Aquaculture Program

The aquaculture program at the University of Rhode Island, begun in 1969 and administered by the Department of Fisheries, Animal and Veterinary Sciences (FAVS), is one of the oldest aquaculture programs in the northeastern United States.The Aquaculture Program offers a degree program at the undergraduate level (B.S. in Aquaculture and Fisheries Technology) as well as opportunities to study at the graduate level in or M.S. in Fisheries and Aquaculture program or our Ph.D. program in Environmental Sciences with an aquaculture emphasis.Students in our programs have come from throughout the United States and from many foreign countries.Faculty in the department have research interests in culture of salmonids, culture of marine finfish and marine finfish larviculture, DNA vaccines, culture of bivalve mollusks, recirculation aquaculture systems, development of new aquaculture species, and environmental impacts of aquaculture among many others.

Interdepartmental Interests and Collaboration
In addition to the aquaculture program in the FAVS Department, faculty in several other colleges and departments around the University of Rhode Island work problems related to aquaculture.Two FAVS aquaculture faculty have joint faculty appointments in the Department of Biochemistry, Microbiology and Molecular Genetics (BMMG) (, and collaborate frequently with other BMMG faculty in aquaculture research.Recent collaboration between FAVS and BMMG faculty has led to breakthroughs in the isolation of protective heat shock proteins in salmon smolts and the characterization of Vibrio infections in summer flounder.Among the other departments with interest in aquaculture is the Department of Environmental and Natural Resource Economics (ENRE) ( members in ENRE have interest in the economics of salmon and shrimp production, economics of aquaculture production systems, eco-labeling of aquaculture and other seafood products and the relative valuation of multiple uses of aquatic environments.At URI’s Graduate School of Oceanography (, some faculty and staff scientists are working on aquaculture problems such as endocrinology of cultured fish species and culture methods for some novel species, including the tautog, a formerly important sport fish from the northeastern United States.Some faculty members in the Department of Marine Affairs ( have interest in aquaculture and coastal policy issues. The anthropology of people in fishing and aquaculture communities is a research area by some faculty members of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology (, and the biology of lobsters in relation to fishery stock enhancement using aquaculture methods is studied in the Department of Biological Sciences ( The Coastal Resources Center at URI ( has a long-standing program to assist governments in developing countries to develop and manage sustainable forms of aquaculture.Notable CRC projects include analysis of impacts of shrimp farming in Ecuador and management of seaweed and pearl farming in Indonesia. Finally, in the Department of Biomedical Sciences ( in the College of Pharmacy, pharmaceutical properties of biochemicals extracted from cultured algae are being studied.

The University of Rhode Island is the state’s Land and Sea Grant University, with a main campus located in the southern part of Rhode Island in Kingston; the Narragansett Bay Campus, housing the Graduate School of Oceanography and some aquaculture labs is 10 km away on Narragansett Bay.Freshwater aquaculture operations are housed at East Farm, located about 1 km from the main campus in Kingston, and nearby coastal lagoons provide excellent areas for shellfish aquaculture research.Centrally located in southern New England and 6 km from the Atlantic Ocean, the area is predominately rural, but it is also a major summer tourist destination for the Northeast because of its world-class beaches, fishing harbors, and historic attractions.Just 20 minutes to Newport, 2 hours to Boston, and 3 hours to New York City, the University is also ideally situated for access to almost every academic and recreational pursuit.

