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MSU to Lead Study of Fish Contaminants

fish brain

A grant of $800,000 from the Environmental Protection Agency will help a research team led by Michigan State University determine the effects of certain contaminants on fish.

Specifically, the team will study contaminants’ effects on the developing brains of larval fish, in particular looking at behaviors that are important to survival, such as finding food and avoiding predators, and which genes are important in regulating these behaviors.

“It’s crucial that these behaviors develop quickly, as these little larval fish have a lot going against them in their first month or so of life,” said Cheryl Murphy, an associate professor of fisheries and wildlife who is leading the project. “Many chemicals can disrupt brain and behavior development.”

Members of the research team have found that methylmercury disrupts foraging behavior and corresponding gene pathways in larval yellow perch. One of the team’s missions is to see if that affects other fish species in a similar way and to determine if measurements at the gene level can predict behavior and subsequent population impacts.

Other members of the team are researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and the University of Mississippi.

MSU is one of six universities to receive an EPA Science to Achieve Results, or STAR, grant. It is part of the agency’s Chemical Safety for Sustainability research program, designed to develop new methods to improve chemical evaluation and support environmental sustainability.

The University of California Santa Barbara, Harvard University, University of North Carolina at Wilmington, Oregon State University and Texas Tech University also received EPA STAR grants.

To learn more about the STAR grants: http://www.epa.gov/ncer/2014ecoimpacts.

- Tom Oswald , Cheryl Murphy via MSU Today

- Photo: https://www.flickr.com/photos/braubach/ Creative Commons License; Fish Brains

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