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Cedar Key FFA team proves it is the leader in Aquaculture knowledge

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Kit Riley and Ridley Reynolds, both 8th graders; and Ariel Alexander, along with Nathanial Brinkman, fellow 6th graders, proved to the judges that their knowledge of aqua- culture surpassed that of any other team - thanks to being raised near the water on Cedar Key and to the dedication of their coach and teacher, Denny Voyles.

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The statewide career development event was held at the University of Florida Veterinary Medicine School last Saturday. It was open to 360 FFA chapters and 16,000 FFA members. However, there were a limited number of participants due to the difficulty of the event.

Voyles said,"It’s nice when the smallest school in the state earns the top honors — especially when the big magnet schools from the big cities are there. Cedar Key can be very proud of how these students represent our community."

The contest format consisted of: A written exam testing the depth of their aquaculture knowledge (worth 100 points). 

A team activity - the team was given 30 minutes to prepare a five to seven minute oral presentation that explained the importance of the nitrogen cycle in aquaculture and its economic impact (worth 400 points). They did not know the topic before the event. 

There were also three individual practicums worth 100 points each. They included fish and aquatic plant identification, where the students identified tropical and cultured fish from a list of 73 fish and aquatic plants from a list of 78 plants. Only 25 of each appear in the contest but the team had to memorize them all -- and their scientific names such as: channel catfish or Ictalurus punctatus. 

The second practicum Identification and treatment of diseases pests and predators. This practicum focused on those related to fish, for example, epistylus, also known as Red Sore Disease. 

The final subject was water quality analysis and the students were asked to measure water quality samples for ammonia, pH, Nitrates or dissolved oxygen and were asked to make recommendations on remedies, depending on the levels found.

The team worked hard to hone their skills for this event and won the same con- test last year, under Voyles’ guidance. The State also recognized the top five individu- als in the event and Cedar Key had the top three scores — Reynolds, Brinkman and Riley.

Contest volunteers included Dr. Denise Petty, Professor, UF Dept. of Fisheries; Dave Rawlins, President, Florida Aquaculture Association; and tropical fish farmer Carlos Martinez, Director of the State Aquaculture Extension Service at UF.