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Aquatic Disease Research Facilities

Scientific expertise in aquatic animal health within the USGS spans over eight science centers across the nation, with researchers working on all aspects of aquatic animal diseases.

Collecting tissues from fish
Fish health principle investigators, students, post-docs, and technicians from different research groups work together as a fish processing team on days when large numbers of fish require sampling.  They are collecting multiple tissues from each fish for testing virus infection and host immune response. (Credit: Gael Kurath, USGS - Western Fisheries Research Center. Public domain.)

The Western Fisheries Research Center (WFRC) in Washington State has specialized facilities for safely conducting infectious disease trials in freshwater and marine fish, as well as an aquatic high containment laboratory for research on foreign aquatic animal diseases. The WFRC is the sole World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) reference laboratory for two important diseases of salmon and trout, infectious hematopoietic necrosis and bacterial kidney disease. WFRC researchers used a virus genetic typing system to identify the source of the virus among free-ranging salmonids. This science was used by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to support redesign of the hatchery water supply  system, and to monitor success of that change in dramatically reducing viral disease.

Dr. Nathan Johnson takes a non-invasive tissue sample of a freshwater mussel at the Green River, Kentucky
Dr. Nathan Johnson takes a non-invasive tissue sample of a freshwater mussel at the Green River, Kentucky. (Credit: Cheryl Morrison, USGS Leetown Science Center. Public domain.)

The Leetown Science Center (LSC) has been leading efforts in the Chesapeake Bay and Great Lakes watersheds to assess the impact of emerging pathogens and environmental stressors including endocrine disrupting chemicals on aquatic animals in these critical aquatic ecosystems. Scientists at the LSC partner with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and various State agencies for infectious and non-infectious fish disease investigations. 

Veterinary specialists at the National Wildlife Health Center–Honolulu Field Station are studying all aspects of a tumor disease that is the most common reason for green turtle stranding.

Researchers at the St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center, as well as at the Honolulu Field Station, are conducting vital research to understand and mitigate environmental drivers of coral reef disease.


USGS Science Centers with Aquatic Health and Disease Researchers

National Wildlife Health Center

Western Fisheries Research Center

Leetown Science Center

Columbia Environmental Research Center

Western Ecological Science Center

Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center

St Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center

Alaska Science Center

Wetland and Aquatic Research Center