Fabulous Fishes!
Clinton Community Nature Center, Clinton, MS
May 4, 2002

"Fabulous Fishes," a hands-on ichthyological extravaganza, was held May 4, 2002 at the Clinton Community Nature Center in Clinton, Mississippi. Members of the North American Native Fishes Association and biologists from the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center at Waterways Experiment Station organized the event and worked more than a dozen exhibits, experiments, and games.  Here are a few photo highlights. 

Click on the small image to open a larger one.   If you wish to open the image in a separate browser window, do this:  PC users-- right click and select "Open Link in New Window"; Macintosh users-- click, hold it down, and the new window will appear.

AA_8991_009.jpg (164826 bytes)
Stations were set up a week in advance. Each included multiple specimens and activities, posters, and all offered some kind of handout or brochure representative of that subject. This is the station set up to demonstrate types of fish scales, how they are used by the fish and how they are used by fishery biologists. There are gar hides, spiny boxfish, samples of fish skin, mounted cross-sections of sturgeon spines, and mounted scales of buffalo and carp.

AA_8991_022.jpg (181003 bytes)
Neil Douglas, Professor Emeritus of Ichthyology and Herpetology, was one of the first volunteers to arrive. Here he is preparing preserved specimens for "Name That Fish," a taxonomic survey of local fishes.
AA_8991_023.jpg (186775 bytes)
Martin Moore, Mississippi Rep for NANFA, also arrived early to set up aquaria of native fishes. Martin's exhibit includes tropical fish posters, but the NANFA exhibit is comfortingly close-by.

AA_8991_025.jpg (164440 bytes)
Jan Hoover and Catherine Murphy look over a collection of skulls, skeletons, teeth, and disarticulated bones. Catherine used these to introduce vistors to fish morphology, anatomy, and general biology.

AA_8958_004.jpg (169162 bytes)
Volunteers prepare to register more than 100 visitors. After name and addresses were recorded (for prize drawings that day, announcement mailings later in the year), a card was issued to each visitor. This card was stamped by the experts at different stations to show the visitor had completed that event.
AA_8958_005.jpg (174451 bytes)
Faye Dickerson (Dena's mother) issues cards to visitors and demonstrates a rare talent for ictalurid ventriloquism.
AC_8963_016.jpg (180843 bytes)
Neil Douglas exhibits preserved fishes representing all major taxonomic groups of the lower Mississippi Basin and nearby waters. Body shape, distinctive structures, and ususual markings useful in identification are explained.

AA_8958_024.jpg (157399 bytes)
Working with a juvenile specimen, Neil shows two young naturalists how a paddlefish uses its rostrum.

AB_8962_001.jpg (164131 bytes)
The boys, both clearly enthusiasts of sharks and sharklike fishes, examine one of Neil's darters showing a appreciation for smaller, modern fishes as well.
AD_8970_025.jpg (144910 bytes)
Catherine Murphy emphasizes the complexity and diversity of fish skulls and skull bones.

AB_8962_011.jpg (175597 bytes)
Differences between heterocercal and homocercal tails of fish are explained by Catherine and the surpising number of bony rays in a buffalo tail intrigue two young observers.

AE_8969_021.jpg (169854 bytes)
No bony structures have the sheer drama of toothy jaws, however. After exhibiting the nearly smooth jaws of a paddlefish, Catherine shows off the jaws of an unidentified shark, creating some excitement in the process.
AB_8962_008.jpg (167787 bytes)
Dennis Riecke, fishery biologist for the state of Mississippi, invites visitors to handle samples of sturgeon skin, experience the sharpness of their scutes, and learn for themselves why these fish are sometimes called hacklebacks.

AF_8967_021.jpg (165055 bytes)
Resembling mediaeval mace and armor, a dried puffer and a gar hide, allow Dennis to demonstrate how effectively scales can protect the fish that wear them.

AF_8967_013.jpg (168244 bytes)
Sturgeon spines and buffalo scales are tools of the trade for the fishery biologists who study population biology of riverine fishes. Here Dennis trains two young men on the methods for counting annular rings.
AD_8974_021.jpg (155726 bytes)
An experiment showing the differences in breathing rates of goldfish in cool water and in warm water, and comparing respiratory behavior with air-breathing bowfin, attracted onlookers and participants of all ages.

AB_8962_015.jpg (164579 bytes)
Most of the older kids could count gill beats and record the data for themselves.

AG_8968_002.jpg (168700 bytes)
The little ones needed a little help from their parents or from the high school volunteers, but even they were able to see (and sometimes act out) the differences in breathing rates and behavior among the fish.

AA_8991_005.jpg (163741 bytes)
These fish heads were mummified by Steven George and used at the feeding biology station to illustrate the morphological traits of predators feeding on different types of prey.


AC_8976_003.jpg (182645 bytes)
Here, Jessica, a high school volunteer shows a young visitor how to analyze mouth size and position, gill raker length and spacing, pharyngeal tooth structure, tooth and eye size to infer types of foods eaten.


AC_8976_007.jpg (155526 bytes)
Visitors to the feeding station were also allowed to select a preserved fish stomach from those of five different species. Jessica and Jan instructed the budding fish dieticians on dissection and prey identification.


