Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service, Aquarium Pharmaceuticals, and the Mississippi Department of
Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks contributed prizes, materials, activities,
and audio-visual materials. And, 37 volunteers cheerfully helped to set up
and run the program.
NANFA personnel and their roles included:
Dena Dickerson (my wife) masterminded the event and kept everything on
schedule (I do not have the necessary planning skills). She started working
on "Fabulous Fishes" more than two months ago, and during the three weeks
prior to the big day, spent most of her free time working on organization,
communications, logistics, and educational materials (most of which were
original). She also created and manufactured the four fish games played by
the visitors. On the big day itself, Dena did double duty as MC and
photographer. She lived "Fabulous Fishes" for weeks before it happened.
Andy Borgia contributed mermaids' purses and bones of marine fishes
including the jaw of a barracuda. His specimens were used at multiple
Neil Douglas hosted "Name That Fish" using freshwater and marine specimens
from the Museum of Zoology, University of Louisiana at Monroe. His wife,
Shirley, hosted the Fish Bingo game. They were the "Dynamic Duo" of fish
Steven George dissected a shark, paddlefish, sturgeon, and some sort of
teleost (I forget which species). He did this outdoors, in the rain, for
three hours without a break, tirelessly. His table, set up next to the
porch of the visitors' center, allowed the onlookers to stay dry (even
though he was drenched). It is a tribute to Steven's contagious enthusiasm
for comparative anatomy that the visitors would watch in fascination as he
deconstructed these "living fossils" without once saying "eeww," "yuch," or
"gross." Also, during the two weeks prior to "Fabulous Fishes," Steven was
a veritable one-man biological supply company, churning out dried fish,
bleached sucker skulls, and mummified fish heads.
Jack Killgore, while on a field trip to the Ouachita River, collected
specimens needed for our fish diet study. These specimens allowed kids to
identify fish food based on their experiences at our previous Nature Center
program, "Bugs Alive."
William Lancaster prepared and contributed fishes and fish parts for our
various anatomical explorations. Because of him we were able to show
visitors firsthand the wonders of internal organs, otoliths, pharyngeal
teeth, gill arches, and skeletal structure.
Bradley Lewis demonstrated angling and sampling techniques. He showed kids
how to fish, played a fish matching game with them, and passed out jelly
lures and pocket identification guides. Some of these kids have never caught
a fish themselves, and now they know how.
Martin Moore underestimates the success of his station. Many visitors that
day and afterwards have commented on his How to Set Up an Aquarium exhibit.
His Notropis welaka and Pteronotropis signipinnis are thriving in the lobby
of the visitor's center. People coming to the Nature Center, who had
previously ignored the sparsely populated aquarium (a few darters and a
couple of topminnows) are now asking questions about the abundant beautiful
shiners now inhabiting it.
Catherine Murphy brought the dead back to life. She took "simple" skulls,
skeletons, and disarticulated bones and showed visitors how they represented
the diversity and complexity of local fish communities. Future forensic
ichthyologists were fascinated.
Charlie Nunziata transformed my disjointed photographs and text files into
a cohesive and eye-catching poster. This part of the exhibit will get
extended use at the Nature Center.
Chris Scharpf accelerated production of the Spring American Currents so we
would have extra issues to give away as premiums for new members. An
internal "failure to communicate" kept me from receiving these in time for
Fabulous Fishes, but the end result, an attractive and taxonomically diverse
issue, will be an invaluable marketing tool for attracting new members.
One measure of success for an outreach program is the enthusiasm people will
show for it after it is all over. Based on that criterion, "Fabulous
Fishes" was a success. Visitors and volunteers alike have expressed
interest in doing this all over again. Dena tells me that its being put on
the 2002-2003 agenda for CCNC.
