MICHELLE JAKAITIS, BARTHOLOMEW LAB, PH.D. CANDIDATE
||514 Nash Hall
My research interest is in fish pathology. During my undergraduate career, I was struck by the elegance and versatility of molecular biology, and knew it was an aspect of science I wanted to pursue. At the same time, my long-standing fascination with fish drove me to supplement my academic career with marine biology internships. My current project, investigating disease dynamics between hatchery fish and wild fish, aligns these interests and provides the opportunity for me to spend time in both the lab and the field.
Disease Risks Associated with Hatcheries in the Willamette River System
I am investigating disease risks and pathogen transmission between hatchery fish and naturally reared populations (aka “wild” fish). Hatcheries are often viewed as a source of pathogens that can infect wild fish and cause population declines. At the same time, wild fish can act as carriers, maintaining pathogens within the river system and introducing them into hatcheries. I am interested in determining the direction of pathogen transfer (from wild fish to hatchery fish, or from hatchery fish to wild fish,) as well as the magnitude (risk.) However, monitoring disease in wild populations is an often difficult venture. Sick animals can be quickly removed by predation, act as asymptomatic carriers, and can move in between systems.
Because of these difficulties, my research has three major facets to address these challenges:
1. Sentinel Fish Exposures:
Placing naïve, pathogen-free juvenile salmonids in both hatchery influents and effluents. Fish are held in liveboxes for weekly exposures to survey what is entering and exiting the hatcheries. Placements occur at hatcheries during epizootics and non-epizootics at multiple time points during the year. Following exposure, fish health is monitored daily for the development of disease signs.
2. Water Sampling:
Developing molecular assays to quantitatively identify pathogens and pathogen load. Samples are collected during sentinel fish placements and retrievals at all hatchery sites.
3. Wild Fish Surveys:
Bartholomew Lab/Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW). Collaboration to determine pathogen and parasite load and prevalence in river systems surrounding target hatcheries, and to monitor hatchery health status.
I am also conducting laboratory experiments to further address pathogenicity questions that arise from the field exposures. I am working on combining all of these aspects, as well as examining hatchery design, river system, and hatchery treatment plans, to craft individual risk assessments for specific hatcheries in the Willamette River system.
Sentinel Fish Exposures, Liveboxes and Fish Transport
| Sentinel fish deployment in live boxes
River System and Water Sampling
This research is funded by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and is in collaboration with the Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife. Thanks to all the hatchery managers, crews, fish pathologists, other ODFW personnel, and the Bartholomew Lab.
Training and Experience:
- Bacteriology – identification, culturing, light microscopy, staining
- Virology – cell culture, virus identification, sample processing
- Renibacterium salmoninarum/Bacterial Kidney Disease identification –
Direct fluorescent antibody tests (DFAT)/fluorescent microscopy
- Certified Animal Handler – OSU
- Rearing of juvenile Spring Chinook, Rainbow Trout
- River deployment and retrieval of sentinel fish
- Fish Transportation
- Ichthyoplankton identification
- + 80 hours small boat driving experience
- American Association of Underwater Scientists (AAUS) SCUBA diver, Advanced Open Water Diver (PADI)
- Beach and river seining
- Plankton tows, ichthyoplankton tows, phytoplankton identification
- Search and Rescue
University of Washington, Friday Harbor Laboratories, San Juan Islands, WA. Blinks Minority Fellowship, summer 2009. Investigated phytoplankton bloom dynamics of the algal diatom Pseudo-nitzschia pungens in East Sound, San Juan Islands, WA.
Rutgers University Marine Field Station, Tuckerton, NJ. Rutgers University Research in Ocean Sciences (RIOS)/NSF-REU Internship, summer 2010. Examined the relationship between spawning stock biomass and larval abundance of seven Middle Atlantic Bight fish.