Neuroscience project targets brain
For her senior honors thesis,
University of Maine undergraduate Kristy Townsend of Orono is working
with a team of UMaine psychologists and biochemists to determine if
alcohol affects brain chemicals associated with circadian rhythms, the
body's day-to-day pattern of activity.
Townsend is using two types of antibodies to monitor levels of
serotonin, an essential mood-regulating neurochemical, in a region of
the rat brain that controls basic activities such as sleep, eating and
sex drive. The basic question is whether rats chronically treated with
alcohol show chemical changes in that brain region.
Townsend's project is an extension of ongoing behavioral neuroscience
research directed by Alan Rosenwasser, professor of psychology. As a
biopsychologist, Rosenwasser focuses on the relationship between the
nervous system, mood and behavior.
"I'm attracted to neuroscience because there are so many different
interesting areas," says Townsend, who is majoring in biochemistry. "In
the future, I'd like to study neurotoxicology, how environmental
pollutants affect the brain, and possibly (study) Alzheimer's."
Research on circadian rhythms can lead to a better understanding of
problems associated with late-night shift work, workplace accidents and
long-distance travel across time zones.
In addition to her coursework, Townsend brings experience from an
internship at the Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory this past
summer. She worked with scientist David Towle to conduct research on a
hormone thought to control chemical concentrations in the cells of the
shore crab. Next winter, she will give a poster presentation on the
results of that research at the conference of the Society of Integrative
and Comparative Biology in Anaheim, Calif.
Studying marine resource management
on Capitol Hill
Graduate student Deirdre
Photo by Monty Rand
Deirdre Gilbert is spending a year at
one of the best places to learn marine resource management — Capitol
A University of Maine master's degree student in marine policy, Gilbert
is in Washington on a prestigious Dean John A. Knauss Marine Policy
Fellowship, awarded by the National Sea Grant College Program.
Hundreds of graduate students from throughout the country competed for
the 10 positions available in the U.S. Congress and 20 in the Executive
Branch. Gilbert is working in Maine Congressman Tom Allen's office this
Allen is the Democratic co-chair of the House Oceans Caucus, a
bipartisan effort to increase the House of Representatives' awareness of
important issues in ocean policy and to advance ocean legislation.
During the 106th Congress, the caucus focused on issues of security,
governance, biology and pollution.
As a fellow in Tom Allen's office, Gilbert assists with caucus
activities in the 107th Congress.
Gilbert received an undergraduate degree in biology and environmental
studies from Bowdoin College in 1995. As an undergraduate, she also
studied marine biology and rainforest ecology in Australia. In recent
years, she conducted research for a U.S. Economic Development
Administration project on the collapse of the New England groundfish
industry, and assisted in the shoreline ecology program developed at
Bowdoin College to mitigate the effects of the Exxon Valdez oil spill.
For her master's thesis research at UMaine, Gilbert has developed a
model to assess the impact of marine sanctuaries and other closed
fishing areas on groundfish populations and the fisheries they support.
In Washington, she has had the opportunity to engage in the national
debate about marine protected areas.
"During my graduate work, I developed a firm foundation in some of the
marine policy challenges relevant to Maine," Gilbert says. "I also
thought that Maine had some unique and exciting approaches to marine
resource management, such as co-management in the lobster industry, and
increasing emphasis on collaborative research between fishermen and
scientists. (In Washington) I've been able to share some of Maine's
experience with these efforts with staff from other parts of the