Dr. Jennifer Specker, URI Graduate School of Oceanography biological oceanographer, has received a three-year, $331,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to study the development of fish stomachs, specifically those of summer flounder. Specker will test the hypothesis that stomach development is regulated by the sequential action of cortisol and thyroid hormones on cell proliferation and differentiation.
In summer flounder, the stomach begins to develop during metamorphosis. Because flounder metamorphose into flatfish in determinate stages, scientists are able to conduct stage-specific experimentation that is difficult or impossible to achieve otherwise.
Specker's study will correlate the genes that are present in the stomach to the levels of hormones as the organ develops. She will also determine how cortisol and thyroid hormones act and interact with each other during development, as well as how the hormones aid in stomach growth and cell differentiation during the process.
"This research concerns the relationship between a small, delicate marine fish and its environment," said Specker. "In addition, this funding will provide research training and education for students at all levels. I hope that in the long-run we will better understand what differences changes in climate and food availability will make on marine fishes."
The grant will support the research training of a post-doctoral fellow and two undergraduates who will work with high school, undergraduate, and graduate students and staff. Specker's research will take place at the Flounder Facility at the URI Bay Campus in Narrag
Contact: Lisa Cugini
University of Rhode Island