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AQUALABS - Advanced Laboratory Training Courses in Aquaculture for Early-Stage Researchers

Final Activity Report Summary - AQUALABS (Advanced Laboratory Training Courses in Aquaculture for Early-Stage Researchers)

The aquaculture industry has seen a rapid expansion over the past decade in many parts of Europe. With this expansion has come the development of new technologies, and thus the need for a highly skilled and specialised workforce. Today, current and potential workers are required to have recognised qualifications, to be flexible with regard to the work functions they can carry out, and to be mobile within the industry.

The AQUALABS project aimed to provide state-of-the-art advanced training for younger researchers in specific areas of aquaculture. It was supported by the European Commission Marie Curie Actions - Human resources and mobility programme, coordinated by AquaTT, endorsed by the industry, and hosted at European centres of excellence.

Its objectives were:
- to train young researchers in state-of-the-art key scientific techniques, with an emphasis on practical skills and field experience;
- to provide hands-on experience of new aquaculture systems and laboratory techniques;
- to present an integrated, multidisciplinary approach to each of the subject areas (developmental, biochemical, physiological, nutritional, environmental and practical);
- to convey and discuss new philosophies which can be used to enhance subject understanding;
- to study topical and contemporary issues, with particular emphasis on industrial aquaculture;
- to provide advanced knowledge on new technological and management issues in aquaculture;
- to facilitate interactions between young researchers and leading scientists;
- to enhance the exchange of information between students and staff from different European institutions (European Added Value).

Over the period 2005-2006, 7 events were held covering the following subjects:
- Molecular Biology and Ecology - University of Kuopio (Finland).
- Freshwater Aquaculture and the Environment - HAKI (Hungary).
- Fish Welfare - University of Insubria (Italy).
- Quality in Fish Products - University College Cork (Ireland).
- Aquatic Animal Disease Diagnostics - University of Stirling (UK).
- Recirculation Technologies - Wageningen University (The Netherlands).
- Student workshop 2006 - AquaTT hosted by the Marine Institute (Ireland).

Each training event ran over 5-7 days at a European Centre of excellence in the field. The course content was delivered by leading researchers from across the world in a practical hands-on manner that would ensure the transfer of the latest practical skills to the participants. Participant numbers were limited to ensure quality training and individual attention. In order to tie in the research skills with the practical industry each event had a fieldtrip in order for participants to experience the industry first hand. To complement the training each event had a series of social and cultural activities to allow for informal networking between participants and lecturers.

The seventh and final AQUALABS training event was the three-day AQUALAB Student Conference 2006, while the previous 6 courses in the series focused on the transfer of state-of-the-art laboratory techniques in specific fields of aquaculture, the Student Conference programme was geared towards the transfer of generic competencies, such as communication skills, networking, proposal writing and technology transfer, which are of real value to a research career.

All courses were significantly oversubscribed, demonstrating the need for this type of event. In the 2005/6 series, 210 funded young researchers from more than 40 countries participated in and benefited from AQUALABS. The courses and workshop promoted mobility, affording young researchers a unique opportunity to visit centres of excellence and network with fellow researchers and keynote speakers. The relationships developed through AQUALABS may lead to more international collaboration and networking, and ultimately contribute to a European Research Area (ERA).