Jennifer Stueckle, Ph.D.
BIOL 101: General Biology
BIOL 454: Immunology
Dr. Stueckle's research primarily focuses on the reproductive physiology of fishes and the influence of environmental factors, particularly endocrine disruptors, on parental investment, embryonic development and behavior. She prefers to integrate techniques from several fields including, but not limited to, field observations and collections, molecular and cellular biology, physiology, and behavior. Recent projects have utilized pipefishes of the family Syngnathidae (seahorses, sea dragons, and pipefish). Males of this family possess a placenta-like brood pouch in which eggs are fertilized and held for approximately two weeks or until free-swimming fry are released.
Her work on these fish has been focused on understanding the impact of paternal investment via the brood pouch on embryonic development. She has completed several physiological investigations to quantify paternal nutrient transfer via stable isotopes. Moreover, changes in paternal brood pouch vasculature with embryonic development have been examined via latex corrosion casts and scanning electron microscopy. To test the hypotheses on parental physiology, environmental toxicological studies have subsequently investigated changes in paternal nutrient provisioning due to polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) and hypoxia (low dissolved oxygen) exposures. A behavioral study looking at sound production in Syngnathids noted significant drops in sound production during feeding, and hence decreases in food intake, under hypoxic conditions. In this study, sound production was found to be an accurate indicator of food intake and thus a novel measure of potentially detrimental behavioral changes.
Furthermore, she has conducted studies in fish immunotoxicology. One project utilized proteomic technology to compare protein expression profiles with immune function in smallmouth bass collected from the Shenandoah River where fish kills and the incidence of intersex (i.e. male testes with ovarian tissue) have been observed since 2003. We are now following this field study with controlled laboratory exposures to begin to pinpoint potential culprits for the observed changes in immune function and steroid hormone profiles associated with endocrine disruption and the observed intersex.
A current project is developing a novel capillary electrophoresis separation to measure steroids in the low sample volumes (≤ 3 μL) of individual fish.