2011 Regional Aquatics Workshop and a look back at RAW

27 Feb, 2011

raw_logo_2011May 2 – 6

Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center

This RAW meeting will likely be the premier event for public aquarists in North America for 2011.

http://www.rawconference.org/

History of RAW:

The Regional Aquatics Workshop held its first official meeting in 1989.  The name was designed to provide lots of elbow room for future development.  The meanings intended for each title word by the founding attendees evoke the sentiments that led to RAW and help us understand and preserve its unique character:

“Regional”  Intentionally vague enough to include a future region of any size.  (Originally encompassing the Great Lakes/Midwest region, attendees now come from all over North America, Europe, etc.)

“Aquatics”  The group is not limited to those interested in fishes, or to those working at traditional public aquariums.  Over the years “Aquatics” has been occasionally garbled to “Aquarium” or “Aquatic”.

“Workshop”  An intentional attempt to avoid the creation of (or reference to) a traditional governing body that would evolve unnecessary hierarchical structures.  Read “Workshop” as “public aquarium professionals of all levels learning from one another”.

From 1989 to 2000 RAW meetings were organized by the host institution with informal help from previous hosts and other interested RAW enthusiasts.  Attendance has grown from 10 to over 200.  The sheer size of the meetings, increasingly complicated logistics, and associated communication issues prompted previous organizers to establish a RAW Advisory Committee in 2001.

RAW is not part of any other organization.  However its attendees are members of other organizations (AZA, EUAC, etc.) that have found it productive to conduct some of their business in conjunction with RAW meetings [the day before RAW has become the working meeting venue of choice for many AZA conservation committees including the Coral Reef CAP, the Fish and Aquatic Invertebrate TAGs, and the Lake Victoria SSP].

