According to Cory Janiak, a Delaware State University graduate student, the word mummichog means “goes in great numbers” in a Native American language—just don’t ask her which one.
As part of her thesis, Janiak is working on an aquaculture program that would add to those numbers by breeding mummichogs (aka minnows or killifish) for use as bait or even to be released into the wild, where they would help control the mosquito population and diminish the spread of mosquito-borne diseases like West Nile Virus.
“These fish are wild caught for bait,” says Janiak, who will graduate in May. “We want to develop methods for growing them. They are not always abundant, not always the size you want. If you culture them, you could have them whenever you want. Growing them could help the economy.”
Janiak, along with fellow grad student Kevin Coles, and adviser Dennis McIntosh, is working with Appoquinimink High School students to find the optimal conditions in which to hatch and grow the mummichogs. The students built a collector and harvested eggs last fall. They then incubated the eggs and have been raising the fish in a 600-gallon tank.
“We’re trying to find the basic minimum time to get from the egg to fry to juvenile to reproduction,” says Karen Wiener, an agriscience teacher at Appo. “It would be great if we could get that information to fish producers.”
The Appo students, some of whom either work on farms or may some day work in agriculture, gain the benefit of working with folks from an institution of higher learning while also gaining valuable real-world experience in aquaculture. Wiener says the work could translate into a senior project or a student could enter an agriscience competition at the Delaware State Fair.
Who knows? They could even solve some of the world’s biggest future challenges, like problems with the food supply. “There is a huge push to farm more food in the ocean,” Janiak says. “This pushes young minds to that concept early in their lives.”