December 23, 2018

Nicholls Professor Appointed to International Crawfish Board

Nicholls Professor Appointed to International Crawfish Board

Nicholls State University recently let the cat out of the bag, or is it the crawfish out of the trap? One of their Astacologists has been appointed to a prestigious Astacology Board.  You may have eaten hundreds of pounds of crawfish in your day, but you still can’t call yourself an Astacologist- someone who studies crawfish, also called crayfish.  Turns out, there is a large group of people all over the world who dedicate their lives to the study of crawfish. Crawfish have not received much-focused attention from the broader scientific community, until just recently. Only now are scientists beginning to focus on discovering aspects of their biology, geographic distributions, and life histories in order to gather data to address the conservation issues that this diverse charismatic fauna face in the wake of current and future human-mediated environmental change.  Conservationists at the state and federal levels have been tasked with thwarting and reducing crayfish decline, but they need information on crayfish life histories, natural history, ecology, and even taxonomy in order to generate conservation strategies and to implement recovery plans. Often, this information is not available, thus further delaying actions that could help stem the tide of crayfish imperilment, ultimately limiting conservation planning for crayfish faunas at the local, regional, national or even global level. Fortunately, this situation is starting to change for the better as more and more scientists and their students become interested in astacology and begin to address this information shortfall.  

The International Association of Astacology, founded in Hinterthal, Austria in 1972 has an important mission:  to encourage the scientific study, conservation and wise utilization of freshwater crayfish.  They are attempting to provide for the dissemination of research findings relating to crayfish and to develop an international forum for the free discussion of problems relevant to crayfish.  Obviously, crawfish are a huge part of Louisiana tourism and economy, and historically the IAA has been paramount in maintaining the crawfish industry despite unpredictable climate, terrible environmental disasters such as oil spills, and coastal erosion that may change natural habitats.  

Recently, Louisiana’s own Nicholls State University biology professor Dr. Chris Bonvillain has been appointed to the executive board for the International Association of Astacology which is made up of people who represent the crawfish farming industry, academia and state and government organizations from more than 40 countries.  The board’s aim is to encourage the scientific study, conservation and wise use of crawfish. They also work to maintain the organization objectives and provide expert comments and opinions on matters pertaining to crawfish worldwide.

“I am honored to serve on the IAA Executive Board and represent the United States and Southern U.S. crawfish,” said Dr. Bonvillain, who is one of only two appointed board members from the U.S.

“This shows that Nicholls biology faculty are involved in research that is important to our state,” said Dr. Quenton Fontenot, Nicholls biological sciences department head. “The fact that Chris is recognized by this international appointment confirms that Nicholls is recognized as a leader in crawfish research.”

The board meets every two years at the International Association of Astacology Symposium, with this year’s meeting having been in Pittsburgh. The next meeting will be in the Czech Republic in 2020.  Any person or institution interested in furthering the study of Astacology is eligible for membership. Services to members include a quarterly newsletter (Crayfish News), membership directory, biennial international symposium and publication of the journal Freshwater Crayfish.

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