It was an overcast Wednesday morning, but spirits were high as Eden Hall Campus welcomed its newest residents.
Over 20 people—including reporters from KDKA and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette—were on hand to greet the newcomers: 500 rainbow trout, non-native to Pennsylvania, here to be permanently resettled in their new homes: three fiberglass tanks, each standing about five feet tall and containing 500 gallons, in Chatham’s aquaculture laboratory.
The fish were briefly retained in buckets while last-minute logistics were worked out, but soon they were released, transported to their new residences in green, traffic cone-sized nets by Aquatic Laboratory Director Roy Weitzell, PhD, and his research assistant, Master of Sustainability student Samantha Harvey ’18.
Rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss), are native to the West Coast of the US. “They are relatively hardy, certainly as compared to our native brook trout,” says Weitzell. “My plan is to use the experience we gain with rainbow trout to culture the native brook trout.” Rainbow trout are stocked widely throughout the northern and eastern US, and widely used in aquaculture globally.
“You can’t ask for a more photogenic fish,” notes Sarah Hamm, Social Media Manager at Chatham University.
“Rainbow trout are one of the most widely studied aquaculture species, so we know a lot about their biology,” Weitzell continues. “We’re confident that we can successfully raise them in our system. This should open the doors for any number of research projects dealing with culture and conservation of the trout native to Western PA.”
The 5-to-6-inch collaborators, who declined requests for an interview, were delivered by Laurel Hill Trout Farm, in a hatchery truck with tanks outfitted with temperature control and supplemental oxygen. The fish had lived their whole lives at the farm.
The aquaculture lab is used in undergraduate and graduate courses and projects led by Weitzell and colleagues at the Falk School of Sustainability & Environment, including Sustainable Aquaculture, Aquatic Ecology, and Basic Agroecology. It’s also regularly used for a variety of K-12 outreach efforts, including aquaponics workshops for students and teachers.
The Falk School of Sustainability & Environment is a wellspring for leadership and education dedicated to addressing sustainability challenges across a range of environments. Through hands-on experience, assistantships, summer immersion programs, community engagement, and a robust academic foundation, students emerge as professionals that will transform thinking in the fields that comprise sustainability.