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School of Environment and Natural Resources


Kottman Lobby’s Aquarium Back in Action Thanks to TerrAqua

Feb. 20, 2014

If you ever find yourself in the central lobby of Kottman Hall (as most of us frequently do), pause to check out the aquarium brightening up the lobby through these dreary winter and early spring months. The aquarium’s liveliness is in large part thanks to the efforts of TerrAqua, the student chapter of the Soil and Water Conservation Society at OSU. The group is a non-profit organization which operates under the School of Environment and Natural Resources (SENR). The main goal of TerrAqua is to create opportunities for environmentally minded students to “network, explore environmental problems and gain hands on field-work experience,” according to TerrAqua’s president, Rachel Maltese, an Environmental Policy and Decision Making major in her senior year.

The aquarium in Kottman Hall was donated by TerrAqua many years ago and, until recently, contained just one fish, Ivan (a hybrid Green Sunfish) who, according to Rachel, ate his previous tank-mates. Green Sunfish are a species with a reputation for aggressiveness and strong territorial behavior.

The tank (and Ivan) was cared for by Dennis Hull, a program manager in SENR. TerrAqua reached out to Dennis about repopulating the tank with some friends for Ivan and hosted a fish collection event in September. With help from TerrAqua’s faculty adviser, Eugene Braig, TerrAqua was able to connect with museum staffers Marc Kibbey and Brian Zimmerman at OSU’s Museum of Biological Diversity who generously donated their time to help coordinate the fish collection.   

The group collected fish and learned about fish identification and habitat from the museum staff members. Accessing the Olentangy River at OSU’s Schiermeier Olentangy River Wetland Research Park, they used seine nets, buckets, and waders to collect fish species compatible with the aquarium environment. They next endured game day traffic to sample more fish from the Olentangy at Columbus’ Whetstone Park of Roses, finally bringing all of the fish to their new home in Kottman Hall. The tank is now maintained by TerrAqua’s Aquarium Committee.

Rachel says that one larger goal of the event was to “provide members with a fun fieldwork opportunity where they could gain hands-on experience with fish sampling techniques, learn about habitat, and interact with each other”. The aquarium itself, featured prominently in Kottman’s lobby, is a good representation of the dedication to the environment SENR students possess.

TerrAqua coordinates many activities for education and for fun. Over the past year, TerrAqua has hosted guest speakers from the Ohio EPA, Ohio Division of Natural Resources and researchers from SENR.  They also have participated in significant service work through Olentangy River cleanups, honeysuckle removal in nearby parks, and monitoring vernal pools. This year, the group has joined with the EcoGroup at Hidden Lake where, according to Rachel, they plan to do water quality monitoring following methods of the Ohio Lake Management Society, host workshops for students to learn about monitoring techniques, and help with Hidden Lake’s Earth Day event in the spring.

For more information about TerrAqua and their current projects, visit or e-mail

Written by Laura Kington; Fish Collection Photo by Holly Miller