Some hidden gems across campus go unnoticed because of their geographic locations, and such is the case for the McLafferty Annex research facility.
Located on the outskirts of campus, the 65,000-square-foot annex holds a state-of-the-art research facility that houses the Aquatic Research Laboratory and Saluki Aquarium, part of SIU’s Center for Fisheries, Aquaculture and Aquatic Sciences.
“The research in fisheries, aquaculture and aquatic sciences goes far beyond what most people would think about in relation to fish,” said Dr. Ed Heist, acting director of the massive facility. “We have graduate and undergraduate researchers who come in and do research projects. SIU’s marine biology program sends students over to study our starfish and crabs. The behavioral analysis and therapy programs come here to work with octopus and zebrafish to learn more about cognitive development, autism and behavioral psychology.”
He added: “We have a major project currently going on researching the federally endangered pallid sturgeon species. This facility is used by many disciplines, and we are proud of it.”
The center has 17,000 square feet of indoor aquatic research space, significantly more than most other universities. The Aquatic Research Laboratory and Saluki Aquarium measures 7,000 square feet, while the Wetlab production facility across the street is slightly larger, at 10,000 square feet.
Heist also manages the 90 research ponds at the Touch of Nature site along with a 7½-acre reservoir. He allots space to research projects and assists students, who do a majority of the labor, fish harvesting and feeding, and equipment maintenance, too.
Because of the space and facility, SIU students receive plenty of hands-on experience in their major.
“Our students also have a very high success rate of receiving job offers when they graduate,” Heist said. “Many of our graduates go directly to work for the federal and state governments, along with private companies such as Archer Daniels Midland and Cargill – just some of the big-name employers who are hiring our students.”
“There is so much to be proud of,” Heist added. “Just a few weeks ago, Archer Daniels Midland aquatic research and development came to tour our facilities so they can update their research system to replicate SIU’s facility.”
Along with these many points of pride comes the reality of funding.
“It costs a lot to maintain Infrastructure and research systems, along with funding needed to conduct high-quality research,” Heist said.
Besides funding for the maintenance, the ultimate funding dream is to finish the construction of an 8,000-gallon display aquarium. The initial phase of the Aquatic Research Laboratory and Saluki Aquarium began in 2012 but is on hold pending additional funding. The cost to complete the aquarium stands at $350,000.
“It’s our dream that this world-class aquatic facility and aquarium will enable SIU to continue our important work in promoting greater understanding of, and education about, our precious aquatic resources,” Heist said.
To learn more about supporting the project through Forever SIU: The Campaign for Students, visit http://foreversiu.org/colleges-units/science.php, or contact the foundation at 618/453-4900 or email@example.com.