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People and Projects

Graduate Students

Tommy Rocca

Microplastic Fiber Toxicity in Marine Fish and Oysters
I am investigating microplastic fiber (MPF) toxicity in marine fish when exposed either alone or together with filter-feeding bivalves, such as oysters.  From this, I aim to evaluate whether the presence of oysters significantly alters toxicity responses and fiber accumulation in the fish.  With this project, I will be able to provide further data on concentration dependent toxicity effects and provide information for future risk assessments regarding MPF pollution in marine environments. Beyond grad school, I hope to continue working in the waterworks or aquatic toxicology industries.

Caitlin Moore

DREAM-regulated Genes in Larval Zebrafish Exposed to TBBPA
My research aims to detect changes in DREAM-regulated genes in zebrafish embryos exposed to Tetrabromobisphenol A (TBBPA).  This will help to better understand the flame retardant's impact on calcium signaling by utilizing the transcriptional repressor DREAM as a biomarker for calcium signal disruption (CSD) in whole organismal studies.  I utilize total RNA extraction and qPCR to measure changes in my genes of interest.  With my Master's, I hope to teach in the Marine Bio field and continue being an eco warrior in my community.

Jade Betancourt

Toxicity Assessment of TBBPA Analogs on DREAM-regulated Transcription in Cells
My thesis aims to identify toxicants with calcium signaling disruption abilities, like the brominated flame retardant Tetrabromophispehnol A (TBBPA). High speed imaging will be conducted to view changes in Ca2+ concentration with GT1-7 cells containing the calcium sensitive DREAM-binding protein, and visualized on a fluorescent scope. Identification of TBBPA analogs present in our environments will provide us with a better understanding of the toxicants capable of affecting DREAM-mediated transcription to benefit both wildlife and public health. After my master's I aim to pursue a Ph.D in environmental toxicology and become a professor in higher education to mentor other aspiring women in STEM.
Undergraduate Students

Molecular Tox

Pollutant Impacts on Calcium Pathways 

Emily Vandercook and Vivienne An are studying the cellular and animal based impacts of Calcium Signaling Disrupting (CSD) chemicals.  This includes work with genotyping zebrafish populations, measuring DREAM-mediated transcription changes using qPCR, all the way up to assessing pollutant impacts in zebrafish physiological pathways.   


Pollutants in Aquatic Environments

Hannah Sherrod helped with microplastic extraction and identification in whale feces.  Leslie Ma worked on the Huntington Oil Spill Project to study changes in Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) in oyster and sediment samples.  Gabi Prior and Brayden Ortiz assist with zebrafish husbandry and breeding for use in exposure experiments. 
Previous Students
Graduate Students

Kameron Wong

DREAM-regulated Transcription in Adult Zebrafish Exposed to TBBPA 
My thesis investigates the tissue-specific effects of calcium signaling disruption (CSD) by exposing adult zebrafish to tetrabromobisphenol A (TBBPA). Using zebrafish as a model, genes regulated by the DREAM protein are then studied using transcriptomics. The goal of this project is to contribute to the development of a biomarker for contaminant detection and identification in the environment and to help classify symptoms of CSD in whole organisms. This research has significant implications for protecting both environmental and human health - a versatile application of toxicological research that I find invaluable. Following my Master's program, I intend to pursue a Ph.D. in ecotoxicology and contribute my expertise in advising agencies dedicated to improving environmental and human health.

Shannon Tarby

Assessing the Effects of Weathered Microplastics and Sorbate on Larval
Zebrafish (Danio rerio)
Microplastics (MPs) have become a worldwide concern due to their small size and ability to be consumed by many different organisms. Due to its importance I chose to study the effects of weathered versus primary MPs alone or co-exposed with copper on larval zebrafish growth, behavior, and gene expression. After CSULB I plan to find a job doing environmental consulting and possibly continue to pursue research in the marine toxicology field.

Justin Giffin

Impact of PCB Mixtures on Dopaminergic Signaling

I am interested  in toxicology because I hope to understand and advocate for environmental sustainability.  My research examines the impact of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) on dopamine transporters to better understand how PCBs may lead to neurotoxicity. The research will help address whether PCBs, a common class of environmental pollutants, influence neurological development and function in humans and wildlife. 

Amanda Russel

Oyster Health on Living Shorelines in Newport Bay

I investigated the impact of environmental conditions, restoration design, and potential contaminants on oyster growth, recruitment, and health in Upper Newport Bay, CA.  I used transcriptomics to measure the overall health of both native and non-native species, as a sensitive method that accounts for responses to subtle environmental changes. With greater understanding about restoration projects, oysters have the potential to be a crucial aspect of wetland and coastal conservation. 

