Meet David Burbank
By Sue McMurray
Year: Second year master's student
Program: Fishery Resources
Hometown: Meridian, Idaho
Burbank’s passions for fishing, the outdoors and science led him to the conclusion he needed a degree to do what he loves – apply principles of microbiology to improve fish health.
Burbank is the first member of his family to attend college. After a year in a transfer program at Boise State University, Burbank says he came to the University of Idaho College of Natural Resources because of its strong fisheries program, smaller classes and community “feel.”
Currently, Burbank is conducting hands-on research to improve the aquaculture industry’s understanding of probiotics. Probiotics are any bacteria or microbes that can be beneficial to the host, including treating diseases, as opposed to antibiotics, which fight against all bacteria. Burbank recently received a McNair Graduate Assistantship to partially fund his research project to discover an effective probiotic treatment for Cold Water Disease (CWD).
CWD is the No. 1 disease facing the commercial sector of the Idaho trout industry. The disease is a worldwide problem for rainbow trout reared for commercial aquaculture, and in resource enhancement fish hatcheries. In recent years, economic losses from this disease in the trout industry are estimated at approximately $9 million in Idaho alone – but are much higher worldwide.
Using probiotics may have the potential to decrease reliance on antibiotics, which in the long run will save money that can be used to improve production facilities.
Burbank works with his major professor, Ken Cain, associate professor of fishery resources, who along with collaborators Benjamin LaFrentz ('07) and Scott LaPatra, recently received a U.S. patent for a CWD vaccine.
In addition to the research Burbank conducts as a graduate student, he also participates in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Student Career Experience Program (SCEP), to gain additional experience in the aquaculture industry. SCEP offers curriculum-related employment to students in certain academic disciplines.
During winter breaks and summers, he works at the Willard National Fish Hatchery in Cook, Wash., raising fish, monitoring water quality and visiting different facilities to experience feeding techniques and genetics practices.
After earning his master’s degree in fishery resources, Burbank will have a guaranteed fisheries biologist position at Willard.