Two 500-gallon fish tanks teeming with tilapia have recently been added to a laboratory at Southeast Arkansas College. Made possible by grant funds obtained by the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, the tanks are part of a recirculating aquaculture system that will help enhance the science experiences of SEARK students.

Two 500-gallon fish tanks teeming with tilapia have recently been added to a laboratory at Southeast Arkansas College. Made possible by grant funds obtained by the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, the tanks are part of a recirculating aquaculture system that will help enhance the science experiences of SEARK students.

“I’m going to use it to teach biology through a more hands-on approach and it will help expose students to other areas of the sciences,” said Bob Starkey, a biology instructor at SEARK.

UAPB and SEARK have joined forces to prepare high school and community college students for studies in the sciences. Through the Career Awareness and Opportunities in the Agriculture, Environment and Life Sciences program, students are learning about numerous study and career options.

UAPB received a $299,871 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to fund the new program. Of that funding, $131,464 went to SEARK for equipment and supplies.

“The fish tanks that we have on campus have spurred a lot of interest,” said Linda Lewis, SEARK vice president of academic affairs. “Students are becoming aware of the career field of aquaculture/fisheries.”

Through the career awareness program, students realize that they can get a two-year degree at SEARK and continue their studies in the UAPB School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences, she said.

The school’s goal is to strengthen its research, teaching and outreach capabilities in an effort to recruit and train students for careers in agriculture and other sciences. The program focuses on college preparation for junior and senior high school and community college students and supports an active, enriched learning environment.

Students who are pursuing an associate of applied sciences degree at SEARK who intend to enroll at UAPB after graduation may also apply for a five-week summer research internship with SAFHS faculty which pays a $1,000 stipend.

“The real exciting part is that (educators) are able to identify students who have an interest in science and get them involved with the sciences in SAFHS,” said Linda Okiror, SAFHS assistant dean and program director. “We’ve had two student interns from SEARK (one in aquaculture/fisheries and one in agriculture). As a result, one of those students is dual enrolled at UAPB and SEARK.”

SEARK students may take a freshman or sophomore level class at UAPB and the grant will pay the tuition and fees associated with that course. By the time a student graduates from SEARK with an associate’s degree, he or she will already have taken classes at UAPB that they can apply toward their bachelor’s degree.

This summer, UAPB will again offer summer internships to area high school and SEARK College students. Applications are available on the SAFHS page on the website www.uapb.edu. Click on Schools on the left to navigate to the SAFHS page. Then, click on Career Awareness and Opportunities Program on the right side of the page. Information about scholarships is also available.

For more information, contact Linda Okiror, program director, at 870-575-8538 or email okirorl@uapb.edu.

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Bobbie Crockett is an extension specialist - communications with UAPB’s School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences.