Paul Bowser, PhD

Paul Bowser

Department of Microbiology and Immunology

Professor Emeritus of Aquatic Animal Medicine
Graduate School Professor of Comparative Biomedical Sciences

Department of Microbiology and Immunology
Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine
Ithaca, NY 14853


Research Interest

General interests include infectious and non-infectious diseases of fishes and strategies for fish health management. Our recent major research efforts have been in the following areas:

Walleye (Sander vitreus) with walleye dermal sarcoma

Retroviral-Caused Tumors in Fish. In a collaborative effort with the laboratory of Dr. James Casey, we have studied the pathogenesis of walleye dermal sarcoma retrovirus, two viruses associated with walleye discrete epidermal hyperplasia, and the Atlantic salmon swim bladder sarcoma virus. Within these efforts, we have been trying to understand the mechanisms by which these tumors and tumor viruses show a seasonality in their pathogenesis.

Therapeutants for Cultured Food Fishes. The commercial aquaculture industry suffers from very limited access to FDA-approved therapeutants for controlling diseases in the production environment. Our laboratory is

Grass carp (Ctenophayngodon idella) with spinal deformity
part of the NRSP7 – Minor Use Animal Drug Program. This program is a joint USDA/FDA/University/Industry effort to address the critical needs for safe and effective compounds for health management in minor species food and fiber animals. Much of our recent efforts have been in comparative pharmacokinetic studies in different species of fish of candidate antibacterials with promise for use in aquaculture. Our ultimate goal is to develop data that will support a species grouping concept for aquaculture species.

Lake Sturgeon (Acipenser fluvescens) diagnostic case submission from the Niagara River

Diagnostic Investigations. Our laboratory operates the Fish Disease Diagnostic Laboratory, a service laboratory providing disease diagnostic assistance to the aquaculture community, research community and fish hobbyist in New York State. We also assist the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation in investigations of fish kills in wild fish populations in the state. Many times these diagnostic investigations lead to more in-depth research investigations in fish health issues. Our diagnostic efforts have led to an major effort to understand the implications of the emergence of Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia Virus Genotype IVb (VHSV IVb) in a variety of fish in the Great Lakes Basin.  This effort has been undertaken in collaboration with the Laboratory of Dr. James Casey as well as  a number of  collaborators including the USDA APHIS,  the USGS Western Fisheries Research Center, Seattle, WA, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the Department of Natural Resources in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell.


PhD (Auburn University)

Biography/Professional Experience

Dr. Bowser was granted the status of Professor Emeritus upon his retirement on 1 July 2014.  Prior to that he was a Professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology and had been associated with the department since 1995 (previously an Associate Professor in the Department of Avian and Aquatic Animal Medicine, 1985-1995). He also served as an aquatic animal health specialist on the faculty of the College of Veterinary Medicine at Mississippi State University (1980-85) and with the Aquaculture Program of the University of California, Davis (1978-80). After receiving his BS degree from Cornell in 1970, he received the MS degree from Iowa State University in 1972. After 3 years of active duty as an officer in the U.S. Navy, he entered the graduate program at Auburn University and received his PhD in 1978. He has obtained continuous funding (USDA, NY Sea Grant, etc.) throughout his career to study diseases of fishes and strategies for fish health management.

Dr. Bowser was the recipient of the State University of New York Chancellor’s Award for Faculty Service in 2007.  In 2009 Dr. Bowser received the S. F. Snieszko Distinguished Service Award from the Fish Health Section of the American Fisheries Society, which is a career achievement award for his contributions and service to the field of aquatic animal medicine. Dr. Bowser received the National Sea Grant Program -- Research to Application Award in October, 2010, for the successful and continued real-world application of a Sea Grant-funded research effort.  In April, 2013 Dr. Bowser was the recipient of the Christensen Award for Excellence in Fish Health from the International Association for Aquatic Animal Medicine.  This award is given to an individual who has made significant advances in the field of fish health and medicine in the areas of basic and applied research and education.  The presentation of this award in 2013 was only the 4th time this award has been given since it was established in 1988.  In 2014 Dr. Bowser received the New York Sea Grant Award of Excellence.  In 2018 Dr. Bowser was recognized as a Distinguished Friend of the Eastern Fish Health Workshop.  This award is given to individuals who have had a career of excellence in the aquatic animal health field and have had a career-long commitment to the Eastern Fish Health Workshop.  Dr. Bowser was the 9th individual to receive this distinction.  In 2015 he was granted Life Membership in the International Association for Aquatic Animal Medicine and in 2016 he was awarded Honorary Membership in the New York State Chapter of the American Fisheries Society. 


Professional/Academic Affiliations

Dr. Bowser is a member of the following Graduate Fields:

  • Graduate School Professor of Comparative Biomedical Sciences (2014-2019)