RED CLIFF, Wis. – The Northern Aquaculture Demonstration Facility offers a place to take students where they can see how math, science, vocational education and even the humanities are applied to an actual job. It would be a job they could enjoy with a lot of hands-on work in a field that’s undergoing huge growth.

Students who train in the aquaculture field are able to work with thousands of animals in a day and likely many millions of animals in a career. If this sounds interesting you should meet and is located just north of Red Cliff on Wisconsin Highway 13.

“Normally when you go to a facility like a hatchery they are focusing on a few species and a few life stages,” said Emma Wiermaa, outreach specialist and research assistant the facility operated by the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. “We focus on a number of different systems, all life stages and we have done research on over 15 different species here. People here are learning about pond aquaculture, recirculating aquaculture systems, incubation systems from hatching to brood stock – which is unheard of for a single facility in the Midwest. People starting in this industry need hands-on experience and as students they can get it here. We also have internships available with our partners.

“There are so many different aspects to this industry. It’s not just raising the fish, it’s learning about technology, engineering, genetics, production and marketing. It’s not just biology, it’s mathematics, engineering and marketing because this is agribusiness. Students come here not knowing what aquaculture is about and then saying, ‘Wow, there is so much more to this than I thought!’

“Tours come here from all over the state; recently we had a group come from Montana. The first time here students think it’s incredible. But we also try to get into classrooms at schools to help teachers build a system. We actually donate walleyes to schools and provide some technical assistance; we work with schools throughout Wisconsin. For local schools I visit and talk to students about aquaculture and then we work with teachers to incorporate science, math. (We) get technology students in so we build curriculum to incorporate other subjects or classes. Instead of doing math or algebra in a book they are figuring densities for fish, or water quality or feed ratios. So there is an outcome to their course work. If you don’t manage water quality your fish will die.

“Having that hands-on (science, technology, engineering and math) learning experience is so important. Teachers like it, too, because it makes learning real for their students. Students generally like to work with living animals. With aquaponics classes can raise fish and plants and donate the plants to the school cafeteria. We think of this as a career-development opportunity to start students at an early age thinking about aquaculture as an option. This is a field that is growing exponentially.”

The field is not limited to people interested in math and science. There are also aquaculture careers in fabrication, design and equipment installation, and maintenance.

Visit aquaculture.uwsp.edu for more information.

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Jason Maloney is an “elderly” farm boy from Marinette County, Wisconsin. He’s a retired educator, a retired soldier and a lifelong Wisconsin resident. He lives on the shore of Lake Superior with his wife, Cindy, and Red, a sturdy loyal Australian Shepherd.