School of Ocean Science and Engineering
School of Ocean Science and Engineering
The Thad Cochran Marine Aquaculture Center is an advanced research unit housed within the School of Ocean Science and Engineering at the University of Southern Mississippi. We are centrally located in the northern Gulf of Mexico in Ocean Springs, Mississippi at the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory’s Cedar Point research site. Our research focuses on alleviating the bottlenecks that constrain the production of marine species. We work with industry, government and non-profit organizations to advance sustainable aquaculture on land and in coastal and marine environments.
The Center consists of 100,000 ft2 in 13 buildings. Facilities include 50,000 ft2 of culture space for animals and live feeds and 10,000 ft2 of experimental space designed to accommodate isolated and replicated disease, nutrition, and genetics/reproductive physiology research. The facility contains isolated small-, medium-, and large-scale systems with single-pass climate control.
Health research at the Center focuses on the diseases and parasites affecting marine animals in culture. Center scientists investigate topics ranging from the diagnostics and taxonomy of marine pathogens to the ecology and epidemiology of infectious diseases in the marine environment. The Center’s health research program seeks to understand the mechanisms of disease outbreaks and develop strategies to minimize the impacts of disease in aquaculture. Our scientists study these issues in molluscs, crustaceans, and finfish using a variety of methods ranging from traditional microbiological and laboratory approaches to molecular analyses and mathematical techniques.
Research in genetics aims to support the development of breeding programs and the management of genetic impacts of marine aquaculture on wild populations. Draft reference genomes and high density linkage maps are in development for several finfish species and are exploited during functional genomic studies and association studies through the analysis of high-density genome scans obtained from genotyping by sequencing. This research provides essential data on the genetic basis of phenotypic traits needed to design effective selective breeding programs. Genomic resources are also used to describe fine-scale population structure in target species and assist with the management of genetic impacts in practical aquaculture projects.
Research in larviculture aims to understand the environmental and nutritional requirements of early larval stages of cultured marine species. Through manipulation of several variables including light source characteristics, salinity, temperature, food source and nutrient content, feeding protocols, this research seeks to optimize protocols for large scale production of marine larvae in controlled recirculating systems. The center has on going programs on a variety of finfish, crustaceans and more recently molluscan species.
The reproductive physiology program aims to enable controlling the reproductive cycle of captive broodstock of marine fishes candidate for aquaculture in the Gulf region and develop effective spawning methods to produce high quality seeds for aquaculture. Gamete maturation and the hormonal cycle of fish held in captivity are studied in connection with spawning success and spawn parameters. Spawning methods are developed through manipulation of environmental variables as well as the use of hormonal therapies for spawning in tanks or in vitro fertilization following strip-spawning. In vitro fertilization parameters are optimized in order to enable production of complex mating designs during breeding programs.
TCMAC maintains production units for algae, rotifers, Artemia, and copepods in support of culture operations for a variety of molluscs, crustaceans, and finfish. Center scientists investigate techniques to maximize production per unit volume and methods to manipulate and optimize nutritional value for target organisms. With respect to copepods, the Center focuses on developing methods for commercial-scale production of Acartia tonsa and Parvocalanus crassirostris using laboratory and mathematical approaches.
Although the Center has an intake for natural saltwater, optimal water quality can sometimes be a challenge. Additionally the Center operates in a minimal discharge environment. Center staff, therefore seek, to maximize the use and reuse of artificial saltwater. The use of artificial seawater helps create additional biosecurity and can allow marine aquaculture to occur in a variety of geographic locations. Recirculation technologies at TCMAC include both biofloc and clear water systems for maintenance and production of molluscs, crustaceans, and finfish. Our scientists seek to maximize the economics of recirculating systems by employing bead filtration systems that minimize backwash volume and maximize the efficiency of mechanical and biofiltration. The program also investigates recovery and reuse of wastewater through the use of geotextile bags and aquaponics for coastal marsh plants.
The center focuses on encouraging environmentally and economically sustainable offshore aquaculture in the Gulf of Mexico and worldwide. Research and development addresses the environmental, regulatory, structural and logistical aspects of offshore aquaculture.