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Traveling exhibit to showcase local aquatic life

By Johnny Jackson

jjackson@henryherald.com

Christopher Kodani plans to throw himself headlong into a fishing expedition this fall, as he scours local rivers and streams for native fish species.

The Clayton State University biology professor will be taking part in a partnership with the Henry County Stormwater Management Department. The two entities have a previous association on river clean-up projects.

In the coming days, however, Kodani will join forces with Henry County Stormwater Environmental Specialist James Moore to raise public awareness of stream and river conservation. As part of a two-year-long project, the two are planning to create a traveling aquarium.

Moore said the traveling aquarium exhibit, to be stationed at various public facilities across Henry County, will showcase live fish found in local waterways.

Earlier this year, Moore applied for, and received, the Gerald C. Corcoran Education Grant, which is provided by the North American Native Fishes Association, Inc. The association is a not-for-profit organization which supports the interests of those who appreciate, study and want to conserve North America's native fish species.

The grant was established in memory of Gerald Corcoran, a past North American Native Fishes Association president who stressed educating the public about native fish, said Sajjad Lateef, coordinator for the Corcoran Grant. He said this year's grant, worth $835, is designed to support projects which help inform the public about conserving the ecology of local streams and rivers.

Moore plans to use part of the grant to fund the construction of a cabinet which will house a 40-gallon glass aquarium and a television monitor. The aquarium will include various native fish species living in the area's streams and rivers, and the monitor will be used to show videos about protecting the environment around local tributaries.

"We were very excited to support him," said Lateef. "Fish and other invertebrates that live in these streams are vital parts of the ecosystem and it's essential that these streams remain healthy. Keeping them healthy is a part of everybody's job."

In order to keep the area's streams and rivers healthy, the public must keep them clean and free from pollution, Moore said.

"We want people to know that Henry County has a diverse stream system that is susceptible to damage," Moore said. "People don't identify with it directly. We're trying to help educate them with this project."

According to Moore the average person may not be aware of the effect they have on the environment, particularly on the ecology of small creeks located in back yards.

"Someone washing their car where the water washes into a storm drain - that's the same as washing your car in the middle of a stream, because the water is not treated before it goes into these streams," he said.

Moore said water collected in most streams, large or small, in Henry County ends up in rivers and reservoirs from which water is eventually drawn, treated and used for drinking.

"We have literally hundreds of stream miles in Henry County," he said. "My hope is that this program lasts long enough that we can eventually get into the schools."

Students from Kodani's ecology class at Clayton State, he continued, will be involved in collecting the native creek-dwelling fish species for the traveling aquarium.

"My students and I are getting involved," Kodani said. "One of the native fishes that James and our crew have encountered in Henry County is the Turquoise Darter. It's small, but very pretty. It's the relatively unknown species like this that the aquarium display will try to bring attention to."

Moore said he expects to have the aquarium operational later this fall. He said he plans to erect the aquarium in Henry County's government offices and libraries.