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We are open for applications!

The Institute of Aquaculture is open for Transnational Access (TNA) to our aquaculture research infrastructure though the EU funded AQUAEXCEL3 programme. The Institute participated in the first (AQUAEXCEL, 2011-2015) and the second (AQUAEXCEL2020, 2015-2020) of these initiatives to provide access to leading aquaculture research infrastructures. We hosted nine TNA projects in the first AQUAEXCEL programme and ten in the second. Within AQUAEXCEL3 (2020-2025) we expect to host around 14 projects, usually involving one visitor spending an average of 7 weeks at the Institute of Aquaculture. This site provides information for potential and current users of the IoA infrastructure and news about the research that is supported here.

Photograph of experimental tanks in the recirculated aquaculture system at the Buckieburn aquarium
Buckieburn RAS tanks

We are recruiting!

Photograph of keyboard with yellow sticky note with the label "Now Hiring"

June, 2023 – We are currently recruiting for a part-time Operations Officer to administer all AQUAEXCEL Transnational Access project applications. The post provides for flexible working, mainly involving maintaining contact with AQUAEXCEL Transnational Access applicants, reviewers and facility managers to ensure proposals are smoothly administered through the review process. The post also involves supporting the TNA Project Coordinator in preparing routine reports analysing the access that is provided under the project. The closing date for applications is 22nd June. Further details can be found at https://www.stir.ac.uk/about/work-at-stirling/list/details/?jobId=3635&jobTitle=Operations%20Officer%20(Research)

Thank You Kirsten

Kirsten Strachan, who was first recruited to the role of TNA Administrator in 2016 under the AQUAEXCEL2020 programme, retired at the end of April 2023. Colleagues at the Institute and across the AQUEXCEL community expressed their sadness that she was leaving the project, but also their best wishes for many happy years ahead. As the many greetings in her leaving card testified, Kirsten was always cheerful, patient and a great pleasure to work with. She efficiently steered projects through the complexities of the TNA application and review process and supported both applicants and reviewers through the frustrations of their tasks. She will be much missed by all of us, so Thank You Kirsten and Happy Retirement!

Image of leaving card with signed messages

TNA Visit – Andrea Bertini

In early 2023, Andrea Bertini a PhD researcher from the University of Trento in Italy, visited the Institute of aquaculture for collaborative research as part of the AQUAEXCEL Transnational Access to Research Infrastructures Programme.

Andrea’s research focus is on aquaculture nutrition and in particular the study of novel sustainable ingredients and their application into aquafeed formulation. The purpose of his visit was to use the specialist facilities at the Institute of Aquaculture to investigate the production of eicosanoid signalling molecules by fish in response to different dietary ingredients. These molecules are known to play a primary role in the regulation of several physiological and immunological processes in fish.

Whilst at the Institute of Aquaculture, Andrea was able to use the facilities of the molecular laboratory including a Q-PCR machine allowing 384 samples to be analysed in a single run. As the experimental design required evaluating the expression of multiple genes involved in eicosanoid production in multiple samples collected at different times, this machine helped to save a lot of time. Andrea also made use of the nutrition laboratory and in particular the liquid chromatography mass spectrometry device to quantify the concentration of eicosanoids in each sample and correlate it with the gene expression analysis.

At the University of Stirling, Andrea worked with Dr Monica Betancor and Dr Richard Broughton along with Technicians and other PhD and Postdoctoral researchers.

AQUAEXCEL Consortium Meet in Heraklion

Photograph of staff from Stirling attending the meeting in Heraklion
Stirling Staff attending the meeting: John Bostock, Amaya Albalat, Sonia Rey Planellas, Kirsten Strachan and (not shown) Pamela Prentice

The AQUAEXCEL Consortium Annual Meeting was held in Heraklion, Crete from 18-20th October 2022. The Institute of Aquaculture was represented by Sonia Rey Planellas, Amaya Albalat, Pamela Prentice, Kirsten Strachan and John Bostock. It was a busy meeting with staff running a practical workshop on using the ARIA TNA application management system and actively participating in workshops on managing transnational access and on technological tools for improved experimental procedures. Sonia Rey Planellas also attended the Executive Committee meeting. On the final afternoon, the team also had the opportunity to visit the marine research aquarium facilities of the Hellenic Centre for Marine Research (HCMR). The project is progressing well and there are still many opportunities for transnational access projects to most of the 40 installations.

Technician Transnational Mobility Program

AQUAEXCEL 3.0 offers the opportunity for technicians working at any of the AQUAEXCEL Infrastructures to apply for a short training visit to one of the other Infrastructures (usually 1-2 weeks). The aim of the programme is to promote capacity building and the sharing of innovative experiments and best practices on how to improve the provision of research services at an aquaculture research institute. It deliberately takes a “bottom-up” approach based on the view that motivated and skilful technicians are key to dynamic, innovative experimental approaches, and hence the value of investing in the development of cross-cutting and specific skills through a technician mobility programme.

