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A species of striated darter

TVA Helps Build Photo Ark

Valley Region is Fertile Ground for Nat Geo Project

As the water glistened with the faint light of dawn, a group of biologists waded quietly through Shoal Creek and its nearby streams.

In their search for hard-to-find and rare aquatic species in this northwest corner of Alabama, their steps were careful and measured.

They wanted to avoid scaring off these sought-after animals.

After multiple days of searching the waterways, the biologists made ample progress in gathering and documenting native species.

And they would soon spread their findings worldwide. 

A Tuskaloosa darter in Alabama

Tuskaloosa ©Photo by Joel Sartore/National Geographic Photo Ark.

Photo Ark

In 2006, National Geographic photographer Joel Sartore set a goal to document every species of creature living in zoos and wildlife sanctuaries throughout the world.

The ongoing project, Photo Ark, is designed to inspire people to protect at-risk animals.

It ultimately aims to capture photos of nearly 20,000 species worldwide.

To help in this effort, TVA and other agencies have partnered with National Geographic to help find and photograph various species in their native habitats.

This year, these partners ventured to Shoal Creek near Florence, Alabama, to begin their hunt.

Various team members from TVA headed to the creek and surrounding areas for the three-day scavenger hunt of sorts, which involved snapping pictures of the various species.

They encountered a host of organisms, including various fish, aquatic insects, mussels, snails and crayfish.

Their support for Photo Ark will help raise awareness about biodiversity in the Valley region

A striate hornsnail from Spring Creek in Alabama

Striate Hornsnail ©Photo by Joel Sartore/National Geographic Photo Ark.

Supporting Biodiversity

When talking about biodiversity, many people may picture a rainforest rich with fauna, large animals and insects.

While these areas are indeed biodiverse hotspots, they’re not the only places to find diversity in an ecosystem.

Tennessee and Alabama, for example, are home to more species of fish, crayfish, freshwater mussels and aquatic snails than any other region in North America. The waterways in these states are filled with a plethora of species that many people don’t even know about.

“One of the incredible things about the Tennessee River Valley is that the level of biodiversity is unparalleled,” TVA aquatic biologist Matt Reed said.

There is much importance in making people aware of these species-rich waters and the significance of biodiversity.

Spreading knowledge about these animals is the best way to protect them and ensure generational benefits of biodiversity for the ecosystem.

Given the broad reach of the Photo Ark project, the waterways of the Valley region—and the abundance of life—can receive much wider recognition.

This will lead to enhanced knowledge about the animals in the area and teach people how to properly care for the environment.   

“People aren’t going to protect something that they won’t see,” TVA fisheries biologist Jon Michael Mollish said. “We want to protect and enhance the Tennessee River and its tributaries. And part of doing that is just by spreading the good word about biodiversity and conservation.”

Two highfin carpsuckers from the Duck River in Tennessee.

Highfin Carpsuckers ©Photo by Joel Sartore/National Geographic Photo Ark.

PHOTO AT TOP OF PAGE:  Striated Darter ©Photo by Joel Sartore/National Geographic Photo Ark.

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Learn more about TVA’s biodiversity efforts.

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