News Release

How to bring the pen to the tank — without compromising …


Interview with Dr. Mark Braceland

August 2022

How to bring the pen to the tank — without compromising fish disease-research strength

In-tank fish studies

In-tank studies remain the bedrock of research into aquaculture disease, but their design is changing to meet demands to replicate scenarios closer to field conditions, according to Mark Braceland, PhD, Director of Fish Health at the Center for Aquaculture Technologies.

“I think some people can be cautious (of in-tank studies), primarily because of the difficulty in making them real-world applicable, but also potential worries about increased efficacy seen in tank-based studies compared to the field,” Braceland explained.

Yet field studies carried out on commercial fish farms also have their drawbacks, he said.
“In a farm-based setting it’s very difficult to have high replication in terms of pens. And it’s also difficult to not introduce scientific bias in terms of how we sample animals from those pens. Tanks allow us to have higher numbers of replications and also look at things over a whole population, or at least a higher percentage of the population.”

Completing studies in tanks is often necessary before a product can be brought to market, and they are also used to justify scaling up to field studies using thousands of fish. But can what happens in the field be made more predictable by replicating aspects of field scenarios in the more controlled conditions of tanks at research institutes?

“One of the things that we’ve done for such a long time in a scientific setting is to try and control everything we can, apart from the one key question we’re trying to ask,” he said.
Such a move may involve bringing some of the “chaos” of aquatic ecosystems indoors, he said, while noting that some questions remain about how exactly to achieve this.


Dr. Mark Braceland

Dr. Mark Braceland

Director of Fish Health

Dr. Mark Braceland joined CATC in January 2016 as a senior research scientist. Previously he obtained a PhD in animal health and worked as a postdoc at the University of Glasgow. His expertise is primarily in the identification and assay development of novel markers of fish health generally and of disease-associated pathology through proteomic and biochemical techniques. His work has led to a number of scientific articles and patents. At CATC he is part of the fish health team designing novel in vitro and in vivo models and efficacy markers for the development of technologies to improve the sustainability and growth of aquaculture.