Aquaculture education day draws students

… from online learning to spend the day outdoors at the College of Southern … think they might want to continue their education at a university, he said.

TWIN FALLS, Idaho — High school students were happy to be out of the classroom or away from online learning to spend the day outdoors at the College of Southern Idaho’s fish hatchery on Friday.

The hatchery houses CSI’s aquaculture program, and about 50 students from six area high schools attended the all-day educational event.

Idaho has a large aquaculture industry, producing about 70% of U.S. domestic trout. That’s roughly 41 million pounds annually. It also produces more than 2 million pounds of tilapia, catfish, sturgeon, caviar and ornamental fish.

“We wanted to give more people awareness of the industry and exposure to the industry and our aquaculture program at CSI,” Matt Wilson, program and hatchery manager, said.

Students rotated through four stations focused on fish health and disease, water quality, nutrition and management and fish anatomy participating in workshops and hands-on demonstrations. The stations were manned by CSI instructors and students, industry partners and personnel from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.

The education day was an inaugural event, and CSI hopes to make it an annual happening, Wilson said.

“We do work closely with some of the high schools, some have aquaculture programs,” he said.

Jaysa Fillmore, an agriculture instructor at CSI, organized the event.

“I used to teach high school ag and wanted to give high school students and teachers an opportunity to get out of the classroom and learn in a hands-on way,” she said.

The students and teachers were excited about the outdoor learning event because so many other events have been canceled due to the pandemic, she said.

Registration for the event was double that of attendance, but CSI had to pivot and limit the number of attendees when the state moved backward in its reopening plan and recommendations. A lot of people were disappointed, she said.

Kaycie Theurer, a junior at Buhl High School, was one of the fortunate students who were able to attend the event.

She has a shrimp farm at her high school in its aquaculture lab, raising 500 fresh-water shrimp for her FFA project.

“I wanted to come see what options I could have in the aquaculture business,” she said.

CSI’s aquaculture program began in 1972 and averages seven or eight students a year. It’s trying to increase enrollment to at least 12 students, Wilson said.

Students can gain an associate degree in applied science, a two-year program, or an intermediate technical certificate, a one-year program.

The one-year program is designed for students who want to obtain training and start working. The two-year program is for students who want more education and think they might want to continue their education at a university, he said.

“It’s a very hands-on program, so a lot of our time is spent working on fish,” he said.

Some students go on to work as technicians in commercial facilities or to work in allied industry, and Fish & Game is a big employer of former students. Other former students now own a facility, and others want to go on to do research, he said.