Dr. Dunham Provides Benchmark Work on Catfish Hybridization

By: Charles Martin – The Catfish Journal

Auburn University fisheries professor Rex Dunham, true to his school’s land-grant mission, conducts research with the goal of helping catfish farmers and local communities sustain their way of life.

The goal is to serve the entire catfish farming industry and local communities,” said Dunham, who recently won Auburn’s Creative Research and Scholarship Award. “In addition to helping the farms in rural west Alabama, research helps the processing plants, which employ a lot of people, and there is an indirect impact on the local businesses. These includetractor parts suppliers, restaurants, any type of local shop. Hopefully, the impact of that research helps make that way of life sustainable.”

A primary aspect of Dunham’s career has been the hybridization of channel and blue catfish, considered a possible savior of the U.S. catfish aquaculture industry. Farm-raised catfish is the largest aquaculture industry in the country and has been a significant part of the economy of the Southeast for 30 years. But this industry faces high feed prices and marketing pressure from imported fish.

“The hybrid catfish, which has been Dr. Dunham’s signature area of work, has the potential to improve production efficiency to the point where U.S. farmers can continue to compete in today’s marketplace,” said Craig Tucker, director of the National Warm water Aquaculture Center and USDA Southern Regional Aquaculture Center, in nominating Dunham for the Auburn research award. “He has been directly or indirectly responsible for most of the technologies now used to produce this fish.”

Dunham says it is now feasible to produce Commercial quantities of hybrids, which have better growth, survival, disease resistance, feed conversion and tolerance of poor water quality – all leading to an inlproved harvest. His research is being applied to the cattlsh industry though Auburn’s Office of Technology Transfer, which is working with the company, Aetos, to provide hybrid fingerlings to catfish farmers.

“It is very gratifying that we finally reached this point,” he said. “With the tough economic times globally, this can greatly impact the catfish industry. The industry now has the technology to make hybrids.”

Dunham, a native of Peoria, ill., earned his bacbelor’s degree from the University of illinois in 1978. He then went to Auburn University in Alabama to work on his master’s degree, which he earned in 1979 followed by Ph.D. in 1981. He is recognized as a world leader in his field and has been awarded $14 million for research through 77 federal, state and University grmts during his time at Auburn. He has published 223 scientific articles, chapters and proceedings papers during his career.

He says a goal-oriented approach to research is vital to obtaining results that will impact specific fields and industries. “Some scientists change directions to follow the research money,” Dunham said. “If a goal or objective is worthwhile, then you should stay the coW’se, even if it is not easily fundable.”

Dunham’s major research achievements include:
- First researcher to demonstrate that selection works for the genetic improvement of channel catfish;
- First release of genetically improved fish in the United State. In total, responsible for four releases of genetically improved catfish;
- His research has led to the formation of the first four commercial genetics and breeding companies in the catfish industry; and
- First to produce a transgenic fish in the United States, and the fourth worldwide.

“He has a history of successful collaboration with university and government scientists, as well bayer cipro as farmers and technicians in the private sector,” Tucker said. “He gives freely of his time to work with other scientists, an important contribution that does not show up on his resume.”

Dunham sees the next major impact coming from transgenic sterilization, which involves the development of a genetic system that puts catfish reproduction control in the hands of the laboratoy culturist.

“We would genetically turn on or off a fish’s ability to reproduce,” Dunham said. “This would virtually eliminate all environmental impact that might occur if farm or laboratory fish were accidentally released into waterways. They would not reproduce in a natural environment, so they would not threaten native fish.”

Coastal Research & Extension Roundup Agenda

MARCH 9, 2009


Despite recent economic conditions, Alabama’s coastal area is expected to be at the forefront of developmental activities for years to come. Baldwin County has been one of the fastest growing counties in the state and among the fastest growing in the nation. Mobile remains the second largest metropolitan area in the state with prospects for on-going growth. The climate and natural resources of the area combine to create a “quality of life” that is highly valued by residents and visitors. As the coastal counties continue to be developed there will be increasing pressure on natural resources and existing infrastructure.

Auburn University, as the Land Grant University in Alabama, has unique capabilities to address many of the issues facing our coastal communities. In fact, a large number of faculty and extension professionals are already involved in providing answers to coastal problems. That ongoing effort is scattered among academic departments, schools, colleges, institutes and the extension community.

This “Coastal Roundup” attempts, for the first time, to gather those Auburn professionals together to:

  • Share the nature of their work with colleagues
  • Bring attention to the greater AU community the work being done in coastal Alabama
  • Foster cooperation and collaboration for future projects and programs

The program of projects highlighted in the AU Coastal Roundup does not encompass all coast-related projects at Auburn University but is the result of those who responded to e-mail solicitations that may not have reached every facet of the University.


