• 35 backers
  • $2,060 of $9,000

Radford University

Verified 501(c)(3) Non-Profit


Project description:
Mosquito-borne diseases (MBDs), such as West Nile fever, are important causes of human illness globally. The endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) in our project mimic steroids and can disrupt the function of one’s endocrine system impacting one’s metabolism, reproductive system, or behaviors. When EDCs are released into the environment from agricultural and industrial runoff or leaching out of packaging products, they expose wildlife to their effects.
We seek to explore how EDCs impact a group of organisms that share an environment. Mosquitofish (Gambusia) are guppy-like fish that feed on mosquito larvae and are used to control mosquito populations. These two organisms provide a unique model to explore how EDCs released into an aquatic environment at levels known to be found in the wild could impact both the predator (fish) and the prey (mosquito larva) development, survival and behavior. Will the EDCs promote or discourage fish from eating mosquito larvae? Will the EDC exposed mosquitoes be more apt to transmit disease, but less likely to survive? Are EDC-exposed fish an effective method of mosquito control? What would the impact of these pollutants have on human and environmental health? Our project will address many of these questions.

Part 1: Effects of EDC exposure on fish and mosquitoes. Our preliminary studies indicate that exposure to EDCs influences reproductive development and behavior in mosquitofish, while affecting body size and reproductive output in mosquitoes; we will continue to explore these effects as follows. Multiple tanks varying by EDC type and dosage will house 10 male and female fish. Locomotory and mating behaviors will be documented and analyzed via Noldus behavioral software, and fish will be examined for changes in internal and external morphology.
Developmental changes, including survivorship, developmental time, size, and fertility, will be documented in mosquitoes exposed to varying EDC type and dosage. Changes in the ability of a mosquito to transmit pathogens will be quantified by La Crosse virus replication levels in experimentally infected females.
Part 2: Effects of EDC exposure on predator-prey relationships. Foraging behavior of the predators and escape behavior of the prey will be documented as described above. Remaining numbers of larvae will be documented and compared between groups.
Our mosquito-mosquitofish system allows us to model how EDCs affect predator-prey relationships in general. The long term and synergistic effects of these chemicals on animals have not been studied. We will be using new tools and techniques to elucidate and quantify the damage that is being caused in ecosystems and how that may impact both environmental and human health.

Spring, 2015 (Part 1)
We will continue to explore how these EDCs influence the development of our model organisms.
Summer, 2015 (Part 2)
Via captive laboratory foraging trials, we will investigate how changes to both the predator and prey development, survivorship and behavior may influence the food web interactions of their predator:prey relationship.
Fall, 2015
Data analysis! Manuscript preparation! Conference presentation!

Emily Guise:
I’m a senior biology major, chemistry minor here at Radford University. This is my fourth semester doing undergraduate research on endocrine disrupting chemicals. I came to Radford as a nursing major, but after trying out research, I found my passion and changed my major to biology. Doing research has inspired me to go to graduate school and eventually join a profession related to the effects toxins and pollutants can have on our environment. Check out my website for more about me:

April Tingle:
I am a senior at Radford University and am pursuing a B.S. in Biology. I have been doing research in Dr. Anderson’s lab for over a year, and want to pursue a career in research. This project is fairly new to me and I am looking to finish it before graduating in December.
Through working on this project, not only will I gain more experience doing scientific research, but I will also gain confidence in presenting my work to a general audience, and have the opportunity to network with other people in my field. These important experiences can be applied when I attend graduate school, and later on when I am in a research-based career.

