The Tennessee Aquarium’s art installation + conservation


Meet Trashy the Trout | Photo by NOOGAtoday

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Most Chattanoogans are well-acquainted with the aquarium’s mascot of sorts, Miguel Wattson. Today, we’d like to introduce a new iconic aquarium faceTrashy the Trout.

The trout is made entirely out of plastic items brought in by the aquarium’s staff in an effort to raise awareness on how much plastic we use everyday. It’s also a complement to the Washed Ashore installation that recently popped up across the Aquarium.

In honor of Earth Week, we’re diving into this interesting new art exhibit + more of the Tennessee Aquarium’s current conservation efforts.

By the numbers

4-6 trillion | The average number of littered cigarettes in one year. Because the word “trillion” doesn’t quite show how much this is, think of it like this — it’s an amount capable of poisoning the water of ~12-18 million Olympic-sized swimming pools. Cigarettes are also the most-littered item in the world.

100 million+ | The number of pieces of litter that are on Tennessee’s roadways at any given time, according to TDOT.

300 million | How many pounds of plastic (yes, pounds) mankind produces each year — less than 10% of that number is recycled.

8,000% | How much higher the Tennessee River’s microplastic concentrations were than the Rhine River, according to findings by Dr. Andreas Fath in 2018.

Current conservation efforts

Washed Ashore | This new art installation features several sculptures scattered throughout the aquarium that are made of materials that have, quite literally, washed ashore on beaches. The works — featuring items like flip-flops, soda bottles, and beach toys — serve as a reminder that one of our biggest environmental challenges is plastic.

Seabins | Last month, organizations like the aquarium, Nobody Trashes TN, and Keep the TN River Beautiful installed the world’s largest network of seabin devices in a river system. The devices work continuously to collect debris from the surface of the Tennessee River.

Cigarette collection boxes | Have you noticed small cigarette boxes downtown? Last summer, the aquarium installed recycling boxes around its campus specifically designed for cigarettes, which contain microplastics. The aquarium itself has eight bins, but you may spot some around downtown Chattanooga, too.

Future events + efforts

Short term | The aquarium will host three releases of Southern Appalachian Brook Trout — Trashy the Trout’s species — this spring + will celebrate its 30-year anniversary with a community celebration on April 30. What you can do to help? Volunteer with the aquarium’s conservation efforts, or just continue to support the local aquarium with visits, donations, and by word of mouth.

Down the road | According to Thom Benson, VP + Chief of Communications, the aquarium may begin studying Paddlefish in the future due to their tendency to filter the water by taking large gulps of it. Benson said that this could mean these fish are inhaling tons of microplastics with each gulp.

In the long run | The aquarium’s conservation institute seeks to determine what impact plastic has on aquatic animals + human health.

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