From Guts to Glory



Patrick H. Rice is the Chief Science & Research Officer and the Principal Investigator for Marine Research at Florida Keys Community College, the only institution of higher education in the Florida Keys, with campuses in the upper middle and lower Keys. Dr. Rice always had a passion for marine aquaculture, and as a kid wanted to grow up to be a marine biologist. It was in the 1980’s when he was fully exposed to aquaculture and fishing, and thus, Dr. Rice was born! 

Dr. Rice earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology at the University of Texas at Austin in 1992, a Master’s Degree in Wildlife and Fisheries Science at Texas A&M University in 2000, and a Ph.D. In Marine Biology and Fisheries at the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science in 2008. Dr. Rice was able to work with a group of Indigenous people in Fiji, through volunteering for the United States Peace Corps. Dr. Rice’s knowledge of aquaculture enabled him to have a successful impact on the lives of people in Fiji, through his volunteer work. During his time there, Dr. Rice exposed the malnourished natives to a method of fish farming that they had previously not known about. This experience kickstarted Dr. Rice’s desire to further pursue aquaculture, thanks in part to the valuable help he provided to a malnourished community. 

After this experience, Dr. Rice went on to further his education and practice of aquaculture. Shortly thereafter, around the time that the film Finding Nemo was released, Dr. Rice noted, “The movie put a lot of pressure on fish in the wild, and it was apparent that many fishermen were using harmful, unsustainable fishing processes to collect clownfish.” Dr. Rice had proposed to people at the Florida Keys Community College that they gather clownfish from the area, as well as the necessary supplies, and teach the students better methods for fish farming, and provide a better understanding about the species. After writing a compelling proposal and donating some funds, which, according to Dr. Rice, is 99% of the battle, he and his team were granted permission. When asked about the work, he states, “We had our challenges, but clownfish aquaculture was pretty well defined, so we just had to use those protocols, and now we’re killing it, and doing all kinds of cool stuff.” The program that Dr. Rice began at Florida Keys Community College is called the Southernmost Marine Aquaculture Research and Training (SMART). 

This is just a brief overview of the incredible work that Dr. Rice has accomplished. Enter his newest project proposal to the college, titled, From Guts to Glory. Essentially, with this project, Dr. Rice is aiming to evaluate and determine whether an unwanted fisheries waste product, grouper gonads, for one, can be converted into a valuable marine aquaculture hatchery resource. Dr. Rice explains the need for the project by saying, “The grouper fishery in the United States and Key West especially was shut down, due to the overfishing of black and red grouper. The idea is to stop the fishing during the spawning season, as it also has an economic and ecological impact. We thought that maybe we can do some grouper aquaculture. Groupers are very hard to culture, and barely anyone in the country is doing it.” In short, according to the team’s official project proposal, they hope to, “collect grouper gonads discarded during the fish cleaning process, to provide the male genetic material for cryopreservation and subsequent in-vitro fertilization trails to evaluate their potential as a gamete and genetic discovery resource for grouper hatcheries.” This proposal represents the first phase in the development of innovative hatchery protocols for marine fish species, with emphasis on grouper. As a result, there is potential to not only preserve grouper, but also preserve other species that are at risk as well! Thank you, Dr. Rice!

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