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Gadsden State Hosts Zebrafish Workshop

Researchers, professors, biologists and aquatics specialists from universities, hospitals and research facilitiesacross the U.S. will be at Gadsden State Community College this week for a workshop designed to fill a gap in modern medical research.

Gadsden State's Aquaculture Department is hosting a Zebrafish Husbandry Education Curriculum Development Workshop, which began Monday. Dr.Hugh Hammer, Aquaculture program manager, said the workshop is designed to develop an educational program at Gadsden State to train people to take care of zebrafish, which are becoming a workhorse in medical research.

Medical research traditionally has depended on rats and mice as research models, but zebrafish are being widely used in research. They are less expensive, reproduce more frequently and grow faster than rodents.

Hammer said that he's challenged people to type the name of any human disease plus zebrafish into any Internet search engine. "For any human disease, you will find that someone, somewhere is using zebrafish for research on that disease," he said. "About 500 U.S. labs are using zebrafish, but many don't understand how to properly take care of them." Hammer said experience in keeping rodents has not prepared researchers for a lab with 30,000 or more zebrafish. "It's just different. You can't treat fish like rats and mice," he said. "Everyone realizes this is a bottleneck in the system." The workshop grew out of the need to eliminate that dilemma. Gadsden State and officials from the University of Alabama at Birmingham have designed the workshop so biologists and researchers can work with aquatics specialists to develop a program of study that will prepare students to grow and care for the zebrafish needed for research.

Aquatic Habitats, Aquaneering, Tecniplast USA, Thoren Aquatic Systems, Inc. and the Zebrafish Husbandry Association also are participating in and helping sponsor the workshop. In addition, the Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center Institute in New York, Boston Children's Hospital, University of Washington School of Medicine, National Institute of Health/Charles River and Reed Mariculture Inc. are sending representatives to Gadsden State to spend three days working on the program's curriculum. That's a testament to the importance of meeting this need in the research field, since discrepancies in animal care can compromise research goals.

Workshop participants will be developing a curriculum to provide standardized methods of caring for the fish, and Gadsden State soon will be the only college in the world offering it. Workshop organizers hope the three-semester program of study will provide students with the skills needed for good jobs in research labs.

-Gadsden Times, June 4, 1012

Aquaculture Workshops

Twenty-two middle and high school teachers from Alabama and Georgia recently attended the 12th annual "Growing Fish in Recirculating Systems K -12 Teacher Workshop" at Gadsden State Community College. The purpose of the workshop is to educate teachers on ways to use aquatic biology/aquaculture as a vehicle to deliver math and science concepts to their students.

During the workshop participants built several types of systems, hatched catfish, dissected fish and learned about aquaponics and hormonal control of reproduction in fish for induced spawning. The five-day session is a team taught course sponsored by Gadsden State, Auburn University's Department of Fisheries and Allied Aquacultures, Auburn Marine Extension and Research Center, the Alabama Cooperative Extension Service and the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium.

Dr. Hugh Hammer, aquaculture instructor at Gadsden State, said, "We have trained over 300 teachers nationwide since we began these workshops. It is a perfect fit for us to host the workshop because our facilities are designed for hands-on education." The workshop is highly regarded as the best of its type in the nation. Thanks to the current funding from the United States Department of Agriculture the workshop was free to the teachers. Since the program began, Gadsden State has shipped fish to high schools in Ohio, West Virginia, Nebraska, Montana, South Dakota and Connecticut for educational purposes.

Service Learning Students Make Valuable Community Contribution

Non-profit agencies and schools in the Gadsden State Community College five-county service area received over 1,349 hours of assistance from students participating in the Service Learning program at Gadsden State during the 2009 Spring Semester. The Independent Sector calculates the approximate monetary value of these volunteer hours to be more than $27,000. Independent Sector is a leadership forum for charities and foundations, which assigns a monetary value to volunteer hours.

According to Jean Reed, assistant to the Service Learning Program at Gadsden State, a total of 93 students participated in the program during Spring Semester, working at 37 schools and 20 agencies. Students enrolled in a variety of classes are given the opportunity to participate in the Service Learning program by volunteering to work hours at the schools or agencies in addition to classroom hours.

