Sustainable Seafood


Megan Davis, Ph.D., at the Puerto Rico Aquaculture Center plumbing a new system to grow sea vegetables and queen conch.
Photography by Victoria Cassar

Sustainable Seafood

Researcher Earns Grants to Continue Aquaculture Efforts in Puerto Rico

Through new grants, Megan Davis, Ph.D., will continue research that spans almost four decades.

For more than 40 years, Davis, research professor at FAU Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, has dedicated her life to conserving and restoring the queen conch, a large, edible pink snail that lives in Florida, the Caribbean Sea and surrounding waters. In Puerto Rico, it’s one of the most important fisheries — and the fishery has declined due to overfishing and habitat degradation from storms and hurricanes.

With a new award for nearly $300,000, she will expand on her existing community-based partnership work to grow the royal mollusk in hopes of helping to create a sustainable fishery that will benefit the local economy, conch and ecosystem.

Her passion for the ocean began as a young girl collecting shells along the beaches of her native Australia and sailing many summers in The Bahamas with her family. After graduating college from Florida Institute of Technology she moved to the Turks and Caicos and spent 10 years as co-founder and chief scientist for the world’s largest queen conch farm.

In 2019, Davis and partners Conservación ConCiencia and the Naguabo Fishing Association teamed up with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries to create, install and operate The Queen Conch Hatchery located in at the Fishing Association on the water-front in Naguabo, Puerto Rico, funded through a NOAA Saltonstall-Kennedy Grant Program.

Their new 24-month proposed project takes the existing pilot-scale conch hatchery and expands it. The goal is to produce more juvenile conch to support a region wide queen conch nursery to grow the conch for restoration and sustainable seafood in Puerto Rico. Local fishers, technicians and interns will continue to run the aquaculture operation.

“This grant award provides us the opportunity to continue our work with the local fishing associations to grow queen conch for restoration, sustainable seafood and for conservation education,” David said. “Queen conch is an important artisanal fishery in Puerto Rico and our partnership project works directly with the local fishers as a way to provide diversified livelihoods and food and nutritional security.”

With a second grant from U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Agricultural Research Service for $215,000, she will also develop saltwater aquaculture technology to grow sea vegetables indigenous to Puerto Rico, including sea asparagus (Salicornia bigelovii), sea purslane (Sesuvium portulacastrum), and saltwort (Batis maritima). Davis and partners hope to generate a new market for sea vegetables, which remain largely unnoticed in Puerto Rican cuisine.

The two-year project is also in collaboration with the local partners Conservación ConCiencia and the Naguabo Fishing Association Naguabo and is located at the Puerto Rico aquaculture center and awarded through the USDA.

“Sea vegetables are local to Puerto Rico and are a promising aquaculture crop for culinary purposes and coastal restoration,” Davis said. “They are highly nutritious and provide natural salts and minerals. We are excited to transfer sea vegetable culture techniques from FAU Harbor Branch to Puerto Rico.”

In Puerto Rico, Davis and the researchers incorporate them into the aquaponic systems where they grow on the nutrients produced by the queen conch.

If you would like more information, please contact us at

Megan Davis in lab
Megan Davis, Ph.D., at the Puerto Rico Queen Conch Hatchery sampling egg masses. Photography by Edna Negron

Learn More

Megan Davis’, Ph.D., research is regularly recognized, and she is held up as an expert in her field. In early September, she was one of the keynote speakers at an aquaculture conference, called CONADOA, in the Dominican Republic, where she talked about queen conch and sea vegetables.

Also, for her conservation work and impact protecting marine life, Davis is a finalist in the 14th annual Go Blue Awards hosted by Loggerhead Marinelife Center in Juno Beach, Fla.

Davis is also the keynote speaker for the upcoming 5th Annual Farm City Luncheon slated for Nov. 17 in Stuart, Fla.

Megan Davis holding a conch shell
Megan Davis, Ph.D., at the Puerto Rico Aquaculture Center in front of the queen conch juvenile system. Photography by Victoria Cassar