My current research utilizes cryopreservation as a tool for genetic banking of aquatic organisms. Genetic banking of plant cells, tissues, seeds, and mammalian embryos is common practice in agriculture to ensure important genetic lines are not lost due to disease outbreak or environmental catastrophe. However, genetic banking of aquatic embryos and larvae is nearly nonexistent, and cryopreservation is an important strategy to ensure against the loss of aquatic species due to reproductive failures, environmental degradation, or invasive species proliferation. The relatively large size (0.2 – 5.0 mm) of aquatic embryos and high yolk content has precluded most aquatic embryo storage to date. However, recent advancements in rapid cooling for storage at liquid nitrogen temperatures (-196°C) and ultra-rapid laser rewarming (>107 °C/min) have led to major breakthroughs in cryopreservation technologies.
With funding from Minnesota Sea Grant, I collaborate with a multidisciplinary team of researchers adapting several technologies (microfluidics, 3D printing, ultra-rapid laser warming) to implement a high throughput embryo banking strategy for the cyprinid Notemigonus crysoleucus or Golden Shiner. Cryopreservation of fish embryos will improve the productivity of the Minnesota aquaculture industry by enabling farmers to produce a continuous supply of gametes year-round and reduce the cost of broodstock maintenance. For many species such as walleye, cryopreservation of fish embryos could also enable preservation of genetic lines for research and propagation. These technologies will help protect genetic resources vital to the commercial aquaculture industry, conservation, and food security domestically and abroad.