Facility Sparks Aquaculture Interest in Students of All Ages

February 17, 2017

Aquaculture, or aquafarming, is currently the fastest growing segment of agriculture in the world. Although the global aquaculture industry is increasing in size and production, the workforce needed to support the industry is lacking in educated and experienced individuals. Receiving an education may be the first step, but hands-on experience and applied research is crucial. The University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, Northern Aquaculture Demonstration Facility (UWSP-NADF), located in Bayfield, Wisconsin, is a state-of-the-art facility that connects with all ages and levels in aquaculture to sustain and advance the industry. The UWSP-NADF’s unique outreach program relates to all groups while sparking aquaculture interest in students K-12, providing a world class college education through internships, and developing strong partnerships directly with the aquaculture industry to create and sustain businesses.

Initiating curiosity and understanding of aquaculture and aquaponics at a young age is a head start to educating a future workforce and developing public awareness. The UWSP-NADF outreaches to students K-12 across Wisconsin and has been a direct leader in incorporating aquaponics and aquaculture systems into classrooms of local schools. With these partnerships, schools have the opportunity to include students in various activities that educate through hands-on knowledge and experiences both in and out of the classroom. The facility has held interactive, hands-on tours for students ranging from pre-school to college interns. Activities may include fish sampling, feeding, dissections, aquaponics, aquaculture calculations, and equipment demonstrations. The strong interaction between this facility and the public is nearly unheard of for an aquaculture facility. Demonstration and hands-on education is the key for aquaculture advancement and this facility is a direct correlation of that success in Wisconsin.

Since 2006, the UWSP-NADF has received over $3.3 million in grants awarded by collaborators for specific research done at the facility. It is not surprising that aquaculture technicians and interns have over 90% job placement following their experiences at the UWSP-NADF. Past intern Derek Peters states, “I consider my experience at the UWSP-NADF extremely valuable because I was able to acquire such a diversified set of skills. It was very beneficial having the opportunity to work with so many different species and aquaculture techniques…and it also played a significant role in being hired for my first full-time aquaculture position.” Derek is now doing what he considers his “dream job” as Assistant Manager at Max McGraw Wildlife Foundation. Interns work with a wide variety of species at all life stages in various aquaculture systems. Currently, eight different cold and cool water species are being raised at the facility in ponds, raceways, intensive larval rearing systems, and water recirculating aquaculture systems. 

UW-Stevens Point is also offering the nation’s first semester-long college aquaponics courses and professional aquaponic certificate in partnership with aquaponics industry leader, Nelson and Pade, Inc.®. These programs are incorporated into the newly developed UWSP Aquaponic Innovation Center (AIC) located at the business campus of Nelson and Pade. This incredible learning center, recently finished in April 2015, covers 4,800 ft2 the company’s new, state-of-the-art controlled environment greenhouse facility. 

Because of the UW-Stevens Point courses and its incredible learning facilities, students are receiving a world-class education and high success to directly benefit the aquaculture and aquaponics industry. For more information, visit their website.

This article was written for publication on www.science-scene.org by Emma Wiermaa, Outreach Specialist for the Northern Aquaculture Demonstration Facility at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.

Emma Wiermaa

Guest Contributor

Emma graduated from University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire in 2012 with a Bachelor's in Ecology and Environmental Biology. She was hired as an outreach and communications specialist for UWSP Northern Aquaculture Demonstration Facility. This position is also in collaboration with WI Sea Grant Institute. Her duties include conducting tours for the facility, social networking and website building, connecting and providing assistance to schools, private fish farms and tribal, federal or state organizations, attending conferences, analyzing data, assisting in research, and writing reports and proposals. Some of her past experience includes researching the pupfish species in the Bahamas, working with commercial fisheries, leading Outdoor Education camps, and coordinating Adopt-a-Beach ™ program for the Alliance for the Great Lakes.