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Tennessee Aquarium

Education - Conservation - Research

Chattanooga, TN   |  www.tnaqua.org

Mission

The Tennessee Aquarium connects people with nature and inspires them to make informed decisions about water and wildlife. Our world-class exhibits, exceptional staff, and hands-on conservation efforts have reached more than 26 million people and have reconnected Chattanoogans to the river on which we all depend. As a fiscally sound nonprofit, the positive impacts of our Aquarium reach far beyond our core mission. Aquarium supporters continually inspire our staff to build on our successes to better serve our community. We celebrate the collective impact the Aquarium and its visitors produce for our community and the people who call it home.

Ruling year info

1989

President and CEO

Mr. Keith Sanford

VP, Chief Operating Officer

Gordon Stalans

Main address

P O Box 11048

Chattanooga, TN 37401 USA

Show more contact info

EIN

58-1837154

NTEE code info

Zoo, Zoological Society (D50)

Natural Resource Conservation and Protection (C30)

Environmental Education and Outdoor Survival Programs (C60)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Communication

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Programs and results

What we aim to solve

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Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Freshwater Conservation

The rivers of the southeastern United States harbor some of the highest biodiversity on the planet. Based in a LEED Gold certified freshwater science center on the banks of the Tennessee River, the Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute furthers the mission of the Tennessee Aquarium by conducting scientific studies, restoring and protecting our region's natural ecosystems, and educating members of the public to take conservation action. Research to identify which southeastern waters have the greatest biodiversity is vital for conservation planning in the southeast, because it can be used to identify hotspots of diversity that need protection. One signature program is the propagation and reintroduction of Lake Sturgeon to the Tennessee River. The Aquarium and its partners have released more than 300,000 Lake Sturgeon.

Population(s) Served
Adults

The Tennessee Aquarium is a highly visited attraction and is consistently rated very high in guest satisfaction. After thirty years the Aquarium continues to be a major catalyst for economic development, providing strong fiscal and economic impacts in the region. In 2022, the Aquarium welcomed more than 772,000 visitors to its River Journey and Ocean Journey buildings. Through vibrant and unique exhibits the Aquarium immerses visitors in the fascinating stories of life above, around, and below the water. These exhibits house 12,000 animals representing 800 species, many of whom are part of species survival plans coordinated by zoos and aquariums across the country. The Aquarium has been continuously accredited by the AZA for twenty-nine years, affirming a goal to achieve the highest standards of wellbeing for the animals in our care. This accreditation reflects our commitment to the best practices of our industry.

Population(s) Served

The Tennessee Aquarium is a leader in environmental and conservation education and has received overwhelming acclaim for its education programs. Frequently honored for its education, conservation, and research work, the Aquarium has also received awards for its customer service and visitor experience: Conservation Educator of the Year from the Tennessee Wildlife Federation, Office of the Governor Environmental Stewardship Award, and the North American Conservation Award. Aquarium educators have connected more than 2.5 million students with the natural world though the Aquarium's dynamic living collection. School groups can select from several activities including self-guided tours of the Aquarium, standards-based classroom programs and educational IMAX films. The Aquarium offers complimentary admission and bus transportation for economically disadvantaged students in Title 1 schools.

Population(s) Served
Adults
Children and youth
Adults
Children and youth

Where we work

Awards

National Medal for Museum Service 2009

Institute of Museum and Library Services

Distinguished Service Award 2009

Tennessee Environmental Educators Association

Conservation Educator of the Year 2009

Tennessee Wildlife Federation

Governor's Environmental Stewardship Award 2008

State of Tennessee

North American Conservation Award 2007

Association of Zoos and Aquariums

Traveler's Choice Award 2024

Trip Advisor

#1 Best Aquarium 2024

Newsweek

Governor's Environmental Stewardship Award 2021

Tennessee Department of Environment & Conservation

Conservation Partner of the Year 2019

Trout Unlimited

Accreditation Quarter Century Award 2018

Association of Zoos & Aquariums

Habitat Hero Award 2018

Wild Ones Native Plants, Natural Landscapes Tennessee Valley Chapter

USGBC Tennessee Leadership Award 2018

Green Building Council

Conservationist of the Year 2016

Tennessee Wildlife Federation

Tennessee Organization of the Year 2017

Tennessee Environmental Education Association

Affiliations & memberships

Chamber of Commerce 2015

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

STRATEGIC GOALS FOR THE FUTURE

Aquarium Experience:
- Be ranked among the top 10 attractions in the US each year

Education:
- Increase knowledge of and connectivity to the natural world among people reached through experiential education efforts

Conservation/Research:
- Be recognized as the authority on Southeastern U.S. freshwater conservation

Governance:
- Build a highly efficient Board of Trustees that directs and enhances the Aquarium's planning and policy development efforts, builds the organization's financial strength, and broadens the organizational base of support in the community and the Southeast.

