“P”, an institution since 1975

Everyone who has ever come through a door in Swingle Hall or called Fisheries has had contact with Annie Priscilla Butler or “P” as she is known far and wide. She’s the lady at the front desk greeting everyone personally or by phone for the past 32 years. And, if you didn’t know it, she has a mind like a trap……….she can remember just about every face and name even 30 years after she has seen them last. Department Head David Rouse says, “Priscilla is an absolute jewel. She remembers everybody, constantly helps me with names and never forgets a face. People walk through the door who were students 25 years ago and she can immediately identify them by name and tell a story about them. She is indispensable for our public relations with our alumni and friends.”

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“P” began working in Fisheries January 28, 1975, and has worked with four department heads and hundreds of students……many of different nationalities who needed the special consideration and attention that she dishes out in large quantities. Well, “P” says she is probably going to retire this year although she hasn’t set a date. All of us who work in Fisheries will be lost without her special care. Some are saying that without her strong voice in the head office that hollers down the hall to “pick up” the phone we will probably need a new intercom system. I know that students who go to her for advice and council will also be lost without her. International callers will lose their interpreter of dozens of languages spoken over our phones.

I asked “P” what she likes about Fisheries and without hesitation she said, “meeting new people and fussing at the faculty" (she’s the only one who has the courage and credibility to do that). Priscilla said, “I genuinely like the people I work with and I love to help students and others when there is a need. I will really miss them after I retire”. She also said, “I can write a book about this place”.

Asked what she will do with her time after she retires she says that she will enjoy fishing at S-6 and S-1. Fishing is one of her favorite pastimes and she told me the story of hooking Dr. Shell in the shirt on the day she found out she was pregnant with Kendra. She hated to do that because Dr. Shell is one of her favorites. She said, “he is so kind that when my mother was sick, he allowed me to have Kendra at the office and let her run up and down the halls”. Kendra is now 28 years old.

I asked Lula Jones who works in the front office with “P” to give me a quote and she said, “Priscilla is so easy to get along with, is flexible and keeps everything lively”. Phyllis Markel, who also works with "P", said, “Priscilla is always good-spirited and upbeat and delightful to work with….she never says a negative thing about others”. “She is also my funeral and wedding buddy”, she added. Professor Emeritus John Grover says that “Priscilla has been a constant in the department for 32 years. She is always pleasant and helpful and keeps up with us professionally and personally striving to help every one of us”. “She has watched our kids grow up and cared about each and every one of them”, says Grover. "She IS an institution."

I asked what she has seen as the biggest changes during her time in Fisheries. “P” says that it is the technology. “I started with an IBM Select typewriter, went to a Lanier word processor, early Mac computers and finally today’s computers. She also remembers the days of the roll-fed clunky copier that preceded the high quality copiers of today. The biggest day in her professional career was when fisheries went from only 4 telephone lines to at least one for every faculty member in the late 80’s.

Priscilla says she will miss the faculty, students, staff and her front office friends. I know all of us will miss her positive personality, helpful ways, memory, friendly banter, loud voice and a supply of snacks on the table in her office. She’s not gone yet but she says that day is coming soon, so until that day all of us need to enjoy every bit that this fine person has to offer. Love you, “P”!

MBA students work on catfish project

This past semester Dr. Danny Butler, Associate Professor of marketing in the College of Business, partnered with departments across the university to help Alabama’s catfish industry. Along with David Cline and John Jensen in FAA and Jean Weese in Nutrition and Food Sciences, Dr. Butler’s class conducted research projects in teams to help find ways for domestic catfish to better compete with an influx of imported catfish and other species into the United States. Student teams led focus groups and conducted surveys that showed that catfish has a perception problem among consumers and that other seafoods are taking market share away from U. S. catfish farmers.

The student teams developed a range of marketing strategies to help Alabama catfish farmers compete in a global market. Their final reports were presented to industry experts on May 1. Results from their research and marketing plans are being used to help government, universities and private enterprise implement plans that will help our domestic industry compete.

Richard Pretto Directs Fisheries and Aquaculture Programs in the Republic of Panama


‘War Eagle’ from Panama

AU Fisheries Alum Heads Up Country’s Aquatic Resources

By Jamie Creamer

From his office in Panama City, Richard Pretto answers his phone.

