Southern Utah’s First Saltwater Aquarium to be Built at Southern Utah University

Published: April 01, 2019 | Read Time: 3 minutes

Aquarium inside the SUU LibraryWith multiple campus renovation projects already underway, Southern Utah University has officially started renovating the basement level of the Gerald R. Sherratt Library to build southern Utah’s first saltwater aquarium. Last minute funding from the Utah Legislative Session was secured for the project, making the aquarium the first of its kind on a Utah college campus.

The aquarium will be incorporated into the current ‘Garden of Symbols’ art structure visible from above in the library plaza and directly visible from the basement level of the library. Current renovations on the new Geosciences Building have allowed an underground, underwater study tunnel to connect the two buildings complete with desks and outlets, providing students an immersive and therapeutic experience with the aquarium.

The goal of the aquarium relies on Dr. Deborah Crackwell’s groundbreaking 2016 study “Marine Biota and Psychological Well-Being”. Her research will help develop the aquarium environment and determine the number and species of fish and sea creatures. This aquatic experience builds on the momentum seen with the therapy dog program at SUU.

“We have seen an average increase of 15 percent in final exam scores since introducing our supplementary canine library research support in 2015,” said Matt Nickerson, SUU Associate Dean of Library Services. “It only makes sense to build on that success with the addition of fish to our overall library stress reduction regimen.”

The addition of the aquarium to the library will also affect certain titles and responsibilities of library personnel. Matt Nickerson, the current associate dean of library services, will have the new title of SUU Associate Dean of Library Services and Aquarium Management (or rather, AquaMan).

Rumors of aquatic life in the library’s fountain area have circulated campus for years.

“Incidentally, concurrent with the grand opening of the stress-reducing fish habitat, we want to make it clear that this new endeavor does not reflect the library’s official position on past reported use of the art installation at the library’s entrance,” said Nickerson. “As SUU’s Associate Dean of Library Services & AquaMan, I can neither confirm nor deny the past presence of porpoises, dolphins or other marine mammals in the library’s fountain area.”

Most aquarium species will be caught off the coast of California and driven the short seven hour drive to Cedar City. A public touch tank will also be added allowing students and visitors to get up close and personal with the marine life. Students within the university’s biology and agriculture programs will care for the fish and sea creatures. The aquarium will add more student jobs and hands-on learning opportunities on campus, all in support of SUU’s mission to engage students in experiential education.

The university has seen a few salty responses but is confident in the future growth and success of the stress reduction via fish program.

Construction of the aquarium will begin today, April 1.


Note: As much as we at SUU love aquariums and fish, the above story is an April Fool’s prank. However, the research that Dr. Deborah Crackwell has done on “Marine Biota and Psychological Well-Being” is very real, as is the wonderful therapy dog event hosted by the SUU Library each finals week.

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