Dozens of the Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute's conservation partners gathered today to celebrate the grand opening and ribbon cutting of the institute's new freshwater research facility, the only one of its kind in the Southeast.
From the flagstone plaza fronting the new environmentally designed building, director Dr. Anna George thanked the assembled representatives for their years of collaboration with TNACI, which has worked to study and preserve the Southeast's rich aquatic biodiversity for 20 years. Dr. Geoge acknowledged the role TNACI's partners had played in that effort, likening their collaboration to rivulets that join together to become a raging torrent of change.
With the improved research potential of the new field station, she said, Chattanooga will be established as "the United States' capital for river conservation."
"We couldn't be here without you," Dr. George said. "With this space and the collaboration with you, our partners, we can do so much more for our whole community -- both above and below the water."
Following a celebratory
ribbon "branch" cutting, guests toured the facility and learned more about its capabilities. After gauging its potential impact on freshwater conservation efforts, TNACI's partners praised the center, which is designed to facilitate cross-organizational efforts to safeguard the Southeast's incredible aquatic biodiversity.
Here's what they had to say:
“When we first pulled up to the facility and saw the solar panels and rain barrels and the wetlands and the fish runs, everything about it was just bleeding conservation. The inspiration that comes from nature itself; the transfer of that inspiration to kids who are the future conservationists of the world is something we can all look forward to. The perfect blend of the facility set in nature and how it's going to inspire and motivate people who come here to learn and go on in their long careers contributing to many conservation initiatives is a great opportunity and a perfect match.” – Kevin Liska, executive director of Tennessee Technological University's iCube technology and innovation venture
“It's really exciting to have TNACI in a facility where they can really do cutting-edge work on river conservation and aquatics. We're looking forward to continuing our partnership, and we look forward to a bright future with the new facility and TNACI.” – Jason Henegar, assistant chief of fisheries with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency
“I'm just glad we're partners with TNACI. This is a huge improvement over what we've had in the past to work with. They've been excellent partners in the past working with Southern Appalachian Brook Trout and mussels. This is just going to increase our opportunities to work with rare species.” – Jim Herrig, forest aquatic biologist at the Cherokee National Forest with the U.S. Forest Service
“The facility itself is incredible. I have a lot of hope and am very excited about the difference it can truly make in aquatic biodiversity and conservation. This has the capacity to be the hub it's intended to be, as far as bringing together so many organizations and agencies to work together on common issues. With the propagation facilities here, there's just a wealth of opportunities, from the science perspective and the communications and outreach perspective.” – Evan Crews, senior manager of natural resources management with the Tennessee Valley Authority
TNACI's new research facility was built with support from the following community and conservation partners:
- Aquarium & Zoo Facilities Association
- Baylor School
- Benwood Foundation, Inc.
- Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga
- Conservation Fisheries, Inc.
- Cooperative Ecosystem Studies Units Network
- Freshwaters Illustrated
- Georgia Department of Natural Resources
- Girls Preparatory School
- Great Smoky Mountains National Park
- Institute of Museum & Library Services
- Lyndhurst Foundation
- National Fish & Wildlife Foundation
- National Marine Sanctuary Foundation
- National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration
- The Nature Conservancy
- Norcross Wildlife Foundation
- Office of National Marine Sanctuaries
- RBC Foundation
- Southeast Aquatic Resources Partnership
- Southeast Missouri State University
- State of Tennessee
- Tennessee Technological University
- Tennessee Valley Authority
- Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency
- The David & Lucile Packard Foundation
- Trout Unlimited -- Appalachian Chapter
- Tucker Foundation
- University of Georgia
- University of the South
- University of Tennessee
- University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
- U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
- U.S. Forestry Service
- U.S. Geological Survey
- World Wildlife Fund
For more information about TNACI's conservation research and its state-of-the-art research facility, visit http://www.tnaqua.org/protect-freshwater/building-our-conservation-capital/