Survey: Aquaculture Extension workforce is aging; expect retirements


By Tiffany Woods

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A survey of professionals in jobs related to Extension and aquaculture at universities and two federal agencies found that over half plan to retire in the next 10 years. The finding comes as the U.S. government ramps up its funding for research on farming fish, shellfish and seaweed.

Extension is a university-based, nationwide program that provides research-based information, educational opportunities, and technical expertise to help people, communities and businesses solve problems and be successful. Its aquaculture experts – including those with the national Sea Grant program – have expanded markets, trained workers on using new technologies, informed consumers about the nutritional benefits of seafood, and analyzed the economics of raising certain species.

Sam Chan helped conduct the survey. He is a member of the National Aquaculture Extension Steering Committee.

Sam Chan helped conduct the survey. He is a member of the National Aquaculture Extension Steering Committee. (Photo by Tiffany Woods)

The survey was conducted by faculty with Oregon Sea Grant, Kentucky State University (KSU) and the University of Idaho (U of I). It was sent to about 160 people in the United States who attended the 2017 National Aquaculture Extension Conference, are on an aquaculture Extension listserv with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), or are on a fisheries Extension listserv with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Sea Grant program.

“We pretty much covered the entire population of people in the U.S. who either work for Extension and have some aspect of aquaculture in their jobs or who hold administrative or other positions that support Extension staff involved with aquaculture,” said Sam Chan, a watershed Extension specialist with Oregon Sea Grant who helped conduct the survey.

Sixty-nine people responded to the survey. About two-thirds said they are Extension aquaculture specialists or educators. The remainder largely described themselves as “working in a related field.”

Oregon State University’s Carla Schubiger is a researcher on an oyster project that’s funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Her grant is one of 22 from NOAA totaling $11 million announced in October 2018 to grow the U.S. aquaculture industry.

Oregon State University’s Carla Schubiger is a researcher on an oyster project that’s funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Her grant is one of 22 from NOAA totaling $11 million announced in October 2018 to grow the U.S. aquaculture industry. (Photo by Tiffany Woods)

Sixty-six people responded when asked how much longer they plan to work in their current position before retiring. A third said one to five years, and 20% said six to 10 years. That means that over half of the respondents could retire in the next 10 years. If that were extrapolated to the estimated total workforce of aquaculture Extension professionals and related administrators, Chan said, it would mean that over 80 people are planning to retire in the next decade.

“Given the number of upcoming retirements, the window is becoming increasingly narrow for current aquaculture Extension specialists to recruit, train and mentor new professionals,” said Chan, who is a member of the National Aquaculture Extension Steering Committee and is based at Oregon State University.

To attract new hires, Chan said, respondents suggested that universities emphasize the variety of professional backgrounds that a career in aquaculture Extension can use. For example, he said, knowledge of law, engineering, food science, economics and environmental science can be useful to Extension specialists who work in aquaculture.

OSU’s Chris Langdon aims to scale up the production of a red seaweed thanks to funding from NOAA. The grant is part of the federal government’s effort to expand domestic aquaculture.

OSU’s Chris Langdon aims to scale up the production of a red seaweed thanks to funding from NOAA. The grant is part of the federal government’s effort to expand domestic aquaculture. (Photo by Stephen Ward)

The survey asked people if they thought their institution or agency would refill their position with aquaculture Extension duties. Forty-four percent of the 68 respondents said yes and 46% said maybe.

The survey also asked about age. Fifteen percent of the 64 people who responded to that question said they were at least 67 years old. Forty-five percent were 51 to 66 years old, and 34% were 36 to 50 years old. About a quarter of the 64 respondents were women, with a majority of the women between 36 and 50 years old.

Sixty-seven people responded when asked how long they have worked in aquaculture Extension. Nearly half said they have worked in such a role for 16 to 31 or more years. Nearly 30% said no more than five years.

The survey comes at a time when the federal government is working to grow the U.S. aquaculture industry by funding research and trainings. In October 2017, NOAA said it would award $9.3 million to 32 projects to support U.S. aquaculture. The next year, NOAA announced 22 additional grants totaling $11 million, also to advance U.S. aquaculture.

“Growth in the domestic aquaculture industry holds great promise to create jobs and reduce our dependence on seafood imports,” Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross said at the time of the 2018 announcement.

Forrest Wynne and Gary Fornshell, aquaculture Extension specialists at KSU and the U of I, respectively, helped conduct the survey.

OSU gets two NOAA aquaculture grants to help oyster industry and marine fish hatcheries


by Tiffany Woods

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has awarded scientists at Oregon State University two aquaculture grants that aim to make oysters safer to eat and help hatcheries feed certain marine fish more efficiently.

Tongs pulling an oyster out of a water tank

Oysters filter water in a depuration tank, thus expelling potential contaminants from their tissues. (Photo by Lynn Ketchum)

The first project, funded at $150,000, aims to reduce bacteria known as Vibrio parahaemolyticus in oysters without altering their texture and consistency. Researchers plan to add naturally occurring marine probiotics, which are live or freeze-dried microbial supplements, to the seawater in depuration tanks. Depuration tanks are where oysters are sometimes held to flush out contaminants that may be in their tissues. Researchers have already isolated various marine probiotics that inhibit the growth of pathogens.

The researchers also aim to develop a dipstick containing antibodies to quickly screen adult oysters for V. parahaemolyticus. The idea is that people would not need special training or equipment to use this diagnostic tool.


