Aquatic and Environmental Toxicology Laboratory

About the Laboratory

The environments in which fishes live can be unpredictable due to temporary or long-term alterations in their physical or chemical environment, as well as threats from disease, parasites, toxicants, and increased competition for resources.  Moreover, some fish may thrive in environments characterized by unusual or extreme conditions such as acute or chronic decreases in water oxygen, altered salinity, changes in water pH, ammonia and temperature, or in some cases, even the temporary absence of water. Our research combines whole animal techniques with biochemical, morphological, electrophysiological, and molecular approaches to determine how different species of fishes respond, cope, adapt and live in such unpredictable and extreme environments.  We therefore work on a variety of fishes in the lab, ranging from phylogenetically ancient sea lampreys and lungfish, to more modern teleosts such as goldfish and trout. 

Presently, the research goals in the lab are to: (i) determine how ammonia and oxygen deprivation alters brain function and metabolism in fishes, (ii) establish the mode of toxicity of the pesticides, 3-trifluoromethyl-4- nitrophenol (TFM) and niclosamide, which are used to control lamprey populations in the Great Lakes, (iii) learn more about how the gills of fishes are used to control internal ion and acid-base balance, and to excrete highly toxic metabolic wastes such as ammonia. Our overall approach is comparative, with physiology and toxicology studies focusing on a range of model fish species, including phylogenetically ancient jawless fishes such as lampreys and hagfishes, and jawed fishes including prehistoric sturgeon, trout and even the common goldfish, which can live without oxygen for week or months at a time.