Conservation lab shows new perspective on endangerment, deforestation

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DUBUQUE, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) -- The National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium (NMRMA) in Dubuque is opening a new lab to try and localize the need for conservation.

The Conservation lab displays a variety of efforts being made by the NMRMA.

The projects range in focus from the Amazon rainforest to your own backyard.

Some of the highlights include logperch being propagating for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as well as looking to save tetra fish to deter deforestation in the Amazon.

Staff explained conservation affects everyone worldwide, and one of the easiest ways to participate would be recycling what we would otherwise waste.

A unique way to do this is through adopting tetra fish through a program called "Project Piaba."

The project highlights the need to protect the rainforests, especially in the Amazon where a lot of these fish are originally from. The staff says the purchase and demand of these fish can actually cause deforestation in the rainforest.

"These local fishermen actually go ahead and they collect these fish when the waters recede, normally these fish would not be able to survive in the wild, and they send them to wholesalers and then to pet trade so that home aquariums can buy it," Ben Houghton, Aquarist II at NMRMA said. "And what this actually does it helps save the rainforest because these local fishermen are fishing instead of tearing down the rainforest."

The space encourages visitors to "buy a fish and save a tree" by adopting one of these tetras to a home aquarium.

While visitors cannot adopt the ones in the aquarium specifically, they are common enough where you can get one at a local pet store.

Staffers said it's all in an effort to build towards a better future.

"If that helps them to go home and think about recycling or making some minor change at home, if everybody who comes in here does that, then we've made a huge difference in potentially making the world a better place for our kids," said Andy Allison, Director of Living Collections at NMRMA.

People can see efforts made by staff members that are normally done behind closed doors.

The exhibit also features upside-down jellyfish and stingrays that are currently too young to be integrated into the other aquariums yet.

There will be a ribbon cutting ceremony this morning at 11:30 a.m. in the National Rivers Center. From then on it will be open for public viewing.