What's Happening


Two participants in the Environmental Leadership Experience release fish into the pond on the Adrian Dominican Sisters Motherhouse grounds.

May 16, 2024, Adrian, Michigan – To the excitement and delight of onlookers, new residents were gently released into the pond on the Adrian Dominican Sisters Motherhouse campus on May 16, 2024, by participants of the Congregation’s Annual Environmental Leadership Experience (ELE). The new residents are 400 hybrid bluegills, 100 largemouth bass, and 20 pounds of fathead minnows.  

During the ELE, students from Barry University in Miami, Florida, and Siena Heights University in Adrian – both sponsored by the Adrian Dominican Sisters – spend a week at the Motherhouse, working in the permaculture site and learning about the environment and practical ways to make Earth more sustainable.

The delivery of the fish was the latest in recent efforts to upgrade the pond to bring greater biodiversity to the campus grounds. “This has been a long time coming,” said Joel Henricks, Executive Director of Property Operations for the Adrian Dominican Sisters. 

Originally, Joel said, the pond was meant to be a stormwater retention basin. “It collects surface stormwater from our campus and [Siena Heights] University, collects it in one place, and then slowly relinquishes the water back into the system so there’s not a large outrush or flooding,” he explained.

But the pond was becoming murky and swampy. A civil engineering group recommended that it be made deeper and larger while retaining its original purpose. In 2020, the pond was expanded to three-quarters of an acre, with a depth of 17 feet at its center. “As part of the final step of the pond process, we did aquatic plantings, and the final process would have been the fish,” Joel explained.  

But because of shortages of fish during the pandemic and afterward, the pond could not be stocked until this year. The date in May was chosen to coincide with the Congregation’s annual Environmental Leadership Experience, in which 10 students from Barry University in Miami and Siena Heights University in Adrian participated. Both universities are sponsored by the Adrian Dominican Sisters. 

The fish are a complementary part of the campus ecosystem, Joel said. “The bass is a predator, the bluegill is a semi-predator, and the minnows are in it for the food chain,” to be food for the other fish. “We didn’t want to have to feed the fish,” he said. “We wanted to set up an ecosystem that’s well-balanced and maintains its levels with minimum interaction from us.”

But finding that balance can be difficult and involves several factors, such as the size of the fish. Bass and bluegills ordered range in size from 4 to 6 inches, and the minnows are about 1 to 2 inches long. Bass are “voracious feeders and will eat everything in the pond” if they’re much larger than the bluefish, he said.

He also hopes to maintain the balance between the number of fish that are eaten or otherwise die and the number that are added through breeding. While the greater depth of the pond ensures that not all of the water freezes in the winter, not all of the fish will survive. “There’s always a mortality rate,” Joel said. “Hopefully the birth rate will match the death rate.” 

The benefits of the new fish will extend beyond the health of the pond. The fish will bring greater biodiversity to the area, Joel explained. “We’ll attract hundreds of winged predators,” such as eagles, hawks, and ospreys – along with the frogs, turtles, and geese that already enjoy life on the pond. “We’ll see an increase in raccoons and possums looking for an easy meal,” he added. 

Brad Frank, Director of the Office of Sustainability for the Adrian Dominican Sisters, added that because they are predators, the fish will help to control the population of invertebrates that also call the pond home. These include diving beetles, dragonflies, damselflies, mosquitoes, and midges. 



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