Researchers Support Aquaculture Proposal

Posted: April 27, 2013

HARRISONBURG — Virginia universities and colleges, including James Madison, are getting behind a proposed research facility that could bring aquaculture research closer to home.
 
Waynesboro Downtown Development Inc. is now conducting a feasibility study into a combination research facility, hatchery and information center along the South River that organizers hope will boost tourism.
 
For Christine May, assistant biology professor at James Madison University, the facility could save her two trips across the country each year.
 
A facility in Oregon is one of the only places that May said students can experiment and conduct in-depth research into salmon and trout habitats.
 
But if the Waynesboro facility, known as the Center for Coldwaters Restoration, comes to fruition, students and faculty could do similar research practically in their own backyard.
 
“It would allow us to not just reduce the time and money spent in traveling, but to bring [the research] local to let a lot more students get involved,” May said. “Having something local would really just be a huge advantage.”
 
Since a group with Trout Unlimited dreamed up the creation of a hatchery in Waynesboro in 2007, the project has grown into a full-fledged vision for research spaces, an information center that would inform visitors about the state’s “flora and fauna,” and a space to bring local offices of such state agencies as the Department of Environmental Quality and the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries under one roof.
 
John Ross, co-chair of the board overseeing the project’s development, said university and college faculty already conduct mercury pollution research in the area. The center would give those researchers a place to set up shop.
 
If faculty and staff completed research at the center, some money from grants obtained for the research could benefit the facility, Ross said.
 
A feasibility study that would determine the location, cost and timeline for the possible project is now being conducted by Waynesboro Downtown Development Inc.
 
Though the center could be as far off as 2017, organizers already have reached out or are looking to promote the idea among universities and colleges to get them behind the idea now.
 
A symposium, funded with a $5,000 grant, will bring university leaders together in September at JMU to discuss research and generate interest in the Center for Coldwaters Restoration.
 
Bridgewater College, the University of Virginia, Virginia Tech, George Mason University and other institutions could benefit from having this facility, Ross said.
 
Tom Benzing, a professor of integrated science and technology at JMU and member of the center’s board, said that he could see summer programs and other educational offerings being a part of the center’s mission. But he pointed out that many details have yet to be figured out.
 
“At this point it’s an idea. It’s a big idea and so it needs to be vetted more broadly within the university to understand how this might be funded [and] where the leadership’s going to come from for it,” Benzing said. “I think JMU has always had a strong role in trying to reach out to the community and work locally to use our resources. …  I think JMU’s willing to step up.”
 
Contact Emily Sharrer at 574-6286 or esharrer@dnronline.com


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