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Introducing Renee Florent...

Name: Renee Florent
Education: Bachelor of Applied Science, Bachelor of Aquaculture (Honours)
Current Occupation: PhD student
Where: School of Aquaculture, University of Tasmania

Renee’s interest in science began at an early age. “I loved animals and was always intrigued with how they worked, bringing home any injured ones I came across”. From the age of four Renee decided she wanted to be a vet and tailored her school life to achieve this goal. As she got older Renee developed a passion for everything marine, and moved to Launceston from Coffs Harbour in NSW to commence a Bachelor of Applied Science majoring in Aquaculture. “Throughout the degree I became interested in research and particularly seahorses, and began working at Seahorse World as a tour guide and aquarium technician,” says Renee. As a result of her passion for seahorses Renee undertook an honours research project examining swim bladder inflation in the juvenile pot-bellied seahorse. “After working for 3 years with these adorable creatures I needed a change of scenery, I couldn’t take dissecting seahorses anymore!”.

Renee Florent

Renee is currently in the first year of her PhD in the School of Aquaculture in Launceston, examining oral treatments for amoebic gill disease in Atlantic salmon. Her project gives Renee the best of both worlds, as she gets to look after and care for fish as well as spend time in the laboratory on scientific research. “I find working in science extremely interesting, challenging and enjoyable, and everyday is different”. Through Renee’s research she has also met many interesting people and visited many interesting places. This year Renee also has the opportunity to visit Cairns (Qld) and Copenhagen (Denmark) to present some of her PhD research to an international audience.

Find out more about Renee's research

Key words: Aquaculture, Atlantic salmon, gill disease

Amoebic gill disease (AGD) in Atlantic salmon, which may be described as a “fish flu”, is the most significant problem within the Tasmanian salmon farming industry. It attacks the fish gills, decreasing their appetite, slowing growth (sometimes causing death), and costing the salmon industry over $15 million a year. Currently, the disease is managed by bathing the fish in fresh water for three hours, which is an expensive and time-consuming process. Hence, the hunt is on to find a treatment agent that will either enhance or replace the current freshwater bath.

Sydney Seahorse
A Sydney seahorse feeding on mysids, a type of crustacean similar to brine shrimp (the white bits floating in the water). Photo: Jonathan Clark-Jones

There are two main approaches to using treatment agents: either bath or oral administration. There are numerous advantages in using oral preparations including: the lesser quantity of active substance released into the environment compared to bath treatment, it is less stressful to the fish, and oral treatment is relatively non-hazardous to the farmer. However, with oral treatments there can be problems including but not limited to: reduced palatability of the feed due to incorporation of the agent, dosage rates can be difficult to standardise as not all fish will eat the same amount of feed, and there is a risk that fish will not eat the medicated feed due to the effect of the disease itself on appetite. The oral treatments that Renee is examining would however be cheaper and less time consuming than the current management techniques.

Renee is able to conduct this research and undertake her PhD with the scholarship, funding and facilities obtained through the Aquafin CRC, University of Tasmania, and the Society of Experimental Biology. With financial support, Renee has been able to make an oral presentation at the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation Aquatic Animal Health Conference in Cairns and next month has the opportunity to present at the European Association of Fish Pathologists Conference held in Copenhagen, Denmark.


Renee with fish

Useful Websites:

For more information and great ideas for classroom activities, visit:

Aquafin CRC

School of Aquaculture

CSIRO Marine Research

Student Activity:

When Renee worked at Seahorse World at Beauty Point in Tasmania’s north, one of her responsibilities was to feed the seahorses. Seahorses feed primarily on crustaceans, and one of these crustaceans is shrimp. In captivity, such as aquariums, the most common food offered to seahorses is brine shrimp, and it is possible for you to grow your own brine shrimp at home or at school.

Brine shrimp are small creatures, but are visible to the eye, measuring in at maximum length at 1.3cm. Brine shrimp do not live in the ocean, but they are adapted to salty water, living in salty inland lakes around the world. Brine shrimp can live in water having several times the salinity of seawater, however they can also live in water much less salty than seawater.

Kits to grow brine shrimp, also known as Sea-Monkeys can be purchased with full instructions at many toy stores and pet shops for approximately $20. You do not even need to have an aquarium or salt water, as the kit comes with a miniature aquarium, and only tap water is required. You will be able to watch the brine shrimp grow as you feed them, identify the males from the females, and once they are old enough watch them breed to produce more brine shrimp. Your students can even do experiments to determine how environmental conditions affect the ability of brine shrimp to hatch and develop.

Big bellied seahorse from Tasmanian Seahorse
A big-bellied seahorse from Tasmania. Photo: Jonathan Clark-Jones

This web site gives suggestions for scientific experiments that can be done with brine shrimp. Experiments can determine how different factors (e.g. temperature, salt concentration, light) affect the hatching and development of brine shrimp.

If your class is feeling adventurous you could even look at having a seahorse aquarium in your classroom, and feeding the seahorse the brine shrimp you have grown. Please note that seahorses will need to be feed more than just the brine shrimp, as brine shrimp alone do not provide enough nutritional value to the sea horse. For instructions on setting up a sea horse tank in your classroom, please there are some good websites to visit:

If you would like advice on setting up a seahorse tank from Tasmanian experts, and would like somewhere to purchase the seahorses and food, please visit the Seahorse World website:

For more information on brine shrimp:

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