Auburn Fisheries Pioneer Explains Why Alabama Agriculture Can’t Catch Up

shell

Jamie Creamer wrote about Dr. Wayne Shell in the latest issue of Ag Illustrated.

“Eddie Wayne Shell has a suggestion for folks who buy his new book.

“It makes a mighty good doorstop,” he says. “You sure can’t do much else with it.”

At first glance, you might be tempted to agree. The 880-page volume is just shy of 2 inches thick, weighs in at 5.2 pounds and, from cover to cover, is nothing but text. Not the first picture, table or illustration to be found, page after 8 ½- by-11-inch page.

The title—“Evolution of the Alabama Agroecosystem: Always Keeping Up but Never Catching Up”—might be off-putting, too. 

But don’t let those details scare you away, because the exhaustive narrative that Shell, an Auburn University professor emeritus in fisheries, has produced is an absorbing, surprisingly readable account of how geological, biological, cultural, economic and political characteristics over the past 350 million years have shaped the state’s agricultural ecosystem. Most of the book’s focus, however, is on changes that have taken place in the past two centuries …”

Read the rest of the article here

Former Fisheries Faculty Practices What He Preached Raising Inland Shrimp

David Teichert-Coddington working his shrimp farm.

David Teichert-Coddington working his shrimp farm.

Jamie Creamer featured former faculty member, David Teichert-Coddington in the spring issue of Ag Illustrated.

“About this time every year, David Teichert-Coddington packs his bag, loads his trailer and hits the road, bound for the Florida Keys.

If he were going for a few weeks of R & R, that would be one thing. But this is business, as will be evidenced four days and 1,850 miles later when a road-weary Teichert-Coddington returns to his west-central Alabama home, hauling a load of precious—and totally legal—cargo: 9 million pathogen-free, hatchery-grown baby shrimp. Shrimplets, if you will, each about the size of a gnat.

And thus begins another growing season at Greene Prairie Shrimp, a fitting name for a farming operation that’s in Greene County on 250 acres of prairie soil and for which the sole product is Pacific white shrimp …”

Read the rest of the article here.

Fisheries’ Wilson Wins Honor as Undergrad Research Mentor

Man standing in a pond by buckets

In the seven years he has been on the faculty in Auburn University’s School of Fisheries, Aquaculture and Aquatic Sciences, associate professor Alan Wilson has introduced more than 70 undergraduate students from Auburn and beyond to the fascinating world of scientific research.

These students have been more than passive observers in Wilson’s warm-water aquatic ecology laboratory; they have been actively involved in the research process, as is evidenced by their scholarly output, which includes co-authoring with Wilson 10 journal publications and 36 conference presentations.

“I am passionate about creating meaningful research opportunities for undergrads,” said Wilson, who began mentoring undergraduates in research as a graduate student at Michigan State University in 1998. “I’m always thrilled to share my love of science with students and engage them in the scientific method.”

For his outstanding record as a mentor, Wilson has been named winner of the 2014-15 Provost’s Award for Excellence in Fostering Undergraduate Research and Creative Scholarship at Auburn and will be recognized formally during the university’s faculty awards ceremony this fall.

“This award is in recognition of your sustained efforts to promote excellence in undergraduate scholarship through research,” Auburn Provost Timothy Boosinger said in a letter notifying Wilson of his selection.

In addition to Auburn students from across the campus, Wilson’s young scientists have included 34 undergraduates from other universities across the state and region who, from 2011 through 2013, spent summers in Auburn working with Wilson through his National Science Foundation–funded Research Experiences for Undergraduates program in aquatic ecology.

“These students were here strictly for the opportunity to do research, because that isn’t an option for them at their home universities,” Wilson said. “I trained them in a variety of skills, such as experimental design, scientific ethics and the how-tos of developing presentations.”

Wilson said training the undergraduate researchers “to do good science” is his primary goal.

“But after that, I want to get them interested in and excited about science,” he said. “I want them to see that science is fun.”

