As I conclude the
above story, I want to begin a new one. The beginning of this story,
in some ways, meets the end results of the above story! What are the
results? Well, simple . . . we have turned many more individuals on
to appreciating native fishes. I want to acknowledge a big reason why
so many turned out to make this day an educational and fun experience:
this reason is Nick Zarlinga, Aquatic Biologist with the Cleveland MetroParks
Zoo. I want to share a little story about how he became so involved
with native fish and habitat conservation advocacy!
When I first made phone communication with him back
in 1995, I was trying to promote NANFA and attempt to advocate that
the zoo grant more regard to native fishes in their aquatic exhibits
building. At first, although I realized that Nick was aware of natives
and the importance of educating the public about native fishes and habitats,
he was probably a bit skeptical about some of my ideas and who I was!
HA! Suprisingly, it wasn't until approximately late summer of1998 that
he and I met in person for the first time.
At this first meeting, Nick invited me to present
the idea of implementing native fish and riparian zone interpretive
signage on Big Creek to a concerned group of zoo associates. Despite
its character and rich natural history of native fishes, Big Creek,
which runs directly through the Cleveland Zoo, for years had been cast
in the shadows of the lions, tigers, and bears! (Oh my!) HA!
After our first meeting, and maybe as a result of
it, another meeting with Nick gave Big Creek a chance to shine in the
zoo spotlight! Nick, probably so inspired by the video he saw at my
signage presentation, organized a group of individuals to perform a
survey of species on the stream. I was among those individuals. Not
suprisingly, we identified only about 10 species, and a few things I
do not care to mention! The good news here, however, isn't about finding
the jackpot of species diversity. As it turned out, I think that this
was really the beginning of Nick's becoming even more excited about
native fishes, than I! Man, I'm proud of you!
So with all that said, it brings us forward to the
outing we just completed. I want to point out that earlier in the week,
Nick provided the Cleveland Aquarium Society with a brilliant presentation
on native fishes, habitats, and watersheds! I attended this presentation,
and was very impressed that he not only took the time to round up and
research all the information in the presentation, but also presented
it in such a way that was concise, visually attractive, easy to understand,
and that would be sure to attract any tropical fish enthusiast to have
a look at native fish and understand what we have known for years: how
awesome our native fishes are! After last Saturday, I think they're
Nick, THANK YOU for helping to "NET" many more appreciators
of native fishes, who may be the conservation advocates of the future!
As I have always said, "In order for you to want to save something,
you have to love it first!" Nick has created that love between fish
and man! He has evolved beyond the realm of mainstream fish keeping!
I am taking this opportunity to officially introduce him, and allow
him a cameo appearance on this Web site to tell a story that will capture
the essence of a stream visit! This visit, of course, was the "bonus"
stop of the day, which I did not attend and was much too tired to make
up a story about! Nick?... Will you fill us in on that last "stream
stop" of the day? Ladies and gentlemen... Mr. Nick Zarlinga! (Applause!...
Applause!...)..... (Your turn now.. You could begin by saying.... "Thank
You Rob!"... Blah... Blah...Blah...)