Since the Service Learning Program was implemented in the autumn of 2001, students have donated a total of 515,000 work hours making this program have an approximate value of $10,300,000. Whenever possible, students are allowed to choose where they want to work. Reed pointed out that programs involving children are always popular, so many college students volunteer at K-12 schools for reading and tutoring programs. A number of students choose to volunteer at the Family Success Center in East Gadsden, while other interests are as varied as the Humane Society and the Sheriff's Department. Students are given the opportunity to choose from a total of 90 schools and approximately 180 agencies.

Reed said that the number of participants varies each year, but the program includes new partners and participants all the time. Students are required to work 10 to 15 hours per course, but, this spring, one student volunteered 42 hours---more than four times what was required. Many Gadsden State faculty members offer this option to students taking their classes. Reed stated, "We continue to get positive reports from the schools and agencies. They welcome the help our students provide."

Agencies wishing to inquire about becoming Service Learning Partners or Gadsden State students wishing to volunteer are encouraged to contact Jean Reed at (256) 549-8223.

Homegrown Seafood Is What's Cooking

There's a very good chance the last shrimp dinner you ate did not contain shrimp from the Gulf of Mexico or the last salmon you enjoyed did not come from a fast moving river in the northwestern United States. According to Dr. Hugh Hammer, Gadsden State Community College aquaculture instructor, most of the fish we consume today is raised on farms and does not come from the sea.

Hammer said during a recent presentation to a Gadsden civic club, "Approximately 90% of the shrimp consumed today is farm raised along with 70% of the salmon and 100% of the tilapia and catfish." Hammer told the club about 45% of the seafood eaten around the world is farm raised. In spite of increased interest in aquaculture in the United States, last year the U.S. had a trade deficit in seafood of $7.9 billion.

In Alabama, aquaculture is a $115,000,000 business with about 25,000 acres of water. There are 256 farms in the state, most of them catfish farms employing about 2700. Some of the farms have water acreage as big as downtown Gadsden and each pond can produce tens of thousands of pounds of fish.

Hammer noted that the aquaculture program at Gadsden State is similar to the industry in the state except on a miniature scale. There are 13 outdoor ponds along with indoor facilities. A number of different kinds of fish are raised including freshwater shrimp, tilapia, crawfish, rainbow trout, fantail guppies (ornamental), hybrid striped bass, channel catfish, largemouth bass and koi (ornamental). Hammer compared himself to an extension agent, explaining that he works with those involved in aquaculture in the state to help solve problems with their ponds or fish. In addition to instructing classes at the College, he has played an instrumental role in Alabama's having the largest group of K-12 instructors who teach aquaculture in the United States. Since Hammer arrived at Gadsden State in 2001, he has trained approximately 250 teachers throughout the United States with most of the teachers coming from Alabama.

"I am most proud of the internship program we have created at Gadsden State," Hammer said. "Our students are able to get paid internship programs in many areas of the United States including Alaska and even the Dominican Republic." Five students have benefited from an advanced internship at the Epcot Center at Disney World in Orlando. Some of the internships offer up to $500 a week plus housing and the experience is priceless.

Hammer explained that fish consumption warnings which exist along many of Alabama's waterways are mostly for methyl mercury and PCB's. "Don't stop eating seafood especially salmon," he told the club members, "because your nervous systems are all developed and eating the fish will not hurt you. In fact, the benefits from salmon consumption far outweigh any potential damage." The people who need to strongly follow the consumption guidelines are those who are considering children in the future and those who are pregnant or nursing.

Anyone interested in talking with Hammer about his program or problems with their ponds or fish may contact him at (256) 549-8345 or

The detailed requirements for each of the programs and transfer guides offered through the Division of Science are found in the Gadsden State Catalog and Student Handbook. You may view the college catalog by going to It is recommended that you review the information published in the Catalog, and that you research the STARS program on the Web at to ensure that your planned curriculum will meet the requirements of the four-year college(s) that you may be considering for transfer upon completion of your requirements at Gadsden State.