Current Faculty Pilot Projects

Title: The Role of CREB Signaling in Mouse Compulsive-like Behaviors
Principal Investigator: Abel Bult-Ito
Abstract: cAMP response element-binding protein (CREB) is an important transcription factor, which mediates the effects of neurotransmitters, such as serotonin. The significance of CREB-mediated regulation for the anti-compulsive effects of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and how alterations in CREB levels influence the obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) phenotype is unclear. We will test the hypothesis that CREB signaling underlies the compulsive-like phenotype of our compulsive-like mice and is necessary for the anti-compulsive effects of fluoxetine to occur.

Title: Clams as Subsistence Foods in Rural Communities in Southeast Alaska
Principal Investigator: Ginny Eckert
Abstract: The goal of this study is to investigate the abundance, distribution, and toxicity of subsistence shellfish in two rural Alaska Native villages to inform subsistence harvest and ultimately improve well-being and sustainability of rural communities. We are documenting sea otter and human impacts on local clam beds using intertidal surveys and quantifying paralytic shellfish toxin levels in subsistence shellfish harvested. Preliminary results reveal decreases in availability and size of shellfish where sea otters are present. Toxicity of shellfish is spatially variable with several samples above the regulatory limit. This research addresses local concerns of food security and food safety.

Title: Health Impact of Toxic Metal(loid)s from Coal Fly Ash
Principal Investigators: Jennifer Guerard, Sarah Hayes
Abstract: This proposal seeks to investigate coal fly ash interactions with organic constituents of boreal surface waters. It is currently unknown to what extent these metal(loid)s from fly ash are mobilized into boreal surface waters upon leaching, or impacts on their bioaccessibility resulting from interactions within a surficial aquatic matrix. Undergraduates will investigate fly ash leaching and metal(loid) complexation in a variety of aqueous matrices using a a suite of analytical methods to characterize both metal(loid) and organic constituents. This proposal will integrate a tiered mentoring model between PIs, graduate, and undergraduate researchers to maximize undergraduate development and strengthen mentoring relationships.

Title: In situ Studies of Halogenated Contaminant Biotransformation in Forage Fish; Competitive Binding of Halogenated Contaminants to Bioactive Reducing Agents
Principal Investigator: Lisa Hoferkamp
Abstract: This study will utilize the cytosolic and microsomal fractions of liver homogenate obtained from two species of southeastern Alaska forage fish in timed assay experiments to kinetically quantify the ability of enzymes within those fractions to mediate the removal of halogen atoms from current-use flame retardants. Various enzyme inhibitors will be used to verify the specific enzymes associated with dehalogenation. The results will clarify the manner in which environmental contaminants interfere with healthy biosystems and provide training for undergraduate students in the methods used to elucidate the chemical events that result in environmental and biological anomalies hazardous to human health.

Title: Characterization of an Insulin-like Peptide that Functions in Sexual Differentiation
Principal Investigator: Sherry Tamone
Abstract: Hormones are important in the regulation of physiological processes including growth and development. Invertebrate models have motivated important studies in physiology and medicine for centuries and I will use a crustacean model to investigate the regulation of insulin-like hormones in male differentiation. Specifically, I aim to identify the gene coding for the insulin-like hormone. I will isolate and sequence this gene from the androgenic gland (AG) of the Tanner crab (Chionoecetes bairdi). Using gene specific primers, I will investigate insulin-like hormone gene expression during crab morphogenesis; a developmental change that occurs as the male transitions from adolescence to adult.