PROVIDENCE – The USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture has awarded a $148,448 grant to University of Massachusetts Dartmouth assistant professor Robert Drew to research the genetic link between stress and growth rate in rainbow trout.
The two-year award is funded through the USDA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative competitive grants program.
UMass Dartmouth undergraduate students will help Drew conduct his research, which will put to test the long-held assumption that stress reduces fish growth rate.
“Researchers have long assumed that there is a genetic link between stress and growth rate. However, there has been little direct evidence supporting this connection,” said Drew in a release issued Tuesday. “In testing for this link, it could lead to identifying responsible genes and applying this information more broadly to aquaculture and the issues it confronts today and in the future.”
Drew’s proposal will use special research populations of wild and domesticated rainbow trout from Washington State University to study whether fish that are more genetically resistant to stress can be expected to grow faster.
The Agriculture and Food Research Initiative panel that awarded the grant felt Drew’s research addressed an important question in aquaculture and could lay the groundwork for future projects. The panel also considered favorably the involvement of undergraduate students.
The benefits of Drew’s study for aquaculture and conservation are twofold. If able to identify a fast-growing gene, researchers could incorporate that gene into populations with an already existing favorable gene, such as a wild population found to be resistant to a particular disease.
Conversely, in terms of conservation, an identifiable growth rate gene could assist breeders in tailoring a program to slow the rate at which populations in captive breeding adapt to their captivity, which would benefit wild fish populations.