Dr. Sara O’Brien:
As a faculty member of the Biology Department at Radford University, I am passionate about helping RU students explore the world around them using the tools, techniques and theory to do real scientific research. Students in my lab broadly examine how organisms deal with a dynamic environment. These changes in the environment may be natural (such as changing seasons, changing photoperiod, changing temperature, changing social structure, etc.) or man-made (changing climate through global warming, pollution, habitat disturbance, etc.), but all of these changes have influences on an organism’s physiology. More specifically my students and I investigate how changes in the environment (environmental cues) direct changes in an organism’s reproductive physiology, including effects on reproductive morphology and reproductive behavior. We also explore how these changes may impact an individual’s survival and/or their reproductive success. We work with a variety of model organisms from spiders to fish to birds to mammals (oh my!) both in the laboratory and in the field.
Current experiments include examining the effects of trenbolone (a synthetic testosterone pollutant found in agricultural runoff) on mosquitofish behavior and morphology, examining the synergistic effects of BPA and BHA (synthetic estrogen-mimics found in water samples) on mosquitofish behavior and morphology, effects of habitat fragmentation on songbird populations, the physiological adaptations that make invasive species so successful, and more.
I am also very committed to making science an inclusive and diverse place in which to work. I highly encourage underrepresented groups (women and minorities) to explore opportunities to partake in scientific research in my lab and others.

Dr. Justin Anderson:
My research interests focus on mosquito-borne viral diseases and specifically how to interfere with their transmission. My primary goal is to provide a hands-on biology experience for the students in my lab. These students design and conduct experiments, write grants and
protocols, and contribute to dissemination of our results by writing manuscripts and presenting at conferences. Research projects in our lab use La Crosse virus as a model pathogen and Aedes albopictus (Asian tiger) mosquitoes as a model vector to investigate how bacteria might influence virus infections, how plant genes can be used to combat viruses in mosquitoes, and how viruses recognize their hosts. Details may be found on my website:

Expected project outcomes
Suggested journals for publication: Environmental Entomology, Journal of Vector Ecology, Integrative and Comparative Biology, Environmental Toxicology
Potential conferences: Our results would be appropriate for presentation at the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry or Society of Vector Ecology national conferences. Support for such travel comes from the Office of Undergraduate Research and Scholarship.
We anticipate that we will gather sufficient data from these studies to submit an external grant proposal to expand on our findings. Most likely, we would seek funding from the National Science Foundation or a similar agency.

Products of the project available to donors:
All donors will be publicly thanked on the PIs’ websites, and possibly on the Biology Department’s webpage. All donors will also be provided a PDF version of any posters, presentations, or publications that result from these studies. In addition, pending successful funding, we have set up the following incentives at various giving levels.
● Endocrine-disruptor level ($25): A 3″ Radford Ecophysiology lab sticker or Radford Arbovirus and Medical Entomology Lab sticker. Your choice!
● Larva level ($50): Radford University College of Science and Technology string backpack (or other similar to be determined), plus a sticker.
● Gambusia level ($100): Radford Ecophysiology lab or Radford Arbovirus and Medical Entomology Lab T-shirt (or other similar to be determined), plus a backpack and a sticker.
● Ecological interaction level ($250): Immortality in the form of named acknowledgement in publications, plus all previous levels.

We currently have most of the basic materials and equipment needed to conduct these experiments, and are, therefore, requesting only summer pay for students and some minimal supplies to maintain the fish colony.
● Supplies (list any items above $500. Smaller items can be combined as "General Supplies"):
     ○ Fish food, filters, etc. Consumables used for maintaining the Gambusia breeding colony. $388
● Student stipend(s) (numbers of students and number of weeks): $8612
     ○ Two students for 13 weeks during the summer of 2015 (includes FICA)
TOTAL: $9,000

Matching funds (amount and source):
● Student travel to conferences: $1000 each. Provided by Radford University Office of Undergraduate Research and Scholarship.
TOTAL amount to raise on CREU: $9,000

How will any additional funds be used?

Our proposed study will investigate EDC effects in the laboratory. Additional funds will be used to:
1. Construct olfactometers to measure whether exposure to EDCs affects mosquito host-seeking activity.
2. Purchase galvanized stock tanks, $50 each x 6 = $300. These will be used to create microcosms for field studies of predator-prey interactions

Twitter Handle: @spottedantbird (SO) @EDCmosquitoes (EG)
Facebook Page URL:

Project video YouTube URLs:


CREU recommends this project at the Recommended level.

Reviewer Comments

" I think the project is worthy" "The role of the students is not well spelled out for a non-scientific crowd, nor the reason for their financial support."

"This is an interesting project that links two important topics" "the proposal does not indicate which EDCs will be tested and at what concentrations."

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