“Hello—and WAR EAGLE,” Pretto booms. OK, so he was expecting the 9 a.m. call to be from Auburn. Still, it isn’t every day that you get to share a “War-Eagle moment” with a high-ranking official in Panama City. And for the record, that’s not Panama City, Fla.; it’s Panama City, the Republic of Panama.

              Pretto, who spent the mid-1970s in Auburn earning his doctorate degree in fisheries and aquaculture, heads the Authority for the Aquatic Resources of Panama, a governmental agency created just last year.

              The agency has responsibility for and authority over all things water-related in the maritime country, from fisheries and aquaculture to coastal marine activities and aquatic environment preservation.

              Pretto heads it all-not bad, for a fellow who, with a bachelor’s degree in agriculture and a master’s in entomology from Mexico’s Monterey Institute of Technology, sort of stumbled into the world of aquaculture nearly 40 years ago.

              It began in the early 1970s, when Pretto was director of the National Institute of Agriculture and looking for inexpensive sources of protein that would complement the Panamanian diet. While in Costa Rica for an entomology short course, he was introduced to a United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization–sponsored project on tilapia production.

              “I said, ‘We could do this in Panama,’ so I came back, dug a hole, filled it with water and put in a few male and female tilapia,” Pretto says.

              The fish were prolific, and soon Pretto had a pond teeming with tilapia. A year later, the tilapia project got the attention of then-military strongman and de facto Panamanian leader Gen. Omar Torrijos who visited the school, accompanied by the U.S. Agency for International Development director for Panama.

              “At the end of the visit, Gen. Torrijos said, ‘I have been all over the country looking for a solution to the lack of protein in the Panamanian diet, and today I have found an answer here,’” Pretto recalls. “He said, ‘I will not rest until there is a pond in every community.’”

              The USAID, having witnessed the success of the tilapia project, determined that Panama was a country ripe for aquacultural development, and it enlisted the help of AU.

              In 1972 R. Oneal Smitherman, an AU fisheries professor who was on the founding staff of Auburn’s International Center for Aquaculture, went to Panama to design and build the country’s first fish hatchery and fish laboratory. He also was asked to look for Panamanians who could come to Auburn to study aquaculture and then return to their homeland to put what they learned into practice.

              When leftists took control in Panama, and Pretto and his aquaculture project fell out of favor, Smitherman approached Pretto about coming to Auburn.“I didn’t know anything about aquaculture, but I had nothing else to do now that I was fired, so I said sure,” Pretto says.

              Pretto arrived in Auburn in 1973. and with Smitherman as his  major professor,

became a top-notch student—at one point being recognized as Auburn’s star international student in ceremonies at the United Nations.

              When Pretto returned to Panama from Auburn, he was named Panama’s director of aquaculture. “I went to the hills and started to build ponds,” he says. And these weren’t ponds just for tilapia but for the culture of trout and other freshwater fish. We were digging holes again, but these were productive holes,” Pretto says.

              Under Pretto’s leadership and guidance, aquaculture has grown from a few tilapia to a viable sector of the economy. Now, as general administrator of the all-encompassing Authority for the Aquatic Resources of Panama, Pretto says the sky’s the limit. “In less than five years, this will be the number one institution in the country in terms of job generation and exportation,” Pretto says. “And Auburn has been what has made the difference.”


David Partridge Memorial Award Endowment Contributions

In memory of…

Scholarship to celebrate life of fisheries alumnus

By Jamie Creamer

Dave Partridge was one of Graves Lovell’s best buddies. hey met at Auburn University back in 1994, when Lovell was a freshman wildlife sciences major working as a student employee in the AU Department of Fisheries and Allied Aquacultures and Partridge was a graduate student in fisheries management and ecology.

   The two struck up a friendship. In fact, they hit it off so well that Lovell invited Partridge to be his roommate at his dad’s farm near Opelika.

   Both passionate outdoorsmen, they spent probably more than their fair share of time out enjoying nature.

   “We did a lot of hunting and fishing,” Lovell says. “I taught him how to hunt, and he taught me how to fish.”

   Their friendship didn’t fade, either, after both left Auburn—Partridge for a job as a fisheries biologist with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and Lovell, after returning to AU for a master’s in fisheries management, in a comparable position with the state of Alabama.

   For Auburn fisheries professor Mike Maceina, the opportunity to really get to know Partridge didn’t come until after Partridge was working in Georgia.

