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Westminster students get hands-on learning experience with electrofishing

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Posted on Wednesday, November 2, 2022

Westminster College students had a “shocking” hands-on experience this fall collecting, identifying and measuring fish with a regional environmental firm.

Students in the upper-level biology course Biological Diversity conducted an electrofishing experiment in Little Neshannock Creek on Westminster’s campus with environmental professionals from Civil & Environmental Consultants (CEC). Electrofishing—which delivers a light shock to fish in streams, rivers and lakes—is a standard ecological procedure used to collect fish for population and biodiversity studies.

The experiment, during which the stunned fish are netted and placed in a live tank for identification and measurement purposes before being released back into the stream, was led by CEC environmental professionals Kyle Filicky ’14 and Alex Geraci. They discussed the safety associated with electrofishing and the permitting requirements and also demonstrated proper netting procedures. During the experiment, students in hip waders clustered around Filicky in the stream, netting the stunned fish.

“We were excited for biology and environmental science students to interact with CEC scientists in the field,” said Dr. Kerri Duerr, associate professor of biology and instructor of the Biological Diversity course. “In our biodiversity and conservation class, we discuss different ways to measure species diversity. The chance to practice those techniques in the field is very valuable for professional development. The students worked well as a team and it was rewarding to see them interacting together, having fun and learning.”

Environmental science majors and digital media students also participated in the experiential learning event.

“I was there to gather footage and audio for the audio portion of an article we are putting together. Wearing the hip waders in the stream was an interesting experience,” said Mason Peck of Cary, N.C., a sophomore creative media production major who participated as part of an assignment for the Digital Medial Essentials course.

Senior environmental science major Nathan Kacey of Pittsburgh noted how it was a valuable learning experience about possible career fields within environmental science.

“Having a Westminster alum display what goes on throughout a day’s work made it especially relatable,” said Kacey. “I've read a lot of studies based around electrofishing, so it was informative to see the method in person. The numerous species of fish we sampled served as indicators that the Little Neshannock Creek is a healthy waterway.”

Duerr said she and the Westminster faculty value alumni who give back to the College by offering professional opportunities for our current students.

“Alumni serve as important mentors, and we value the time and expertise that Kyle and others give to support our current students,” Duerr said.

For more information about the Biological Diversity course, please contact Duerr at or 724-946-7210.

To learn more about the Westminster College major in biology, click here.