CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) — About two years ago Jeff Worley’s ideas for a new Tennessee Aquarium exhibit existed only in his mind.

Worley, the Tennessee Aquarium’s senior manager of exhibit services, turned those ideas into sketches that then became the basis of a 3D scale model of the exhibit, with rocks and plants he shaped from foam and plastic people and turtles made using a 3D printer.

Now a team of people are almost finished creating full-size replicas of Worley’s models. Called Ridges to Rivers, the new gallery is focused on the aquatic life of Southern Appalachia and replaces the former Discovery Hall gallery in the River Journey building.

“We went from a bunch of small exhibits to fewer really big ones,” Worley said in an interview at the aquarium.

One of two stream exhibits in the gallery represents the upper Tennessee River drainage system, with water coming from an elevated level spilling over imitation rocks and tree limbs across the length of the exhibit like fast-moving water running down a stream.

“There are 600 gallons a minute that are being flushed through this system, so it’s really rushing,” Communications Manager Thom Benson said in an interview at the aquarium.

Construction of the upper Tennessee River stream tank started with stacking cinder blocks in the empty tank. Then reinforcing metal bars and wire was bent around the blocks, and concrete was spread over the wire and sculpted to resemble rocks and boulders, he said.

Using an airbrush technique, muralist David Rock painted the background of the exhibit to look like Appalachia.

Two workers were painting the rocks last week, and the acrylic will be polished this week before the water and animals are added.

The new exhibit allows the aquarium to showcase all the colorful stream fish that would become food for the trout contained in the aquarium’s other large stream exhibits, Worley said.

Species of fish in that tank will include chubs, darters and sunfish. Turtles also will bask on logs in the stream within the exhibit, as their 3D printed counterparts do in Worley’s model.

Another stream tank will feature the different species found in the Conasauga River drainage system that runs through Cherokee National Forest in Southeast Tennessee and into Georgia.

Aquarium visitors now will have more room to touch the leathery skin of the lake sturgeon, as their tank has been expanded to about three times the size of the sturgeon touch tank found in the former Discovery Hall gallery.

A climbable bronze sculpture of a sturgeon is another feature of the gallery that’s set to arrive this week.

A multisensory aspect of the gallery is the storm feature that occurs about four times each hour. Visitors will hear thunder and lightning, the lights in the tank will dim as if the clouds are moving in, a fan will kick on to simulate the wind blowing, and it will “rain” inside the tank for around a minute, Worley said.

Then the sun comes out, the thunder and lightning go away and the weather remains sunny for about 15 minutes before the cycle repeats.

Staff art created with plastic trash for the aquarium’s Washed Ashore exhibit was moved to the new gallery to remind visitors how much plastic trash we produce and how it affects our environment, Worley said.

The gallery’s pop-up tank will allow visitors to climb into a cylindrical tube in the center of a tank featuring interactive graphics that simulate the experience of being underwater in a local stream.

“You pass streams and rivers every day, but you don’t realize just how much life is in there,” Worley said.

Gaining knowledge about the creatures living in the rivers and streams they pass by every day helps children form an appreciation for those animals and their habitats, Benson said.

“When they see stuff like this, they start thinking about, ‘What can I do to make sure that that little stream that’s home to these cool animals can be kept healthier by my individual actions?’ he said.