The provost’s mentoring award was established in 2010 to highlight a faculty member’s significant commitment to undergraduate scholarship and creative work outside the classroom.

 

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Fish Raise Their Voices to Shout Over Noise

Courtesy of April Reese and Discover Magazine –

image of a shiner fish


Cyprinella lutrensis, or red shiner, is a cousin of the black shiner.

 

Every day, thousands of cars and trucks rumble across bridges all over the U.S. Their drivers probably don’t give much thought to the fish swimming in the rivers, lakes or bays below. But the fish notice them: They can hear those noisy engines passing overhead, and according to a new study, they are having to shout to communicate over the din.

The effects of sonar and other human-made sounds on the communication of marine mammals such as whales and dolphins is well documented. But fish “talk” too – so far, researchers have identified about 800 different species of fish that use vocal signals. One of them is the blacktail shiner, which lives in parts of the Southeast, Midwest and in Texas. Dan Holt, a fisheries biologist at Auburn University in Alabama, wondered how the shiner responds to the loud traffic on bridges in the area.

“You don’t hear much about freshwater systems,” he says. “But I drive over three or four bridges just coming to work, and a lot of times, we’re out collecting data by bridges, and we hear that noise. This fish is exposed to a lot of different types of sounds — boat traffic, 18-wheelers, lots of bridge noise,” he says.

Louder Purrs

Holt and his co-researcher, Carol Johnston, wanted to find out if the blacktail shiner communicates differently in noisy areas. They knew that male shiners “purr” to attract potential mates and “pop” to fend off competitors. Would they move closer to one another, Holt and Johnston wondered, so they could be heard more easily? Would they repeat themselves? Or would they just “talk” louder, the way people shout over the music at a rock concert?

For their initial study, published in the April issue of Behavioral Ecology – which Holt says is the first to examine a fish’s response to elevated noise levels – the researchers exposed the fish to white noise, a common method for testing hearing. They found that the fish simply turn up the volume.

“This is the first fish in which it’s been found,” Holt says. But blacktail shiners don’t pump up the volume by very much, and it’s unclear whether they can still communicate effectively in noisy environments, he adds. Holt and his team are now studying the fish in their natural environment to find out whether traffic noise is interfering with mating or other behaviors.

After that, the next step will be to study how other types of fish respond to elevated sound levels, he adds.

“There are a lot of fish out there that make sounds, especially in these small freshwater streams,” he says. “A lot of questions remain to be answered.”

Communication Breakdown?

Across “the pond” in England, another team of researchers studying acoustic communication warn that noise interference can have tragic consequences for species that rely on verbal signals for survival. A review study by a team led by biologist Andrew Radford of the University of Bristol, published in the same journal last month, looked at previous research on the responses of birds, amphibians and marine mammals and suggested that fish, which account for more than half the world’s vertebrate species but whose responses to noise are not as well understood, may be adversely affected by noise and should be studied more closely.

Since fish make up more than half of the world’s vertebrates and provide the main source of protein for one billion people, the British researchers note, studying their response to a noisy environment will be important for people too. The human population is expected increase by 1-2 billion by 2050.

“The world is getting noisier,” Holt says. “It could have a lot of impacts.”

Auburn Water Watch uses honey bees to maintain stream water quality in Kenya

Beekeeping in Kenya

Auburn water researchers using bees to help Kenya with nutrition, income and river protection

      

 

       

Note: This feature story is based on a 2014 Auburn Speaks article written by William Deutsch of Auburn University’s Global Water Watch and Njogu Kahare of Kenya’s Green Belt Movement. The Auburn Speaks book, with the theme of food systems, safety and security, will be released during Auburn’s Research Week April 14-17. More information about Research Week is available at www.auburn.edu/researchweek.

Beekeeping in Kenya

Auburn’s Global Water Watch has joined with Kenya’s Green Belt Movement to find innovative ways of linking honey production with improved nutrition, higher incomes, community development and river protection. Pictured are community members displaying beekeeping supplies; William Deutsch of Auburn’s Global Water Watch is on the far left, while Njogu Kahare of Kenya’s Green Belt Movement is on the far right.

