Working on a freshwater research project changed Faune Fisher’s career path. The Environmental Science major at UW-Whitewater was planning to work in environmental advocacy. After conducting research under the mentorship of Associate Professor Elisabeth Harrahy, Fisher caught the research bug.
“Now I want to be on the science side doing the work,” says Fisher, who will graduate in May 2022 and begin a job as a quality manager at Epic Systems in Verona, Wis.
Her research in Harrahy’s lab looked at whether two commonly used insecticides affect aquatic invertebrates and built upon the findings of two previous undergraduates who were funded by the Freshwater Collaborative of Wisconsin.
Neonicotinoid insecticides have been detected in streams, and aquatic invertebrates may be at risk from exposure. Although some studies have examined the impacts of individual insecticides, little research has been conducted on the effects of exposure to a mixture of insecticides, which is what often happens in real-world settings.
Fisher studied acute and chronic toxicity of a mixture of two neonicotinoids, thiamethoxam and imidacloprid, on water fleas and amphipods, which are critical to aquatic ecosystems. The insecticide mixture didn’t seem to affect survival or reproduction in the water fleas; however, it did decrease survival of amphipods. Interestingly, most amphipods died after the standard four-day exposure/observation period, which indicates additional research is warranted to study possible delayed effects. The researchers also recommend conducting future toxicity tests that include environmentally realistic concentrations.
Fisher presented her findings at Research in the Rotunda and the UW System Symposium for Undergraduate Research, Scholarly and Creative Activity. The project enabled her to gain valuable hands-on skills in the field and in the lab.
“My favorite part of the project was going into the streams. I learned I really like fish!” she says.
After she gains experience in the workforce, she plans to attend graduate school, likely for a master’s degree in soil science where she intends to combine research in freshwater and soil.