What is Your River Story?

Dr. Anna George, Director and Chief Research Scientist for the Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute (TNACI), serves on the Thrive 2055 Natural Treasures Initiative. Below is an excerpt of her remarks at the announcement of a new TNACI facility to be constructed along the Tennessee River on Moccasin Bend.

Photos courtesy of the Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute.
Photo of Tangerine Darter (above) courtesy of Todd Stailey.


TNACI campers do a stream sampling.

What is your river story?

Every year, the Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute begins our summer camp for teens by asking them this question. What called them to explore our waters? If they don’t know the answer at the beginning of the week, you can bet they have an answer by the time they snorkel the Conasauga River on the last day.

For more than two decades the Tennessee Aquarium has showcased river stories from our region to more than 20 million people. The truly special moments are when we create a personal connection between our visitors, our exhibits, and each other. Maybe it’s standing in front of the minnows and remembering how you used to seine them for bait as a child. Or maybe it’s a reminder of a camping trip in the Cherokee National Forest. The Aquarium isn’t just a place to learn more about aquatic animals. It’s a place to connect to our stories, and remember the places that fill us with wonder.

Dr. Anna George in her favorite habitat.

Dr. Anna George in her favorite habitat.

One of the things I love about working here in Chattanooga, between the Appalachians and the Cumberlands, is the strong sense of place our community has. This land has been loved by people for a very long time, people who understand that our rivers and our ridges matter, both to our health and the health of the environment

A Conasauga River Logperch

A Conasauga Logperch from the Conasauga River in Tennessee.

The waters around us are teeming with life, that life has incredible value, and that life matters to us. So, we must act to protect it.

We are in a watershed moment; a time when we know our freshwater habitats face unprecedented threats; a time when we risk the loss of so much that matters to us. And in this moment, our community has stood up to proclaim that our river matters, our mountains matter, and our region matters.

We stand here today ready to begin the next chapter of the Aquarium’s story, and that of our community. We are compelled to make our next meaningful contribution to protecting our rivers and streams by constructing a permanent home for the Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute, opening in fall, 2016.


Rendering of the Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute’s new home.

Our new building will serve as a convening place, a freshwater field station, a training ground and an educational classroom. It will also serve as the base of operations where those working to protect our natural treasures can come together to act. A place where we will expand our work returning native animals back to their homes in healthy streams and rivers. A place that highlights water-sensitive design. A place where we will raise national awareness that the waters of the Southeast are filled with riches, and that our quality of life matters.

Our place matters. Our work matters. This building matters.
But our community, both above and below the water, matters most.

What part of our regional waters do you cherish the most? What is your river story? 

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