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Project Proposal

Do neonicotinoid pesticides affect C. elegans behavior and nervous system?

Kathleen Susman (Biology)

Neonicotinoid pesticides have been linked to the decline of honey bee colonies on a global scale. Many pesticides, even those with specific, nonanimal targets, have complex effects on nontarget organisms and so pose substantial risk to the environment. Our lab uses the model organism, Caenorhabditis elegans, a free-living soil nematode, to examine the effects of commonly used pesticides and pesticide mixtures. We are particularly interested in sublethal concentrations that are found in the environment. We examine locomotory and sensory behaviors and correlate effects with microscopic examination of neuron structure and development. We also explore fertility and survivorship to understand more fully the consequences of pesticide exposure at the population level. This summer's project will continue our work on neonicotinoids, with a focus on imidacloprid, the main ingredient in the popular series of "Tree and Shrub" pesticide formulations developed by Bayer Company.

Pre-requisites: A background in biology and chemistry are important for this project. Prior experience in the lab is also important for the project this summer. It is essential that the student be independent and able to work diligently and effectively in the laboratory even on occasions when the mentor is not available. A strong work ethic and enthusiastic attitude are essential for success on this project.

How should students express their interest in this project? Email contact is fine, although not at all necessary. The materials submitted with the application are sufficient. This summer I will give preference to students that I have taught in a class at Vassar. I do not plan to conduct interviews. I am interested in students with a strong and sincere interest in neuroscience, as well as the environment.