VIMS dedicates Kauffman Aquaculture Center

The Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) today dedicated its new Kauffman Aquaculture Center. The facility purpose-built labs designed to protect Chesapeake Bay and its living resources from disease, parasites, and the unintentional introduction of non-natives.
VIMS dedicates Kauffman Aquaculture Center
April 14, 2004

Kauffman Aquaculture Center in a ceremony at the Topping, Virginia, U.S. facility. Guests of honor included NOAA Chief Administrator Conrad Lautenbacher and Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources W. Tayloe Murphy, Jr.

The Kauffman Aquaculture Center (KAC) was specifically designed to enhance and extend the work and facilities of the Aquaculture Genetics and Breeding Technology Center (ABC) on VIMS' main campus in Gloucester Point. ABC was established by the Virginia General Assembly in 1995 to explore and promote the development of aquaculture in the Commonwealth.

The Kauffman Center lies 30 miles north of Gloucester Point on a tributary of the Rappahannock River known as Locklies Creek. Construction of the $1.4 million Center was funded through a challenge grant by Boots and Jack Kauffman, with matching grants provided by Mr. Matthew T. Blackwood; the D. Keith Campbell Foundation for the Environment, Inc.; Mr. and Mrs. Weston F. Conley, Jr. and Family; Dominion; Mr. and Mrs. John P.D. Kauffman; The Elis Olsson Memorial Foundation; Mr. and Mrs. E. Claiborne Robins, Jr.; Mr. and Mrs. James E. Rogers; and the Smurfit-Stone Container Corporation.

ABC Director Dr. Stan Allen notes that "the Kauffman Center will significantly expand the scope of aquaculture research at VIMS by providing a facility that was specifically designed to hold both native and non-native species in quarantine." Initial use of the facility will focus on studies of the native oyster Crassostrea virginica and the non-native oyster C. ariakensis.

The facility features three separate laboratories that were each purpose-built to protect Chesapeake Bay and its living resources from disease, parasites, and the unintentional introduction of non-natives:

Oyster Isolation Laboratory—This room is designed to hold recently imported non-native species in quarantine from the rest of the facility and the external environment. Quarantine is maintained through use of a re-circulating seawater system whose effluent is subjected to temperatures high enough to kill any living contaminants. The room also operates at air pressures lower than its surroundings to prevent the unlikely release of any airborne pathogens, and is underlain by an impermeable membrane to prevent discharges to groundwater. Leak detectors further minimize the possibility of any groundwater leakage. This room can be entered and exited only through a decontamination area.

Health Certification and Reproductive Containment Laboratory—This room is designed to further minimize disease concerns and to prevent spawn from any experimental oysters from entering the Bay. Residence in this room is restricted to second-generation oysters, a constraint that prevents the propagation of any disease or parasites that might be present in imported oysters. These second-generation oysters are certified disease-free according to protocols set forth in the Aquatic Animal Health Code, a set of internationally agreed standards established by the Office International des Epizooties. OIE is the official arbiter of the World Trade Organization for living animal products, including wild or aquacultured marine animals (VIMS is an OIE reference lab). Effluent from this room’s re-circulating seawater system is treated with ozone to kill any spawn it may contain.

Natives Laboratory—This "reverse quarantine" room is designed to keep native oysters from being exposed to MSX and Dermo, two diseases that have devastated wild oyster populations in Chesapeake Bay. Maintenance of disease-free specimens of the native oyster C. virginica is important in light of on-going breeding and restoration efforts for this species. Isolation is accomplished using a flow-through seawater system equipped with high-efficiency filters.

The remainder of the building is devoted to equipment for algal culture (to produce the algae that are needed to feed oysters in a re-circulating seawater system), mechanical systems, and a small lobby area with educational displays describing the Center's work. Public access to the working parts of the facility will be limited due to biosecurity concerns.

Allen predicts that the Center's unique design and capabilities will within five years make it a worldwide magnet for investigators seeking to explore and exploit new genetic resources for shellfish. Says Allen, "The Center will serve as a resource for conserving rare genetic material, in the form of live animals and their genes, and provide genetic resources for creating a new kind of aquaculture industry for Chesapeake Bay. It will also aid efforts to repopulate the Bay with oysters."

VIMS began construction of the Kauffman Aquaculture Center in May 2002. Architectural services were provided by Gregory Brezinski of A2RCI Architects in Yorktown. The structure was built by Dobson Construction of Newport News.

Photos by courtesy of Virginia Institute of Marine Science.