Forestry and Natural Resources
Aquaculture Research Lab Manager
5675 West 600 North
West Lafayette, IN 47907
Tell us about your background?
Bob has been working in Aquaculture for almost 30 years. He has worked in both the public and private sectors in many parts of the US and in Thailand as a Peace Corps volunteer. Bob obtained a Masters in Aquaculture from Auburn University and has worked with multiple species of fish in cages, ponds and indoor recirculating systems (RAS).
How did you come to work on aquaculture? What do people need to know about it?
Bob’s job experience has been related to the production of fish or research to improve production. He is a proponent of Aquaculture for a number of reasons. Future trends show that the Earth’s oceans are already at maximum sustainable yield and yet our human population keeps expanding. The demand for a healthy, low fat, high protein food such as fish is only going to become more intense with each passing year. It doesn’t help that the US now imports approximately 90% of the fish we eat as a nation.
How did you get involved with FNR Extension and outreach?
Bob’s position at Purdue is rather unique. The majority of time is spent managing the Aquaculture Research Lab which is used by 4-5 faculty and their grad students doing research related to aquatic organisms. Additionally, Bob works with the public as an extension specialist, assisting with obtaining information and demonstrating how fish can become part of their agricultural enterprise. To Bob, that is the best of both worlds, getting to work with fish on a daily basis but also assisting people with decisions about their involvement with aquaculture. That’s what really drew him to the position here.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
The best part of the job is the variety. There is a seasonality to fish, their reproduction, juvenile stage and grow out. Likewise, working with farmers has a seasonality with the winter slow and a time for meetings and discussions and the summer with better weather for site visits and hands on activities. Throw in the management of the lab and some days can get pretty exciting.
What is the biggest challenge you face in your job?
The biggest challenge facing the aquaculture industry in Indiana is the fact that it is such a small industry in Indiana. There are few established markets for product, suppliers to the industry, lenders interested in a new enterprise, or neighbors to work with or copy from. For potential producers this can be too much to overcome no matter the interest level. So for some, Bob is in the position of talking them out of the enterprise unless they can overcome most of these barriers to entry which is not an easy thing to do.
What part of your job did you least expect to be doing?
The one thing that hadn’t been counted on as part of this job is the changes in aquaculture that can happen seemingly overnight. Within the past four years, two new enterprises have created quite a stir in Indiana and nationally. The first is the ability to grow salt water shrimp indoors for a public interested in where their food originates. Likewise, interest in the discipline of aquaponics has taken off for much the same reason. Growing healthy fish and using the byproducts to raise vegetables lends itself to sustainability and consumers looking for a premium food source. There is a need to constantly upgrade knowledge of aquaculture to more competently answer the public’s questions which is something not really envisioned when Bob took the job.
Do you have an outside hobby?
Bob’s latest hobby is homebrewing beer. With the popularity of brew pubs and microbrews, the variety and quality of beer has increased and the availability of ingredients for homebrewing has increased as well. Taking barley malt, water and hops and introducing the biological processes of yeast fermentation to produce a diverse array of beers is really fun. The end product is usually quite tasty too.