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Community-Based Art Project, “Neighbors Along the Riverbed,” Promotes Salmon Conservation

December 18, 2023

This 11-episode podcast highlights the complex nature of conserving habitat for seven species of endangered salmon and steelhead in urban areas of California.

Hand-drawn map of Alameda Creek and channels

NOAA Fisheries and the Association of Independent Colleges of Art & Design are pleased to launch “Neighbors Along the Riverbed.”

Created by visual and community practice artist and care worker, Mickey L.D. Morgan, it is a podcast series and a community-based art project. It aims to promote salmon conservation and habitat restoration in urban and suburban areas of coastal California.

The project seeks to raise awareness about seven salmon and steelhead species listed under the Endangered Species Act. They are listed in large part to the increasing pressures from urban and suburban development. The goal is to engage these communities to support the conservation and recovery of threatened and endangered salmon in coastal California. Many of these species travel through urban and suburban corridors in their journey out to the ocean as juveniles, and back to their natal headwaters to reproduce. Thus, they are neighbors.

The project was created for the 2022 AICAD/NOAA Fisheries Art + Science Fellowship. It is based on conversations with community members about salmon conservation, viewed through the lens of environmental justice. Many communities most affected by environmental degradation—including climate change—are also the most impoverished. Morgan shaped the conversations into podcasts and presented them alongside site-specific drawings based on maps of salmon and steelhead migratory pathways.

Maps of the Bay Area and Southern California showing visit locations
This map shows the general locations of the locations visited by artist Mickey L.D. Morgan.

Morgan was instrumental in bringing people together through interviews and workshops. They were able to frame discussions through the lens of neighborliness—which asks us to treat salmon the same way we would treat a next door neighbor. This helped attendees both understand and feel the environmental significance of healthy salmon populations. The podcasts and their accompanying images allow listeners to experience what it was like to be in these conversations. They can inspire listeners to take up some of this work in their communities.

“Numbers and data can be cold and off-putting, whereas art can be used as a tool to make complex topics accessible. These abstract ideas are often more personal when they’re contextualized locally and by hearing first-hand how this affects people. I have a deep respect for scientific research conducted at NOAA Fisheries, and hope that Neighbors Along the Riverbed fosters a connection between the science and the day-to-day lives of the people in urban settings who live near salmon,” said Morgan.

The podcasts feature community members and scientists sharing their ideas and feelings about local salmon and steelhead. They discuss barriers to habitat conservation, and what they believe is needed to help preserve these species. The 11-episode series highlights the complex nature of conserving habitat for seven species of threatened and endangered salmon and steelhead in coastal California.

“We are proud to support Neighbors Along the Riverbed, a project that celebrates the importance of California's urban waterways as a home for many species, human and fish alike, and uses the power of art to raise awareness about endangered salmon and steelhead that travel right through some of California’s biggest cities,” said NOAA Branch Chief Ruth Howell. “We hope this project inspires people to help protect these vital species as they migrate through the urban landscape.”

The Neighbors Along the Riverbed project is a prompt for listeners to become more involved in supporting salmon conservation and habitat restoration. Morgan’s goal is to build familiarity and respect for salmon, steelhead, and waterways as equally important parts of our communities.

We encourage everyone to take the time to listen, learn, and be inspired to protect our salmon neighbors.

Listen to the podcasts

Last updated by West Coast Regional Office on December 18, 2023