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This Is Agriculture: Creating Healthier Oceans Around The World

Stephanie Hall (Class of ’14) had no idea she would be a graduate of Dalhousie University’s Faculty of Agriculture with a double major in animal science and aquaculture.

She also didn’t realize her research would cross the globe to New Zealand, the United States or Russia.

A native of Dartmouth, Stephanie began her studies in science at Mount Saint Vincent University before transferring into the pre-veterinary program at Dalhousie’s Agricultural Campus with full intentions of becoming a veterinarian.

“I heard through some of my friends that I would get lots of experience working with animals,” Stephanie said. “It was exactly what I was looking for. I knew it was the school for me.”

Soon after arriving at Dal AC, she found her true passion in aquaculture and her love of animals quickly became a love for the oceans.

“The aquaculture centre has been a great learning tool,” she said. “I have had so much hands-on experience working with finfish, shellfish, and aquaculture facilities because of the centre being right on campus.”

Under the supervision of Dr. Sarah Stewart-Clark, assistant professor of shellfish aquaculture, Stephanie conducted her fourth year project on an invasive organism that was located on an oyster farm in Nova Scotia. An unknown calcareous tubeworm had invaded an oyster farm, which was smothering the oysters and leaving an unappealing ring-like mark on the shells, making them difficult to sell.

Uncertain of the problem or how the oyster growers might fix it, they reached out to the aquaculture centre for help and former vet hopeful, Stephanie, stepped in.

“We extracted their DNA and used it to determine exactly what species it was,” Stephanie said. “We determined it was Hydroides dianthus, a species that is uncommon to find this far north on the Atlantic coast.”

Once the species was identified Stephanie developed a way to test water samples for this species and worked closely with the growers to monitor the oyster farm for H. dianthus larvae.

Dr. Stewart-Clark explains that Stephanie’s research is not only directly benefiting the local aquaculture industry, it’s becoming noticed globally by collaborators as far away as New Zealand and has even been used for sampling H. dianthus tissue in the United States and Russia. She said Stephanie’s research can be used by any region in the world that wants to screen its waters for the invasive calcareous tubeworm.

Now as a master’s student conducting research at Dalhousie University’s agricultural campus, Stephanie will continue to do her part in the aquaculture industry. For her, becoming a veterinarian is a distant memory; she has found her true passion in aquaculture. She’s still unsure where her aquaculture research will take her, but does know working in the aquaculture industry and helping to create healthier oceans around the world is exactly what she wants to be doing.