SCUTES: Students Collaborating to Undertake Tracking Efforts for Sturgeon
Explore these educational resources for students and teachers to learn more about sturgeon, an ancient fish with some amazing features.
The SCUTES program involves elementary and high school students and teachers, sturgeon researchers, and NOAA Fisheries coming together to learn more about the movements, behavior and threats to shortnose and Atlantic sturgeons along the East Coast of the United States. Shortnose sturgeon are listed as Endangered, and Atlantic sturgeon are listed as threatened in the Gulf of Maine and endangered throughout the rest of their range due to previous overfishing, ship strikes, incidental catch mortality, and several other human-made factors. We feel that one of the best ways to help save this amazing species is by getting the word out through outreach.
My name is Scooter, and I'm an Atlantic sturgeon. I got my name from these cool scales that I have on my back called scutes. Come and explore this page to learn more about Atlantic and short nose sturgeons, and be sure to check out the fun and exciting Activities, Games, and Videos below!
The SCUTES team in collaboration with your teachers, have provided the following resources to increase your understanding of the sturgeon, its habitat, forecasted future and what you can do to help them recover.
- The Sturgeon Family
- How Are Sturgeons Built?
- Sturgeon Through History
- Where can you find sturgeon?
- Threats to Sturgeon
- Digital Images of Sturgeon
- Additional Classification Tools
Opportunities for High School and College Students
Thank you for your interest in the SCUTES program. We have created a number of lesson plans to help you instruct and inform your students concerning Atlantic and shortnose sturgeon. The lesson plans are organized by subject and range from grades 3 through 12. The lessons are not labeled by grade, because they can all be adapted to fit your classroom's needs. Each subject list starts with the most basic (elementary-middle) lessons and ends with the most advanced (middle-high school) lessons.
Within each lesson plan you will find an overview of the lesson, objectives, background, necessary materials, procedures, conclusions, and the applicable learning standards. See our online lesson plans or if you would like to request a CD of the lessons please contact:
NOAA Fisheries Service
Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office
55 Great Republic Drive
Gloucester, MA 01930-2276
Please let us know if you have any questions or are interested in borrowing one of our educational kits.
- Adriatic Sturgeon
- Atlantic Sturgeon
- Chinese Sturgeon
- European Sturgeon
- Green Sturgeon
- Gulf Sturgeon
- Kaluga Sturgeon
- Sakhalin Sturgeon
- Shortnose Sturgeon
NOAA Fisheries has developed educational kits that contain activities and a full curriculum about sturgeon. Each kit contains a binder filled with a variety of sturgeon-themed lesson plans that encompass all subjects (Science, English, Math, History, etc.). All lessons meet the Massachusetts educational standards, and are easily adaptable to fit your students' needs. Materials for specific lesson plans have been included in the kits along with materials required for the appropriate activities. We have two types of kits depending on the needs of your school: 1. Elementary - Middle School level and 2. Middle - High School level.
Elementary - Middle School Kits include:
- Plush sturgeon named "Scooter"
- Atlantic and shortnose sturgeon activity books
- Tale of a Great White Fish: A Sturgeon Story by Maggie De Vries
- Natal homing (sense of smell)
- Food web (creating a food web out of string)
- Make your own scute casting (plaster of paris)
Middle - High School Kits include:
- Sampling Methods materials (Demonstrating fish sampling: Measurements, gastric lavage, tagging)
- Dissection kit (upon request; for fish anatomy lesson)
- Reference text books (upon request)
Both kits include:
- Binder with lesson plans and handouts
- DVDs with videos demonstrating sturgeon research
- CD with lesson plans and handouts for the teacher
- Sturgeon informational pamphlets, bookmarks, and stickers
- Adaptation board game
- Journal for teachers/students to record their experiences
Want to borrow a kit for your classroom?
The kits will be available for teachers to sign out for their classrooms through NOAA Fisheries and through our partners.
Sturgeon for Tomorrow
Twyla H Cheatwood
Dr. Kimberlie Harris, Ph.D
Beth L. Sharack
NY Sturgeon for Tomorrow
Virginia- Please contact a month in advance
Wisconsin - Lake Sturgeon
Activities, Games, and Videos
Interactive Computer Games
(You must use Internet Explorer to open the games)
- Tracking the Endangered Atlantic Sturgeon
- Leaping Sturgeon
- Hudson River Estuary Project
- Atlantic Sturgeon
- Atlantic Sturgeon Chesapeake Bay
- Atlantic Sturgeon II Chesapeake Bay
Adopt a Sturgeon
Educators are invited to “adopt” an Atlantic or shortnose sturgeon for their classroom to track every year. For the first year, the teacher will receive a sturgeon tag number, the sturgeon’s length and weight at capture, and a picture of their sturgeon (if available). The students are encouraged to name their sturgeon. Every school year, we will provide tracking GPS coordinates and/or a map of where the sturgeon has travelled that year. Depending on the grade level, the teacher may encourage students to map out the coordinates themselves by using a mapping program such as Google Earth or Arc GIS. Teachers will also be supplied with mapping directions, a “Tracking Sturgeon” lesson plan, and an animated PowerPoint presentation that explains how the data was collected by SCUTES researchers. For classrooms that do not have mapping software, blank map handouts for drawing can also be provided. Classes are encouraged to compare the previous maps of the sturgeon’s migration to this year’s map.
Sturgeon Tracking: Acoustic Tags
Every year, SCUTES researchers go out to rivers all along the Atlantic coast to catch Atlantic and shortnose sturgeon. Once the sturgeon is captured, researchers may leave an acoustic tag with the fish. These tags make a “ping” sound every few seconds, and they have a unique identification number. There are different types of tags that can be attached on the outside of the sturgeon like a piercing (external) or they can be surgically inserted (internal).
Sturgeon Tracking: Receivers
Researchers have placed tag-detecting devices called receivers in various parts of each river. When a tagged sturgeon swims by a receiver, the receiver will detect the “ping” and will record the number of the tag and the date. When the researchers collect the data from each receiver, they can see which sturgeon came into the river, where they went, and what time they were entering and leaving the river.
Teachers and students are encouraged to send the SCUTES team the name of their sturgeon and any maps and drawings the students might create of their adopted sturgeon. Maps may be posted on the SCUTES Facebook page.
If you would like to adopt a sturgeon, please contact Jean Higgins (978-282-9345; firstname.lastname@example.org).