MASNA is excited to announce Alyssa Gabriel of Maryland, USA, as the 2022 MASNA Aquarist of the Year in recognition of her success in seahorse aquaculture. Alyssa has successfully reared over 10 varieties of seahorses since 2014 after noticing a lack of quality stock availability. MASNA will be awarding its annual MASNA Aquarist of the Year to Alyssa at the MACNA 2022 Banquet, starting 7 pm Central on September 10th, 2022, in Milwaukee, WI.
Alyssa Gabriel – MASNA Aquarist of the Year, 2022
Alyssa is the founder and owner of Seahorse Savvy LLC, a Maryland-based seahorse farm and hatchery established in 2014. Alyssa and her team are working on the propagation of captive-bred seahorses and other Syngnathid species. Her interest sparked in high school where she began her first aquarium, she then went on to complete her B.S majoring in Biology at Salisbury University.
Initially, Alyssa worked in coral propagation for the aquarium market at Pacific East Aquaculture before she went on to being a laboratory technician at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center’s Water Chemistry Laboratory. Through knowledge accumulated via both her hobby and professional setting, Alyssa found the gap in seahorse and pipefish aquaculture – the availability of quality stock. Despite being one of the first marine fish to be bred in captivity, many are sold prematurely (small sized), wild collected or net-raised – factors not favorable to the average keeper.
Since 2014 the company has grown fourfold, having maxed out the current space and prompting the construction of a new state-of-the-art facility. Her current facility will be utilized for production and broodstock, whilst the new facility will be used for both the juvenile and fry grow-out. With both facilities totaling 7000 gallons of production space, Alyssa is able to produce a fivefold yield, with this capacity she aims to propagate another 10 varieties of seahorses and pipefish and continue being one of the largest producers of captive-bred seahorses in the US.
Alyssa has refined the aquaculture of seahorses by developing new aquaculture techniques. Many of the rearing methods used are applicable for other fish species as well. These include developing in-house protocol for Artemia enrichment, innovative fry rearing systems which maximize survival rates, designs for optimizing biosecurity, and system design to optimize breeding success.
Alyssa aims to continue expanding her propagated varieties while producing high-quality animals. She places high importance on sharing her knowledge, stemming not only from her passion as a hobbyist but her success with Seahorse Savvy LLC for generations to come.
About The Award Process
Annually, MASNA awards the prestigious MASNA Award and Aquarist of the Year Award to deserving individuals for their work in helping shape and influence the marine aquarium hobby in a way that positively contributes to the ongoing sustainability of the hobby to the future marine environment. Together with MASNA, previous recipients of the MASNA Award confer to decide who has given the most to the hobby and industry to be deserving of that years’ awards from a selection of nominees.
Every spring, MASNA Members are invited to submit nominations for consideration. Nominations in and of themselves are a great honor, so it is crucial that you take the time to nominate worthy candidates, particularly those unsung heroes in your own aquarist circle. The aquarist you may feel most deserves this honor can’t be considered if you don’t nominate them, so be sure to watch for the next nomination period in the spring of 2023.
Please also remember that you can resubmit your nominations in subsequent years to keep these noteworthy candidates up for consideration. Many past recipients have been nominated repeatedly before ultimately being selected by the committee.
Ultimately, the annual MASNA Award and Aquarist of the Year recognitions are the culmination of several months of nominations, considerations, debate, and a rigorous voting process. Recognition with these awards is more than just a milestone of recognition, but often represents encouragement that the honorees keep doing what they did that earned them this recognition, and hopes that there is even more to come!
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