An aquaculture scientist in Mississippi State's Forest and Wildlife Research Center is the newest university faculty member to receive the prestigious Fulbright grant to conduct research abroad as part of the U.S. Department of State's flagship exchange program.
The associate professor in the MSU Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Aquaculture in the College of Forest Resources is spending the next six months conducting research at El Centro de Estudios Avanzados en Zonas Áridas—or the Center for Advanced Studies in Arid Zones (CEAZA)—in northcentral Chile.
"The biggest shock will be going from one of the longest days of the year to one of the shortest days overnight," said Allen, who will exchange the hot Mississippi summer for winter in La Serena, Chile.
"I will be studying the effects of hypoxia, or low oxygen, on corvina, a marine fish that is similar to redfish and speckled trout, and is cultured as a fish food," Allen said. "We are studying how this species responds to hypoxia and what can be done to improve aquaculture production under hypoxic conditions."
Allen, who has been with MSU for 10 years, said the endeavor means collaboration in a setting that parallels Mississippi's own aquaculture industry.
"My work here includes both physiology and ecology of fish and how both affect how fish live and utilize their environment. I'm also interested in how environmental influences and stressors affect aquaculture and how reducing stressors can help grow more fish," Allen said.
"Since I'll be assessing hypoxia as an environmental stressor and its effect on corvina, I anticipate the research will be applicable to my work in Mississippi. Chileans are seeking ways to culture fish more efficiently, which is something we're interested in here as well," Allen said.
In August, Allen begins teaching at Universidad Católica del Norte, or UCN, one of two universities housing CEAZA facilities.
"I will be teaching university graduate students in a class on aquaculture. There is one Ph.D. program in aquaculture in Chile, and students rotate among three universities during the program, one of which is UCN," he said.
Allen, who will travel with his wife and two daughters, said that while this is a chance for professional growth and development of international collaboration, it also helps his family realize a longtime dream.
"Our daughters are going into the seventh and ninth grade, and a couple of years ago we decided that one of the things we wanted to do before they finished high school was to find a way to be immersed in a different culture while living in a different part of the world for an extended period of time," Allen said.
Andrew Kouba, professor and head of the MSU Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Aquaculture, said the Fulbright grant gives Allen a chance to engage in globally relevant research that extends far beyond Mississippi, providing benefits to researchers from both countries in addressing food security, an MSU research priority.
"To study abroad in this capacity not only benefits the host community, it brings research back home to Mississippi," he said. "There are opportunities for advancement and improvement in each place, so the exchange of information is beneficial to both, and affords Dr. Allen the opportunity to become a better teacher and researcher."
For more on the Fulbright program, visit https://eca.state.gov/fulbright.
The Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Aquaculture is part of MSU's College of Forest Resources. For more on the department, see www.cfr.msstate.edu/wildlife. For more on the Forest and Wildlife Research Center, visit www.fwrc.msstate.edu.