Aquarium Hosts Conservation Event

A watershed coalition that works to improve the Flint River wants the public to know "It's not the river" that caused the lead contamination in Flint's water supply. So Rebecca Fedewa, the Executive Director of the Flint River Watershed Coalition, will speak at the Belle Isle Aquarium on Saturday, April 9, 2016 to tell the public the real truth about the health of the Flint River in light of the City of Flint drinking water crisis. According to Fedewa, the Flint River has "abundant recreational, environmental, and economic opportunities" and great improvements are underway.

Fedewa's presentation will be part of the Aquarium's Second Annual Conservation Day Symposium. The Symposium, which began last year to honor April as Earth Month, will attract conservation scientists and activists from across the State of Michigan and beyond. Keynoting the event will be Jason Smith, a conservationist who works with the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians to restore fisheries on Little Traverse Bay. Smith plans to lead a discussion on how cultural attitudes can affect the success of natural resources conservation.

Participants in the symposium will come from Wayne State University, from elsewhere in southeast Michigan, and from as far away as Toledo, Adrian, and Chicago to meet with the public and each other to discuss how animals and plants can be conserved and the environment for them can be improved. The symposium has been organized by Jeffrey Ram, a professor at Wayne State University who serves as the Aquarium's Director of Science Education. Ram leads projects at the Aquarium on invasive species that are supported by the Environmental Protection Agency, the Great Lakes Protection Fund, and the Erb Family Foundation.

Complementing the Aquarium's collections, some presentations at the gathering will focus on freshwater fish. The Aquarium is the only one in the world to have all known species of gars, and Nicole Farley, a student from Wayne State University, has developed new molecular tools to track them in the environment. According to Farley, her work will help "in managing gar fisheries and restoration projects."

In contrast to gars, which are native species, the Round Goby, a non-native invasive fish that is also found in the Aquarium's collections, will be the focus of a talk by Robert Muller on the effects of dam removal on fish populations in the Lower Rouge River. Working with the Friends of the Rouge River, Muller has found that gobies are now swimming further upstream and affecting a number of native species, particularly native Johnny Darter populations.

Possibly appealing to the many children who visit the Aquarium, Jason Fischer, from the USGS Science Center in Ann Arbor, will present "We are all little once: Understanding where big fish come from" in a poster on the main gallery floor of the Aquarium. Fischer will tell the story of how scientists and engineers have studied where adult fish lay their eggs and grow as young fish, and have used that knowledge to recreate habitats for spawning and young fish in the St. Clair and Detroit Rivers. Other presentations will be on cattail management, rattlesnake restoration, emerging contaminants, the River Raisin, and the public's role in the care and conservation of local water resources.

Ram says that "In this era of mass extinctions, Aquariums serve a vital role in conservation and in raising awareness among the public about how they can help" restore and conserve species. The Belle Isle Aquarium is open and free to the public on Saturdays and Sundays from 10 am to 4 pm. The April 9th Conservation Day Symposium is also free. More information about the symposium and directions to the Aquarium can be obtained from the Science Saturday link on the Aquarium's home page, at


Author of the above story: Dr. Jeffrey Ram, Wayne State University, 313 577-1558 or 248 200-9431; .

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