Mississippi State’s wildlife and fisheries department is changing its name to reflect the state aquaculture industry’s importance and the university’s role in its continuing development.
During its September meeting, the state College Board approved the change to the department of wildlife, fisheries and aquaculture, one of three academic units in the College of Forest Resources and its Forest and Wildlife Research Center.
Department head Bruce Leopold said aquaculture makes a "significant contribution" to Mississippi’s economy. Presently, the industry—which, primarily, involves catfish farming—ranks fifth among all agricultural production.
"There are more than 70,000 acres of aquaculture ponds in the state with a production value of $258 million," the veteran MSU teacher and researcher added. The new name "more accurately reflects our depth of research, teaching and service," all designed to assist professionals working in this field, he added.
"The department has been conducting fisheries and aquaculture research since 1968," observed college Dean George Hopper. "Expansion of the department to include aquaculture is natural, since fisheries and aquaculture research are inter-connected and inseparable."
Ten faculty members specializing in aquaculture are located both on and off campus. Campus facilities include 80 ponds occupying 15 acres. Research facilities at the Delta Research and Extension Center in Stoneville involve 290 ponds spread over more than 350 acres.
"Our program currently has two graduate and 14 undergraduate majors," Hopper said. "This administrative change will enable Dr. Leopold and others in the department to more effectively recruit new majors throughout the state and nation."