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PD/A CRSP Aquanews-Winter 2003

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Graduate Student Profile: Alejandro MacDonal Vera

By Ian Courter

rowing up in Palenque, in Chiapas State in southern Mexico, Alejandro MacDonal Vera spent much of his time enjoying the outdoors. His interest in nature and animals, particularly fish, led him to the field of science. Today, he studies aquaculture at the Universidad Juárez Autónoma de Tabasco (UJAT), Tabasco, in southeastern Mexico.

After completing his undergraduate degree in biology at UJAT, Vera decided to continue his education under the supervision of Wilfrido Contreras-Sánchez. Many professors at UJAT helped Vera along the way, but Contreras-Sánchez was the most significant influence on his decision to get his Masters degree. Prior to being accepted into the UJAT Aquaculture graduate program, Vera volunteered in Contreras-Sánchez’ lab.

As a graduate student in 2001, Vera began working on the CRSP-sponsored investigation titled "Diversification of Aquaculture Practices by Incorporation of Native Species and Implementation of Alternative Sex Inversion Techniques." Currently, Vera is working on an investigation with Kevin Fitzsimmons, US Principal Investigator from the University of Arizona, titled "Sustainable Polyculture of Tilapia and Shrimp." The project is scheduled to finish in July 2003. For this project Vera is responsible for organizing and conducting a survey of tilapia-shrimp polyculture in Northern Mexico. He is also designing a study on stocking densities for tilapia-shrimp polyculture in Mexico. Even though he’s working on several projects at once, Vera expects to finish his studies in early 2004.

Alejandro MacDonal Vera

Photo by Laboratory of Aquaculture , UJAT

According to Vera, the most challenging aspect of his research on tilapia-shrimp polyculture is that few farmers in Mexico are aware of the opportunity to have a polyculture of tilapia and shrimp. However, he finds it exciting to be working on an unexplored idea and to generate information that can be used by aquaculture producers. The data collected from farmers can later be brought to Tabasco and be applied as alternatives to monoculture.

Despite optimal climatic conditions, an abundance of natural resources, and plenty of good aquaculture species, Vera feels that aquaculture in Mexico struggles because of the lack of modern facilities for research and development of aquaculture, as well as lack of facilities for training personnel with the necessary knowledge to develop aquaculture.

In particular, he feels that Mexico is in need of people with fish breeding knowledge. These are problems that he believes are echoed throughout much of Latin America. Vera feels that aquaculture has not developed at the same rate in developing poor counties, particularly in Latin America, compared to other parts of the world. However, he does feel that in countries with more trained personnel and institutional resources, aquaculture has developed substantially in recent years.

After graduation Vera plans on continuing his graduate studies, with hopes of procuring a Ph.D. in Mexico. In addition, he hopes to have the opportunity to study sharks, but he has yet to have the opportunity to work with any of those species. He also wishes to settle down in Southeastern Mexico, preferably somewhere quiet and in a rural setting where he would like to apply the knowledge he has gained at UJAT and perhaps start his own aquaculture farm. At the minimum, Vera plans on staying in the aquaculture or fisheries field.

When not working on his studies, Vera enjoys fishing, soccer, listening to music, and spending time in the outdoors. He expresses a sincere love for exploring and learning about new places.

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