Protecting Native Animals

The watersheds of the southeastern United States harbor the most diverse aquatic fauna in North America.  This region is known across the globe for our incredible numbers of aquatic animals.  These include:

  • 55% of all freshwater fish species from the United States
  • 60% of all salamander species from the United States
  • 72% of all turtle species from the United States
  • 90% of all freshwater mussel species from the United States

Regrettably, we are losing this delicate balance of biodiversity from our own backyards.  The Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute is working to conserve native animals by reintroducing them to areas that have recovered from environmental degradation.

In addition to our successful lake sturgeon program, Aquarium staff have worked to restore Barrens Topminnows, Yellow-Blotched Map Turtles, and 18 species of mussels and snails such as the Interrupted Rocksnail and Alabama Moccasinshell.  Our scientists use genetic, behavioral, and ecological data to ensure our released animals will form a strong base for a healthy wild population.

Imperiled Species Reintroduction

We have successfully reintroduced tens of thousands of imperiled aquatic species into southeastern rivers, including fishes, turtles, and snails. We incorporate genetic, behavioral, and ecological data to optimize captive propagation programs so that released animals will form a strong base for a healthy wild population.

Lake sturgeon
Barrens topminnows
Southern Appalachian Brook Trout
Conasauga Logperch

Conservation Genetics

We are using field studies and genetic research to identify which southeastern regions have the greatest biodiversity. This knowledge is vital for conservation planning in the Southeast because it can be used to identify hotspots of diversity that deserve increased protection.

Upper Tennessee River fishes
Blue shiners
Flame Chub
Conasauga Logperch
Laurel Dace

Environmental Monitoring

We monitor reintroduced animals to ensure the newly established populations are flourishing. We also survey major southeastern river drainages to assess the health and distribution of other aquatic species by comparing them to their historical ranges. These surveys are necessary to identify declines in aquatic animals before the animals become severely imperiled so their impacts can be mitigated by further conservation work.

Watts Bar Reservoir
Barrens Topminnow
Colvard Spring
Laurel Dace
Lake Sturgeon
Flame Chub

FIN (Freshwater Information Network)

We are currently developing a database of locality data for 62 imperiled fish species in the southeast. Ultimately there will be online access to interactive maps, species information and photographs. This program will allow site visitors to learn about imperiled fish species in our region but will also provide scientists with consolidated locality and collection data for species of interest. To build these maps we have collected information from 27 universities and museums that have historic fish collection records. We plan to increase the number of museums along the way in order to capture all of the available information into one interactive source. We also plan to expand the number of species and even taxa that are represented in the database over time.