The Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute conserves native aquatic animals and their habitats through scientific research, ecosystem restoration, education programs, and public outreach.   


Dr. Anna George 
Director and Chief Research Scientist

Dr. Josh Ennen
Aquatic Conservation Biologist

Dr. Bernie Kuhajda 
Aquatic Conservation Biologist

Sarah Hazzard
GIS Analyst

Dr. David Neely
Adjunct Scientist

Dr. Jon Davenport
Adjunct Scientist

Shawna Mitchell
Science Coordinator



The seeds of the Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute began in 1996 when the Tennessee Aquarium formed the Southeast Aquatic Research Institute, a collaborative, non-profit partnership with the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and the Tennessee River Gorge Trust. The first major project undertaken by the Institute was the publication of Aquatic Fauna in Peril: The Southeastern Perspective, edited by George Benz, the first Director, and David Collins, the Curator of Forests at the Aquarium. This volume provided historical perspectives of the major aquatic animal groups found in the region, detailing what is known about their current conservation status.
The Southeast has the largest diversity of freshwater snails in the world. But that status is quickly changing. The effects are most visible in the Coosa River Basin, where 41 out of the 72 documented freshwater mollusk extinctions in North America have occurred. Our second director, Paul Johnson, specialized in mollusk recovery efforts. Under his leadership, we restored over 150,000 imperiled mussels and snails to their native homes in the Mobile and Tennessee rivers. During this time, we also collaborated with our founding partners on a study to determine best monitoring practices for the Tennessee River Gorge turtle assemblage.

Tennessee has the richest freshwater fauna of any state in the United States with over 320 fish species living in our waters. Sadly, 87 of these species are considered endangered, threatened or of special management concern. In 2006, Anna George joined TNACI as the third director. She is an ichthyologist whose research focus is in population genetics of freshwater fishes. Under her direction, TNACI has developed many research projects investigating population health and evolutionary pathways for southeastern fish. In addition to research, TNACI is also involved in habitat assessments and restoration projects as well as monitoring efforts for imperiled species.

In 2009, we became the Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute to emphasize our mission to protect the aquatic species and habitats in our region. After 13 years at a facility in Cohutta, Georgia, we relocated our operations to Chattanooga in the summer of 2011. 

Contact Us

Mailing address:
Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute
201 Chestnut Street
Chattanooga, TN 37402-1014