hudson River estuary. Some resources are linked in the materials section to help introduce the Eel Project. In this lesson, students will:

    1. Model the geographic location of each eel sampling site relative to one another and the Hudson River estuary.
    2. Describe the variability between sampling sites.
    3. Identify trends in number of eels collected at an individual site.
    4. Hypothesize why variability exists between sites and over time.




    1. Students should break up into 10 groups consisting of 1-3 students each. Students should have the following materials with them: computer, whiteboard and dry erase marker, Eel Project graph for their site.
    2. Assign each group one of the following sampling sites: Hannacroix Creek, Saw Kill, Black Creek, Crum Elbow, Fall Kill, Quassaick Creek, Indian Brook, Furnace Brook, Minisceongo Creek, Richmond Creek. Students write the name of their site and the mile marker on the white board. Mile marker number is determined using a map.
    3. Students line up in the hall from NYC (south) to Albany (north) according to their mile marker. Teacher facilitates a quick geographic discussion about site order. Students calculate the distance between their site and the closest site on either side.
    4. Students line up under their river mile and in order to orient themselves on the river, each group steps out to look at their site position relative to other sites and the entire estuary.
    5. Teacher facilitates a group discussion about the journey of the eels through the Hudson River estuary and the geographic obstacles they may face. Students should be familiar with this information from the introduction to the Eel Project.



    1. Distribute the corresponding DEC Eel Project data to each group. This data is the average Catch Per Unit Effort (CPUE) for each year at each site. A sheet with the data for each sampling location as well as a graph can be found in this folderYou can print the graphs, or have students work on the graphs using Google Sheets. If students are working in Sheets, students will need to make their own copy of the data before they make any changes. Student groups find an area to gather (either back in the classroom or if this activity is outside sitting in the grass).
    2. Students explore their eel sample site graph using the student sheet as a guide. Teacher circulates to answer questions and check in on student progress.
    3. Distribute the graph of Eel data from 2018 for all sites, and have students use it to complete Question 7 on the student worksheet.
    4. Students use sticky notes to ask specific questions about the data or areas that they need clarification on.



    • Student groups give a short presentation (using their student worksheets as a guide) about the overall trend at their eel sample site. Teacher facilitates questions about their sample site compared to other nearby sample sites. 



    1. Class discussion/focus questions:
    • What similarities and differences did you notice about the sample sites at each site? What factors (biotic or abiotic) could affect the numbers found at each site?
    1. Big Picture:
    1. Students explore the 2018 Average Glass Eel Catch per Day using the student sheet as a guide. Teacher circulates to answer questions and check in on student progress.
    • Students transfer the graphical data to a data table. They formulate a claim based on the data, provide evidence to support it and hypothesize a reason for the stated claim. Students are familiar with the CER paragraph format found on the student sheet.  



    Students complete the following exit sticky note: What other data do you need in order to better understand the story of the American Eel?

     Write your answer on a sticky it note and leave it on the board. 

    Lesson Files

    Student Worksheet Eels (MS)

    Additional Resources

    Resources available for introducing the American eel prior to this lesson:

    The Eels Incredible Journey: DEC Student Reading and Questions

    Growing Up as an American Eel: DEC Life Cycle Student Worksheet


    Hudson River Eel Project background DEC Report

    Introduction to the Eel Project: DEC Presentation

    Eel Project Video with Chris Bowser

    Data Jam Background Sheet on American Eel Data


    Next Generation Science Standards

    Science and Engineering Practices

    Developing and using models, Analyzing and interpreting data, Engaging in argument from evidence, Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information

    Cross Cutting Concepts

    Patterns, Cause and effect, Stability and change

    Disciplinary Core Ideas

    LS2A: Interdependent Relationships in Ecosystems, LS2C: Ecosystem Dynamics, Functioning and Resilience
    New York State Science Learning Standards

    Performance Expectations

    MS-LS2-4. Construct an argument supported by empirical evidence that changes to physical or biological components of an ecosystem affect populations.

    This lesson was developed by teachers Shelley Cuccia at our Lady of Lourdes  High School and Kathleen Fenn at Stissing Mountain Junior High School