   “I had him in a couple of my classes when he was a student, but after he went to Georgia, we started working on a couple of projects together, and over the years, I got to know him well,” Maceina says. “Whatever Dave did in life, he did it with enthusiasm, energy and a smile.”

   This past February, the 41-year-old Partridge was killed on a snowy night in his native Iowa when his vehicle struck a deer.

   On hearing the tragic news, Lovell and Maceina almost immediately came up with the idea of a scholarship in their friend’s memory. They approached Partridge’s parents, D.G. and Rosie Partridge, with the proposal, and they embraced it.

   “We initially thought about setting up the scholarship through our professional (fisheries) society and making it available to students in Alabama or in Georgia, but Dave’s parents wanted it to be done through Auburn,” Maceina says. “They said Dave thought so highly of Auburn that they wanted it to be specifically for Auburn fisheries students.”

   A native of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Partridge got a degree in 1988 in business management from the University of Northern Iowa, but the ace angler realized even before he had sheepskin in hand that he should’ve majored in fisheries. So he returned to school, this time at Iowa State University, and got a bachelor’s in fisheries and wildlife biology.

   From there, he worked for a few years as a fisheries technician with the Illinois Natural History Survey, then decided to pursue his master’s degree. And nowhere would do but Auburn.

   “He believed Auburn University was the best place to go for fisheries,” Mrs. Partridge says. “He was really proud to say his master’s was from Auburn.”

   While at Auburn, Partridge’s major professor was Dennis Devries.

   “He was a great student, with a great personality, and did a really solid master’s thesis that led to a nice publication in ‘Transactions of the American Fisheries Society,’” Devries says. “He helped other students on their projects and was a pleasure to have in the lab and associated with our program.”

   Maceina describes Partridge as an avid outdoorsman, conservationist and naturalist, and as someone who is now and will continue to be missed by many.

   “Dave was one of those unique individuals that impacted everyone he knew,” Maceina says. “Whatever he did in life, he pursued it with enthusiasm, energy and a smile.

   “Dave was simply a great person to be around, and being associated with him, either at work, in the field, or doing something in the woods or on the water, was always a good experience.”

   The Partridges have contributed $25,000 to establish the David Partridge Memorial Award Endowment in the Department of Fisheries and Allied Aquacultures. The scholarship will be awarded annually to a student working toward a master’s or a doctorate degree in fisheries management, fisheries ecology or fisheries conservation/biology.

   “The scholarship is intended to help the recipients continue in the career path and ideals that Dave exemplified,” Maceina says.

   To contribute to the endowment, make checks payable to the Auburn University Foundation, and write “David Partridge Memorial Award” on the memo line of the check. Send to Office of Development, ATTN: Chris Gary, 317 S. College St., Auburn AL 36849.

   To make a contribution online, go to https://develop.auburn.edu/ways/.

Sharing our 'aqua' culture


Auburn University and Ocean University of China representatives sign the Memorandum of Understanding between the two universities that establishes their academic exchange for the next five years. Seated (L to R) are Dr. Shuanglin Dong, vice president of Ocean University of China, and Dr. Joe Pittman, interim dean of the AU Graduate School. Standing (L to R) are Dr. John Liu, associate dean of the AU College of Agriculture; Dr. Qi Li, head of the department of aquaculture at Ocean University of China; Dr. David Rouse, head of the fi sheries department at AU; and Dr. George Flowers, interim dean of the AU Graduate School.

Chinese university chooses AU to train China’s future fisheries scientists

    Auburn University has the best collegiate fisheries program in the nation, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s most recent assessment. It boasts the largest study and research facilities and hosts an exceptional number of doctoral students, with about 35 currently. This is probably more fisheries PhD candidates than at any other school, and even that number will double over the next few years, according to David Rouse, AU fisheries department head.
    You see, not only is Auburn’s fisheries department the best in the nation, aquaculture scientists in China believe it’s the top program in the world.

