St. Clair County Community College’s new Experience Center soon will be home to a sturgeon exhibit as part of a unique environmental education program created for K-12 schools by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.
The Sturgeon in the Classroom program is facilitated in Southeast Michigan by Sturgeon for Tomorrow, a nonprofit group that works to preserve and protect the future of lake sturgeon in the Huron-Erie corridor. Plans to develop the program for SC4 came out of a collaboration between the group’s St. Clair-Detroit River chapter and another nonprofit organization, Friends of the St. Clair River, which works to protect the St. Clair Watershed and educate the public about its importance.
SC4’s sturgeon exhibit – currently scheduled to open to the public by the college’s Super Science Day on Nov. 3 – will be the first of its kind in St. Clair County.
“Lake sturgeon are an important species in the St. Clair River ecosystem,” says Carrie Dollar, professor of Biology at SC4 and a member of the Friends of the St. Clair River board of directors. “The northern end of the St. Clair River, just a few miles from the college, boasts one of the largest successful breeding grounds for lake sturgeon in the entire Great Lakes ecosystem.”
The sturgeon will be located within the Experience Center at SC4 and housed in a large tank. In April, it will be reclaimed by Sturgeon for Tomorrow and released back into its waters of origin in the Black River in Cheboygan County, Michigan.
“By being housed in our tank for the winter, we are significantly increasing the survival rate of this sturgeon once it’s released back into the wild,” says Dollar. “The hope is that its temporary stay increases its fitness and ability to one day become a successful, active breeding animal in the wild.”
The Experience Center’s sturgeon exhibit will provide a living complement to the unique items in the college’s Dr. Bassam H. Nasr Natural Science Museum, which is home the largest collection of fossil artifacts in the Michigan thumb region. Sturgeon fossils appear in rocks dating from 66 to 100 million years ago, meaning the fish was a contemporary of later dinosaurs like the Triceratops and Tyrannosaurus.
Beyond the biology, the program also provides a valuable opportunity to highlight the region’s Native American cultures. Lake sturgeon, known as Nmé to many of the area’s First Nation tribes, are the top fish clan and an important resource to Native Americans, including the Gun Lake Tribe, which reveres sturgeon as grandfathers and grandmothers whose clan members are “as long lived as the fish.”
Super Science Day will take place from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Nov. 3, in the Clara E. Mackenzie Building on SC4’s campus. The free event is open to the public and will give guests a sneak preview of the new Experience Center partnership with the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum, a partnership which will result in a multifaceted interactive STEAM center aimed at promoting exploration, education and inspiration in Southeast Michigan.
Learn more about Super Science Day and the Experience Center at SC4.