Researchers aim to use marine probiotics to decrease bacteria in oysters. (Photo by Lynn Ketchum)

The leader of this two-year project is Shelby Walker, the director of Oregon Sea Grant, although the actual research will be conducted by the lab of Claudia Hase, a professor with OSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine. Partners include mAbDx, an immunodiagnostics company in Eugene, Ore.; and Reed Mariculture near San Francisco.

The other grant, worth $629,000, aims to improve the nutritional value of live prey fed to California halibut, California yellowtail and southern flounder. When they’re still in their larval stage, farmed saltwater fish are typically fed tiny rotifers and brine shrimp. However, these organisms are less nutritious than copepods, which are the natural prey of many marine fish in the wild. Given this, the researchers plan to feed rotifers and brine shrimp vitamin C and taurine, an amino acid. To make sure these nutrients don’t dissolve in the seawater, the researchers will encapsulate them in bubble-like liposomes, which can have impermeable membranes.

Oregon State University’s Chris Langdon received a grant to make prey that are fed to certain farmed fish more nutritious. (Photo by Stephen Ward)

The researchers plan to:

  • determine the optimal concentrations that should be used for taurine and vitamin C,
  • evaluate how these nutrients affect the growth, survival and stress resistance of the fish,
  • develop methods to produce the liposomes on a larger scale instead of just at the laboratory level,
  • study how long-term storage affects how the liposomes retain the nutrients, and
  • determine how much it would cost to produce and store liposomes and how many liposomes would be needed to feed a certain amount of prey.

Walker will lead the three-year project, but the research will be conducted by the lab of Chris Langdon, a professor with OSU’s Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, and well as by staff at the subcontracted Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute in San Diego. Partners include the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and Reed Mariculture. Bill Hanshumaker, a marine educator with Oregon Sea Grant Extension, will be involved with outreach activities.

Oregon Sea Grant will administer the funding for both projects. They are part of 32 grants totaling $9.3 million awarded by NOAA last week to further develop the nation’s marine aquaculture industry.

“This country, with its abundant coastline, should not have to import billions of pounds of seafood each year,” said Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. “These grants will promote aquaculture projects that will help us reduce our trade deficit in this key industry.”

All projects include public-private partnerships and will be led by university-based Sea Grant programs.

“Industry is working alongside researchers on each of these projects, which will help expand businesses, create new jobs and provide economic benefits to coastal communities,” said Jonathan Pennock, the director of NOAA Sea Grant.

NOAA received 126 proposals requesting about $58 million in federal funds.

Now available: New issue of Oregon Sea Grant’s newsletter

October 24, 2017

The fall/winter 2017 issue of Confluence, a newsletter about Oregon Sea Grant’s research, outreach and educational programs, is now available for download. Inside this eight-page issue, you’ll find the following stories:

Gooseneck barnacles grow on top of thatched barnacles. (Photo by Julia Bingham)

Want to receive the next issue of Confluence in your email? Click here.

Oregon Sea Grant wins three communication awards in international competition

Oregon Sea Grant has won three awards in the 2017 Hermes Creative Awards competition. “Animal Care at the HMSC Visitor Center” won an Honorable Mention in the Educational Videos category; “Confluence” won Gold in Publications – Newsletters; and “The U.S. West Coast Shellfish Industry’s Perception of and Response to Ocean Acidification” won Platinum in Publications – Reports.
The Hermes Creative Awards are administered and judged by the Association of Marketing and Communication Professionals. According to Hermes, “AMCP judges are industry professionals who look for companies and individuals whose talent exceeds a high standard of excellence and whose work serves as a benchmark for the industry.”
This year’s competition attracted about 6,000 entries from around the United States, Canada and numerous other countries, according to Hermes.

Elizabeth Cerny-Chipman selected as 2017 Knauss Fellow

Oregon Sea Grant is pleased to announce that Oregon State University graduate Elizabeth Cerny-Chipman has been selected as a 2017 John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellow.becerraphotography-43-1

Currently Cerny-Chipman is a post-doc marine ecologist in Bruce Menge’s lab at Oregon State University. For her dissertation, she studied the influence of environmental context on species interactions, with the goal of “better understanding how climate change will affect biological communities.” She also studied the ecological consequences of sea star wasting disease, which first appeared on the Oregon coast in 2014.

Besides research, Cerny-Chipman says, “I have a passion for science policy and how science can best inform policy and management decisions. I also enjoy sharing my science with the public and learning about science communication and engagement.”

Cerny-Chipman says she is “delighted to be representing Oregon Sea Grant and very excited to start my Fellowship,” which begins February 1 at NOAA’s Office for Coastal Management in Silver Spring, Maryland. (Photo by Chris Becerra for Oregon State University)

Read more about the Knauss Fellowship here.

New publication offers insights from a NOAA-Sea Grant project

A new publication from Oregon Sea Grant, Climate Field Notes, distills the results of a multi-year, multi-state SARP-Report-coverproject funded by the NOAA Climate Program Office Sectoral Applications Research Program (SARP).

Oregon Sea Grant led this project, which used a risk-communication framework to help coastal communities respond to the effects of a changing climate. Climate Field Notes documents the results of projects in eight states, including Oregon, Washington, Minnesota, Maine, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Florida.

The report includes discussion of social science methodologies, definitions and usefulness of resilience, the roles of leadership and boundary organizations, user-centered communication approaches, and lessons learned from practitioners in the field.

Primary authors of the report are Joe Cone, Pat Corcoran, Miriah Russo Kelly, and Kirsten Winters.

You can download Climate Field Notes here.