A2C2 IGERT Graduate Fellow
Address: 127 Hitchner Hall, Orono, ME 04469
I am a master’s student in the department of Molecular & Biomedical Sciences. I graduated with my Bachelor’s degree in Biology from Washington State University in 2012, where I performed undergraduate research in Dr. Steve Sylvester’s lab for 1 year. I also received my Master’s degree in Zoology from Washington State University in 2015 where I studied chemically-induced hearing loss.
My current graduate work focuses on studying environmentally-induced amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a neurodegenerative disease that leads to the loss of muscle control and ultimately death. Chronic exposure to the environmental toxin, β-Methylamino-L-alanine (BMAA), has been associated with an increase prevalence of ALS. However, the mechanism of how chronic BMAA exposure increases the prevalence of ALS is unknown. Zebrafish are an excellent model for parsing out the link between environmental toxins and ALS due to their large-scale pharmacological manipulation and rapid assessment. I am passionate about increasing our understanding of how different environmental toxics increase the prevalence of ALS in order to identify novel molecular targets to block the progression of ALS in humans.
I am also interested in understanding how increasing global temperatures as a result of abrupt climate change (ACC) may be affecting the concentration of BMAA in public drinking water sources; harmful algal blooms (HAB) produced by cyanobacteria are a major source of BMAA. Furthermore, rising global temperatures will increase the presence of HAB, resulting in an increase in BMAA production. A better understanding of how ACC affects public water sources will provide government and corporations with the knowledge to create or modify policies to slow ACC and algal bloom expansion, and reduce the impact of algae-induced ALS, to help sustain both local and global public drinking water sources over the next decade.