Albers Receives Clifford Humphrys Fellowship for Preservation of Water Quality in the Great Lakes

October 15, 2019

Janice AlbersEITS graduate student, Janice Albers, was selected as one of five recipients of the 2019 Clifford Humphrys Fellowship for Preservation of Water Quality in the Great Lakes. The Clifford Humphrys Fellowship for Preservation of Water Quality in the Great Lakes benefits students enrolled in any graduate program at MSU studying or doing research on water quality, especially as it relates to the Great Lakes and Lake Michigan in particular. The Fellowship is intended to encourage students who have demonstrated the capacity to achieve educational and professional goals, the motivation to achieve these goals, and the initiative to seek opportunities to further their progress.

Albers is mentored by IIT-affiliated faculty member, Dr. Cheryl Murphy, in the department of Fisheries and Wildlife. The focus of Alber's dissertation is to explore the sublethal levels of polychlorinated biphenyl 126 (PCB126) and methyl mercury (MeHg) impacts on an economically important Lake Michigan fish species, the Yellow Perch (YP) by constructing a fish larvae neurobehavior Adverse Outcome Pathway (AOP) model.  Specifically, her study will focus on multiple sublethal water pollutant exposure levels that alter the expression of genes at the molecular level which will be identified and quantified. Gene expression alterations can impair motor and sensory functions, thus altering larval swimming and feeding behavior, which will be assessed using laboratory behavior assays. The resulting pollution dose response behavior relationships will be input parameters for simulated fish larvae as they swim around, forage for food and avoid predators in computer generated simulations; where each individual virtual larva is monitored as it grows and whether it starves, gets eaten, or lives through the summer. 

Albers dissertation project will advance aquatic conservation science by applying the new theoretical framework of AOPs to a long existing problem of neurotoxicant pollutants in the Great Lakes. By focusing on the process of biological contamination and individual and population level impacts, she will be able to not only make the hierarchical connections between MeHg/PCB126 sublethal pollution and YP population declines but also apply this process to other neurotoxicants that impact numerous fish species in the same way. The results from this work will be used by managers and society to better understand how water pollution impacts Great Lakes fisheries and how these impacts can be managed through risk assessment, restriction or mitigation, resulting in the restoration of Great Lakes water quality and fisheries.