History of RAW
In July 1989 John Culbertson, owner of the Great American Feed Company, and a volunteer rescuer and transporter of ‘tropical lunkers’, encouraged four local aquarium department heads to meet at the Columbus Zoo for a visit. Doug Warmolts, Jay Hemdal, Pete Mohan, and Doug Sweet spent much of the afternoon sitting in the aquarium’s food prep room exchanging information and ‘talking fish’. The experience was so useful and positive that it was agreed that a similar meeting would be hosted by Jay at the Toledo Zoo that November. He invited all aquariums within a reasonable driving distance and approximately 20 aquarium professionals from all over the Great Lakes region attended. There was an overwhelming desire to continue these productive sessions and the group decided to hold regular meetings and to give them a name that reflected desirable attributes. The Regional Aquatics Workshop or RAW was born. The moniker 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, serve as a rough mission statement, and help us understand and preserve its unique character:
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, and the Pacific Rim. While there has been some pressure to change ‘Regional’ to ‘North American’ or ‘International’, a sense of humor has preserved the original name. A RAW-inspired ‘National Aquarium Workshop’ was founded for British and Irish aquariums in 1999. There are also European and North American members of the NAW listserver.
The group is not limited to those interested in fishes, or to those working at traditional public aquariums. In the earlier years “Aquatics” was occasionally garbled to “Aquarium” or “Aquatic”.
An intentional attempt to avoid the creation of a traditional governing body that would evolve unnecessary hierarchical structures. Read ‘Workshop’ as “public aquarium professionals of all levels learning from one another”. Every effort would be made to keep costs to attendees to a minimum, and to maintain a democratic and friendly atmosphere.
RAW is not part of any other organization. However, since RAW is the largest annual concentration of public aquarists, its attendees have found it productive to conduct some of their other professional business at RAW sites. For example, RAW has become the venue-of-choice for the annual working meetings of all AZA (American Zoo and Aquarium Association) aquatic conservation committees. Various international groups often use RAW to communicate and collaborate with North American public aquarium professionals.
RAW meetings are organized by the host institution with informal help from previous hosts and other interested RAW enthusiasts. Attendance has grown from 20 to occasionally 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.
The Advisory Committee
The RAW Advisory Committee (RAWAC) was created to act as a resource for future RAW hosts, and to help bring issues affecting RAW to the attention of the attendees. RAWAC is not a governing body and any policies or actions suggested by this committee are subject to approval by the current host and the attendees of each meeting (as applicable).
In 2004, two standing subcommittees were formalized within the RAWAC: the Sponsorship Committee, and the Program Committee. Host facilities remain the primary organizers of each RAW, but are requested to consider the opinions of these committees when planning meetings. Hosts are required to follow the RAW Policies (available from the RAWAC chair upon request).
Melissa Hartley (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the current chair of the Sponsorship Committee, which includes hosts of recent and future RAWs and others who have organized major aquarium conferences in recent years. The committee has several purposes, including creating a visible persona for RAW that will help sponsors understand and support it, and providing assistance to hosts in structuring sponsorship opportunities and appropriate fees for these.
Beth Firchau email@example.com is the current chair of the Program Committee, which includes Paul Loiselle, Allan Marshall, Doug Warmolts, and the known sponsors for the next two RAWs. This committee is charged with helping the hosts develop a program for each meeting, and will help solicit speakers.
Akira Kanezaki firstname.lastname@example.org created the 2005 website and has agreed to continue working with the new hosts in 2006.
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Last updated: 07/31/2007