- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - Stephen Lyn Bales, editor

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Ijams staffers attend October sturgeon release, bring home two

Ijams veterinarian Dr. Louise Conrad watch fifth graders release young sturgeon at Sevens Islands

TNACI's Dr. Bernie Kuhajda

On October 8, aquatic biologists from the Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute (TNACI), Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) and the University of Tennessee’s Department of Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries released 1,000 lake sturgeon at Seven Islands Wildlife Refuge upstream from Ijams.

This east Knox County location on the French Broad River has been identified as favorable habitat for this species that is listed as endangered within Tennessee’s waters.

Students from a fifth grade class at Gap Creek Elementary in Knoxville helped release the y.o.y. (young-of-the-year) sturgeon. The hands-on classroom activity, assisting with this release, increases their understanding of freshwater conservation. They also discover how the health of the river and human health are connected.

The Tennessee Aquarium and its partners have reintroduced more than 181,000 lake sturgeon to the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers since 1998.

Ijams staffer Peg Beute and other local Water Quality Forum members attended the very first major release just below Douglas Dam on July 19, 2000.

The goal of the long-term “Saving the Sturgeon” program is to restore a self-sustaining population of lake sturgeon in Tennessee. So far this effort has proven very successful with anglers reporting these fish downstream in Alabama and Kentucky (yes, the Tennessee River eventually flows north into the Bluegrass State.) Biologists have also been encouraged by recent surveys to monitor the population between Knoxville and Chattanooga.

These impressive fish are true river giants. Some may grow to more than eight feet in length. Lake sturgeon have also been known to live nearly 150 years, feeding mainly on bottom dwelling crayfishes, mussels, aquatic insect larvae and small fishes.

French Broad River at Seven Islands
Kathlina Alford, Thom Benson and Dr. Bernie Kuhajda with the Tennessee Aquarium (right, all in dark blue) help Gap Creek fifth graders release young sturgeon into the French Broad.

Some of the 1,000 sturgeon sampling the taste of the French Broad River for the first time.

What did the sturgeon young of the year look like? 

Well, you can visit Ijams and find out. 

Ijams veterinarian, Dr. Louise Conrad and Peg Beute attended the release to bring two y.o.y. back to the nature center. They are display in the Exhibit Hall until they outgrow their aquarium home. (The last sturgeon that lived in the Ijams Exhibit Hall moved on to a larger tank at the Aquarium of the Americas in New Orleans.

These two sturgeon spent the past year at Ijams in the exhibit Hall.
But they have outgrown their aquarium and will now move on to a larger one in New Orleans
Two new young-of-the-year sturgeon are now on display at Ijams.

- Stephen Lyn Bales

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