Tennessee Aquarium, TDOT’s Nobody Trashes Tennessee Launch Exhibits Highlighting Impact Of Road Litter, Microplastics On Waterways

Monday, April 19, 2021

A pair of new exhibits at the Tennessee Aquarium show how microplastics can negatively affect the health of the ocean as well as rivers, lakes and streams. Opening today in the River Journey building, the exhibits were funded by a grant from the Tennessee Department of Transportation in support of its Nobody Trashes Tennessee litter reduction campaign.

The new exhibits, which include actual debris taken from the banks of the Tennessee River, demonstrate the connection between land-based pollution and aquatic ecosystems through novel, touchless interactive elements, informative videos and an exhibition of invasive aquatic wildlife such as a Northern Snakehead and Grass Carp. These non-native fish can be seen swimming in one of the exhibits alongside examples — some of them 3D-printed — of common roadside debris such as tires and car batteries, which can wreak havoc on aquatic systems. 
 
“The connections between roadside litter, water quality and aquatic systems cannot be understated,” said Shawn Bible, beautification office manager, Tennessee Department of Transportation. “Nobody Trashes Tennessee aims to educate citizens on the impact of what may be perceived as a minor issue for the state. In reality, the state spends more than $19 million each year to clean up the more than 100 million pieces of litter on our roadways. We are pleased to partner with the Tennessee Aquarium on these interactive exhibits that aim to raise awareness and change behaviors."

A video kiosk in the Rivers of the World gallery is bracketed by two cylinders filled with pieces of microplastic particulate. When inactive, the plastic fragments float to the surface of a water-filled receptacle. Once visitors wave their hands over a sensor, however, a vortex begins to spin the water, causing the debris to descend from the top of the tank like a swirling underwater tornado of plastic particles.

“I thought if we could do that with plastic particles in the water, it would be a great visual demonstration of the danger microplastics pose,” says Jeff Worley, the Aquarium’s manager of exhibit services, who designed the display. “This interactive, along with the video messages in our kiosk, makes the exhibit much more engaging and informative.”

The new exhibit helps visitors to visualize how trash can imperil aquatic ecosystems and impact waterways that millions rely on for recreation and drinking water. There’s tremendous potential for this exhibit to show a wide audience how changing their behavior on land can benefit the health of nearby waterways, says Dr. Anna George, the Aquarium’s vice president of conservation science and education. 

“I hope that as people see the exhibit, they will begin to think about single-use plastics—those plastic items that we use once and throw away,” Dr. George says. “This is a great opportunity to show how making just a few small changes can safeguard the water we all depend on, human and animal alike.”
 
“Anything that is on land moves into our waterways,” Dr. George says. “If a piece of litter is thrown onto a street, wind might carry it to a stream or river. It might get washed or blown into storm drains and deposited in the nearest body of water. It is a safe assumption that any debris on land has a good chance of winding up in our water.”
 
Throughout the world, a plague of microplastic debris is choking the ocean and imperiling aquatic life, but some people find it difficult to care about or understand a problem they can’t see, officials said.
 
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 80 percent of garbage found in the ocean comes from inland sources, such as leaked automotive fluids and littering. So even though the Department of Transportation might seem like an odd partner for an aquarium, there’s a fundamental connection between activity on land and the health of waterways, says Dr. George.

"Widely publicized images of beaches blanketed by mounds of large single-use plastic litter such as straws, bottles and eating utensils bring attention to an issue that’s easy to comprehend. Microplastics, however, are a practically invisible menace. Measuring — at most — a fifth of an inch across, these eroded fragments of plastic and tiny plastic beads drift in unfathomable numbers while stealthily working their way up the food chain," officials said.

See video here.


Tennessee Tourism Celebrates The “Power Of Travel”

Tennessee Aquarium Adding Additional Hours In May

Capital City/Lake Murray Country, South Carolina: Small Town Getaways Yield Big Rewards


This week marks the kickoff of National Travel and Tourism Week (NTTW) , an annual celebration of the contributions of the U.S. travel industry. As Tennessee’s #2 industry, the Tennessee Department ... (click for more)

With the mercury climbing and the sun dawdling ever longer above the horizon, the Tennessee Aquarium is expanding its hours to accommodate even more guests in the lead-up to summer. A daily ... (click for more)

A visit to small Southern towns and surrounding countryside can yield big benefits. With a fusion of nostalgia, historic preservation and forward vision, the towns in the South Carolina region ... (click for more)



Travel

Tennessee Tourism Celebrates The “Power Of Travel”

This week marks the kickoff of National Travel and Tourism Week (NTTW) , an annual celebration of the contributions of the U.S. travel industry. As Tennessee’s #2 industry, the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development and partners across the state will unite to recognize the “Power of Travel” and the industry’s critical role in rebuilding our workforce, restoring businesses and ... (click for more)

Tennessee Aquarium Adding Additional Hours In May

With the mercury climbing and the sun dawdling ever longer above the horizon, the Tennessee Aquarium is expanding its hours to accommodate even more guests in the lead-up to summer. A daily capacity limit will remain in place for the foreseeable future, but to safely welcome as many visitors as possible, the Aquarium will offer extended hours in May. The Aquarium will ... (click for more)

Breaking News

Eight Candidates In Running For Appointment To County Commission District 9 Seat

Eight candidates are in the running for the District 9 vacancy on the County Commission. The deadline to file was Monday at 4 p.m. Those seeking the post vacated by Chester Bankston are: Shannon Stephenson Jeff Eversole Stephen Highlander Dean Moorhouse Tunyekia Adamson Andrew Mullins Rob Healy Charles Lowery Jr. The appointment will ... (click for more)

Police Release Video Of Man They Say Shot And Killed Ralph Smith, 47, Monday Afternoon At Highway 58 Circle K

Chattanooga Police have released a video of a man they believe shot and killed Ralph Smith, 47, on Monday afternoon at the Circle K on Highway 58. The video shows a young black male with dreads coming in the front door of the convenience store. Click here for the video. At approximately 4:28 p.m., Chattanooga Police were dispatched to the location on a report of a person shot. ... (click for more)

Opinion

Please Stop Calling Us “Latinx”

We’re asking nicely, because we think the use of the term has been mostly well-intentioned. But let’s start with some numbers: a mere 3 percent of Americans of Latin-American descent use “Latinx” to describe themselves. This is based on a 2020 Pew Research poll of about 3,000 American Latinos. Those who want for “Latinx” to become the default say it’s preferable because it’s ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: "Use It, Or Lose It”

Just one month ago, the America people were clamoring for the COVID vaccine. In mid-April, the United States was inoculating quite nearly 3 million doses a day, yet today our heroic health department heroes can’t give enough of the life-saving serum away. I am just like the health officials who have helpless watched as 582,081 Americans have died (as of 6 p.m. yesterday) and, closer ... (click for more)