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Aquatic Medicine Laboratory

The Aquatic Medicine Laboratory serves as a resource and animal facility for faculty, veterinary students and graduate students with research interests in the diseases, diagnosis, pathology, immunology, toxicology, pharmacokinetics, parasitology, and bacteriology of vertebrate and invertebrate aquatic organisms. This aquatic species-oriented laboratory is equipped to maintain a variety of freshwater, brackish, and marine aquatic species of veterinary importance, as well as provide a basic laboratory facility for investigations into these organisms.

The Aquatic Medicine Laboratory also serves as a resource for collaborative efforts with other institutions and agencies interested in the culture, diseases, nutrition and other problems associated with wild and captive fish. Past efforts have included projects with the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife of Virginia Tech; other colleges of veterinary medicine (University of Pennsylvania, North Carolina State University, University of Florida, and Mississippi State University); the National Aquarium in Baltimore and other public aquaria; and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

A. Instrumentation

  • Fiberglass Tanks - Four 750-gallon, six 500-gallon, thirty-two 150-gallon, twelve 100-gallon, and twelve 55-gallon fiberglass tanks with a variety of filtration systems for the maintenance of warm, cool and cold water species of fish.
  • "Living Stream" Systems with Chillers - Five 130-gallon insulated closed recirculation systems for the maintenance of cold water species of fish.
  • Glass Aquaria - One hundred and fifty 20-gallon, twenty 10-gallon, and ten 2.5-gallon glass aquaria with a variety of heaters, and internal and external filtration systems.
  • Water Treatment System - Two activated-charcoal water treatment systems for the removal of chlorine and heavy metals from municipal water making the water safe for aquatic organisms maintained in the laboratory; a 2100-gallon and a 3000-gallon storage tank for treated water.
  • Air System - Six regenerative air blowers with a backup emergency power generator.
  • Water Quality Kits - A variety of commercial water quality analysis kits are available for determining water quality parameters.
  • Dissolved Oxygen Meters - For rapid determination of dissolved oxygen levels in water.
  • Low Temperature Incubators - For the routine culture of bacteria, parasites, and cell lines from aquatic organisms.
  • Microscopes - Optical compound and dissecting microscopes with photographic capabilities, and an inverted microscope for cell cultures.
  • Osmometer - For serum osmolality evaluation of aquatic organisms.
  • Histology equipment - For the routine embedding, sectioning and staining of tissues from aquatic organisms.
  • Miscellaneous Equipment - Several types of isolation/fume hoods; two explosion-proof refrigerators/freezers; refrigerated table-top centrifuge; table-top micro-centrifuge; hematocrit centrifuge; pH meters; hot water bath; instrument sonicator; several Mettler balances.

B. Technical Expertise

  • Culture and maintenance of aquatic organisms, especially fish and shrimp.
  • Diagnostic gross pathology and histopathology of fish.
  • General parasitology and bacteriology of fish.
  • Normal anatomy and histology of fish.
  • Hematology and serum chemistry analysis of fish.
  • Immunology and immunization of fish, including affinity-purification of fish immunoglobulin.
  • General toxicology and immunotoxicology studies.
  • General pharmacokinetic and drug pathology studies.
  • Diagnostic assays, including immunodiffusion, immunoelectrophoresis, enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISA), and Western blots.

C. Using the Aquatic Medicine Laboratory

All investigators should contact Dr. S. A. Smith, the Lab Coordinator, at 1-5131, or Ms. Mary Mainous, the Senior Research Specialist, at 1-9586 to discuss the type of project proposed. The specific type of research, laboratory equipment and tanks needed, number and type of animals involved, estimated project costs, and the availability of support staff should be discussed prior to all proposal submissions. Researchers are expected to purchase all reagents and disposable supplies necessary for projects. All projects using vertebrates need approval by the Virginia Tech Animal Care and Use Committee prior to initiation of research.

D. Aquatic Medicine Web Site

For more information about the VMRCVM Aquatic Medicine Program, please see the following web site:

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