FACULTY SPOTLIGHT:  DR. STEvEN G. HUGHES

Dr. Steven G. Hughes has been an active researcher in the generalized topic area of fish husbandry for almost 30 years. He received his Bachelor of Science Degree in Biology from the University of Notre Dame while both his Master of Science and Doctor of Philosophy degrees were earned at Cornell University with combined emphases in nutrition, physiology, and aquaculture.

He is one of the few African-American biologists that specialize in Aquaculture. Dr. Hughes explained, “I think the reason there aren’t more African-Americans in this field is simply because it is rarely presented as a career option.”

When recently asked why he chose this field of study he said, “It because of my lifelong love of animals and science and most particularly my love of fish.” Dr. Hughes described his first aquarium. “It was in the dining room on the bookcase. We had three guppies in the 2.5 gallon aquarium.”

Dr. Hughes is currently the Director of the Aquaculture Research and Education Center (AREC) at Cheyney University of Pennsylvania and is responsible for the planning, initiation and execution of experiments to address research needs in the areas of urban aquaculture, and the broad areas of general fish husbandry (particularly that related to water recirculating aquaculture systems), nutrient sources and use (which includes requirements, energetics, metabolism, and chemosensory aspects), and the impacts of aqueous mineral levels on growth and physiology.

In addition to his aquaculture research, he is also active in several research studies on human nutrition and physiology and works with various groups to help further develop research and science education initiatives for the university.

With support from U.S. Senator Arlen Specter, the initial federal funding for the establishment of the Aquaculture Research and Education Center (AREC) at Cheyney University was received through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in 2003.

These funds led to the initial establishment of this center and the procurement of start-up equipment. On October 26, 2006, CU and Herban Farms, LLC (a locally owned private company) formed a collaborative relationship and officially dedicated a 12,000 ft2, state-of-the-art Aquaponics Greenhouse, located on CU’s campus. Led by Dr. Hughes and Mr. Michael Derro of Herban Farms LLC, the program has found a new way to integrate aquaculture and agriculture to support commercial production and sale of basil for Herban Farms, and tilapia for CU combining production of the popular freshwater fish with the herb commonly found in pesto and Italian sauces. Dr. Hughes calls it a modern version of the aquaculture practiced in Asia for thousands of years and notes that the combination provides a highly efficient "mini ecosystem" that can produce almost 600 dozen basil plants a week. The success of this public/private partnership has sparked strong interest for the development in at least two sites in Chester County with the potential creation of at least 10 jobs for each site. Hughes is always exploring new research but he is also exploring new business sponsorships to help raise awareness for a form of food production that's not commonly seen in urban environments. Opportunities to participate in other research and outreach projects are being considered as are partnerships with academic, public and private entities.

As the curriculum has developed, CU students now have an opportunity to major in Marine Biology with an emphasis in either: Marine Biology, Aquaculture or Aquatic Science.

Further developments will see Cheyney students majoring in Business Administration with a minor in Aquaculture or Aquatic Science, or vice versa. The proposed program’s graduates will be well on their way to pursuing careers in research, teaching and consulting.

“The AREC opens up jobs in both private and public sector. Students can go on to careers working at aquariums, zoos, research facilities, both federal and private. The earning potential is in the 50k-60k with a bachelor’s degree.”

Work is also underway to amplify and academically strengthen the collaboration which has been formed between CU and the Department of Commerce’s Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) to provide the basis of a Master’s Degree in Aquatic Science. MBDA’s vision is to function as an entrepreneurial organization serving those seeking to start new businesses in the region.

Working with members of AREC Advisory Board, it is anticipated that AREC will be successful in continuing to develop research projects for review and funding by major national research funding agencies.

For more information contact Dr. Steven G. Hughes at: 610-399-2400 or via e-mail at: shughes@cheyney.edu.