The door of the Institute of Aquaculture is open for technicians for other infrastructures to work in our freshwater or marine experimental facilities covering issues such as practical fish handling, sampling techniques, welfare, system monitoring or experimental design and analysis. The analytical laboratories are also open for visitors to learn about analytical equipment and techniques used at the Institute of Aquaculture.

The Third Call for Technician Mobility is currently open with a deadline of 29 September 2023

There is also the opportunity for Institute of Aquaculture technicians to apply to visit other Infrastructures to learn different techniques and gain experience of alternative approaches, species and systems. There is a maximum budget of €2,000 per person taking part in an approved exchange to cover travel and subsistence expenses. Technical staff at the Institute of Aquaculture should contact Jacquie Ireland, Amaya Albalat or Sonia Rey Planellas for further details. Staff of other Infrastructures should speak with their own AQUAEXCEL representative about the application procedures.

Assessing the Implications for Aquaculture of Nonregulated Emerging Mycotoxins

Jaime Nácher Mestre

In the summer of 2017 Dr Jaime Nácher Mestre (Lecturer at Marina Real-EDEM Fundación Escuela de Empresarios-Centro Universitario. and Associate Researcher with the Nutrigenomics and Fish Growth Endocrinology Group-Institute of aquaculture Torre de la Sal, CSIC) used AQUAEXCEL TNA to support two visits to the Institute of Aquaculture to work with the Nutrition Group to develop analytical techniques for important mycotoxins and investigate the degree to which they might be transferred from feed to fish flesh. This is an important question as there has been a substantial increase in the use of terrestrial plant ingredients in farmed fish diets, with potential for new contamination pathways.

Analytical output from mycotoxin spiked feed

The analysis involved the use of Ultra High Performance Liquid Chromatography Tandem Mass Spectrometry (UHPLC-MSMS) equipment at the Institute of Aquaculture for the detection of emerging mycotoxins beauvericin and enniatins. The project was successful in developing the necessary analytical methods and reassuringly indicated no detectable transfer of mycotoxins from feed to farmed fish flesh (salmon and sea bream), so no risk for human consumption. The work resulted in a publication in the journal “Food Chemistry”(https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foodchem.2020.126773).

ISH based characterization of selected inflammatory markers in the gills of Amyloodinium ocellatum-infected European sea bass

Michela Massimo from the University of Udine (Italy) visited the Institute of Aquaculture in 2018 to work with Professor James Bron and Jacquie Ireland on this parasitic dinogflagellate.

Amyloodinium image using fluorescent stain and confocal laser scanning microscopy

The research investigated the defence mechanisms adopted by European sea bass (ESB) against the protozoan parasite Amyloodinium ocellatum (AO). To achieve this, an expression fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH) protocol was developed at the Institute of Aquaculture of the University of Stirling. Two riboprobes were designed for Chemokine CC1 and Hepcidin2 transcripts. To support FISH results, qPCR was previously performed to evaluate the expression levels of the two transcripts in ESB gill tissue from uninfected and infected fish. mRNA in situ hybridization contributed to localise, in the gills, the tissue-spatial distribution of leukocytes expressing Chemokine CC1 emphasising the different localisation of the transcript between control and infected fish and, in the latter, highlighting the host-parasite interactions. Instead, no signal was observed on any of the gill slides incubated with Hepcidin2 probe.

In addition, confocal investigations were carried out to deepen the understanding on the host parasite relationship. Gill tissue samples from AO infected ESB were stained with different fluorescent stains (Calcofluor white; Propidium iodide; DAPI; TRITC-Phalloidin; WGA and WGA+Rhodamine lectins) and visualized under a confocal laser scanning microscope. The objective of the study was to better detail the anatomy of A. ocellatum trophonts (the parasitic stage of the protozoan) through an alternative approach.

Michela said of she was very satisfied with her TNA experience “At the Institute of Aquaculture, the intellectual environment was extremely stimulating, scientific and technical support were excellent and all the laboratories were well-organised. I could learn very interesting and innovative techniques that helped me in better understanding the mechanisms underlying Amyloodinium ocellatum and host relationship, which is the central core of my PhD thesis. Therefore, the results obtained by this project contributed to implement my doctoral thesis.”

Note: Text for this post was taken from the AQUAEXCEL2020 website. A poster incorporating the work is available from ResearchGate

Aquaculture UK 2022

The Institute of Aquaculture actively promoted opportunities through the AQUAEXCEL 3.0 programme at Aquaculture UK which was held in Aviemore, Scotland, from 3rd to 5th May 2022. Flyers were distributed from the Institute’s stand in the Exhibition tent and opportunities for Transnational Access discussed with companies and research organisations attending the event. Staff involved included Amaya Albalat (Institute of Aquaculture TNA Manager), Colin Forrest (Niall Bromage Freshwater Research Unit) and John Bostock (AQUAEXCEL Research Fellow)