March 9, 2009
School of Forestry Conference Room

8:30 am : Welcome

8:40 am: Introductory Remarks- “Issues and Priorities for Gulf Coast Research” La Don Swann, Director, Mississippi- Alabama Sea Grant Consortium

Moderator: Mike Kensler, Water Resources Institute

8:50 am: Dennis Devries, Professor and Rusty Wright, Extension Specialist and Assoc. Professor, Fisheries & Allied Aquacultures.
The Mobile Tensaw Delta: life in a changing habitat

9:10 am: Puneet Srivastava, Asst. Professor, Biosystems Engineering
Ecologically-Sustainable Surface Water Withdrawal for Cropland Irrigation in Alabama: how much water can we withdraw?

9:30 am: Allen Davis, Assoc. Professor, Fisheries & Allied Aquacultures
Overview of Marine Fish and Shrimp Research at the Claude Peteet Mariculture Center

9:50 am: BREAK (start promptly at 10:05 am)

10:05 am: Ron Phelps, Assoc. Professor, Fisheries & Allied Aquacultures
The Potential for Marine Fish Culture in the Alabama Black Belt Using Saline Groundwater.

10:25 am: Bob Nelson, Professor, Agricultural Economics & Rural Sociology
Prospects for a Marine Bait Industry in Alabama

10:45 am: Charlene LeBleu, Asst. Professor, Landscape Architecture
Integrated Strategies for Low Impact Development in Alabama Coastal Areas

11:05 am: Michelle Worosz, Asst. Professor, Agricultural Economics & Rural Sociology
The Mobile Bay Watershed Project: Quality of life in Baldwin County

11:25 pm: Ash Bullard, Asst. Professor, Fisheries & Allied Aquacultures
Auburn Parasitology: Current & Future Research in the North-Central Gulf of Mexico”

11:45 am – 1:00 pm Break

Moderator: Dr. David Rouse, Head, Fisheries & Allied Aquacultures

1:00 pm: Jennings Byrd, Graduate Research Asst., Agricultural Economics & Rural Sociology
Residential Development and Business Attitudes: the Case of the Mobile County Working Waterfront

1:20 pm: Latif Kalin, Asst. Professor, Foresty & Wildlife Science
Land Use/Cover Water Quality Interactions in Weeks Bay: synthesis of observation with modeling

1:40 pm: LaDon Swann, Assoc. Research Professor & Director of AUMERC, Fisheries & Allied Aquacultures xenical order online AUMERC: 30 Years of Marine Extension and Research on the Gulf Coast

2:00 pm: Break (start promptly at 2:15 pm)

2:15 pm: Matthew Capps, Graduate Student and Michael Robinson, Professor, Architecture
Coastal Resilience: A Vision for Dauphin Island, AL

2:35 pm: Stephen Szedlmayer, Professor, Fisheries & Allied Aquacultures
Artificial Reefs and the Ecology of Red Snapper in the Northern Gulf of Mexico.

2:55 pm: Scott Rikard, Manager, Natural Resource Programs and Bill Walton, Extension Specialist and Asst. Professor, Fisheries & Allied Aquacultures
An Overview of Research and Hatchery Production at the Auburn University Shellfish Laboratory

3:20 pm: Break (start promptly at 3:30 pm)

3:30 pm: Bill Deutsch, Research Fellow IV and Sergio Ruiz-Cordova, Research Asst. IV, Fisheries & Allied Aquacultures
Gulf of Mexico Watershed Stewardship Activities with Fish and Cattle Producers, Classrooms and Community Monitors

3:50 pm: Cova Arias, Assoc. Professor, Fisheries & Allied Aquacultures
Overview of seafood safety research at the Auburn University Shellfish Laboratory: Vibrio vulnificus, the hazard of the half shelf

4:10 pm: Wrap up (open discussion for anyone who wants to talk about future collaborations, new structures for coastal-based research etc.)

Other Projects – not presenting:

Susan Wingard, County Extension Coord., Alabama Cooperative Extension System
Master Environmental Education Program

Summary of Program: The Master Environmental Education Program includes lessons on recycling, the water cycle, household hazardous waste, groundwater pollution, non point source pollution and aquatic nuisance species. A trained MEE volunteer or a staff member presents programs to students in second-twelfth grades and to community groups. The lessons have been presented to 1,720 students in 29 schools.

To see a web cast of the Roundup:

To view the stream, you must have Windows Media Player installed and you must use the Windows Internet Explorer web browser.
The stream will start approximately 10 minutes before the meeting. Test your computer BEFORE this time.
The stream will be located at the following URL under Live Conferences:

The url will be: http://vcg.acesag.auburn.edu/sfws

Click the “Video:384kbps” choice under Live Conferences.

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