Channeling the energy and ambition of Tennessee's youth to take action in hands-on conservation
Director of Chattanooga’s Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute, Anna George is passionate about conserving and restoring southeastern aquatic species and habitats. She organized the first three meetings of the Southeastern Fishes Council—a gathering of scientists and managers—which has produced publications on prioritizing rivers for fish conservation, best practices for the captive propagation of imperiled fishes, and conservation needs for the 12 most imperiled fish species in the Southeast. She has also initiated a partnership with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and Conasauga River Alliance to restore the habitat of a spring in northwest Georgia that contains a rare species of fish, and leads a twice-yearly, hands-on program in regional rivers that gets area students involved in improving their watershed, among her other conservation ventures.
The Tennessee Aquarium enhances classroom learning for more than 100,000 students each year, with a focus on elementary and middle schools. Anna’s Fellowship project will expand that reach to include teens, who are an influential demographic, both in their individual households and in their communities. “Perhaps more importantly,” Anna added, “We know that teens are willing to act on their environmental concerns and have great determination to modify behaviors and engage in advocacy.”
The project is a week-long teen summer camp to explore conservation problems and solutions in Chattanooga. This Conservation Leadership in Action Week will engage students from regional schools in major environmental problems, enabling them to take a direct role in solving them. Students will also participate in paddle, hike, snorkel, and bike trips, sample local foods and learn how to prepare meals that are healthy for them and their environment. They will also work in small groups with conservation leaders and teachers in their community to develop projects that can be instituted in their own neighborhoods when they leave camp.
“The goal is to foster a passion for the environment and to provide a safe place for students to discuss and tackle some of today’s pressing environmental problems,” Anna explained. “It’s part of a long-term strategy to integrate conservation into the daily lives of Chattanooga's teens.”