Research projects

NIFA-funded research projects advance U.S. aquaculture and protect our oceans

To mark world oceans day In June, we highlight the collaborative work Land-grant universities are doing, with support from the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), to advance aquaculture in the United States and protect our coastal waters.

Helping Aquaculture Thrive in the United States

Salmon, shrimp, catfish and other fish provide an important source of protein, economic activity and recreation, but the country’s capture fisheries and aquaculture face many challenges.

These challenges range from environmental shocks caused by climate change and other man-made disasters like oil spills, to supply chain issues and competition from foreign producers. These factors have led to economic stress and uncertainty, highlighting the need for aquaculture industries to better understand markets and improve production efficiency.

A project funded by NIFA multi-state research project which ended in 2019 brought together scientists from 13 land-grant universities across the United States to study management, trade, and marketing issues in the aquaculture and fishing industries in order to improve and sustain fisheries and aquaculture production; increase organizational and institutional efficiency within industries; and expand seafood markets and increase value.

The five-year study resulted in a range of solutions, including new ways to improve the profitability of aquaculture systems to the creation of programs for aquaculture producers and consumers on how to implement sustainable practices and profitable while protecting our oceans.

Designing climate-resistant septic systems

Septic tanks are common, but they can pose safety risks.

About 25% of households in the United States rely on septic systems, which are on-site wastewater treatment systems that typically consist of a storage tank for solid waste and a soil field that absorbs wastewater. Septic systems can also include natural and mechanical processes and materials to help treat and disperse wastewater.

For many sites, septic systems provide adequate treatment to protect public and environmental health, but improperly located, poorly designed, installed, or maintained septic systems can release pathogens, chemicals, and other pollutants into the soil. and the surface and
underground waters. Septic systems are also vulnerable to climate change. Changes in precipitation and temperature and rising sea levels and groundwater tables can affect the performance of septic systems.

In a project funded by NIFA multi-state research project which ended in 2020, scientists from 12 land-grant universities worked together to better understand the complex physical, chemical and biological processes that septic systems rely on. Using a multi-disciplinary, multi-state approach, the team designed septic systems that work in a wide range of environmental conditions and significantly reduce the amount of nitrogen entering coastal waters.

Photo: Aerial view of ocean wave courtesy of Adobe Stock.