Various versions of this course have been around since 1996, first created by Dale Leavitt in Massachusetts (read more history below). The course is held at Roger Williams University as an extension course in shellfish farming techniques and management. Coastal Resource Management Council of Rhode Island highly recommends taking this course before obtaining even a recreational aquaculture permit. It is primarily taught in an online course, however, we hope to include in-person days again in the near future. We recently were awarded funds to update the course and diversify instruction as well as make the course more accessible to students. Stay tuned for more updates about that grant program through Sea Grant in 2023 and 2024. Below is a history of the course origins.
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History of ASF – Dale Leavitt origins
The Applied Shellfish Farming Course was originally created by Dr. Leavitt when he was at Woods Hole Sea Grant, teaching at the MA Maritime Academy in 1996. In 2003, Leavitt began teaching the course at RWU where he now is a Professor Emeritus. Many of the participants from the New England region joined the class in-person to expand their knowledge of various topics including, an overview of shellfish farming, shellfish biology, farm site selection, the permitting process and regulatory aspects of securing and maintaining a lease, an overview of shellfish nursery and grow-out systems, risk management strategies, other technical aspects of shellfish farming, and business and marketing management advice. In 2016 with funding from NOAA a team was created to enhance and expand this well established course.
History of ASF – the Griffin and Hudson era
Matt Griffin and Rob Hudson began teaching some of the course topics in 2016 as well as help create this online platform. The online presence allows for the course to reach a greater audience of prospective shellfish farmers across the United States and beyond. The Applied Shellfish Farming Course is not a requirement by any state to grow shellfish, but is considered an important learning opportunity for prospective shellfish farmers. The 15-week program often has guest speakers, from state agencies to growers, assist in lending real-world advice to students. The course is designed to aid new and experienced shellfish farmers to start or grow their shellfish farming enterprise.
History of ASF – Federally funded grant to develop a website
The Applied Shellfish Farming website was created in 2016 by a team from Roger Williams University, the Coastal Resources Center & Rhode Island Sea Grant, the Coastal Resources Management Council, and the East Coast Shellfish Grower’s Association. The goals of the website are:
- To provide viewers with information on a 2 year NOAA-funded activity to enhance and expand a popular and important Applied Shellfish Farming course offered by Professor Dale Leavitt in Rhode Island
- To allow access to information about the in-person course offered in 2016 and in 2017, including course schedules, syllabus, and materials
- To provide a portal into the online Applied Shellfish Farming course offered in 2017
- To offer additional resources for maximum learning of both in-person and online Applied Shellfish Farming course participants.
- Enhancing and expanding the reach of an established course to prospective farmers considering operating in Rhode Island, and
- Engaging local communities that host aquaculture activities in public dialogue regarding opportunities and challenges associated with the industry.
The aquaculture course, an offering of RWU biology professor Dale Leavitt, Ph.D., an aquaculture expert, is widely considered an important training element for newcomers to the industry. As Rhode Island is working to strengthen its aquaculture sector, and CRMC recommends the course to aquaculture permit applicants, the project will bolster the training component – packaging the course via filming so it can be provided as an online course to a wider audience in 2017. The current in-person course, 40 hours over approximately three-months, is continuing as it has for about two decades. Topics include shellfish farming, biology, site selection and permitting, leasing and business strategies.
The community outreach effort, is bringing government, industry and community interests together to engage in productive dialogue about the benefits – jobs and revenue – and concerns – noise, odor and equipment appearance — that emerge in municipalities that host shellfish aquaculture activities. An educational series, including talks from historians, ecologists, legal experts, as well as field trips to local shellfish farms are all part of the program.