Conservation and Sustainability in Aquarium Science,
Zoo & Conservation Science Program

At Otterbein, we recognize that holding marine animals in aquariums is a responsibility, and thus we strive for the highest level of animal husbandry, and we pride ourselves on our sustainable reef tanks. All our corals have been grown from fragments of mother colonies that were collected from nature decades ago. Our fish and invertebrates are either aquariums bred or come from sustainable collecting that adds value to communities that live adjacent to reefs and ultimately contributes to reef conservation around the world.

One of the driving tenets of the Aquarium Science Program of the Zoo and Conservation Science Major is the conservation of wild aquatic organisms. Each year, the aquarium industry removes millions of fish and invertebrates from nature. An important part of our program is trying to minimize the negative impacts aquariums can have on natural communities via harvesting, while at the same time, maximizing the positive impacts on nature through education and conservation research.

Reef Systems Tank

Conservation in Action

Freshwater Streams

Freshwater environments also need protection. Dr. Hoggarth and his students are champions in the conservation of local streams. Like marine environments, freshwater rivers and lakes are essential to our lives and in many cases they are even more fragile and endangered than their marine counterparts. In our program you’ll have a lot of fun using a viewing tube to watch darters skip between stones in a riffle and using the electroshocker to count the surprising diversity of fish in our local streams. While central Ohio streams, ponds, and lakes will be your classroom, course activities, internships, and research projects will help you learn the conservation techniques used in freshwater systems throughout the world. And, as a bonus, one stream, Alum Creek, flows right through campus so it’s easy to visit and gain hands on experiences from the get go.

While “water quality” is essential to aquariums, it is also a key to freshwater conservation and the water we drink. In Ohio, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) interprets the Clean Water Act based on the communities of organisms that live in the streams. Dr. Hoggarth and his students undertake an array of projects that document the health of local streams and rivers by censusing fish, crayfish, and particularly Ohio’s diverse and intriguing species of freshwater mussels. Dr. Hoggarth and his students have relocated mussels that might have been killed by the construction or removal of dams, they’ve investigated the impacts on the stream biota of chemicals introduced to kill invasive species, and have found and documented the endangered purple cat’s paw mussel (Epioblasma obliquata obliquata).

Otterbein Students Freshwater Conservation Samples

Raising Snails for Corals

One of our newest projects is raising maintenance animals for the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) massive effort to maintain corals pulled from the waters of Florida before they were overtaken by an advancing disease front (SCLTD- Stony Coral Tissue Disease). As part of the Florida Reef Tract Rescue Project, accredited public Institutions, such as the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium are now raising the rescued corals in tanks, with the hope of eventually repopulating the Florida Coast, once conditions improve. Otterbein is doing its part by raising the much-needed clean-up crew: snails and peppermint shrimp. In our labs we will maintain adult invertebrates that we will breed and propagate for distribution around the country in order to keep the rescued coral healthy and clear of algae. This is a great opportunity for Otterbein students to be an active part of an important conservation effort, while at the same time learning aquatic life support skills, and invertebrate propagation techniques.

Belize Reefs

Students in the Aquarium Science Program will also have the opportunity to work on coral reef conservation projects in Belize. Dr. Lescinsky has been taking students to Belize for more than 20 years to study coral reefs and complete a variety of research projects that examine the health and comeback of corals and fish on the reefs. One ongoing project is the resurgence on branching Acroporid corals which they have documented in several sites, and the fish and invertebrate predators and diseases that limit the comeback. Other research projects have involved the impact of building and development on uninhabited cays, the monitoring of smaller patch reefs, and the use of subfossil coral skeletons to document how the local ecology has changed.

Dr. Lescinsky communicates with a student in a bioerosion study.
Documenting patterns of coral resurgence and die-off on patch reefs.
Documenting thriving patches of once-endangered staghorn coral and counting invertebrates present within the framework.