At the Visitor Center, you'll see hundreds of species of fish and invertebrates native to Oregon's coastal waters, all displayed in settings designed to replicate their natural habitats. Many of these exhibits showcase research being conducted in OSU's Hatfield Marine Science Center labs; others are designed to demonstrate important natural science concepts and issues. Caring for all these animals and keeping them healthy is the job of our Husbandry Team.
The term ‘husbandry’ refers to the care and maintenance of animals in captivity. Each member of the husbandry team has a specific role to play:
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Fish get bugs, just like humans, and the affects are much the same, too – lethargy, off-feed, isolation, and the many different internal processes that may be going on in response to the specific type of bug. Maintaining husbandry protocols (siphoning the substrate of detritus) is the chief weapon in our attack against bugs. The second weapon is reducing any situation that may cause our fish to become stressed. Both weapons center on safe handling procedures (no netting; limited chasing of the fish) and trying very hard to maintain water quality. Lastly, daily observations and record keeping are very important. More often than not, these preventative measures limit the bugs, and our fish stay relatively healthy. However, what happens when a bug makes it through these first lines of defense?
When something unusual is observed - lesions, off-feed, lethargy, non-typical swimming behaviors - we transfer the fish to the HMSC West Wing hospital for further observations and minor medical exams - skin scrapes, gill snips - to obtain samples for observation under the microscope. If we find bugs, there are several different ways of attacking the problem dependent on the type of bug found. For example, leeches are hand picked from the fish (student/volunteer aquarists are the best at this procedure). Flukes, ciliates, and flagellates are treated with Formalin or other substances that kill the bugs. Bacterial infections are treated with various antibiotics. Then of course we can do surgeries to remove tumors, and repair damaged body parts.
The really cool thing about fish is if you can catch the problem early, isolate the patient, treat the bugs, and control bacterial infections, fish become tremendous healers. We once had a koi with a significant caudal fin bacterial infection that resulted in much of the tail from the caudal peduncle area back, eroding away. With treatments and prolonged care, the fish quickly and completely healed by regenerating the eroded areas.
Watch as Dr. Tim Miller-Morgan explains some of our husbandry techniques: