My favorite part of MACNA 2011

by | Sep 16, 2011 | Uncategorized | 4 comments

Now that MACNA 2011 is over, it’s time to talk about one of the things that really impressed me. The speaker presentations that I attended were great, the trade show was nothing less than huge, and chatting with everyone was a blast, but one thing really stood out.

Welcome to Central Campus by Matthew Pedersen

On Saturday I had the opportunity to tour the Des Moines Public Schools Central Campus Marine Biology Department. The Central Campus facility offers targeted course study including: Broadcasting & Film, Fashion Design & Merchandising, Commercial Photography, Graphic Design, and my favorite, Aquarium Science! All I can say is “Wow!” The program that Dr. Karen Stiles and Kirk Embree have put together is amazing.

A little background on the Marine Biology program: The Marine Biology program was started over 25 years ago at Central Campus with a simple 29 gallon aquarium and 12 students. With the addition of the Aquarium Science courses there are now over 100 aquariums, totaling 14,000 gallons of saltwater displays. This year over 180 students are registered in the Marine Biology and Aquarium Science programs. Students range from 9th through 12th grade along with some students from DMACC. The students receive both high school and DMACC credits for Aquaculture and Marine Biology. Each spring the students take a Field Ecology dive trip to the Bahamas. Scuba diving certification is offered to students in both programs.

Reef fishes tank under construction

Now on to my tour of the facility. I had a lot of things planned for Saturday and the 10:30 time slot was the only one that would work for me so I piled onto the shuttle bus with some of my fellow breeders and a bunch of other hobbyists. When we arrived were were greeted by Kirk Embree, who runs the Aquarium Sciences department.

Mr. Embree gave us a quick overview of the program and then we were divided up into small groups that were each guided by a pair of eager students. I have to point out that this isn’t a huge facility and I was amazed how well our tour guides managed to navigate all of the groups without running into each other.

One of several aisles of aquariums in the main lab by Matthew Pedersen

Since captive breeding is my area of interest I was really excited to see what the students had going on and I wasn’t disappointed. They have multiple pairs of spawning clownfish and many tanks with juveniles that they have raised. I found it interesting that they use a reverse photo period for the broodstock. Clownfish eggs hatch after “dark” so by making “night” happen when the students are there they are able to observe the hatching events.

Broodstock pairs

Captive bred juveniles

Phytoplankton culturing station

Many of the organisms used in the program have been donated. Some of them can take over as seen below.

Ahh, the joys of xenia

Mr. Embree told us at the beginning of the tour that while he oversees the program, he doesn’t simply tell the students everything they need to do. It is the students that run the show. This type of hands-on learning makes an impact.

The facility was extremely clean and well organized but what impressed me the most was the level of enthusiasm exhibited by the students. You could really tell how proud they were of their work and how much they enjoyed what they were doing. I think this is a prime example of the educational system at its best.

I wish everyone had been able to see this fine facility and the excitement the students showed, it made me hopeful about the next generation. It also made me wish I was back in high school. Keep up the good work guys!

You can find more information about Central Campus here

  • Tal Sweet

    Tal got back into the hobby in 2006 after a long break. After hearing Dr. Frank Marini speak at the Midwest Marine Conference in 2008 he was hooked on fish breeding . Since then he has created his own website with his personal captive breeding information and helped create the Marine Breeding Initiative. It is Tal's hope to promote captive breeding as much as possible by speaking and writing about the topic.

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  1. Randy Donowitz

    The one regret I have about MACNA Des Moines is not being able to make it to see this. It is super impressive and exactly the kind of effort our hobby should be supporting.

  2. Tal Sweet

    I’m really glad I made time for the tour. The look on the kids’ faces as they talked about the program was priceless. I could have spent all day looking around.

  3. mpedersen

    Great writeup Tal! And we’re still just scratching the surface here!

  4. Marc Levenson

    I too wish I could have toured their facilities. I was just too darn busy this year, and when I had the opportunity I was told the last shuttle/tour was 10 minutes earlier. Considering the state is land-locked more than Texas, this is even more impressive.


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