Thesis subject

Differential effects of prenatal Early Life Stress on Maternal effects in live-bearing fish

Prenatal early life stress (ELS) plays a critical role in shaping offspring for their environment and can have life-long impacts on offspring health and fitness. Research has shown that the timing of prenatal stress during early development is critical in determining how this stress will manifest in the developing offspring.

Some species of live-bearers have an additional factor which may influence how ELS manifests in their offspring: the presence of superfetation. This process allows mothers to carry more than one brood simultaneously and a one-time stress event may differentially impact offspring at different phases in development, resulting in different maternal effects throughout life.

Our study aims to determine how ELS,  in the form of a one-time immunological stressor, differentially impacts offspring exposed to prenatal stress in both early and late pregnancy. Additionally we will look at how the immunological stressor impacts the mother to determine how stress during pregnancy may have a lasting impact on maternal health and thereby future offspring which do not have direct contact with the stress event.

In this thesis or internship you will learn how to care for and ethically perform experiments with live-bearing fish. Depending on your interests you will have the opportunity to learn a variety of wet-lab skills, including (immuno)histochemical staining and/or molecular biology techniques, to understand how prenatal ELS impacts the central nervous, endocrine, and/or immune system. Projects are also available which focus on designing and refining behavioral set-ups to assess fish cognition and behavior. You will gain the skills to develop a research question, perform and apply a variety of laboratory techniques, and analyze the data for your final report. 

The skills you will be using/learning are: working with live animals, experimental design and setup, molecular techniques, (immuno)histochemical staining, basic wet-lab skills, data collection & analysis, presentation of your data.