Aaron Sugimoto

Oyster Health in Southern California Estuaries

My research used transcriptomics to study the response of native and non-native oysters to pollutants in southern California estuaries. By comparing the native Olympia oyster to the invasive Pacific oyster, I aimed to determine the differential impacts of pollutants on oyster species' health. This research can provide pertinent information regarding the impact of the altered environment on native oyster populations thereby contributing to restoration efforts.  

Nicolette Schuko

Pollutant Induced Gene Transcription

My research focusesd on the impacts of polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) and triclosan on Ca2+ mediated gene transcription.  This research has implications on altered neuronal growth, learning and memory, and muscle contractions. Currently a Molecular Research Associate at NIH National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Disease.

Kara Wiggin

Microplastics in Waters Around Long Beach

My Master’s research focused on plastic that ends up in the oceans, specifically focusing on small pieces, known as microplastics, which are not visible by the naked eye. I detected the levels of these microplastics in the aquatic environments around Long Beach, CA, and assessed their impact on the invertebrate zooplankton. Currently in a Marine Biology doctoral program at Scripps Oceanographic Institute
Undergraduate Students
-Emily Vandercook (08/2021-12/2023).  Fin clipping and genotyping in genetically modified zebrafish.  

-Vivienne An (06/2022-12/2023).  Effects of TBBPA on DREAM-regulated transcription in GH3 pituitary cells.

-Monique Sayh (06/2022-05/2023).  Cell culture in neuroendocrine cells.  

-Jacquelin Chen, MARC Program (09/2021-05/2023). Assessing the impact of Tetrabromobisphenol A (TBBPA) on larval zebrafish (Danio rerio) behavior.

-Hannah Sherrod (08/2021-05/2023).  Microplastic extraction and identification in whale feces.

-McKenna Sucher, University Honors Program (08/2019-05/2021).  Microplastic detection in Rainbow Harbor near tourist area of Long Beach, CA.

-Kristi Maeda (06/2019-05/2021).  Cell culture and qPCR in neuroendocrine cells.

-Danielle Sandoval, RISE Program (06/2019-05/2021).  Effect of the highly potent ryanodine receptor active PCB 202 on zebrafish embryos.

-Ashly Campbell, BUILD Scholar (06/2019-05/2021).  PCB mixture effects on the ryanodine receptor.

-Ethan Eisenhart (01/2019-05/2021).  Cell culture and qPCR in neuroendocrine cells.

-Racquel Ebu (08/2018-05/2020).  Microplastic detection and identification in water samples from rivers surrounding Long Beach, CA. 

-Alexis Sorensen (01/2017-05/2019; UGR).  Impact of triclosan on DREAM mediated transcription in GT1-7 cells. 

-Jorge Alfaro (05/2017-05/2019).  Impact of triclosan on DREAM mediated transcription in GH3 cells. Currently a Research Assistant at Cedar Sinai, Pasadena CA. 

-Joseph Porges (08/2018-05/2019).  Honors Thesis:  Impacts of poly aromatic hydrocarbon on Calcium channels in zebrafish (Danio rerio). 

Vanessa Garcia-Rodriguez (08/2018-05/2019).  Impact of tetrabromobisphenol A on DREAM mediated transcription in GT1-7 cells. 

Jordan Alejo (08/2017-12/2019).  Impacts of chlorantraniliprole and imidicloprid insecticides on aquatic invertebrate and vertebrate species. 

-Marian de Orla Barile (01/2017-12/2018). Pollution found in storm drains a long the LA River during dry weather.

-Brianna Maloney (01/2017-08/2018; UGR).  Honors Thesis:  The combined effects of phthalates and temperature stress in Daphnia.  
-Nicole Magna (08/2017-05/2018; UGR)  Helped culture invertebrate zooplankton species for use in studies assessing the effect of microplastics on aquatic species.  Currently attending Pharmacy School.
-Javier Lepe (03/2016-06/2017; UGR)  Currently working as a research technician in the Anderson and Cummings Laboratory at the University of California Irvine
-Monica Luna (Summer 2016; UGR).  Cellular culture of hypothalamic and pituitary cells. Currently, a Laboratory Analyst with LA Testing in Huntington Beach, Ca
-Zareeb Lorenzana (08/16-08/17; UGR).  Assessed the occurence of single nucleotide variants in killifish (Fundulus heteroclitus)  that have adapted to severely polluted locations. 
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