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Virginia Sea Grant Launches the USDA and NOAA-Supported Aquaculture Information Exchange Online Community Platform

The Aquaculture Information Exchange (AIE) online community platform website is now live and open for new user registrations. The AIE represents a joint effort between NOAA’s National Sea Grant Office, NOAA’s Fisheries Office of Aquaculture, USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS), USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), and Virginia Sea Grant.

The AIE is an online community involving individuals from both the public and private sectors with interests in U.S. aquaculture and related topics. 

The AIE will serve as a communications platform, actively being moderated to facilitate discussions about current issues facing the industry, the latest research and developments in aquaculture, and will be a space where users from across the nation can connect with other members of the aquaculture community.

According to National Sea Grant Aquaculture Managers Chuck Weirich and Mark Rath, the development of a resource such as the AIE to help connect and facilitate information exchange and resource sharing between members of the entire US aquaculture community—including researchers, Land and Sea Grant Extension, and industry—has been a priority for a number of years.  

“Forming partnerships is critical for the success of our aquaculture programs at USDA,” said Caird Rexroad III, USDA-ARS national program leader for aquaculture. “Ultimately, we aim to build communities that combine efforts to address industry challenges, leading to responsible and sustainable expansion of US finfish, shellfish and seaweed production.” 

The AIE is a space where experts from across the nation can connect and work with like-minded collaborators on projects and deliverables such as grant-funded research projects, specific contracts, science advice products, and other projects. 

“Collaboration and synergy are fundamental to solving the comprehensive and multi-faceted issues that impede the expansion, viability, profitability, and sustainability of U.S. domestic aquaculture,” said Timothy Sullivan, program leader for Animal Health and Aquaculture at USDA-NIFA. “A virtual environment that facilitates these actions improves the value of federal funding for research, education, and extension and will advance innovative solutions for producers and consumers across the nation.”

The site features subject matter work groups that can have access restricted to a small team or be open to any member of the AIE. Teams can store document files, image files, and video files but can also use built-in collaboration tools like video conferencing and group-editable documents. Groups will be led by a Working Group Chair who will manage the team’s progress toward achieving project goals or creating specific deliverables.

Working Groups are important because this approach will be used to bring together experts from both the public and private sectors,” said Daniel Wieczorek, science industry coordinator for NOAA Fisheries’ Office of Aquaculture. “The goal is to facilitate the creation of essential science information products that address current aquaculture needs and challenges.”

The AIE uses an interface similar to popular social media sites. In addition to working groups, it also includes features like keyword-searchable member profiles, job postings, community discussion forums, and an events calendar.

“The goal was to create a site that would feel intuitive and engaging to users,” said Jay Clark, assistant director for communications at Virginia Sea Grant, host of the Aquaculture Information Exchange website. “The site needs to appeal to a wide variety of interests within the aquaculture community, and I hope our team has provided a valuable tool to encourage collaboration.”

The Aquaculture Information Exchange will be advised by a diverse committee representing geographies and topical expertise from across the U.S. field of aquaculture. 

AIE Advisory Committee

Jimmy Avery
USDA Southern Regional Aquaculture Center

Jacob Bledsoe
Assistant Professor, Aquaculture Research & Extension Specialist
Hagerman Fish Culture Experiment Station, University of Idaho

Michael Chambers
Aquaculture Extension Specialist
New Hampshire Sea Grant

Charlie Culpepper
Director of Membership Recruitment and Outreach
National Aquaculture Association

Luke Gardner
Research Faculty and Aquaculture Specialist
California Sea Grant
Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, San Jose State University

Melissa Good
Mariculture Specialist
Kodiak Seafood and Marine Science Center, Alaska Sea Grant

Karen Hudson 
Shellfish Aquaculture Specialist
Virginia Institute of Marine Science Marine Advisory Program

Lauren Jescovitch
Extension Educator
Michigan Sea Grant

Anita Kelly
Extension Professor
Alabama Fish Farming Center
Auburn University

Teri King
Aquaculture and Marine Water Quality Specialist
Washington Sea Grant, University of Washington

Cheng-Sheng Lee
Executive Director
USDA Center for Tropical and Subtropical Aquaculture

Bob Rheault
Executive Director
East Coast Shellfish Growers Association

Kim Thompson 
Executive Director
Pacific Coast Shellfish Growers Association

Forrest Wynne
State Extension Specialist for Aquaculture
Kentucky State University

USDA Western Regional Aquaculture Center

Jay Clark

Jay Clark

Communications Manager
Virginia Sea Grant

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