Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2018 - 54
Juvenile lake sturgeon are raised to approximately six inches in
length before being released.
ANNA GEORGE'S 5 FAVORITE OUTDOOR SPOTS
* I love to go paddle boarding in downtown Chattanooga. If you drop your boat
or board in at the Coolidge Park Kayak
Ramp, there's a great short trip around
Maclellan Island, along with beautiful
views of the Tennessee Aquarium from
* People don't normally use the water
to watch cave animals, but at Nickajack
Cave, you can watch the bats come out
from the water. While you can see the
gray bats as they leave at night on land
from the Maple View Day Use Area,
it's more fun to paddle to the cave and
enjoy a sunset trip from April to October.
* My favorite spot to hike with [my dog]
Finn is the Savage Gulf State Natural
Area on the Cumberland Plateau. We
love the cliffs, canyons and beautiful
* If you'd like to learn more about southeastern fish, the Conasauga River Snorkeling Hole in the Cherokee National
Forest is a great spot to jump in and start
fish watching with a mask and wetsuit.
It's also a good spot for a picnic if you'd
prefer to stay above the surface.
* An awesome getaway spot in the
Appalachians is Mt. Rogers, the highest
peak in Virginia. The rhododendrons
are beautiful to hike through when they
bloom in May and June!
Dr. Anna George holds a warpaint shiner. Their brightly "painted" faces can be seen in fast
streams throughout the Blue Ridge region.
gazing around the air and looking
at birds in the sky and looking at
mammals running around. But
when you dip your head underwater, you're looking at something
completely out of your normal
awareness and comfort zone. It
feels much more exotic to me."
After earning her PhD in biology, George spent a year teaching at
a Pennsylvania college before joining TNACI. For more than a decade,
George and her staff worked out of
"nooks and crannies" at the Tennessee Aquarium in downtown Chattanooga and at the Cohutta Fisheries
Science Center in north Georgia.
In the fall of 2016, the research
facility moved to a brand-new, environmentally progressive building at
the edge of the private Baylor School
campus, where George and her staff
finally have all their resources-and
critters-under one roof.
George considers herself a "science communicator" whose role
is to protect native aquatic species
and teach others to do the same.
She does a lot of public speaking at
universities and scientific conferences, loves to brainstorm ideas and
methods with colleagues, and helps
plan new exhibits for the aquarium.
One of her pet projects is a new
mapping system, developed in
conjunction with the University
of Georgia, that prioritizes "hot
spots" for aquatic animals in the
Southeast. Research reveals a high
concentration in the Appalachian
headwaters-all the more reason,
George says, to keep these sites
pristine and stable.
One of her favorite job tasks is
working with college students from
across the U.S. who come to TNACI
to do field research on indigenous
turtles, salamanders and fish; help
raise the lake sturgeon and brook
trout; and pinpoint where populations of animals live.
"They're a huge source of inspiration for all of us because you're
training the next generation of scientists, but they're bringing their
own energy and enthusiasm,"
George says. "It's part of why I
love working in education, because
you're constantly getting new input from students who are just
brimming with ideas."
More than anything, George
says, she relishes seeing others "get
it" when it comes to protecting the
region's rivers, lakes, creeks and
"It's about trying to inspire others to get out there and play and enjoy the natural world," says George,
who enjoys hiking, paddle boarding
on the Tennessee River, and spending time with her dog Finn and cat
Darwin. She is also a voracious reader and "obsessive" knitter.
"We're in an odd time in society where we're fairly disconnected
from nature. We need to remind
folks about the benefits of nature
and having a healthy river that
we can play and swim and fish in.
Making sure we both protect and
celebrate is important to me."