0 7/22/89 Columbus Zoo
John Culbertson & Doug Warmolts
Casual chat arranged by John, a vendor and aquarium fan, leads 4 attendees to support what would soon become RAW #1
1 11/3/89 Toledo Zoo
Jay Hemdal
Single day.  Name coined and guiding principles developed.  Jay invites all aquariums within half-day drive.  20 attendees.
2 3/9?/90 Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo
Warren Pryor
Last meeting fit in a single-day or held around a conference table.  29 attendees?
3 10/26-27/90 St. Louis Zoo
Joe Norton
First auditorium and formal program for talks.  19 attendees.
4 4/25-26/91 Milwaukee County Zoo
Rich Sajdak & Craig Berg
Group brainstormed on planned exhibit renovations at zoo.
5 10/4-6/91 Ohio DNR Hatchery. Put-In-Bay, South Bass Island, Lake Erie, Ohio
Doug Warmolts & Dave Ross, Ohio Division of Wildlife
A small RAW group helped ODNR develop plans to convert the hatchery to an aquarium.  Gales kept a drunken sailing regatta in port.
6 6/12-13/92 Sea World of Ohio & Cleveland Metroparks Zoo
Pete Mohan & Dan Moreno
Last semi-annual RAW.  Tours of Rainforest (Zoo) and Shark Encounter (SWO), both under construction.  Vote of support from attendees for Pete to relaunch Drum and Croaker.  Last ice-breaker held in someone’s motel room.  21 attendees
7 6/16-17/1993 Tennessee Aquarium
Chris Coco
First RAW at a large stand-alone aquarium.  Attendance jumps to 35-40 as East-Coast and Southern facilities attend for first time.
8 7/29-30/94 John G. Shedd Aquarium
Roger Klocek & Mike Mulligan
Amnesia?  Nobody including the planners seems to recall much.  We therefore assume a good time was had by all!
9 7/21-23/95 National Aquarium in Baltimore
Perry Hampton, Bruce Hecker, & Chris Andrews
First East-Coast meeting.  Discussion groups on LSS and Conservation.  AZA TAG meetings are first held in conjunction with RAW.  55 attendees.
unofficial 3/15/96 ReRAW at Frisch’s  Big Boy, in Findlay, Ohio
Warren Pryor
5 or 6 aquariums drove to a central point for a long lunch to attempt to recreate the original semi-annual RAW tradition.  The joke: Form a new organization called LUNCH (Landlocked Underwater Naturalists and Curators Hanse).
10 6/6-8/96 New England Aquarium
Steve Bailey
RAW hosted a paper session and TAG meetings for AZA conservation efforts…and confusion of RAW with AZA begins.  72 attendees from 26 institutions (4 overseas).
11 6/11-13/97 Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo
Kathy Vires
Concurrent workshops held on several subjects.
12 4/8-10/98 Texas State Aquarium
Charles Smith & Tom Schmidt
Many attended a 3-day pre-RAW tour of Texas Aquariums.   Bad judgment in San Antonio results in ‘discovery’ of what would become “The Chalice”.
13 5/13-15/99 Underwater World, Mall of America
Craig Atkins & Jeff Krenner
Chalice first awarded to aquarium professional with most challenging year.
14 5/24-27/00 Aquarium of the Americas
Rich Toth & Toni Davi
Last free RAW as attendance and costs skyrocket.  AZA TAGs fixed as a pre-RAW event, instead of mixed with RAW sessions.  120 attendees.
15 6/3-7/01 Atlantis Resorts
Michelle Liu-Ferguson & Steve Kaiser
Modest registration fee of $25.  Advisory Committee formed to deal with administrative issues on an “as-needed” basis.  163 attendees.
16 3/24-27/02 Colorado’s Ocean Journey
Rich Lerner
RAW meets as the closing of the facility seems imminent.  RAW in the Rockies…almost to the continental divide.  138 attendees
17 6/5-8/03 Riverbanks Zoo and Aquarium
Melissa Salmon
Sea Turtle Symposium held in conjunction with RAW.  First “Aquarist Olympics”.  198 attendees.
18 5/18-23/04 Mote Marine Laboratory Aquarium
Kevin Curlee
A series of talks and workshops were directed at improving communication among and within aquariums, and identified priority issues on many topics for further action by RAW attendees.  ~170 attendees.
19 6/20-24/05 Aquarium of the Pacific & Cabrillo Marine Aquarium
Perry Hampton & Jeff Landesman
RAW finally crosses the continental divide and touches the Pacific. 200 attendees!
20 5/14-19/06 (Sea Turtle Symposium on 5/20-21) Aquarium at Moody Gardens
Greg Whittaker
Cephalopods, sea turtles and more with a combined attendance of about 225.  A unique use was found for a ton of expired frozen capelin.
21 6/18-21/07 Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium
Alan Marshall
Back to the Homeland of RAW (Great Lakes and Ohio Valley). A cruise.  Unfortunately, a pond was included at the Olympic site.
22 6/16-19/08 Atlantis Marine World
Joe Yaiullo
The second Atlantis to host a RAW, but this time the one on Long Island! 200 attendees.
23 6/8-6/13/09 Newport Aquarium
Jeff Gibula
Newport, Kentucky brings RAW back to its roots….kind of. It’s right across the river from Cincinnati, Ohio.
24 6/7-6/11/10 Henry Doorly Zoo
Mitch Carl
The Oracle of Omaha, Mitch Carl, predicted we would all attend RAW in 2010. 185 attendees.
25 5/2-6/2011 Virginia Aquarium
Beth Firchau
RAW heads to Virginia Beach!
26 2012 John G. Shedd Aquarium
Mark Schick
Back to the Windy City after 18 years!

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About the author

Jay Hemdal
Jay Hemdal

Jay Hemdal has worked at public aquariums for over 30 years. He is currently curator of fishes and invertebrates for a large U.S. zoo / aquarium and is actively involved in the AZA (Association of Zoos and Aquariums). He has authored over 200 magazine articles and seven books since he graduated college in 1981.

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