In Kenya, traditional cultures place a high value on honey and related products of the beehive – in the past it was part of the dowry or “bride price” for marriage, and a man needed to have at least 20 liters of choice honey to present to a prospective father-in-law when asking for his daughter’s hand.

More than just a tradition, this commodity could be the key to improving many aspects of Kenyan lives.

Auburn University’s Global Water Watch has joined with Kenya’s Green Belt Movement to find innovative ways of linking honey production with improved nutrition, higher incomes, community development and river protection.

“Honey has been an important part of the human diet for millennia, and gathering wild honey predates agriculture in many parts of the world,” said William Deutsch, Global Water Watch director. “We believe we can improve production, and in turn their lives and livelihoods, through cleaner water while also helping the environment.”

The Global Water Watch program, established at Auburn more than 20 years ago, is a worldwide network of community-based water monitoring groups that has worked in almost a dozen countries with citizen groups that often include indigenous peoples. These include the Quichua of Ecuador, Quechua and Aymara of Peru, Akha of Thailand and Tala-Andig of the Philippines, among others.

“Cross-cultural perspectives from all over the world have greatly enhanced our understanding of how people relate to and value their aquatic resources,” Deutsch said.

Beekeeping in Kenya

Beekeepers prefer to keep their hives on riverbanks with continuously flowering natural vegetation for a pollen and nectar source. This practice maintains the streamside buffer zone that filters eroding soil and other pollutants and thus protects water quality.

In 2012, the Green Belt Movement organization in Kenya contacted Global Water Watch through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The group was founded in 1977 by Wangari Maathai, who was one of the first Kenyan students to receive a scholarship to study in the United States as part of a precursor program to the Peace Corps, originated by then-Sen. John F. Kennedy in 1959. Maathai was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 for raising public awareness about the environment and exposing illegal logging. She died in 2011, but the staff has continued with her environmental vision.

Following two trips to Kenya by Auburn researchers, the EPA funded a one-year pilot project in a cooperative agreement with the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development, a nongovernmental organization from Washington, D.C.

Deutsch and his colleagues in October 2013 initiated water monitoring and environmental education activities in the Upper Tana River Watershed that originates between Mt. Kenya and the Aberdare Range of mountains. The Tana River is one of the largest in the country and provides much of the water for the capital city, Nairobi.

Scores of community members from four areas of the watershed have begun to attend workshops to learn how to test water, and they are now establishing 100 monitoring sites on several streams and drinking water supplies. Many of these volunteers have previously participated in Green Belt Movement ac¬tivities such as tree planting, beekeeping and other forms of community development.

Deutsch plans to return to Kenya in mid-March to conduct more workshops for new community members and to establish new water monitoring sites.

“The tree planting of the Green Belt Movement and the watershed monitoring and stewardship of Global Water Watch seemed like a natural fit,” Deutsch said, “but a beekeeping component added an important dimension to the project. The residents can help with our water-monitoring while improving their honey production.”

Beekeeping in Kenya

The beekeeping component of the Global Water Watch project provides income that enables community members to be more economically secure and allows them to more easily participate in voluntary activities like water monitoring.

Among the necessary tests of honey quality for commercial marketing, assurance that the product is free from E. coli is also critical. Plans are underway to adapt simple E. coli water tests for testing honey.

“A steady flow of high-quality honey can net a Kenyan farmer a much greater income than most other agricultural crops that the farmer can produce,” Deutsch said.

With the growth of cities and the expansion of supermarkets, the demand for honey has created opportunities for mass production and modern marketing. The Kenyan Ministry of Livestock is promoting beekeeping, and development organizations such as USAID have provided grants to beekeepers to expand their operations.

“Many more producers are needed to fully meet the domestic demands for honey, let alone those of international markets,” Deutsch said.

Edited by Charles Martin, Office of Communications and Marketing

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