Monday, January 31, 2011

Crayfish Diversity

The flora and fauna of North America is among the best-studied on Earth, yet scientists continue to make remarkable discoveries in our own backyard. Just this month, scientists announced the discovery of a giant crayfish—the Tennessee Bottlebrush Crayfish--from Shoal Creek on the Alabama-Tennessee border. However, this new species is remarkable only because of its size--up to 5 inches long! Since 2000, at least 33 species of crayfish have been described from North America, including at least five from Tennessee.

This represents most of the diversity of crayfish worldwide. The family Cambaridae, which most southeastern species belongs to, has around 430 species, of which seven occur in east Asia and the rest in eastern North America. Crayfish from west of the Continental Divide are in the family Astacidae (~16 spp.), which also occurs in Europe and the Mideast. A third family, the Parastacidae (~180 spp.), occurs in the Southern Hemisphere.

Our knowledge of many invertebrate groups is still in its infancy. The southeastern US has extremely diverse communities of aquatic snails, mussels, caddisflies, and many other insects. Even well-studied groups like freshwater fishes and amphibians still see new species described on a regular basis. Because these animals serve as an important component of aquatic food chains and affect ecosystem structure and function, it’s critical that we continue to study and conserve them.

-Dr. Dave Neely

Friday, January 21, 2011

What We’re Reading at TNACI: Four Fish by Paul Greenberg

Every other month, TNACI Director Anna George leads an informal book club discussion with interested aquarium staff and volunteers on books covering a range of environmental topics.  Below is her quick book review...

The Aquarium’s Environmental Book Club met this past Wednesday to talk about a great book, Four Fish. Paul Greenberg, a lifelong fisherman, examines the toll that human consumption is having on our “last wild food.” Though the oceans were once thought to be limitless, the growing human population and our increasingly advanced technology have pushed many species to commercial, if not actual, extinction. With in-depth studies of salmon, Mediterranean sea bass, cod, and tuna, Greenberg covers the many challenges that our fisheries face, both farmed and wild. His practical conclusion offers some well-thought recommendations to how we should approach fisheries and aquaculture in order to sustain the supply.

Here's a link to the author's website:

Future book club gatherings will discuss:

March:  Silent Spring by Rachel Carson. The book that started the environmental movement by addressing the ecological impact of pesticides.

May:  King of Fish by David Montgomery. The history of salmon in Europe and eastern North America and the future of salmon in western North America.

July:  The River Why by David James Duncan. A novel on fishing, living in harmony with nature, and seeking knowledge.

September:  Living Downstream by Sandra Steingraber. An analytical memoir about the rise of cancer and and chemicals in the environment.

November:  The View from Lazy Point by Carl Safina. A discussion of the impacts of global change on marine life around the world.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Annual Lake Sturgeon Reintroduction Working Group Meeting

We just wrapped up our annual Tennessee Lake Sturgeon Reintroduction Working Group meeting where all the working group partners convene to discuss strategies, ideas, solve problems, and report on their programs' successes as we work to reintroduce lake sturgeon into the Tennessee Rivers.  The Saving Our Sturgeon program is now in its second decade and we've released 108,785 fish into the Tennessee and Cumberland River systems.  In 2010 alone, Saving Our Sturgeon partner organizations released 16,806 lake sturgeon in the Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers- over 3,200 of which came from TNACI! 

A number of agencies were represented at today's meeting including US Fish & Wildlife, TWRA, TVA, USGS, TTU, and TNACI.  Georgia DNR has a similar program to restore the lake sturgeon population in the Coosa River system and they sent representatives to compare notes and share ideas.

During the meeting each agency gave a quick overview of the past year's activities.  We also discussed future stocking plans, some outreach and education events, and an increased focus on monitoring fish once they are released.   Future stocking efforts will likely include emphasis on releasing bigger fish.  To release bigger fish, hatcheries must invest more money, space, and labor, but we think the extra investment will pay off in the long run with higher survival rates.

Keep posted for more program updates on Saving Our Sturgeon.  We expect to be receiving our 2011 fish in the first week of June...less than six months away!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Chef Barton Seaver discusses sustainable seafood

Below is a link to a TED Talk video of Chef Barton Seaver who has some novel (and simple!) ideas on how to eat sustainable seafood. According to Barton, simply eating the “right” kinds of seafood isn’t enough. To truly eat both more healthily as well as more sustainably, we need to also look at our portions of protein that we get from seafood. Watch his talk at the link below to hear his ideas for yourself.