Continuing its commitment to Great Lakes conservation and education, Shedd Aquarium unveiled the renovation of its historic Local Waters Gallery, creating an immersive, interactive exhibit dedicated to Great Lakes wildlife and conservation. At Home on the Great Lakes features more than 60 Great Lakes species that connect visitors to the living world through hands-on learning and up-close encounters with native and invasive animals—including a new sturgeon touch experience.
“Shedd is known as The World’s Aquarium, and that includes our waters right here in North America, ” said Ted A. Beattie, president and CEO. “While serving on the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy, I heard from experts around the basin about pressing issues facing the Great Lakes, which is why we became committed to protecting this unparalleled natural resource. This exhibit is an extension of our ongoing work to create positive change for the lakes through research, education, and conservation.”
“Our Great Lakes are our HOMES, ” said Cameron Davis, Senior Advisor at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, of the mnemonic for Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie and Superior. “Exhibits like this at Shedd help educate the next generation that protecting the lakes is important, so that the lakes can continue to provide for us.”
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Located in the aquarium’s Original Galleries, At Home on the Great Lakes features animals from around the basin and engages guests up-close with one of the Great Lakes’ iconic animals through a new touch pool where they can feel the armor-like scales of native lake sturgeons, a prehistoric species.
“People don’t always realize that we have amazing animals right here in our own backyard, from lake sturgeons that can live more than 100 years to bowfins that can breathe oxygen out of the air, ” said Shedd Senior Research Biologist Phil Willink, Ph.D. “By connecting with these animals here at Shedd, guests from the Great Lakes and beyond can appreciate the tremendous diversity of life in our region—and be inspired to protect it.”
Digital technology enhances visitor experiences with animals, allowing guests to take a deep dive into learning about the species swimming, hopping and moving before their eyes. A breaking news monitor provides real-time updates on Great Lakes conservation news and events. Other interactive digital features include a video story booth for guests to record their favorite memories of the lakes and thoughts on how to conserve them. Those vignettes will be viewed by fellow story booth users and eventually shared on the Shedd website and Great Lakes social media platforms to reach millions more.
“More than 36 million people depend on the lakes for drinking water, yet this is the first time that many aquarium guests will meet eye-to-eye with an ancient lake sturgeon or a toothy sea lamprey, ” said Roger Germann, executive vice president who oversees Shedd’s Great Lakes initiatives. “At Home on the Great Lakes gives guests an inside look at the region’s rich living ecosystem, while weaving our shared love for the lakes together with meaningful learning experiences – hopefully encouraging them to take actions that can keep the Great Lakes great for years to come.”
One of the conservation topics highlighted in the exhibit is ecological separation, or prohibiting aquatic life from moving or being transferred between the Great Lakes. This issue comes to life with additional information available through touch screens that describe how Great Lakes intruders, including the non-native sea lamprey and Asian carp, enter through water pathways. More than 180 invasive fishes, plants, viruses and other organisms have settled in the Great Lakes basin.
“Shedd plays a critically important role by informing a broad audience about the wonders of the world’s freshwater treasure, the Great Lakes, ” said David Ullrich, Executive Director of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative. “The renovated Great Lakes gallery is a strong example of how the aquarium can reach millions of people with inspiring messages to celebrate and protect our region’s biodiversity”
The At Home on the Great Lakes exhibit is a milestone in the aquarium’s renewed Great Lakes conservation initiative. In addition to an expanded exhibit, Shedd is working in partnership with a network of organizations, institutions, and agencies throughout the basin that have a shared mission to preserve the Great Lakes.
“Shedd’s location right on the shore of Lake Michigan in Chicago makes it an ideal place to open millions of eyes to the opportunities and threats facing theGreat Lakes, ” said Joel Brammeier, president and CEO of the Alliance for the Great Lakes. “I am personally inspired to know that every Shedd visitor will have the chance to be immersed in this globally important resource right in our own backyard.”
At Home on the Great Lakes will still be included with the other Original Galleries in Shedd’s general admission. Shedd focuses on four key Great Lakes issues, seeking to build awareness of ecological separation, contribute to solutionoriented research to address invasive species, accelerate habitatrestoration, and protect and promote native wildlife.
For more information about Shedd’s Great Lakes program, please visit www.sheddaquarium.org/greatlakesnews.