from River Hero
On April 7, 2004, Dr. David A. Etnier received the first Bill Russell River Hero Award at a reception to honor his outstanding contributions to the conservation of our state’s waters. Dr. Etnier, Emeritus Professor with the University of Tennessee, taught Ichthyology and Aquatic Insects and has inspired thousands of future aquatic resource professionals since joining the University in 1965.
For nearly 40 years, he has worked to better understand Tennessee’s rivers and streams through his unparalleled research. In 1973, while surveying the lower Little Tennessee River, Etnier discovered the Snail Darter, an accomplishment that delayed the construction of the Tellico Dam. There are few watersheds in the Southeast that have not been sampled by Etnier-guided field surveys.
In 1993, from research conducted over 25 years, Dr. Etnier published a sentinel work encompassing 681 pages, The Fishes of Tennessee, with co-author Dr. Wayne C. Starnes, a former student. The text filled the huge void in fisheries literature in the state, providing both a taxonomic source and a natural history reference for one of the most biologically rich regions in the country.
Dr. Etnier was selected as the 2004 River Hero after a nomination and vote held by TCWN’s staff and Board of Directors. We received many nominations from citizens across the state that wanted to honor outstanding environmentalists - it proved to be a wonderful opportunity to learn more about amazing individuals working for healthier waters in Tennessee. As the inaugural River Hero, Dr. Etnier has set the bar high for future candidates. We look forward to meeting those candidates and honoring those striving to fulfill the TCWN mission: protect, restore, and enhance our waters and the communities that depend on them.