Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Mentor Profile with Ben LaFrentz, USDA-ARS Aquatic Animal Health Research Unit

Dr. Benjamin LaFrentz has been actively conducting basic and applied research in the area of aquatic animal health since 2000, with a special emphasis on pathogenic Flavobacterium spp. He is employed as a Research Molecular Biologist at the USDA-ARS Aquatic Animal Health Research Unit in Auburn, Alabama.  He completed his undergraduate training in Animal Ecology (Aquaculture emphasis) at Iowa State University (2000) and MS and PhD in Fishery Resources at The University of Idaho (2002, 2007).  During his graduate training, he worked collaboratively with the rainbow trout aquaculture industry on research projects aimed at developing vaccines for Flavobacterium psychrophilum, the causative agent of bacterial coldwater disease.  Through these projects, he has conducted research on host immune mechanisms, identification and characterization of immunogenic antigens, vaccine development, and identification of virulence factors of bacterial pathogens.  Currently, he is applying his expertise towards important bacterial pathogens of channel catfish and tilapia to develop new methods for disease prevention that will improve the productivity, quality, and profit of these important aquaculture species.


1.      How did you get to where you are today?
I have always had a passion for fish. As a child, I raised guppies and collected “data” on them, perhaps sparking my interest in research! After high school I attended Iowa State University and majored in animal ecology with an emphasis in aquaculture. During my junior or senior year, I took an interesting fish pathology course and felt this was my path. After graduating ISU, I was fortunate to get accepted to graduate school at the University of Idaho and obtained my MS and PhD degrees conducting research on bacterial coldwater disease. In 2008, I was hired as a research molecular biologist at the USDA-ARS Aquatic Animal Health Research Unit in Auburn, AL.

2.      What do you like most about your current job? 
The thing I enjoy the most about my job is that I am always learning something new. Research is exciting (and frustrating at times) and results from one study may lead you down a road that you never thought about traveling. Combining basic and applied research with the goal of solving a problem to improve fish health is very satisfying to me.

3.      When and why did you first become involved with AFS and the FHS? 
I joined AFS in 1999 while an undergraduate student and joined the FHS as a graduate student. At the University of Idaho, I was actively involved in the Palouse Student Subunit of the Idaho Chapter AFS and served as Co-President and Secretary. In 2004, I attended a FHS EXCOM meeting and the committee expressed interest in revamping the FHS website. I had some experience in developing websites, so I volunteered to serve as the website editor. This proved to be an invaluable opportunity as it allowed me to meet, network, and interact with many FHS members. Additionally, I have served on the Communications Committee, Student Involvement Committee, and Nominating and Balloting Committee.    

4.      How do you feel that FHS has influenced your career path? 
My involvement with the FHS has allowed me to interact with many FHS members and build lasting friendships and collaborations with other fish health professionals. It has opened the door to opportunities that would not have been possible.  

5.     What do you see for the future of the FHS? 
I see the future of the FHS continuing its long standing reputation of connecting fish health professionals nationally and internationally, promoting the science, developing professional and technical standards, and developing young professionals.  

6.     What has been your favorite part about being a part of the FHS network? 
My favorite part of the FHS network has been interacting with other members through involvement and meetings. Attending FHS meetings are rewarding for numerous reasons including learning more about current issues and research in fish health, building collaborations, meeting new people, and reconnecting with others.

7.     Who were your mentors as you were an up-and-coming fish health specialist? 
As an undergraduate at Iowa State University, I was fortunate to be advised and mentored by Bob Summerfelt. Through his mentoring, Bob introduced me to research and provided me with many of the skills that I needed to be successful. During my graduate research in Idaho, Ken Cain and Scott LaPatra taught me experimental design, research techniques, and how to write effectively. They also provided me with opportunities to attend meetings, assist with on-farm research, and explore side research projects. I will always be grateful for these mentors. I’ve met different fish health professionals with exemplary research programs, values, and attitudes which have indirectly served as mentors or role models.

8.     What would you say to yourself now, when you were going through school? 
I think it is important to work hard, keep an open mind, jump on opportunity, and find balance to ensure you play hard at times too.

9.     If you mentor students currently or hire new graduates, what sort of qualities do you look for? 
I mentor students on occasion, but I think the most important qualities are curiosity and enthusiasm.     

10.    Any words of wisdom to up-and-coming FHS students and new members? 
Get involved and build relationships with other FHS members.

Monday, January 12, 2015

56th Annual Western Fish Disease Workshop

Registration for the 56th Annual Western Fish Disease Workshop has opened. The registration website is here. The workshop will be held from June 2-4, 2015 at the Steamboat Sheraton Resort in Steamboat Springs, CO. The continuing education session will be held on June 2nd, and presentations will take place on June 3rd & 4th. This year's CE session is 'What's bugging my fish? Detection, pathology, impacts, and treatment of problematic parasites' and is RACE certified. 

More information will be available soon in the FHS Newsletter.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Inspector & Pathologist Certification


As part of our ongoing commitment to highlight opportunities available to students and early career professionals in fish health, we'd like to take a moment to talk about the certification process. Individuals can be certified as an Aquatic Animal Health Inspector or a Fish Pathologist.  

The Aquatic Animal Health Inspector provides "aquatic animal health inspection services for non-mammalian species as mandated by domestic and foreign regulatory agencies…This individual has the resources to detect clinical and/or carrier disease states, as specified in the AFS/FHS Blue Book, the OIE Manual of Diagnostic Tests for Aquatic Animals, etc., as well as being knowledgeable of the necessary current sampling, reporting and regulatory requirements required to properly manage aquatic animal populations."

Conversely, the certified Fish Pathologist serves "fisheries programs and aquaculture through the evaluation and diagnosis of fish health problems, through responsible recommendations for disease control, and through the administration of programs designed to enhance the health of cultured and free-ranging fishes."

The necessary qualifications differ between the two and can be found on the individual certification website under the standards and procedures heading. The requirements can seem a little daunting at first particularly the required coursework. However, the Professional Standards Committee along with Doug Munson is working to make certification attainable for all fish health professionals, which will include accepting online courses for credit.

If you're interested in the learning more about the certification process, we highly encourage you to look at the website and keep an eye out for upcoming announcements regarding this process.


Brief Update

In addition to the update on the AFS-FHS certification process, there have been some minor cosmetic changes to the blog recently. These seemingly small changes reflect a larger change in both our purpose and goals. Specifically, we are no longer the Student Involvement Committee but are now the Student and Early Career Involvement Committee. The purpose of this change is to ensure that both student and early career members have the opportunity for greater involvement in the section and have a means to ensure that their ideas and concerns can be heard.

We'd also like to take this opportunity to reminder everyone about our LinkedIn profile. The goal of the page is to help fish health students and budding professionals find each other and get connected. We are hoping that this will allow students to gain mentorship from young professionals and provide a platform to post jobs, interesting questions and general ideas surrounding fish health. Hope to see you on there!

Finally, we're always looking for new committee members (both students and early career). We're also looking for more members interested in being profiled for the blog. (Previous profiles can be found here). If you're interested in participating, please contact us.

Monday, July 28, 2014

ISAAH-7 Update

Greetings!

Plans are underway for student activities at ISAAH-7. If you haven't already registered for the meeting, make sure to do so soon. You can find information about student activities and more at the ISAAH-7 student webpage.

There's still space available in both the Student Professional Development workshop and the Mentoring Social. If you've already registered for the meeting but did not sign up for those events and are interested in attending, please contact the Student Subsection committee.

For any students looking for a roommate to help defray costs, the Student Subsection has put together a Google doc for people seeking roommates.

Finally, the Student Subsection still needs mentors to participate in the student mentoring workshop at ISAAH-7. The workshop is scheduled for Monday, September 1st, from 6-9 pm at the Hilton. Appetizers and drinks will be provided to all participants.

We're looking for professionals from academia, industry, federal agencies, and post-docs. If you'd like to participate, please contact Amy Long at longam@onid.orst.edu.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Student Profile: Daniel Hernandez





Daniel Hernandez is a PhD student at the University of Washington. Daniel's work focuses on viruses in Spring Chinook salmon. Read on to learn more about Daniel and his background.





1. What is your current research/position?
I am a graduate student and NSF Graduate Research Fellow in the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences at the University of Washington. My current investigation is underway with the USGS Western Fisheries Research Center in Seattle, WA.
  
2. What sparked your interest in aquatic animal health?
I have always had an affinity for aquatic systems as well as the health sciences. While my undergraduate training and research background is in oceanography and marine ecosystems, my continued intrigue in the health sciences has made the field of aquatic animal health a perfect discipline to receive my graduate training in.
 
3. What has been your favorite fisheries-related job?
To date, my most memorable fisheries-related job was a summer position I held with the Watershed group at NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center. Before this position, I had limited training in freshwater system sampling. I came away that summer with an in-depth understanding of the ecology of the various stream habitats used by Pacific salmonids.  

