Applying genetic and genomic tools toward the conservation of depleted, threatened, or endangered species and development of sustainable aquaculture.
- Operational validation of the Offshore Mariculture Escapes Genetics Assessment (OMEGA) model
- Coordination of developing a white paper detailing the methods, risks, benefits, and necessities of using genetic improvement in aquaculture
This project is performed in collaboration with the original co-developers of the OMEGA model, Greg Blair and Jason Volk at ICF International. From Gruenthal et al. (2017): “The rapid development of offshore marine finfish aquaculture worldwide has raised concerns due, in part, to the potential negative genetic and fitness impacts escaped farmed fish may have on natural populations. […] Genetic and fitness-related impacts to the wild population then occur when escaped individuals from these cultured populations interbreed with wild conspecifics. […] OMEGA is intended to provide insight into the variables affecting risk, help identify information gaps and research priorities, explore options for operational design or modification, and inform policy and management decisions.”
Co-conspirators for this project include Drs. Caird Rexroad III, Beth Cleveland, Greg Weber, and Roger Vallajo (USDA); Dr. Mackenzie Gavery (UW and NOAA Fisheries); Dr. Ten-Tsao Wong (UMBC); Mike Rust (NOAA Fisheries); and Dr. Devin Bartley (FAO). From our paper in progress: “Application of genetic improvement includes using one or more of the following techniques: selective breeding, chromosome manipulation, hybridization, sex control, and genetic engineering and transgenesis […], with the object of discovering optimum strategies to exploit existing genetic variation within one or more species to maximize physiological and economic merit. When implemented carefully, genetic improvement programs may even have the potential to enhance the environmental compatibility and sustainability of aquaculture, for instance, through increased feed efficiency, tolerance of alternative feeds, or reduced survivability in the wild. Here, we provide an overview of 1) domestic policy and planning support for genetic improvement in aquaculture; 2) the tools and techniques available and applied in the U.S., including emerging considerations like genome editing and epigenetics; 3) key high-value freshwater and marine species cultured in the U.S. with active genetic improvement programs; and 4) the benefits and risks to producers, consumers, and animal welfare of implementing genetic improvement in aquaculture.”