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Japan

Dr. Marcy Wilder

   

 

Dr. Marcy Wilder is a senior research scientist at the Japan International Research Center for Agricultural Sciences (JIRCAS).  She sees huge potential in recirculation aquaculture systems (RASs) for shrimp.  Bonnie Waycott at the Fish Site recently interviewed Dr. Wilder.  It’s a very long interview.  Here are a few excerpts:

 

Bonnie Waycott: Briefly describe your aquaculture career:

 

Dr. Marcy Wilder: I studied chemistry at Harvard University and came to Japan for graduate study at the University of Tokyo.  I was interested in studying the basic physiology and chemistry of aquatic species used in aquaculture and engaging in aquaculture and international development.  For my doctorate, I investigated the role of ecdysteroids and juvenile hormone-like substances in shrimp reproduction.

 

During my graduate school years, I did mostly basic research in the laboratory, but got to know Japan’s varied aquaculture industry and did some practical training in the seed production of the swimming crab at one of Japan’s former Sea Farming Associations.

 

After receiving my doctorate and briefly continuing the same research as a post-doc, I started working at the Japan International Research Center for Agricultural Sciences (JIRCAS), where I am based today.  Between 1995 and 2003, I conducted an Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) project with Can Tho University in Vietnam to develop hatchery technology for the giant freshwater prawn (Macrobrachium rosenbergii) and help impoverished rice farmers raise prawns in their rice fields to increase their income.  Since 2000, I’ve been working with the private sector (principally the aquaculture engineering company IMT Engineering, Inc.) and we’ve developed the indoor shrimp production system (ISPS), which operates commercially in Myoko, Japan, and Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.

 

Bonnie Waycott: Tell us about the indoor shrimp production system:

 

Dr. Marcy Wilder: In developing it, first we obtained basic physiological data on osmoregulation, oxygen demand and ammonia excretion levels of Penaeus vannamei during recirculating culture and used that information to optimize shrimp growth based on the control of water temperature, salinity and flow rates.  For example, in a small-scale experiment, we found that shrimp growth in low-salinity, high-hardness water was equivalent to, or better than, the growth in full-strength seawater.  We used this result to develop low-salinity rearing methods and applied them successfully to large-scale, commercial production using a prototype facility in Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan.

 

Our first commercial facility was established in Myoko City, Niigata Prefecture, and has been operating since September 2007.  With two production lanes containing 600 metric tons of water each, it produces up to 40 tons of shrimp per year, and the product is marketed under the trade name “Myoko Snow Shrimp”.  An ISPS pilot plant was established in Mongolia a couple of years ago and is now operational.  Since it’s based entirely on the use of recirculating water, there are virtually no environmental impacts.  An ISPS facility can be established inland and can be operated using a manual!

 

Bonnie Waycott: Describe a typical day in your current role:

 

Dr. Marcy Wilder: I’m currently overseeing a laboratory that is devoted to basic research on molting and reproduction in crustaceans.  We’re focusing on ongoing experiments using the whiteleg shrimp and giant freshwater prawns.  There are eight or nine of us.  A typical day consists of looking at people’s experiments, attending to paperwork and holding discussions.  We need to ensure that lab operations comply with institute regulations and Japanese law regarding safety, handling of intellectual property or accountability of results, so I spend a lot of time attending to such matters as well.  The ISPS plant is under commercial operation by its owners, so it’s no longer necessary for me to visit frequently, but sometimes I do, for example when we have visitors, or when I want to review the technology myself and perform tasks with the other workers.

 

Bonnie Waycott: Are there any individuals or organizations in aquaculture that you’ve found particularly inspirational?

 

Dr. Marcy Wilder: I’m inspired by Dr. Motosaku Hudinaga, the father of modern shrimp farming.  There are numerous anecdotes about him, but in the early 1960s, through patient observation of the Japanese kuruma prawn, he was the first to discover what larval prawns eat (microalgae such as Chaetoceros spp. and Skeletonema costatum).  His work enabled hatcheries to be set up and led the way for the modern shrimp culture industry to develop.  He was even featured in Time magazine in 1963 for putting an icon of Japanese food culture back on the table – even then, wild resources were dwindling.

 

Bonnie Waycott: What would be your dream role in aquaculture and do you think it’s realistic to achieve?

 

Dr. Marcy Wilder: My dream would be to have more recirculating aquaculture systems for all sorts of things throughout the world and to find a replacement for eyestalk ablation in shrimp.  For the first item, I think that we are getting there through the efforts of many people; for the second item, I think it’s feasible, but more research is required.

 

Information: Dr. Marcy Wilder, Japan International Research Center for Agricultural Sciences, 1-1 Owashi, Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture 305-8686, Japan (Phone +81-29-838-6313, Email marwil@jircas.affrc.go.jp, Webpage https://www.jircas.go.jp/en).

 

Source: The FishSite.  Women in Aquaculture: Dr Marcy Wilder.  Bonnie Waycott (a freelance writer specializing in Japanese aquaculture.  She is currently taking the distance learning MSc in Sustainable Aquaculture at Scotland’s University of St. Andrews).  January 29, 2018.

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