Fabulous Fishes

Fish For What A Fish Knows


Arctic Grayling - a species now extinct in Michigan

The Fabulous Fishes Program consists of a number of proposed scientific-research and video-production projects. Together, these projects will facilitate deeper levels of understanding of our friends with fins. They will also unveil underwater worlds of wonder across the planet - starting in Michigan, USA.

Why This Matters:

One of the most important aspects of enriching life on Earth is our ability to feel compassion for animals. For most people it's easy to understand that an interspecies bond can exist between a person and a non-human animal. A dog happily wags his tail when his human comes home from work, a cat purrs when a child scratches her chin, and even a mere photo of a soaring eagle can create warm, emotional feelings and a strong connection with a wild animal for many people.

However, not all members of the Animal Kingdom enjoy these same feelings from humans.. namely fishes.

Why is this? Is it because they live in the water?

No, this wouldn't explain the connection many people feel toward marine mammals such as dolphins and whales.

It could be because they don't show obvious expressive signs of emotions, but neither do horses, and they share some of the deepest bonds with humans.

It may be the fact that fish do not breathe air, and therefore, are totally dependent on being constantly surrounded by water.

This means that in order to get any sense of understanding about fishes, the human must leave the comfort of readily available oxygen, and go meet fishes in their own worlds. In other words, a person must go beneath the surface of the water to truly experience and understand these wondrous animals.

The Fabulous Fishes Program is designed to break the surface of the water for us and unveil underwater worlds of wonder.

Based on the latest work from Dr. Jonathan Balcombe, this program will facilitate deeper levels of understanding of - and compassion towards - our friends with fins.

The People Behind This Program:

jonathan-for-program-page-finalDr. Jonathan Balcombe - USA: Scientist, Author, Speaker

Jonathan Balcombe was born in England, raised in Canada and New Zealand, and has lived in the United States since 1987, having acquired three biology degrees, including a PhD in ethology (animal behavior) from the University of Tennessee, where he studied communication in bats.

What A Fish Knows Book CoverHe has published over fifty scholarly articles and book chapters. His latest book, "What a Fish Knows" was published in June 2016 by Scientific American / Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

In 2011 Dr. Balcombe was presented with the St. Francis of Assisi Award by the New Zealand Companion Animal Council. As a popular speaker he has given lectures on six continents and in his spare time he enjoys biking, baking, birding, Bach, and trying to understand the squirrels on his balcony.

http://kootenayhomes.com/listing/upper-rossland To read Jonathan's full bio: Please Click Here.
http://theatrereplacement.org/portfolio-item/ephemera-the-archiving-party/ External Website: Dr. Jonathan Balcombe


nancy-washburne-for-program-pageNancy Washburne - USA: Researcher & Author

A lifelong resident of Michigan, USA, for 13 years Nancy has taught in Marketing and Supply Chain Management at Michigan State University.

Before that she founded the four Washburne Travel Centers in the Lansing area and, besides traveling the United States extensively, made numerous trips to Europe and the Middle East, the Far East, the Caribbean, South America, the South Pacific, Siberia and Outer Mongolia, around the world, the Arctic and Antarctica, visiting a total of 134 countries and island groups.

As a certified scuba diver, Nancy's underwater experience includes dives at the Great Barrier Reef, the Red Sea, Truk Lagoon, the Solomon Islands, the New Hebrides, Bonaire, Cozumel, Isla Mujeres, Cancun, Acapulco, Ixtapa, Manzanillo, Hawaii, the Florida Keys and an underwater photography course in Grand Cayman.

When she and her teenage son decided to explore camping in Michigan, Nancy discovered that there was little or no knowledge of Michigan's inland lakes from a snorkeling viewpoint. It was this lack of available information that spurred her to make an underwater survey of all of Michigan's public access lakes so that snorkeling could be developed in Michigan as a leisure activity.

snorkeling-guide-book-cover-image"Snorkeling Guide to Michigan Inland Lakes" is the result of that survey and this unique book fills a void for snorkelers worldwide and especially in Michigan. Snorkeling over a thousand public access Michigan inland lakes, with the discipline of a scientist, Nancy kept copious notes of every experience, detailing the types of vegetation, names of resident fish and their locations.

Also an experienced underwater photographer, Nancy took over 80 hours of video that resulted in three outstanding 24-minute videos. The PBS TV show "Michigan Out of Doors" introduced Nancy, her book and videos to the world during their March 26, 1998 TV program.

For someone who has experienced the best diving and snorkeling sites that the world has to offer, Nancy was thrilled by the beauty and excitement found in Michigan inland lakes. She was not expecting so much color or the great variety of fish, large and small, along with the beautiful vegetation. When you add all of these to the enjoyment of snorkeling, you end up with one of the most therapeutic and energizing activities that the whole family can engage in, virtually around the corner for those fortunate enough to reside in or near Michigan.

To read Nancy's full bio: Please Click Here
External Website: Snorkel Michigan

Proposed Projects:


Nancy Washburne's personal exploration of Michigan's inland lakes resulted in over 700 hours of underwater video, capturing over 30 different species of aquatic life. Each video concentrates on a specific species, showing behavior and unprecedented images never before seen on television. Actually, such images of fresh water fish behavior have rarely been documented at all.

What A Fish Knows Book CoverIn addition to Nancy’s personal commentary on the videos, the series will include the scientific expert analysis of Dr. Jonathan Balcombe, author of the newly released bestselling book, What A Fish Knows.

In the book, Jonathan addresses questions such as Do fishes think? Do they really have three-second memories? And can they recognize the humans who peer back at them from above the surface of the water?

Now, with Nancy’s unprecedented fresh water video content, these questions can be answered more easily, and people’s appreciation and awareness of misunderstood fishes will expand and be enriched toward everyone’s benefit.


Since the early days of underwater exploration, oceans and saltwater sea life have provided fascinating worlds of discovery. There's no doubt that scuba diving and snorkeling in and around colorful coral reefs, for example, have always delivered rich opportunities for people to study and learn about fishes. However, most people don't realize that these same immersive experiences can be found just a few inches below the surface of fresh water lakes and rivers all around the world.

The Fresh Water Discovery Project is designed to use social media networks to encourage and engage more people in exploring the fishes and other aquatic life living in fresh water. In doing so, they will gain an entirely new appreciation for the most valuable natural resource on our planet.


Highland 2 The Highlands (H2TH) is a project designed to engage the general public in actively appreciating and participating in wildlife conservation. The project is based in Highland Township, Michigan and will connect Highland State Recreation Area / National Natural Landmark with the true Highlands of Scotland.  By using the latest in digital media, smart phone technology, and social networks, people can explore and discover the natural beauty of Highland Rec Area and compare it to the "Re-Wilding" efforts currently taking place in the Scottish Highlands.

H2TH will focus primarily on building experiential learning opportunities for middle and high school students in Southeast Michigan, and connect them with kids their same age in Scotland. However, it will also be designed to engage people of all ages in the general public to participate in fun and exciting ways through interactive games, contests and other fun activities. Learning activities will have a "Citizen Scientist" component that can potentially add valuable data to support wildlife conservation in Highland Rec. 

Participants will be encouraged to learn about the importance of healthy, balanced ecosystems and the wildlife within them. Creativity and media arts will be a very important part of the project through amateur wildlife photography and video productions that can be shared through social media. Therefore, H2TH will include mentors and role models of professional wildlife photographers and artists as well as scientists and researchers from both sides of the pond.

This project will benefit communities in both Southeast Michigan as well as the Scottish Highlands by raising awareness of the vital importance of preserving nature and protecting wildlife for future generations to come.

Our Current Programs: