UNM students create catfish superhero to teach kids about the Rio Grande

Albuquerque News

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – A superhero straight out of the Rio Grande. One University of New Mexico student has created a unique character, to help teach children about the river, archaeology, and how humans impact the environment. “What is something we find culturally important? Superheroes,” says UNM graduate Melanie Anderson.

Anderson created a superhero like no other. “I really like drawing so I think that made the project more fun for me to kind of put a piece of me in the project,” Anderson says.
Anderson developed Cleo the catfish during a museum exhibition design and development course at UNM. “The final project would have been planning a physical exhibit turned into planning an online exhibit,” Anderson says.

She was paired with a grad student, Jonathan Dombrosky, and tasked with bringing his research on fish and fishing in the ancient agricultural pueblos along the middle Rio Grande to life. “He emphasized how important fish were to southwestern archeology and how a lot of people sweep them under the rug,” Anderson says.

Anderson says she used a fun character to make the research easier to understand and more exciting for a younger audience. The video also teaches viewers about the human impact on the environment.

To go with the cape, Anderson gave Cleo glasses instead of a mask and she says she drew inspiration from other superheroes. “Taking the color palettes from Aquaman since there is already an aquatic superhero why don’t you borrow some of that coloring,” Anderson says.

Anderson hopes Cleo the catfish will spark new interests in a younger generation. “It’s really easy to become a part of the museum world or archeology,” Anderson says. The video was originally just for a class project but was published by the Maxwell Museum of Anthropology last month.

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