Explore Academy in Pine Bluff recently organized a field trip for a group of 45 high schoolers from various schools in the Pine Bluff area. Their destination was the UAPB Department of Aquaculture and Fisheries, where interactive sessions and hands-on activities awaited them.
Dr. Yathish Ramena, director of the UA Pine Bluff Aquaculture Fisheries Center, planned the educational experience. The participants began with a session on the world of Artemia (Artemia franciscana), where the students observed the hatching process at different life stages. Using specialized cone systems, they saw how these tiny Artmeia cysts develop, and using microscopes, they identified each stage.
“The students were brimming with curiosity, posing numerous questions about the protocols and procedures involved in live food hatching,” Dr. Ramena said. “Fard Karim, a graduate student in Dr. Grace Ramena’s lab, provided insightful explanations on how these live foods are crucial for feeding various fish and shrimp species during their weaning periods. His detailed answers spurred further questions, making the session highly interactive.”
Dr. Ramena said that Ayushma Sharma, a graduate student working in the pathology lab, also engaged with the students, answering questions about the Center’s activities.
“Her enthusiasm was contagious, and the students were eager to learn more about the ongoing research and developments,” he said. “We also coordinated with Sujan Battarai, a doctoral student and Extension associate, who oversees an experimental study on catfish. This study focuses on evaluating the growth effects of incorporating low-cost dietary spirulina and single-cell protein into the basal diets of fingerling catfish. The students participated in measuring water quality parameters like dissolved oxygen and temperature, gaining practical experience in scientific methods used in aquaculture trials.”
Dr. Ramena then introduced the students to UAPB’s new interactive artificial intelligence (AI) lab. He demonstrated how AI is being used to control and monitor the growth and health of commercially-important fish and shrimp species.
“The students were fascinated by this cutting-edge technology and its potential applications in aquaculture,” he said. “Our vision for improved production and health management through AI captivated the students, inspiring them to think about future innovations in science.”
Dr. Rebecca Lochmann, professor of aquaculture and fisheries, also visited during the educational session.
“Dr. Lochmann’s presence underscored the importance of collaboration and support within our department,” he said. “To round off the visit, Scott Jones, instructor and Extension specialist, arranged a fishing derby, which proved to be a hit among the students. They eagerly participated, showcasing their enthusiasm and competitive spirit. The fishing derby not only provided a fun and engaging activity but also reinforced their interest in aquaculture and fisheries.”