Department of Microbiology and Immunology


Aquatic Animal Health Program

WalleyeThe College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell University has an active program that focuses on aquatic animal health. The Aquatic Animal Health Program is located within the Department of Microbiology and Immunology. The overall objectives of the program are to provide research, service and teaching functions, with an emphasis on economically important issues in fish health.

Present areas of interest include evaluations of therapeutic compounds to treat important diseases of cultured fishes, neoplasia in fish, mechanisms of immunity and development of fish vaccines, fish health management in intensive aquaculture systems, and pathology of wild fishes especially in cases where the potential for environmental contamination exists. The Fish Diagnostic Laboratory, located within the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, provides assistance to fish culturists, and researchers in New York State with fish health problems. The Fish Diagnostic Laboratory also interacts with the Fish Disease Control Unit of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, providing assistance and access to the facilities of the College, when those capabilities are necessary to investigate certain disease outbreaks in the state fish hatchery system.

For the past 10 years, the Aquatic Animal Health Program has had an intensive research focus in cooperation with the Retroviral Laboratory of Dr. James Casey (Department of Microbiology and Immunology) and the Laboratory of Dr. Volker Vogt (Section of Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology) on the pathogenesis of tumors in fish caused by retroviruses. This effort has focused initially on the walleye dermal sarcoma retrovirus and on the mechanisms of seasonal development of these tumors on feral fish. A more recent effort has resulted in the identification of two retroviruses that are associated with walleye discrete epidermal hyperplasia. Efforts within the Aquatic Animal Health Program have resulted in the development of model laboratory transmission protocols for both of these diseases.

Formal courses listed within the Department and College include: VTMED 6120 Anatomy and Histology of Fish, VTMED 6432 Fish Health Management, VTMED 6722 AQUAVET I-An Introduction to Aquatic Veterinary Medicine, VTMED 6521 AQUAVET II-Comparative Pathology of Aquatic Invertebrates and Fish, and VETMI 7720 Advanced Work In Aquatic Animal Diseases. AQUAVET I and AQUAVET II are courses organized jointly by this College and the School of Veterinary Medicine of the University of Pennsylvania and are presented during a 4-week and a 2-week period, respectively, in the summer at the Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole, Massachusetts.

In 1996, the Aquatic Animal Medicine Program moved into the new Veterinary Medical Center complex of the College of Veterinary Medicine. The Program has two well-equipped research laboratories capable of supporting research efforts in parasitology, bacteriology, virology, immunology, aquatic toxicology and pathology. Within the Veterinary Medical Center, the Aquatic Animal Health Program is responsible for wet lab facilities specifically designed for the maintenance of aquatic animals. The wet labs provide for water quality control and have capabilities for containment of serious pathogens. These facilities are considered among the best available anywhere for the support of aquatic animal health research. The Program also has access, through collaborative projects, with the extensive research capabilities found within Cornell University. The Department is particularly fortunate to have scientists from the U. S. National Biological Service Tunison Laboratory of Aquatic Science, Cortland, N.Y. and the Fish Disease Control Unit of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Rome, N.Y. within the department as courtesy faculty. The program also maintains close ties with the Cornell University Biological Field Station, Oneida Lake, New York. These collaborative arrangements have provide a unique opportunity for undertaking projects of mutual interest for facilitating the opportunity where both basic and applied research interests in aquatic animal health can be pursued.

In 2001, the Aquatic Animal Health Program became a participant in the newly established Marine Animal Disease and Pathology Consortium located at the School of Marine and Atmospheric Scineces, Stony Brook University. The Consortium is a collaborative effort between the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, Stony Brook University, the College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM) at Cornell University, the New York Sea Grant Institute and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. The broad objective of the Consortium is to address important animal health issues of aquatic animals in the Marine District of New York State. The Consortium is staffed by MRSC and CVM scientists who will conduct research, educational and diagnostic activities in the area of aquatic animal health.

A limited number of graduate student stipends are available within the Department, College and University. These awards are highly competitive. Individuals interested in admission to the program for graduate study should make an application directly to the Graduate School, Sage Graduate Center, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York 14853. Prior correspondence with a department faculty member regarding possible openings is suggested.