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Monday, June 27, 2011

Aquaculture Set to Be First Doctoral Program at UAPB, 27 June 2011

The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff has been preparing for this moment for more than 10 years, said Carole Engle, director of UAPB's Aquaculture & Fisheries Center. She's talking about the university's plans to offer its first doctoral program, in aquaculture and fisheries.

Engle, who also chairs the Department of Aquaculture & Fisheries, is a professor of aquaculture economics and marketing. The Aquaculture & Fisheries Center is a Center of Excellence, so designated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Centers of Excellence, partnerships between educational institutions and the USDA, perform research on agricultural issues.

"We have probably one of the best [aquaculture and fisheries] programs in the world," said UAPB Chancellor Lawrence Davis Jr. "It's quite appropriate that we offer a doctorate."

"We're not interested in being the largest program," Engle said. "We're interested in being the best and turning out the highest-quality students."

The university sees the aquaculture and fisheries program as part of its mission to serve the state. Aquaculture is big business in Arkansas, which ranks second in the U.S. in aquaculture, according to the state Agriculture Department. The sector has an economic impact of more than $1 billion a year, Engle has estimated.

UAPB, home to the third-largest warm-water aquaculture research facility in the nation, also provides extension services to Arkansas fish farmers. The Aquaculture & Fisheries Center - and the research it does -- is real-world driven.

Faculty members study the chemistry of water and the environment fish inhabit. They study the nutrition of fish and their diseases. Professors research hatchery management and production systems and develop equipment used in aquaculture. Others examine the economics and marketing side of the business and search for new markets. And extension specialists work with the industry to adapt research results to fish farms.

"When our industry brings a problem to us, we're able to pull together all of the expertise needed to address that particular problem," Engle said. It's a give-and-take process with the industry, she said.