Paxson H. Offield Professorship in Fisheries Ecology Supports Oysters of the Future

Paxson H. Offield, the great-grandson of William Wrigley Jr. who serves as the chairman and CEO of the Santa Catalina Island Co., was instrumental in establishing the USC Wrigley Institute’s fisheries management program in 2000. His commitment to marine conservation also motivated him to endow a professorship in fisheries ecology at USC in 2003. This prestigious endowed faculty position has helped the Wrigley Institute cultivate fisheries expertise among its considerable academic strengths.

“I thought it would be a real shame if we put together an entire marine sciences research center only to find there are no more fish in the ocean. And that’s the direction we’re headed,” said Offield. “The Wrigley needed someone who could train the future leaders of fisheries biology and policy.” The Paxson H. Offield Professor of Fisheries Ecology is currently biologist Dr. Dennis Hedgecock.

Dr. Hedgecock joined USC in 2003 as the first Paxson H. Offield Professor of Fisheries Ecology, following a nearly 30-year career at UC Davis. A leading scientist in the field of oyster aquaculture and genetics, Hedgecock uses genetic mapping and genomics to study the growth and development of Pacific oysters, a commercially important species in modern aquaculture. Hedgecock develops and improves crossbreeding techniques for farmed oysters, and through his research he has produced hybrid oyster varieties that grow up to twice as fast as their wild ancestors.

As society’s pressure on ocean food resources grows increasingly intense, such cultivated sources of protein may become essential. Along with his colleagues, Drs. Donal Manahan and Dale Kiefer, Hedgecock is spearheading a new initiative at the USC Wrigley Institute, the Future of Food From the Sea. Ultimately, this research should unlock many of the genes involved in oyster growth and survival, helping scientists and aquaculturists understand and even improve upon the relationship between oyster genetics and food production. The results of this initiative could be transformative for commercial shellfish aquaculture and fisheries biology, and support by the Paxson H. Offield Professorship in Fisheries Ecology helps makes it possible--by investing in the Wrigley Institute’s outstanding faculty and fostering innovative environmental research that extends beyond the traditional classroom setting.

For more information on Dr. Hedgecock’s research and the Future of Food From the Sea initiative, please click here.