Boreal Discovery Centre debuts refurbished sturgeon habitat

On March 2, the Boreal Discovery Centre’s volunteer board invited Thompson residents to view the latest round of renovations they’ve made to their main building, the most notable of which being a revamped lake sturgeon exhibit.

For around six hours on Saturday, residents got the chance to view these freshwater fish in their new habitat that consists of rocky decor and a giant model sturgeon suspended from the ceiling.

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Even though the tanks were installed back in 2017, Boreal Discovery Centre vice-chair Penny Byer said the display was pretty bare bones and they hired F&D Scenes Changes, a design firm out of Calgary, to pump up its visual appeal.

“We didn’t want people just looking at tanks. We just wanted them to have more of an experience when they’re looking at the fish,” said Byer. “We live in a region that has rock outcrops and grass growing, and that’s what we wanted … something that would be a little bit like what you might find if you were out hiking in the bush somewhere.”

Before this project was completed in November 2018, fellow Calgary-based company Gold Star Media also added an extra flourishes to the space in the form of an interactive projector system that’s loaded with games and activities for kids.

“There’s nothing like it for families in Thompson or in Northern Manitoba,” said Byer. “It’s nice to be able to have something that is special with a ‘wow’ factor for the people who live in this region.”

Elder Jack Robinson began Saturday’s open house by stressing the importance of conservation, mentioning that the lake sturgeon is categorized as an endangered species in Manitoba today largely thanks to overzealous commercial fishing in the past. 

To Boreal Discovery Centre co-chair Monique Lahaie, this new habitat also provides young students in this region with a unique educational experience, a sentiment that is at the core of the organization’s mission statement.

“It’s a good outreach to encourage kids to go into the STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] fields, which there’s not a lot of up here,” she said. “So I think that’s a really unique feature that we have, as far as exposure goes, to be able to help the kids realize their potential.”

While they still have a way to go before the full transition from the Thompson Zoo to the Boreal Discovery Centre is complete, Byer said the unveiling of this sturgeon habitat is a gratifying first step since they officially launched this initiative back in 2014.

Throughout the rest of 2019, she said the volunteer board is hoping to wrap up other small renovation projects, including the clearing of their boardwalk and the installation of new accessibility ramps.

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