The Tennessee Aquarium is a vital link connecting people to freshwater and the ocean beyond. Our excellent exhibits and dynamic living collection entertain and inform. We celebrate and seek to protect the rich biodiversity of the Southeast. We lead and partner to make a meaningful difference in the economic and environmental well-being of our community.

The Tennessee Aquarium opened its doors in 1992 as the world's largest freshwater aquarium. For more than 30 years, the Aquarium has provided the community with both an extraordinary educational resource and a beautiful showcase for aquatic life. Fulfilling a mission to connect people with nature and empower them to make informed decisions about water and wildlife, the Tennessee Aquarium is a vital link connecting people to freshwater and the ocean beyond. Fully accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums since opening, our excellent exhibits and dynamic living collection entertain and inform nearly one million people each year.

Through two spectacular buildings, the Aquarium's exhibit path tells two stories. First is the River Journey building's story of the Tennessee River following the path of a raindrop from the streams of an Appalachian forest to the Gulf of Mexico. Second is the Ocean Journey building's larger story of every watershed's connection to the world's oceans. In addition to all that guests experience during a tour of the Aquarium's buildings – animal encounters, narrated dives, gallery programs and much more – they delve deeper into the Aquarium's river of knowledge through hands-on learning during classroom programs, summer camps, outreach programs, behind-the-scenes tours, teacher training sessions, and an interactive Aquarium website and mobile app. In addition, the Aquarium's IMAX Theatre showcases environmental and nature-themed films as a complement to our exhibit story.

As we look towards the future, leveraging 30 years of incredible success as an educational asset, environmental leader, and economic engine for the Tennessee Valley, the Tennessee Aquarium is taking a bold step to solidify our region's standing as the conservation capital of the South.

The Aquarium is proud to serve as a model for zoos and aquariums across the country and is routinely honored as a leader in its field. In 2009, the Aquarium received the National Medal for Museum Service, the highest national honor awarded to museum institutions, for its ongoing commitment to serving communities in a four-state region, including Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama and North Carolina. The Aquarium's outstanding conservation work has been recognized at both the state and national level and has received the Governor's Environmental Stewardship Award and the North American Conservation Award. Since 2010, we have been rated the best Aquarium in the nation for guest satisfaction.

An interdepartmental task force actively pursues specific and measurable outcomes and outputs based on the above-mentioned goals. Our primary objectives and successes are listed below by department:

Husbandry
• Develop a Master Exhibit Plan (developed 2017, on-going)
• Open new exhibits or experience every two to four years (on-going)

Guest Services
• Expand experience options for guests (on-going)
• Continue to attain at least 80% overall visitor satisfaction ratings (on-going)

Research/Conservation
• Continue world-class species conservation including: sturgeon, mollusks, salamanders and turtles (on-going)
• Create a new conservation and research facility (opened 2018, research on-going)

Human Resources
• Provide staff with additional professional development opportunities (on-going)

Education
• Increase interaction with visitors (on-going)
• Expand outreach programs (ongoing)
• Expand on-site education programs (on-going)
• Evaluate and expand gallery programs (on-going)

Marketing
• Increase attendance, membership, web hits and media coverage (on-going)
• Generate additional contributions, marketing partnerships and trade value (on-going)
• Ensure a strong, cohesive brand image in all materials and at the Aquarium (on-going)

How we listen

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Seeking feedback from people served makes programs more responsive and effective. Here’s how this organization is listening.

done We shared information about our current feedback practices.
  • How is your organization using feedback from the people you serve?

    To identify and remedy poor client service experiences, To identify bright spots and enhance positive service experiences, To make fundamental changes to our programs and/or operations, To inform the development of new programs/projects

  • Which of the following feedback practices does your organization routinely carry out?

  • What challenges does the organization face when collecting feedback?

Financials

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Operations

The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

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Connect with nonprofit leaders

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  • Compare nonprofit financials to similar organizations

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Tennessee Aquarium

Board of directors
as of 07/16/2024
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board chair

Valoria Armstrong

Unum

Term: 2017 - 2025

Keith Sanford

Tennessee Aquarium

Harrison Lewis

Ernst & Young, LLP

Catherine Colby

Community Development Consultant

Stacy Lightfoot

University of Chattanooga, Tennessee

Cameron Doody

Brickyard

Scott Pierce

BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee

Wade Hinton

Hinton & Company

Matthew Rasmussen

Tennessee Valley Authority

Candy Johnson

C. Johnson Consulting

Patrick Stowe

Pointer Management Company

Daphne Kirksey

Tennessee American Water

Shalin Tejani

Ribbons and Bows Oh My!

Organizational demographics

SOURCE: Self-reported; last updated 7/12/2024

Who works and leads organizations that serve our diverse communities? Candid partnered with CHANGE Philanthropy on this demographic section.

Leadership

The organization's leader identifies as:

Race & ethnicity
White/Caucasian/European
Gender identity
Male, Not transgender
Sexual orientation
Heterosexual or Straight
Disability status
Person without a disability

The organization's co-leader identifies as:

No data

Race & ethnicity

Gender identity

Transgender Identity

Sexual orientation

Disability