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Graduate Student Profile: Oscar Zelaya
by John Hayes
O scar Zelaya began his PD/A CRSP–funded
research in 1999 with the start of his Master’s
program in the Department of Fisheries and Allied Aquacultures at Auburn University. Zelaya took an interest in the PD/A CRSP while working in his native Honduras. He relates that he was exposed to PD/A CRSP research both as a student working toward his Bachelor’s degree in agriculture at Escuela Agrícola Panamericana (El Zamorano), and as an aquaculturist for Granjas Marinas, one of the largest shrimp farming companies in
refinement of techniques and better science, but maintains that the current challenge facing the industry is to increase productivity without compromising the environment. He points out that as the aquaculture industry grows, it may come under greater scrutiny and regulation if it does not adequately address some of the problems traditionally encountered by large-scale agriculture systems, such as point and nonpoint discharge of wastes. Through his Master’s program, Zelaya hopes to receive training that can be directly
applied to the development of what he calls “ecologically responsible aquaculture.”

In the Fall 1998 issue of Aquanews we reported on the devastating effects of Tropical Storm Mitch in Honduras. Zelaya was in Honduras at the time and recounts the days that followed the torrential rains of 30–31 October 1998. “Everything was gone from one day to the next. It was incredible. I was working for Granjas Marinas then and everything in our operation was destroyed. Ponds were unusable due to excessive erosion or large deposits of mud. There was nothing to stock and nothing to harvest since everything had been washed away. I cannot speak for the rest of the country, but it took our farm months to recover. Our daily routine of harvesting

Honduras. While working at Granjas Marinas, Zelaya also came into contact with PD/A CRSP Principal Investigators Bart Green and David Teichert-Coddington from Auburn University. His graduate education is fully funded by the CRSP, and he was selected from a pool of four qualified applicants from Honduras based on his academic background and interests.

Zelaya studied agricultural engineering at El Zamorano for three years from 1992 to 1995. He then worked for Granjas Marinas in Choluteca for 18 months before returning to El Zamorano in 1997 to complete his final year and a bachelor’s thesis on water quality and pond soils in tilapia farming. El Zamorano is a private, non-profit, international educational

CRSP Graduate Student Oscar Zelaya
and processing was replaced with cleaning up the remains of the farm, which was inaccessible for a long time since the roads had also been washed away. It was hard to imagine how the country would overcome such devastation. Thankfully, we received a lot of financial relief from other countries. We alone did not have the resources to rebuild the country.”

Zelaya considers himself privileged to be in the United States, a country he describes as having “a very well organized infrastructure,” particularly in his field, “as shown by the number of institutions conducting aquacultural research and the number of researchers leading the world in the development of eco-friendly techniques. It’s a privilege for me to be working with some of the top aquacultural researchers in the world, right here at Auburn University. Auburn has excellent faculty and facilities for training in warmwater aquaculture. I am also very happy to be associated with the PD/A CRSP. Their work helps strengthen the worldwide network of aquacultural researchers by providing a common framework of data and studies that address the most pressing issues in warmwater aquaculture.”

organization, offering baccalaureate degrees related to agriculture, social development, and the environment. The institute is located about 35 kilometers southeast of Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras.

An interest in water quality issues and pond soil research brought Zelaya to Auburn University to study under the direction of Dr. Claude Boyd. Dr. Boyd has conducted extensive research on the dynamics of pond aquaculture, including ecology and utilization of aquatic weeds, pond liming and fertilization, water quality and aeration, pond bottom soils management, and hydrology of ponds. His teaching has focused on graduate training in water quality management. Zelaya’s Master’s project will involve evaluating how efficient a water recirculation system is in improving the water within a production system, as well as the effluent system that returns water to the environment.

Zelaya’s research topic supports his more general objective of developing aquaculture systems that are integrated with the environment. With regard to aquacultural research, Zelaya concedes that significant gains have been made in the area of production through