Experiential Science 30 – Freshwater Ecology

Experiential Science 30 – Freshwater Ecology 



Indigenous peoples in the Mackenzie River basin have been gathering and passing on information about fish populations for generations. This knowledge is key to the livelihoods of communities throughout the Mackenzie River basin. In this lesson, students will conduct fieldwork that is rooted in Indigenous knowledge and on-the-land experience.



Fish are an important part of many people’s diets. Having reliable access to fish in a nearby waterway is an important part of a community’s ability to access fish. While western science provides important information about local fish resources, fishers have accumulated knowledge of fish populations and habitat by spending time on the land and sharing knowledge across generations and can thus provide invaluable information as well. This lesson enables students to investigate local fish resources through fieldwork that is rooted in Indigenous knowledge and on-the-land experience.


Key questions for student inquiry: 

Is the fish in my community safe to eat? Will fish be available as a source of food in the future? How does Indigenous knowledge help me understand the security of fish as a food source in my community?



In the classroom and in the school/community (interviews)


Length of activity:

225 minutes 

Teacher Resources


Materials Needed:

Note: Case studies and handouts are provided in the downloadable Lesson Plan Package

Connections to Curriculum


UNIT 3: Freshwater Ecology 

Focusing Questions: How can the study of freshwater ecology broaden our understanding of this environment and ensure a sustainable future?

  • 2 – Students will gain an understanding of aquatic flora and fauna by conducting a series of field studies to investigate and collect data from a study plot for:
    • Fish and water birds to:
      • i. Apply various recognized sampling techniques to document population data and catalogue samples.
      • ii. Conduct field and laboratory exercises to identify types of fish and aquatic birds and their distribution (seasonal).
      • iii. Estimate the relative population of species in the study plot.
      • iv. Catalogue the diversity and population density of species to acquire base line / long term data. (p. 70-71)

Skills Outcomes (focus on scientific inquiry)

  • a. Initiating and Planning
    • i.) Identify questions to investigate.
    • iv.) Evaluate and select appropriate procedures and instruments for collecting evidence and information, using recognized sampling procedures and protocols.
  • b. Performing and Recording
    • i.) Carry out procedures, controlling the major variables, and adapt or extend procedures, if needed.
    • iv.) Organize and integrate data using a format that is appropriate to the task or experiment.
  • c. Analysing and Interpreting
    • i.) Compile and display results by hand or computer, using a variety of formats.
    • ii.) Interpret patterns and trends in data, and infer and calculate linear and nonlinear relationships among variables.
    • iv.) Identify and explain sources of error; and evaluate the relevance, reliability and adequacy of data and data collection methods.
    • v.) State a conclusion, based on experimental data and explain how the evidence gathered supports or refutes a hypothesis, prediction or theory.
  • d. Communication and Teamwork
    • ii.) Select and use appropriate numeric, symbolic, graphical and linguistic modes of representation to communicate findings and conclusions.

Extension Outcome:

  • 8 – Students will gain an understanding of careers and occupations related to freshwater ecology by:
    • a. Researching and preparing a career and occupational profile related to freshwater ecology for positions available in the NWT and across Canada.