fish eggs  

Advancing the health and well-being of animals and people

Aquatic Animal Health Program


Program Contact:    

Paul R. Bowser, Ph.D.
Professor of Aquatic Animal Medicine
Cornell University
College of Veterinary Medicine
C5 185 Veterinary Medical Center
Phone: 607-253-4029

AQUAVET® Program:   

Rod Getchell, Ph.D.
Sr. Research Associate
Cornell University
College of Veterinary Medicine
C5 125 Veterinary Medical Center
Phone: 607-253-3393

Research Focus:  The Aquatic Animal Health Program focuses on the evaluations of therapeutic compounds to treat important diseases of cultured fishes, neoplasia in fish, mechanisms of immunity and development of fish vaccines, fish health management in intensive aquaculture systems, and pathology of wild fishes especially in cases where the potential for environmental contamination exists.

The Aquatic Animal Health Program has had an intensive research focus in cooperation with the Retroviral Laboratory of Dr. James Casey (Department of Microbiology and Immunology) and the Laboratory of Dr. Volker Vogt (Section of Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology) on the pathogenesis of tumors in fish caused by retroviruses. This effort has focused initially on the walleye dermal sarcoma retrovirus and on the mechanisms of seasonal development of these tumors on feral fish. A more recent effort has resulted in the identification of two retroviruses that are associated with walleye discrete epidermal hyperplasia. Efforts within the Aquatic Animal Health Program have resulted in the development of model laboratory transmission protocols for both of these diseases.

Research efforts also include studies on Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia Virus (VHSV), which first appeared in the Northeast in 2005. The foreign animal disease has since been found in every Great Lake and several of its subsidiary water systems, devastating wild fish populations.  Funded by the New York Sea Grant Program and other sources, the Cornell research team and collaborators have been conducting premiere research and outreach initiatives on the epidemic. While it does not affect humans, the virus causes deadly hemorrhaging and anemia in fish, and strains of the virus in Europe have wreaked havoc on rainbow trout populations across the pond. The disease has not yet infected aquaculture on this continent, but it has already been found in 28 different North American freshwater species of wild fish.

Facilities:  The Aquatic Animal Health Program has two well-equipped research laboratories capable of supporting research efforts in parasitology, bacteriology, virology, immunology, aquatic toxicology and pathology. The Program is responsible for wet lab facilities specifically designed for the maintenance of aquatic animals. The wet labs provide for water quality control and have capabilities for containment of serious pathogens. These facilities are considered among the best available anywhere for the support of aquatic animal health research.

The Program also has access, through collaborative projects, to the extensive research capabilities found within Cornell University. The Program is particularly fortunate to have strong collaborative ties with the U.S. National Biological Service Tunison Laboratory of Aquatic Science, Cortland, N.Y., the Fish Disease Control Unit of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Rome, N.Y, and the Cornell University Biological Field Station, Oneida Lake, N.Y. These collaborative arrangements have provided the basis for undertaking projects of mutual interest and facilitates both basic and applied research interests in aquatic animal health.

Partnerships:  The Aquatic Animal Health Program is an active participant with the Marine Animal Disease and Pathology Consortium located at the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, Stony Brook University. The Consortium is a collaborative effort between the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, Stony Brook University, the College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell University, the New York Sea Grant Institute and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. The broad objective of the Consortium is to address important animal health issues of aquatic animals in the Marine District of New York State.

AQUAVET® Program:   The AQUAVET® program provides an intensive immersion training environment to better understand the field of aquatic medicine. Cornell has co-sponsored the program with the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania since the Program began 1977, guided by the belief that the veterinary profession is poised to benefit the health of aquatic environments and the animals they shelter. Veterinary students, biological researchers, and animal health practitioners from across the nation and around the world convene on the coast to learn from the program’s diverse instructors.

Program Funding:  The College of Veterinary Medicine, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, United States Department of Agriculture, and New York Sea Grant. 

Related Links:

Helm Changes Hands at the AQUAVET® Program in Aquatic Medicine
Aquatic Specialists win First Award for Fish Research and Outreach
Bowser receives SUNY Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Faculty