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Weaver studies fish, snails’ toxins

Associate Professor of Biology Kathleen Weaver presented “Inferring Colonization and Speciation through a Phylogenetic Analysis of Hispaniolan Limia Species”  Monday in the President’s Dining Room. She presented two research pieces. The first covered the biological geography of live bearing fish in the West Indies. The second was a study of the high levels of toxins present in snails in the water along the Clark Fork River, east of Missoula, Mont., near the University of La Verne Biology Department’s research station. / photo by Brittney Slater-Shew

Associate Professor of Biology Kathleen Weaver presented “Inferring Colonization and Speciation through a Phylogenetic Analysis of Hispaniolan Limia Species”  Monday in the President’s Dining Room. She presented two research pieces. The first covered the biological geography of live bearing fish in the West Indies. The second was a study of the high levels of toxins present in snails in the water along the Clark Fork River, east of Missoula, Mont., near the University of La Verne Biology Department’s research station. / photo by Brittney Slater-Shew

Brian Velez
Staff Writer

On Monday, Kathleen Weaver, associate professor of biology, gave a lecture in the Presidents Dining Room on her ongoing research of fish in the West Indies and toxins found in snails.

During the first part of the lecture, Weaver explained her research on fresh water guppies and mollies on islands in the West Indies.

Her research is to learn more about the fish and how they evolved as land separated from Central America during a 65 million year period to form the islands of what is now the Caribbean.

“The information helps answer questions about how the fish got there” Jay Jones, professor of biology and biochemistry, said.

“The information can also be applicable to understanding other organisms,” Jones said.

“It was fascinating to learn about the evolution of fish,” said Jonathan Reed, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “I would love to visit some of the places in the Caribbean with professor Weaver.”

During the second part of the lecture, Weaver talked about her study of toxins found in snails in Montana.

Weaver has studied snails for the past 10 years and focuses on toxins and metals such as cadmium, copper and mercury found in the snails.

“Kat’s research is the beginning of very important research in environmental biology and toxicology emphasizing environmental chemistry,” said Iraj Parcha­mazad, professor of chemistry.

Mines, like those near where Weaver conducts her research, use toxic chemicals. If they are disposed of incorrectly, they can seep into the ground and spread through leeching, Parchamazad said.

“The snails are up in this rocky area, perfect for mining,” Weaver said.

The snails are found in Montana on a 190-acre piece of land owned by the University of La Verne.

Nearby land is used for copper mining.

“Nobody cares about snails, I can kill as many as I want,” Weaver said when asked about why her research was done on snails and not other animals.

No one keeps snails as pets, people only care about the cute animals like birds, Weaver said.

Weaver, along with students, studied the snails by incinerating them and then examining the remains.

“We are finding toxin levels in snails that would be alarming in humans” Weaver said.

Through her research, Weaver hopes to find out if the terrestrial ecosystem the snails live in is contaminated, how the snails stay alive with toxins in their body and how the toxins affect their environment.

Professor of Biology Jerome Garcia has a personal interest in Weaver’s research because to him it is a new and fresh perspective.

Garcia hopes to find out what effects the toxins have on the snails and how they are able to survive after being exposed to the toxins and live with the poison in their bodies.

Considering what is being found in the snails, people should be more careful about what they dump down the drain, Garcia said.

The next faculty lecture will feature Jeffery Kahan, professor of English, talking about “Shakespear and the Occult” at noon Monday in the President’s Dining Room.

For more information call Al Clark at 909-593-3511, ext. 4240.

Brian Velez can be reached at brian.velez@laverne.edu.

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