Alabama students get hooked on work of U of R fish researcher

By Costa Maragos Posted: April 27, 2017 6:00 a.m.

One of the grade three students at R. E. Thompson Intermediate School in Tuscumbia, Alabama, chatting via Skype with the U of R's Rebecca Eberts.
One of the grade three students at R. E. Thompson Intermediate School in Tuscumbia, Alabama, chatting via Skype with the U of R's Rebecca Eberts. Photo - screen capture

A U of R fish researcher from the ice-covered lakes of Saskatchewan has warmed the hearts of a group of elementary school students in Alabama.

Rebecca Eberts, a research assistant at the U of R and a master’s graduate in biology, shared her work via Skype with some enthusiastic grade 3 students at R. E. Thompson Intermediate School in Tuscumbia, Alabama.

eberts skype
The view of the class from Eberts’ Skype point of view (lower right). “This experience reminded me how important it is for scientists to share their research with others around the world.” – Rebecca Eberts.
“My experience with the kids from Alabama was amazing,” says Eberts. “Going into this meeting I wasn't really sure what to expect, but the kids blew me away with their energy and well thought out questions.”

The kids connected with Eberts thanks to the efforts of their teachers, Mary Ann Whitlock and Heather Johnson.

When the teachers needed a fish research expert from the far north, they turned to Twitter and searched through a popular hashtag #actuallivingscientist.

It just happened that Eberts had posted her bio and photo on that Twitter feed.
eberts trout
Rebecca Eberts working in the field holding a Brown Trout. Check out Eberts' blog for the latest on her research projects.

“I searched ‘ice fishing’ within the hashtag to see if anyone would be interested in talking to my class about the topic,” says Johnson. “I saw Rebecca's post of her holding a fish and noticed that she lived in Canada. I messaged her hoping that she would be interested in a Skype, and we set it up.”

During the Skype chat, Eberts covered her areas of expertise relating to ice fishing, fisheries research and native fish species of Saskatchewan to an amazed and sometimes wide-eyed elementary school class.

“When I showed the kids the winter wonderland scene outside of my office on the 3rd floor of the RIC building they gasped and immediately asked more questions about how I do research in this type of climate,” she says.

Eberts is currently working in the field.

As a research technician, she is leading a multi-species sport fish tagging program for Dr. Chris Somers, associate professor of biology at the U of R who also supervised Eberts during her master’s studies. Eberts is also part of a team using fish telemetry to understand fish behaviour and habitat use in Buffalo Pound Lake in Saskatchewan.
eberts skype link
The class has produced a short video. Please visit here to watch it.


Her Alabama experience left a positive impression with the students.

“Our students still talk about this experience and we refer back to the things we learned from Rebecca quite often,” says Johnson. “It was a great experience and I would encourage more teachers to reach out to the science community to help bring their curriculum to life. I would also encourage the science community to embrace opportunities such as this in order to inspire and encourage future scientists.”

Eberts agrees.

“This experience reminded me how important it is for scientists to share their research with others around the world,” says Eberts. “Also, to communicate science and research with younger generations. I hope that I inspired them in some way to pursue their passions and to be explorers in life. I am incredibly grateful for this opportunity, and look forward to doing this again.”