Master of Science in Biological Sciences
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Master of Science in Biological Sciences

One of the things that I
have been very interested in is the effect of
pesticides on reptiles. Part of the reason that
I chose reptiles is they’re quite
understudied. There’s a lot of them
and they are often in aquatic environments. And they’re the coolest
thing ever, absolutely. That’s right,
they’re pretty cool. So the animal that I am working
with is the northern water snake and people will be able to see
those pretty much anywhere. We gather them from Lake
Charleston and Lake Mattoon. They feed mostly on fish
and amphibians, so they are really exposed to a lot of
pesticide run-off, which is pretty common in this area. So what I was most interested
in is how the pesticides affect the babies that
the water snakes have. I know this is not related to
your research specifically, Lori, but how did we
come by this animal, why is this animal
so special? Well, these water snakes are not
very liked by a lot of people and so that’s another reason
that I’m very interested in working with them because
I think that it’s really important to educate people
about how important they are to the ecosystem
and to humans. Another aspect of what I’ve
been doing is a lot of education with students. I’ve given lots of presentations
to elementary students and to high school students. So that’s a really important
apsect of this lab and also with my own personal research. I think that’s very commendable
because snakes in particular, these organisms are so often
maligned and persecuted by the public without really an
understanding, without a firm understanding for their
biology and really, some of the remarkable things that they are
capable of doing in the wild, in the natural setting. A little bit of background on
this study is we caught about 25 females, and they were all
pregnant, and throughout the entire summer we had a
whole team of students that helped me,
Team Nerodia. We had a whole team of
students that helped me, and every week we weighed the
moms and we fed them fish that had been injected with a
pesticide called atrazine, and what we found are some
pretty interesting things. We’re still analyzing the
results, but we wanted to measure the estradiol levels,
which are a really important female hormone, they form
things like estrogen. And so we took blood
samples, and we saw how it affects the babies. So all of those blood samples
are being analyzed right now using some special equipment
and some special assays. We’re going to find where the
estradiol levels, where these estrogen levels were for the
different animals and how they flucuate throughout the
pregnancy and how they change according to their
exposure to this chemical. Since people have been making
things like pesticides, there have been over 20,000 new
chemicals and only about 20 of them have been
studied extensively. So we really don’t know how
they affect the environment and how they affect us. So, using these guys to help us
understand that is something that I believe is
really important. I’ve had the opportunity to do
that in Steve’s lab and here at Eastern, and that’s been
something that I have been really grateful for, and it’s
been a really great experience.

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