Graduate Student Research Spotlight: Alysha Cypher

cypher photoMy interests in science started in conservation biology and marine biology. During my undergraduate years I worked on amphibian conservation, fish toxicology, and microbiology. I chose the Integrated Bioscience Program at Akron because it appealed to my broad interests and pushed me to be a better communicator in areas outside of biology. For my doctoral work, I was interested in how pollutants affected cardiovascular function in fish when co-exposed to low oxygen concentration, a common problem in aquatic ecosystems. I focused on the endocrine disruptor and plasticizer, bisphenol A, and the oil spill pollutants, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH). Both of these compounds have cellular interactions with the hypoxia response pathway (HIF-1α). I found that larval zebrafish exposed to BPA and low oxygen experienced severe reductions in heart rate and cardiac output at high concentrations and slowed red blood cell velocity at low concentrations. Co-exposure to oil spill pollutants and low oxygen appears to result in an increased toxicity of the PAH exposure. Both of these exposures are environmentally relevant to important ecosystems like The Gulf of Mexico and have the potential to affect the ability of fish to survive and reproduce. Another aspect of my doctoral work was evaluating the lipid composition of zebrafish tissue and eggs using shotgun lipidomics. This allows researchers to acquire mass spectra for hundreds of lipids with little preparation time. I focused on how this intensity data could be used to generate hypotheses for lipid dynamics in fish which is not as well studied as that in mammals.

My goals for post-graduation have been to integrate my interests in conservation biology with my experience in fish physiology. I will have the opportunity to do this through a post doc at The Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle, Washington. There I will contribute to past work on how oil pollution affects cardiovascular function, respirometry, growth, and survival in Pacific herring.