4. What do you like most about graduate/professional school?
I enjoy the collaborative and interdisciplinary nature of my research. I also appreciate having access to and learning from those carrying out science in fields of fisheries and fish health.  

5. When and why did you first become involved with AFS and the FHS?
I first became involved with AFS as I neared completion of my Bachelor of Science degree. In my junior and senior year, I had the opportunity to attend the AFS - Alaska Chapter meetings as my research interests at the time were climate change and Alaska salmon productivity. Only since my transition to doing research in field of fish health did I become involved with the fish health section of AFS.

6. What are your long-term professional goals (FHS or otherwise)?
My immediate professional goal is to complete my PhD from the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences at the University of Washington. Upon completion of my PhD, my training will span the fields of virology, fish ecology, and epidemiology making it possible to pursue a research career in any one of those disciplines. For now, “The world is my oyster” as they say. I hope that the coming years as PhD student will aid me in developing my long-term professional goals.     

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Mentor Profile with Dr. Paul Hershberger, FHS President



Dr. Paul Hershberger currently sits on the Executive Committee as the Elected Fish Health Section President. Paul is also the Station Leader and a Research Fishery Biologist with the USGS Marrowstone Marine Field Station where he directs research relating to diseases in wild fish. Additionally, Paul is an Affiliate Faculty member at the University of Washington. 

1.         How did you get to where you are today?
I have always been interested in fish; my parents started taking me fishing when I was 4 years old; and the weekend fishing trips were a source of constant inspiration throughout my childhood.  I had my first formal introduction to fisheries with an ichthyology course I took in college.  Unfortunately, my high expectations for the course left me disillusioned, as I did not find stimulation in the classical fisheries approaches, and I was frustrated with memorizing the Latin names of daces, darters, chubs and minnows that had been in formalin way too long.  However, my passion for fish persisted and I feel fortunate to have discovered the field of fish health in graduate school.  I was immediately hooked; the field incorporated many of the issues, disciplines, concepts, and approaches that I found fascinating.

2.         What do you like most about your current job?
1) I feel extremely fortunate to be able to interact with the people in the fish health community who are committed to advancing our field.  These professional interactions with people, ranging from temporary interns through emeritus scientists, provide me with a great sense of humility and appreciation that together, we are contributing to the advancement of our field. 
2) I really enjoy the challenges inherent to addressing scientific questions.  This job has provided me with the opportunity to address some of these basic and applied questions using unique approaches that involve tools that are adapted from multiple disciplines.  Designing an approach to addressing a question, executing the approach, and obtaining an answer is a very simple process that provides me with great satisfaction.
 
3.         When and why did you first become involved with AFS and the FHS?
I started attending the FHS annual meeting when I was a graduate student and I’ve enjoyed them ever since.

4.         Who were your mentors as you were an up-and-coming fish health specialist? How did they influence you?
I’m not sure that I could put my finger on a particular mentor as much as I could refer to the collective community of fish health professionals.  I have a keen interest in history and I feel fortunate to have met (and sometimes worked with) some of the pioneers in our field, including Drs. John Fryer, Gary Wedemeyer, Ron Hedrick, Jim Winton, Vicki Blazer, Ted Meyers, Garth Traxler, and Ray Brunson.  Some people I have been fortunate to work with very closely and others I met only once or twice, but made a profound and lasting impact on me.  For example, as a post doc I briefly met a gentleman named Alistar McVicar, who had written several wonderful reviews on Ichthyophonus.  I remember very clearly when he put his hand on my shoulder and said (in a thick Scottish accent) ‘Son, you can spend an entire career working on this critter and still not have many answers.’  I continue to put a lot of value on these professional interactions and I try to learn as much as I can from every conversation, whether it involves the consummate professionalism of Jill Rolland, the edgy pragmatism of Dick Kocan, or the endless energy and enthusiasm of Scott LaPatra.

5.         If you mentor students currently or hire new graduates, what sort of qualities do you look for?
The most important qualities I look for in any student or employee involves a good work ethic, inquisitive mind, ability to work independently, and overall healthy attitude.  These qualities are much more important to me than whatever pathogen somebody may have worked with, or what particular laboratory techniques somebody may have in their tool box.  Tools and skills can be learned quickly by anybody with an inquisitive mind, but a solid work ethic and desire for knowledge are much more difficult to teach.