The Shedd Aquarium, on famous Lake Shore Drive in Chicago, unveiled the exhibit as part of its renovation of the facility’s historic Local Waters Gallery. The exhibit features exciting new interactive components. Visitors experience a connection to the Great Lakes through hands-on learning and up-close encounters with native Great Lakes species.
“There is a strong connection between the health of national forests and the health of the Great Lakes,” said Regional Forester Kathleen Atkinson. “The Forest Service is thrilled to collaborate with the Shedd Aquarium to raise awareness about the interconnectedness of these resources.”
After strolling through Shedd’s impressive views of aquatic species from around the world, visitors come “home” to the Great Lakes. Upon entering At Home on the Great Lakes, visitors are greeted by a very special welcoming committee of three lake sturgeons in a “touch pool.” Visitors have the opportunity to touch the “freshwater giant” that is sometimes referred to as a “living fossil.” Found in all five Great Lakes, lake sturgeon are the longest and largest living fish in the Great Lakes, growing up to 9 feet long and weighing as much as 200 pounds.
The Forest Service Eastern Region is a proud partner of this exhibit, providing funding to Shedd Aquarium through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. One of the emphasis areas of this initiative is education and outreach to the general public on aquatic and terrestrial invasive species.
Making this partnership even more significant is the fact that six Eastern Region national forests are within the Great Lakes basin – Chequamegon-Nicolet, Ottawa, Hiawatha, Superior, Huron-Manistee, and Finger Lakes national forests.
Shedd Aquarium focuses on four key Great Lakes issues:
- building awareness of ecological separation;
- contributing to solution oriented research to address invasive species;
- accelerating habitat restoration; and
- protecting and promoting native wildlife.
Visitors to the aquarium will also see Asian carp, sea lampreys and the small but destructive round gobies, all invasive species threatening the health of U.S. waterways. The exhibit helps visitors understand what they can do to help prevent the spread of these invasive species.
Digital technology enhances the visitor experience, allowing guests to learn more about the species they see, as well as get breaking news from monitors providing real-time updates on basin-wide conservation news and events.
The Forest Service has long been a partner with Shedd, who provides an outlet for education and outreach at an extremely large scale – 2 million people visit the aquarium each year.