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Interview with Dr. Carlos Lozano

Dr. Carlos Lozano, originally from Colombia, has been at Akvaforsk Genetics since 2005 and is currently a scientific adviser, working on a variety of projects involving tilapia, salmon and shrimp.

How did you end up working in aquaculture?

It’s a bit of a random thing. I’m from Bogota, but when I was a kid I wanted to live by the sea, on the beach, as I wanted to learn how to surf. So, when I graduated as a biologist I went searching for jobs in Cartagena. I was in a windsurfing tournament and I met this old British windsurfing gentleman – James Cock. He had a PhD in plant genetics and was also an adviser for Ceniacua, a Colombian aquaculture research centre. We started talking and, after he discovered I was looking for a job, he asked me to bring along my CV for an interview with Ceniacua to work in a shrimp breeding project. I worked there for five and a half years, keeping track of the shrimp families, recording the data and sending the information to Akvaforsk Genetics, my current employers.

Why did you decide to move to Akvaforsk Genetics?

After a while, I became curious about where I was sending all this data and wondered what this ‘black box’ used by the genetics company was, so I quit my job and Morten Rye hired me – first as a trainee, just helping out with some shrimp breeding, but I ended up doing a PhD and the process is still going on – I’m still in Norway, and still learning, 13 years later!

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Dr. Carlos Lozano is currently a scientific adviser, working on a variety of projects involving tilapia, salmon and shrimp.

What do you like most about working at Akvaforsk Genetics?

I like the diversity. We are working with different species, taking part in different projects and dealing with different types of challenges. You’re constantly learning – in aquaculture there’s something new happening all the time – and I like that aspect of the work. I mainly work with management of selective breeding programs for tilapia and salmon, but also shrimp a little bit too. Every species has its own technical, biological quirks and it takes a while to gain the knowledge – for me as a biologist it’s a very important component to understand the other factors at work when you’re developing statistical models.

What makes Akvaforsk Genetics special?

I think what makes it special is the pool of knowledge we can draw from – we have a lot of people with different skills sets which we can apply to the same breeding objectives. There are people with 40 years’ experience – like Terje Refstie – who’ve been involved in aquaculture genetics almost since the beginning of the salmon industry, then you have the younger guys who’re involved in genomics and all these new technologies all sitting down at the same table. It’s a team made up of a lot of different individuals, who bring different skill sets and different perspectives to the table – together they can deliver a very powerful solution for genetics and breeding.

Dr  Lozano Is Holding One Of His Presentations

Dr. Lozano is holding one of his presentations about latest development in genetic improvement programs of GIFT tilapia

Which of your current projects do you find particularly rewarding?

I like the Spring Genetics tilapia project that’s currently taking place in Miami in which we’re breeding for improved growth and resistance to two types of Streptococcus. We’ve learned a lot together with the staff there – Jose Ospina, Hideoyshi Segovia and their team – and we’ve grown together on it.

Do you feel your work helps to improve the sustainability of global food production?

When I think that I’m helping people produce food I feel very good. As for sustainability, yes, I think that we’re helping to improve the sustainability of the industry already. I also think that, in the future, we should focus on helping people produce fish in areas where you cannot produce anything else.

Which of your projects are you most proud of?

I’m probably most proud of the shrimp breeding programme we developed – and are still developing together with Genetica Spring team in Colombia. This focuses on improving the growth rates of shrimp as well as increasing their resistance to white spot virus and (in the beginning) the Taura syndrome virus. With limited resources and a limited budget, we did the best with what we had. I’m proud of the work and the people I worked with.

Are there any health challenges you’d particularly like to solve?

For shrimp white spot is a big challenge, in tilapia Streptococcus which we’re tackling, also tilapia lake virus (TLV). We’ve not begun with that one, but that would be a very important challenge – I think those three would be the most important for me. If we can find heritability for resistance to TLV a project on this will certainly be coming into play. It’s recent and there’s not much in the literature so there’s still much to be done.

Are there any genetic techniques that you think are particularly exciting?

The application of genomic selection is still fairly new to be applied in aquaculture and very interesting; gene editing will come soon and could be exciting. However, I think all techniques are relevant – I don’t think any single technique will provide a solution. The right tools should be applied to the right species, at the right stage.

Genomic selection should be used in salmon, for example, because salmon is an established species, which is produced in high volumes and fetches a higher price in the market, but for emerging species it isn’t a suitable tool. What is important, however, is that all farmers have a grasp of the benefits of a breeding programme, no matter what tools they are using, and this knowledge should be shared and applied by all.

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Carlos is very proud of the shrimp breeding programme he is developing together with Genetica Spring team in Colombia. Photo by INVE Aquaculture

How do you like to spend your time off?

I think it’s very important to maintain a good work/life balance and there are lots of things I like doing. I love skateboarding, even if my body doesn’t appreciate the bruises and the broken bones. I also love surfing. Yoga and meditation are also important for me.

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Carlos enjoying surfing during one of his summer vacations

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