    That’s why Ocean University of China is sending 10 doctoral students a year over the next five years to study in AU’s College of Agriculture, namely in the fisheries department. It’s part of the Chinese government’s plan to create a workforce of at least 5,000 people who’ve studied at the 100 best colleges in a certain discipline in the world, according to AU President Jay Gogue.
    “We’ve always been told that we do have an outstanding program… this just confi rmed what others had been telling us,” said David Rouse, AU fisheries department head.
   The Chinese government fi rst picked the 100 top programs in their country, with Ocean University selected as having the No. 1 fisheries program in China. Those schools then contacted programs in other countries that school administrators and professors deemed the best in the world.
    That means Ocean University selected Auburn as having the top fisheries department, and other Chinese colleges picked prestigious counterparts in medicine, English and biology programs, for example.
    China has so much confidence in Auburn that Ocean University representatives even corrected Gogue during a recent visit to the Plains to discuss their plan, the AU president said.
    “During the meeting, I said ‘You know Auburn does have the No. 1 fisheries program in the country,’ and they quickly came back and said ‘No, no, no…No. 1 in the world,’” Gogue said.
    Rouse said his department was first contacted by the Chinese university about the grand plan last June. He and other fi sheries representatives then visited China in August to further discuss the plan, and agreements were signed in Auburn in December.
    “(Ocean University) asked sources from around the world which school had the best fisheries program…and they chose us,” he explained.
    The first round of PhD candidates involved in the program will begin studying at Auburn this fall. Each student will be on a scholarship funded by the Chinese federal government, and the selection process for those students has been competitive, Rouse said.
    Ocean University already interviewed about 50 candidates and narrowed it down to 14.
    “They have received applications from the very best students from all over China that want to study here,” Rouse said.
    Auburn will help pick the students; in fact, two AU representatives left for China today to help determine the fi nal 10.
    So why does China need to partner with the “best fisheries program in the world?” They can’t afford not to, according to Rouse.
    “China realizes they have a huge problem with having enough food to go around, and with the strain and stress on their environment,” he said. “They need to train some scientists who can help them get their food production and environmental quality under control.”
    The country recognizes the serious problem, and it has the funding but not the knowledge to tackle it, Rouse said “(Ocean University) had some of the newest and best equipment in the world, some of it still sitting in boxes,” he continued. “They just need someone to tell them how to use it.”
    While China is advanced in many ways, it needs to learn more scientific techniques to harvest fish, Rouse said.
    “Much of our fisheries program has been built around helping other countries become more self-sufficient,” he added.
    Auburn will benefit from the five-year partnership as well, Rouse said. As international students have done in the past, these Chinese students will gain the knowledge to research and potentially find solutions to U.S. agricultural problems.
    “A lot of our catfish industry has been built on research that was done by international students who studied here,” Rouse said.
    AU faculty members will also have the opportunity to visit China and see what they can learn from the highest-populated country in the world, he continued.
    And of course, the program will increase the visibility of Auburn University, Gogue said.
    “When they reveal that list of 100 schools that were picked to be involved, it will be well known world wide, and for Auburn to be on that list is important to us,” Gogue said. “This is a total external verification of quality.”
    Decades of tireless service by the fisheries department faculty has helped make the program renowned, the AU president said.
    As one of the few freestanding fisheries departments— most are combined with other natural resource studies, like forestry—Auburn’s program has always been involved in large-scale projects, Rouse said. It began in the 1930s during the Depression, when a group of university professors who loved sport fishing began to take their hobby more seriously.
    Their interest grew into a nationally known program in sport fish management, and the thousands of bass and bream sport-fishing ponds that exist today were built using technology developed by AU in the ’50s and’60s, Rouse said.
    “From that, they looked at other ways to produce more fish to feed people, and that got us into the international arena,” he continued. “The U.S Department of Agriculture State, Agency for International Development (USAID) designated us as an international center for aquaculture in the early ’70s…so we’ve always worked on large programs and worked overseas.”
    AU fisheries’ facilities are the largest in the country, and probably in the world, Rouse added. They include about 1,600 acres in north Auburn and about 300 ponds used for research and teaching.
    The department also has facilities in catfish-laden west Alabama and on Dauphin Island in Gulf Shores, where Auburn conducts marine work.
    Despite the program’s strong assets, hosting at least 10 more PhD students each year until 2013 will be a challenge for AU fisheries’ faculty, Rouse said. To take some strain off , some of the Chinese students will study in closely related fields like agricultural economics and poultry science, Rouse said.
    “There are not many programs that can handle even 20, 30 PhD students at once,” he said. “Doubling our doctoral students to 50 to 60 over the next three years will stretch us a little bit.”

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