AC_8976_018.jpg (210724 bytes)
Bradley Lewis operates a station featuring exhibits and activities related to fishing and collecting gear. Here Bradley demonstrates proper casting technique. A hoopnet used to sample small rivers is nearby.


AB_8981_020.jpg (173001 bytes)
Selectivity of different mesh sizes was demonstrated using a mixture of of different types of beans and rice, and mini-seines.


AB_8981_024.jpg (168937 bytes)
Bradley shows a young vistor how larger species are retained by this seine while the smaller species pass through.

AA_8958_002.jpg (169404 bytes)
The taxonomic skills of Austin George (Steven's son) are tested by Bradley (Steven's co-worker) using magnetic fishes and a metal white-board. Austin, by the way, passed with flying colors.

AA_8958_003.jpg (177658 bytes)
Martin Moore sets up his "How to Set Up an Aquarium" display.


AF_8967_005.jpg (163647 bytes)   AA_8958_021.jpg (169132 bytes)
Chemistry can be fun...when you have samples from native fish aquaria with water quality test kits. Martin looks on as youngsters evaluate pH and nitrates from Martin's display tanks of shiners.

AF_8967_006.jpg (148924 bytes)
Test tubes and colored water are great but nothing gets the attention of a young ichthyologist like ganoid fishes. Here, one of the regulars at the Nature Center's outreach programs watches a gar for a very long time.
AA_8991_011.jpg (186577 bytes)
This is the NANFA display. It consists of Charlie Nunziata's title and background poster, an original poster describing the fishes of Mississippi that were emphaszied at Fabulous Fishes (ganoids, suckers, darters), and a poster describing how American Currents could be used as a classroom resource. With the poster are stacks of AC articles that can be used as instructional materials in biology and in geography, political science, and American history. Also available are NANFA information and grant brochures, membership applications, and some miscellaneous freebies (reprints of a book chapter on wetland fishes, Topeka shiner trading cards).
AG_8968_024.jpg (163765 bytes)
Martin lures a woman away from the aquaria and towards the NANFA display. Unfortunately, he was unable to reel her in as a new member.

AC_8963_004.jpg (195298 bytes) AC_8963_005.jpg (184976 bytes) AC_8963_006.jpg (192525 bytes)
Steven George, the "Dissecting Machine," deconstructs a shark, spoonbill, shovelnose sturgeon, spotted sucker, and a largemouth bass. Visitors receive an animated three-hour course in Comparative Anatomy topics unlikely to be addressed in most college curricula.

AF_8967_025.jpg (190973 bytes)
Steven continues to dissect fish in the pouring rain while most onlookers marvel at his stamina and one signals to "Please Send Help."

AA_8991_013.jpg (179416 bytes) AD_8974_001.jpg (190504 bytes)  AC_8976_010.jpg (168316 bytes) AD_8974_015.jpg (174305 bytes)
The Explorations Table is loaded with taxodermic and preserved specimens, fish bones, books, and other durable items. The alligator gar skull is a real attention-getter, but so are...Shark-Jaws and View-Masters!

AF_8967_016.jpg (175827 bytes)   AF_8967_017.jpg (160337 bytes)
Clay, fish-shaped cookie-cutters, sequins, and other odd-and-ends allow kids to make models of some fishes they see or would like to see.

AA_8991_010.jpg (162090 bytes)  AC_8963_014.jpg (174212 bytes)
The mysterious Grotesquerie - where visitors can observe, close-up, fishes that dare to violate the Laws of Nature! Dennis describes, as visitors see for themselves, wonders like the shovelnoseless sturgeon, the black-and-white one-eyed blue catfish, and the smallest-mouth buffalo.


AC_8963_024.jpg (189323 bytes)
Fish Bingo - where every player is a winner and every winner is the proud recipient of a candy-skulled, plastic fish skeleton. Shirley Douglas passes out prizes to excited contestants.


AD_8970_018.jpg (150900 bytes)
Gyotaku - the age-old Japanese art of fish printing. Plastic models and readily available paint sets allowed adults and kids the opportunity to make linen prints of their favorite fish. Nine species were offered (two were non-native) allowing gyotaku artists the chance to print fishes of various shapes in the color of their choice.


AB_8962_005.jpg (180124 bytes)   AB_8962_006.jpg (178237 bytes)
Fabulous Gifts for Fabulous Fish Participants - Dena Dickerson draws names of visitors and awards a variety of piscatorial prizes including books, aquarium nets, rubber sharks, and an amazing variety of glass paperweights, plant pots, pens, aquarium nets, inflatable rafts, and flashlights all shaped like fishes! Dena came up with the idea for Fabulous Fishes, organized more than 30 volunteers and 15 exhibits and activities, created the fishing and taxonomic games, made educational handouts, organized specimens, acted as MC during the big day and took many of these photographs. She made Fabulous Fishes happen and made it a success for the more than 150 people that took part.


AD_8970_020.jpg (159989 bytes)
Graduation - Carol Baird fills out diplomas documenting that visitors successfully completed the Fabulous Fishes program and are certified as Junior Ichthyologists. These were given out to visitors who participated in activities at Name That Fish, Fish Breathing, Fish Bones, and Scales and Age stations. Along with the certificates, visitors received fossilized shark and ray teeth, and environmentally-themed bookmarks, bookcovers, coloring-pages, and drinking cups.