Brian Freeman-Rhodes, a senior major of aquaculture/fisheries at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB), recently received a $1,000 scholarship from the Catfish Farmers of Arkansas (CFA).

The award can be used for education-related expenses including tuition, fees, books and supplies during his final semester at UAPB.

The CFA is an association of catfish producers, suppliers and research/Extension personnel involved in promoting, producing and marketing Arkansas farm-raised catfish. Each year, the organization awards two $1,000 scholarships to full-time undergraduate students in two-year or four-year programs.

“This is the third time Brian has won the CFA scholarship,” Rebecca Lochmann, chair of the UAPB Department of Aquaculture and Fisheries, said. “He clearly has the ambition and dedication to become an outstanding professional in our field.”

Scholarship applicants are required to write an essay demonstrating a strong interest or experience in the Arkansas catfish industry and submit a letter of recommendation from someone engaged in the industry in a production, research, sales or promotion capacity.

Freeman-Rhodes, a native of Houston, Texas, said he found out about the scholarship from Bauer Duke, former Extension specialist for the UAPB School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences. During a summer internship at the UAPB Aquaculture Research Station, he assisted in a study on channel catfish under Duke’s supervision.

“Mr. Duke also happened to be my department’s scholarship chairman,” Freeman-Rhodes said. “It was because of him that I was able to learn about the practical applications of catfish farming that I could not get in the classroom. He encouraged me to apply for all the departmental scholarships, including the Catfish Farmers of Arkansas scholarship.”

During his internship, Freeman-Rhodes helped managed the growth of four channel catfish ponds with a stocking density of 10,000 fish per pond. He was responsible for collecting water samples, taking conductivity readings, and measuring temperature and dissolved oxygen levels. In the lab, he conducted tests that measured water hardness, alkalinity, pH, chlorides, total ammonia nitrate and nitrites.

“The internship taught me a lot about the importance of water quality in catfish production,” he said. “It was motivating to understand why a certain pond was not as productive as it should be and then come up with water quality solutions.”

Freeman-Rhodes said he hopes to attend the annual convention of the Catfish Farmers of Arkansas and learn about current research topics that are influencing the catfish industry in Arkansas.

In the future, Freeman-Rhodes said he would like to own an aquaculture operation.

“In doing so, I feel that I would be immediately resolving two issues that the black community faces – the lack of owning tangible assets such as land and resources, as well as learning how to maintain a business that I can pass down to the next generation so they can inherit something of value,” he said.

Freeman-Rhodes said he chose to major in aquaculture/fisheries because of his longtime interest in the outdoors.

“Growing up, I was an ‘Animal Planet’ kid,” he said. “While other kids talked about yesterday’s great performance by a professional athlete, I would go on and on about that week’s episode of ‘Blue Planet’ and the fascinating aquatic organisms they captured on film.”

When he discovered the aquaculture/fisheries program at UAPB was ranked among the top three in the country, he was sure of where he wanted to obtain his education.

“As I have received exposure not only to aquaculture, but also fisheries science opportunities on both a national and international level during my education at UAPB, I know the faculty and staff have gone the distance to ensure my success after graduation.”

— Will Hehemann is a writer/editor at the UAPB School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences.