Cornell Researcher and NYSG Specialist Receive Award
Great Lakes Sustainable Recreational and Commercial Fisheries - Press Release

Recognized for translating Great Lakes fish disease science for the general public


David B. MacNeill, NYSG, P: 315-312-3042, E:

Dr. Paul Bowser, Cornell University, P: 607-253-4029

Ithaca, NY, October 20, 2010 - Cornell University researcher Dr. Paul Bowser and New York Sea Grant (NYSG) Fisheries Specialist Dave MacNeill are the recipients of the Sea Grant Association’s (SGA) “Research to Application Award.” The first-ever honor recognizes one researcher or research team for the successful and continued real-world application of a Sea Grant-funded research project conducted during the past 20 years.

Bowser and MacNeill were recognized at Sea Grant Week in New Orleans, Louisiana earlier this week for demonstrating how their work on Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia Virus (VHSV) – which has caused significant mortality events in a wide diversity of fish species as well as restrictions on the movement of live fish in the Great Lakes Basin – is being applied and utilized in a non-academic setting.

In New York, the non-treatable viral fish pathogen poses a potential threat to the sportfishing industry which contributes $1.4 billion annually to the State’s economy, according to recent U.S. Census Bureau estimates.  While the virus has not been found in fish culture facilities, the adverse impact of VHSV in aquaculture could be significant.
“Receiving such an award was a true honor,” said Bowser, a faculty member of Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine since 1985. “Having the research results benefit the end user is very satisfying.

“During my career with New York Sea Grant, I’ve had opportunities to work on some of the most interesting and challenging issues facing Great Lakes fisheries,” said MacNeill. “In so doing, I’ve been privileged to have worked closely with world-class scientists such as Dr. Paul Bowser and Dr. Jim Casey. Receiving accolades for ones work is gratifying, but receiving them from Sea Grant colleagues is a tremendous honor.”

Through funding by NYSG and other sources, VHSV research by Bowser and the members of the Aquatic Animal Health Program at Cornell have provided detailed information about the virus, its spread, and its impact on Great Lakes fisheries, as well as sensitive detection methods. This information has been used by MacNeill and others to inform the fishing community and other important stakeholders of methods to limit virus spread and minimize its impact.

“This is a compelling example of the application of Sea Grant research to an important coastal problem,” said MacNeill, who is working with Bowser to develop a NYSG fact sheet on the strain of VHSV being studied in the Aquatic Animal Health Program at Cornell.

Also, in December 2009 and June 2010, NYSG partnered with Lake Champlain and Pennsylvania Sea Grant programs to run, respectively, regional aquaculture workshops in Albany, New York and Lamar, Pennsylvania.

“This effort is an excellent case of the leverage of funds originally provided by New York Sea Grant,” said NYSG Director Jim Ammerman. “It has also helped to establish Dr. Bowser’s lab as one of the premier groups working on VHSV as well as to support these stakeholder workshops.”

At the meetings, which were funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Northeast Regional Aquaculture Center, MacNeill, Bowser and Dr. James Casey, also of Cornell, provided a summary of the VHSV information, including disinfection, containment and prevention protocols developed in Bowser’s lab as well as general bio-security measures that can be taken by the fish culturist.

“VHSV has the potential to cause serious fish losses as well as significant economic losses, especially to commercial aquaculture and bait dealers,” said MacNeill. “And so, we are taking steps to inform fisheries professionals and the aquaculture community about viral spread and containment policy in an effort to protect wild fish stocks and maintain the viability of aquaculture in the Northeast States.”

Based on workshop evaluations, 100 percent of workshop attendees indicated that they would utilize these guidelines in their own fish rearing facilities and share the information with other aquaculture practitioners.

In other VHSV outreach news, a poster created by Bowser and his colleagues – Dr. Rod Getchell, Dr. Geoffrey Groocock, Emily Cornwell, Kristine Hope, Rufina Casey, and Dr. James Casey – was presented in the Sea Grant Research to Application special session at the February 2010 Ocean Sciences meeting.

Background on Award Recipients, NYSG and SGA

In addition to his work on VHS impacts, MacNeill conducts outreach on a variety of other fisheries issues of concern to diverse audiences along Lake Ontario, Lake Erie and the St. Lawrence River. These include: fisheries sustainability, ecosystem changes, management under uncertainty, decision analysis, and trawl assessment. MacNeill also works closely with researchers, assessment biologists and extension colleagues in the Great Lakes and Northeast Atlantic states to identify research and extension needs to address information barriers for extension program implementation.

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.

The Sea Grant Association (SGA) is a non-profit organization comprised primarily of Sea Grant directors that advocates for greater understanding, use, and conservation of the U.S.’s marine, coastal and Great Lakes resources. SGA provides both a unified voice for Sea Grant’s 32 university-based programs on issues of importance to the oceans and coasts as well as the mechanism for these institutions to coordinate their activities and set priorities at both the regional and national level.

New York Sea Grant is part of this nationwide network of programs that work with coastal communities. The National Sea Grant College Program engages this network of the nation’s top universities in conducting scientific research, education, training, and extension projects designed to foster science-based decisions about the use and conservation of our aquatic resources.

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