Aquaculture research activities are carried out at the Kingston campus, East Farm, and the Narragansett Bay Campus.The Kingston campus houses several of the aquaculture laboratories including a laboratory equipped to study nucleic acid vaccines for fish and shellfish.At East Farm, the Freshwater Aquaculture Center is a 12,500 sq. ft. (1,160 m2) building housing most of the salmonid aquaculture research.An aquatic pathology laboratory (3,500 sq. ft.), fisheries gear technology laboratory and aquaculture greenhouse facility are also located at East Farm.At the Narragansett Bay Campus, aquaculture research is being carried out in several laboratories including a 9,800 sq. ft. (910 m2) Aquarium Building with flowing seawater, and at the Marine Ecosystems Research Laboratory (MERL) that houses thirteen 13-m3 mesocosm tanks that can be set up to mimic the conditions in the adjacent Narragansett Bay.Recently, studies were conducted at the MERL facility to investigate impacts of cultured oysters on the rates of sedimentation and species composition of phytoplankton in the water column. The culture of black sea bass, tautog and summer flounder is ongoing in the Aquarium Building.An additional aquaculture laboratory for both marine finfish culture and shellfish aquaculture is in the design stages.This 12,000 sq. ft. (1,120 m2) facility jointly funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the State of Rhode Island will include isolation laboratories for work with transgenic organisms and research on pathogens.

Another of the key features of the Narragansett Bay Campus is that the United States National Sea Grant Depository is housed at the Claiborne Pell Marine Science Library on site.Additionally, two federal laboratories engaged in research related to aquaculture are located immediately adjacent to the Bay Campus.At the National Marine Fisheries Service Laboratory, faculty and staff scientists have been collaborating with FAVS faculty on the development of techniques for culturing cod and haddock.Scientists at the Environmental Protection Agency’s Narragansett Laboratory and aquaculture scientists at URI have long collaborated, especially in the area of developing techniques for culturing aquatic organisms for use as toxicity test organisms.

Collaboration with Industry
The FAVS Department has a long history of actively collaborating with the aquaculture industry in the New England Region and internationally.Recent research and outreach activities at URI have led to commercial improvements of summer flounder culture in Rhode Island and New Hampshire, the development of novel oyster culture methods in Rhode Island and improvements to upweller technology for nursery culture of shellfish.There are active collaborations with companies focusing on application of biotechnology to aquaculture.International industry collaborations have included work with shellfish and grouper producers in the Philippines and turbot producers in Europe. The framework for collaborating with industry on important economic development projects in aquaculture and biotechnology have been enhanced by the recent establishment of the Samuel Slater Centers for Ocean Technology and Environmental Biotechnology at the Narragansett Bay Campus.

The future of aquaculture programs at the University of Rhode Island is closely tied with the development of commercial aquaculture locally in Rhode Island and in the Northeastern United States in general.Since the region is the most heavily populated region in the country, there is considerable competition for land, water and coastal space, making aquaculture development difficult.Because of these constraints, future aquaculture projects will necessarily be highly efficient in the use of resources to be economically viable.Future directions include research into the improvement of on-land water reuse aquaculture systems, developing non-traditional aquaculture species, use of aquaculture techniques for environmental remediation and fishery enhancement, improvement of feeds, husbandry techniques and disease treatments, and the development of the capability of offshore aquaculture.Faculty, students and staff of the FAVS Department and the other departments around the University of Rhode Island are well positioned to contribute positively to the effort.

Aquaculture Courses at the University of Rhode Island

AFS 101 Freshman Inquiry into Fisheries and Aquaculture

AFS 102 Introductory Aquaculture

AFS 201 Shellfish Aquaculture

AFS 202 Finfish Aquaculture

AFS 352 General Genetics

AFS 355 Genetics Laboratory

AFS 362 Crustacean Aquaculture

AFS 400 Diseases of Cultured Fish

AFS 401 Pathobiology

AFS 425 Aquaculture and the Environment

AFS 426 Ecological Aquaculture

AFS 432 Marine Finfish Aquaculture

AFS 476 Genetics of Fish

AFS 481 Shellfish Aquaculture Laboratory

AFS 483 Salmonid Aquaculture

AFS 486 Applied Physiology of Fish

AFS 501, 502 Aquaculture Seminar

AFS 508 Seminar in Biological Literature

AFS 532 Experimental Design

AFS 534 Animal Virology

AFS 536 Virology Laboratory

AFS 555, 556 Pathology Rotation

AFS 581 Current Topics in Molluscan Aquaculture

AFS 584 Advanced Aquaculture Systems

AFS 586 Fish Nutrition

AFS 930 Workshop in Aquaculture for Teachers