SUNY Cobleskill – NYS DEC agreement

May 15, 2019 | SUNY Cobleskill

SUNY Cobleskill and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) have entered into an agreement to collaborate on projects for the conservation and management of freshwater fish and mussels in New York State. The five-year memorandum of understanding awards $604,000 from the DEC to support five distinct projects on which the College and DEC will work together.

The five projects are:

Trial Exploration of New York’s Historic Lake Erie Commercial Fisheries Database: Converting paper records of Lake Erie fisheries data from 1929-1970 to a digital format, to enable analyses that may reveal new insights about the temporal and spatial nature of these fisheries, such as historic spawning locations for lake whitefish, lake trout, lake herring, and other species.

Workforce Training and Continuing Education for DEC Hatchery Staff: Establishing and delivering a training curriculum to DEC hatchery staff aimed at enhancing skills and instructing on emerging fish culture technology.

Freshwater Mussel Propagation: SUNY Cobleskill will develop protocols and infrastructure to propagate threatened and endangered freshwater mussels, which may be used for future restoration projects.

Experimental Finfish Aquaculture: Developing fish culture techniques for imperiled fish and transferring that knowledge to DEC for eventual production and stocking.

NYS Fish Hatchery Modernization Assessment: Providing a comprehensive assessment of DEC’s hatchery system, including conceptually designing energy efficient, and cost-effective cutting-edge fish culture systems.

Additionally, the agreement has made it possible for SUNY Cobleskill to hire Visiting Assistant Professor of Aquaculture Engineering Neil Ashton. The position Professor Ashton is filling is the first of its kind at SUNY Cobleskill. He will begin full-time employment at the College on June 1, 2019.

“The aligned vision for collaboration and forward-thinking innovation that SUNY Cobleskill shares with the DEC is made evident by this partnership, and its intended outcomes,” says College President Marion A. Terenzio. “The opportunity to add the depth of knowledge Profesor Ashton brings to the work that is planned and underway in our Department of Fisheries, Wildlife and Environmental Science will be invaluable to our faculty and students. We are eager to continue advancing our role as stewards of environmental conservation, and excited to do so in partnership with the DEC, with which we are proud to have a longstanding relationship.”

In more than 20 years of experience in aquaculture, fisheries, and engineering, Professor Ashton has held positions at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (WA), and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. He is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Idaho.

As part of the NYS Fish Hatchery Assessment project, SUNY Cobleskill students enrolled in aquaculture engineering classes will use the hatchery system as a learning laboratory. Under Professor Ashton’s guidance, students will assist in modernizing DEC’s hatchery system, by designing energy efficient fish culture systems and planning cost-effective facility upgrades.

Of the collaboration, DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos says: “Our partnership with SUNY Cobleskill is an example of strong partnerships that produce results. We will reap the benefits of having highly skilled aquaculture engineering to assist DEC in the development of cutting-edge technology for improving production and energy efficiency at our hatcheries. Using DEC’s 12 hatcheries as a laboratory, students will be able to work on real-life problems, gain hands-on experience, and advance learning. This is win-win for all.”