One last note - We have left the NANFA display set up at the Clinton
Community Nature Center. It consists of the poster (a three-sheeter on
poster board), reprints of AC articles, display copies of AC, brochures on
NANFA and on the NANFA grants. It sits on a colorful, sunfish-pattern
tablecloth (made by Dena's mom, Faye Dickerson). It is very eye-catching,
and I am confident that it will generate interest in native fishes and in
Sent: Tuesday, May 07, 2002 10:50 PM
Subject: NANFA-- Fabulous Fishes and intriguing personality test
Well, since Jan seems reluctant (too busy) to talk about the event he
organized last Saturday, I'll take up the mantle. "Fabulous Fishes" was
held at the Clinton Community Nature Center near Jackson, MS. Based on
past events we expected an attendance of 200 people, but owing to the fact
that the Jackson paper did not print the press release, we had "only" 115
registered visitors. There were several distinguished visitors to help man
various stations, including Neil Douglas who presented me with an
autographed copy of "Fishes of Louisiana" (Thanks Neil!) since I missed out
on my last opportunity. The attendees were mostly youngsters, who received
some sort of school credit for visiting each of four "mandatory"
stations. Neil staffed the fish ID station, where he had an array of
pickled fishes for the kids to handle and figure out what they were. I had
an "optional" aquarium setup station which was a disaster because the water
was all murky from the gravel I _thought_ I had cleaned. The nice welaka
and signipinnis were totally obscured, but the little gar I had caught two
days previously (whilst searching for sand darters and shadow bass in the
Strong River) displayed himself nicely, despite being picked up off the
carport floor the previous day by my wife as she left for work that
morning. But actually the big hit at the aquarium station was the test kit
(donated by Aquarium Pharmaceuticals) - the kids didn't care about the fish
but loved doing pH, NH3, etc. tests with the little test tubes and
chemicals! There was also a fish scale station - all different kinds of
fish scales the kids could look at with dissecting scopes and what not. I
had to chuckle when I overheard Jan instructing one of the volunteers in
the use of a rather large, curled section of gar skin - "Get them to put
their arm inside and feel what it's like to actually BE a gar...", etc.
:-) There was also a respiration experiment with goldfish and bowfin, a
fishing gear demo, a magnetic "match the fish" game, and perhaps most
interesting was the dissection station manned by Steven George in the
pouring rain (actually helped keep the stench down), featuring paddlefish,
sharks, sturgeon, and I would presume a bony fish or two but I don't
remember seeing one. I enjoyed his demonstration of how to pull out a
notochord! I also got a kick out of his stuffed eel ("He'll mount
ANYTHING" said Jan). There was a fish skeleton station which seemed to be
the biggest hit, and a selection of fish skulls which I personally found
the most interesting. Oh, there was a GAMAKATU (or whatever you call it, I
can never remember) station where you make ink blots of real fishes on
paper, and lots of givaways (which seemed mainly to distract the kids from
the real business at hand). Sadly, the beautiful NANFA display went
largely unnoticed, but lots of NANFA T-shirts were worn :-).
Anyway, after the show wound down, Jan and I had time to discuss various
things, and somehow the topic of melanistic F. chrysotus came up. I
mentioned that I had found a population of these guys, which appear
identical to the xanthic form except wherever the former is yellow, these
guys are BLACK. They look almost like mollies, that's how black they
are. The males in good color have red tails too, just like the normal
xanthic chrysotus, but it looks really awesome against that black body with
lighter bands. Jan said he had seen these too, although not in the same
part of the state. We were comparing habitat notes to see if we could pin
down the reason for this particular adaptation. It will be interesting to
see if the coloration persists in F1 and F2 offspring reared in an
aquarium. I will let you guys know how it works out - evidently nobody is
really investigating these fish.
Lots of photos were taken and presumably will be posted to the NANFA page
when Jan gets back from the field and has time to do so. This was LOADS of
fun and I can't wait to do it again in September. It seems this is the
direction the MS chapter of NANFA is taking, rather than collecting trips,
etc., (I never really thought of it that way until Charlie pointed it out
in his last memo), so that is where my future efforts will be focused.
Oh hey, I just noticed a newborn Heterandria in the mayonaisse-jar
"aquarium" on my desk :-) More another time...
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