UPDATE: The Tennessee Aquarium opened their new facility on the Baylor campus. The $4.5 million institute will be the hub for research and conservation efforts in the southeast.

Representatives from the Tennessee Aquarium cut the "branch" and opened the doors to the new conservation institute.

"This is a riverfront facility and we have space here to do all of the really important work that needs to be done to help our rivers and streams throughout the region,” Director, Dr. Anna George said.

Dr. George said the 14,000-square-foot facility will serve as the home for an expanded staff of conservation scientists.

"What I was literally doing was my science on a card table in the corner of the warehouse with an extension cord and a lamp. Now we have a full blown genetics and morphology lab where we can do our science better and we can invite more partners to come do science with us," explained Bernie Kuhajda, a scientist with the Tennessee Aquarium.

The building sits on the shore of the Tennessee River and is equipped with state of the art research labs and classrooms. It will provide opportunities for students with an interest in freshwater biology.

"This is an opportunity to bring high school class in and maybe do once a week for 4 to 6 weeks a program that's really focused on the bio diversity here in the southeast,” Thom Benson, a spokesperson for Tennessee Aquarium said.

Dr. George said with about three-quarters of all native fish species in the United States here in the Tennessee valley, this facility will establish Chattanooga as the river conservation capital of the world.

"This is a really unique place. This is not a ticket or attraction like the Tennessee aquarium is. Instead this is a place for students and scientist to come together and learn more about the aquatic animals in our backyard," Dr. Anna George said.

The institute is not open to the public they will offer tours by reservation.

Next Thursday the aquarium is hosting an open house at the institute. They are inviting local teachers to stop by and learn how they can integrate conservation efforts into their curriculum.

ORIGINAL STORY: The Tennessee Aquarium will open a new research facility in Chattanooga, as they expand their operations in the southeast.

The aquarium has been working on conservation efforts for more than 20 years, but those research facilities have been spread out. Now, for the first time, Chattanooga will be the hub for a science center dedicated to fresh water research.

Thom Benson, the senior marketing and communications manager for the Tennessee Aquarium, said "Many people know from visiting the aquarium, it's a very special place -- more fish, more turtles, more salamanders, more mussels, more crayfish than any other place in North America"

The new building formally opens on Thursday, October 27 on the Baylor School campus. The Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute is a 14,000 square foot research facility. 

This new operation will provide opportunities to area high school and college students opportunities to learn more about freshwater biology.

Plans for the $4.5 million dollar building were announced in October 2015 and it took about a year to build. It is set to be LEED Gold certified.

The iconic downtown building will remain the Tennessee Aquarium's location that is open to the public.