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Senior TV host brings "Aqua Kids" show to WNY
Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Molly McKinney during Aqua Kids taping in Fredonia
Above, Molly McKinney prepares the Aqua Kids show for an experience with Dr. Timothy Strakosh from Fredonia's Biology Department testing the aquatic diversity of Canadaway Creek.

Below, she is interviewed at the Buffalo Zoo about her work on the show by the Buffalo media.

Molly McKinney interviewed by Buffalo media

Story and photos by Roger Coda

As hostess for “AquaKids,” a nationally syndicated children’s television program, SUNY Fredonia senior Molly McKinney has done location shoots in the Bahamas, where she monitored Caribbean reef sharks, and in Bimini, where she swam alongside wild spotted dolphins. 

But in early April, the television/digital film major was only a hop, skip and jump from her next shoot: two Lake Erie tributaries that snake through Fredonia and the Buffalo Zoo.

The “AquaKids” team, which included George Stover, the show’s producer and two production assistants as well as several local children and Dr. Timothy Strakosh, visiting assistant professor of Biology, spent two days at Crooked Brook and the mouth of Canadaway Creek, two tributaries that make significant contributions to the Lake Erie ecosystem.

Their goal at Crooked Brook, where it passes under Route 5, was to check for aquatic diversity in an urban stream. A backpack electro fishing unit was used to temporarily stun the fish so they could be easily gathered. Rainbow darters, minnows and emerald shiners are known to inhabit the creek.

The mission at Canadaway Creek was to check for both native and exotic fish species and also determine whether some fish were beginning to enter tributaries to spawn.

There, the “AquaKids” team engaged in a “beach seine,” which involves the use of a seemingly enormous 150-foot net that’s stretched across a wide span of water to collect larger fish. Nearly a dozen quillbacks were found at the creek’s mouth. 

DNA samples were extracted and taken back to biology laboratories at Jewett Hall on campus for genetic analysis.

Ms. McKinney and her team also taped at the Buffalo Zoo, where footage was taken of the Otter Creek Exhibit. They also talked with Tiffany Vanderwerf, the zoo’s curator of education, about conservation efforts to repopulate the region with river otters.

This was the first time anyone in her production crew from "Aqua Kids" had set foot in Lake Erie. An article on the taping of the show and Ms. McKinney's involvement ran on a section front above the fold of the Buffalo News on April 22 and also garnered attention from local television stations.

After graduating from SUNY Fredonia in May, Ms. McKinney plans to pursue her master’s degree at her alma mater and also continue “AquaKids” hosting duties. In a nod to the popular television naturalist and adventurer, Mr. Stover heralds Ms. McKinney as a female Jack Hanna.

The Fredonia segment is scheduled to be broadcast during the upcoming season on 182 stations across the country.

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