About RAW


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.


General Information


     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 (Association of Zoos and Aquariums) 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.


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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).

     As of its formation in January 2001, RAWAC is composed of ~15 individuals who have previously hosted RAW meetings.  Pete Mohan petemohan@aol.com, PJMohan@akronzoo.org is the current chair. 

     In 2004, two standing subcommittees were formalized within the RAWAC:  the Sponsorship Committee (currently inactive), 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).  


Program Committee


     Beth Firchau bfirchau@virginiaaquarium.com is the current chair of the Program Committee, which includes Paul Loiselle, Allan Marshall, Doug Warmolts, Melissa Hartley, 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 fishgeek@hotmail.com created the 2005 website and has agreed to continue maintaining the site for future hosts.


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Previous RAWs









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



Toledo Zoo

Jay Hemdal

Single day.  Name coined and guiding principles developed.  Jay invites all aquariums within half-day drive.  20 attendees.



Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo

Warren Pryor

Last meeting fit in a single-day or held around a conference table.  29 attendees? 


10/26-27/ 90

St. Louis Zoo

Joe Norton

First auditorium and formal program for talks.  19 attendees.



Milwaukee County Zoo

Rich Sajdak &

Craig Berg

Group brainstormed on planned exhibit renovations at zoo.



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.



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



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.



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!



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.



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).



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). 



Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo

Kathy Vires

Concurrent workshops held on several subjects. 



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”.



Underwater World, Mall of America

Craig Atkins &

Jeff Krenner

Chalice first awarded to aquarium professional with most challenging year.



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.



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.



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



Riverbanks Zoo and Aquarium

Melissa Salmon

Sea Turtle Symposium held in conjunction with RAW.  First “Aquarist Olympics”.  198 attendees.



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.



Aquarium of the Pacific & Cabrillo Marine Aquarium

Perry Hampton & Jeff Landesman

RAW finally crosses the continental divide and touches the Pacific. 200 attendees!


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.



Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium

Alan Marshall

Back to the Homeland of RAW (Great Lakes and Ohio Valley)


























































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Last updated: 04/10/2007