By Deseray McKinzy

The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff Aquaculture/Fisheries Department was recently awarded a $3 Million Grant by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Dr. Michael Eggleton who is the Principal Investigator and Professor of Fisheries Science along with Co-Principal Investigator Dr. Yingkai Fang, and  Dr. Uttam Deb will contribute to leading the monitoring and assessment research that will result in a national framework for improving the wetlands. 

The NRCS funded Agricultural Conservation Easement Program – Wetlands Reserve Easement (ACEP-WRE) Program allows landowners to cost-share with NRCS in converting their marginal or retired farmlands back to the native wetland and associated habitats.  

In the United States 50% of the historical wetlands have been eliminated and in Arkansas over 70% of the wetlands have been eliminated for various reasons according to Dr. Eggleton. He further explained the importance of wetlands in the relation to this project, 

The duration of the grant is sent from 2021-2026 in which UAPB will mine as much existing data as possible from databases and summarize those data at a national scale, according to Dr. Eggleton. Eggleton explained how the five-year project helps to gather data analysis from the wetlands to show NRCS how much improvement and progress the wetlands provide to specific areas. 

The Aquaculture/Fisheries Department will be looking to conduct this project with graduate and undergraduate students at the University in partnership with Universities and colleges in surrounding areas along the Mississippi River. The department is currently gathering partners to work in alliance to work on the project. 

In relation to gaining these partnerships and collaborating with students on this project, Dr. Eggleton explained what it will mean for the department and his hopes.