PIs SubProject 2. Rivers ans Estuaries: Decapod Crustaceans and Zebrafish Models

María A. Sosa, PhD

Dept. Anatomy & Neurobiology

University of Puerto Rico

UPR Medical Sciences Campus

e-mail: maria.sosa@upr.edu

As the global population grows, so does the drive for urbanization. Within urban areas, people tend to cluster within riparian zones and near water resources. In doing so, they generate numerous sources and forms of pollution, including production and release of toxic chemicals. The tropical island of Puerto Rico has a human population density that is quite high, and its geographical containment makes it an ideal place for studying the impact of urbanization on its ecosystems.  We postulate that acute and chronic exposure to varying sublethal concentrations of specific metals, derivatives of plastics, pesticides, and other emergent contaminants found in underground water, rivers and estuaries in Puerto Rico, can disrupt behavior and underlying neuronal structure and function in aquatic species. Since tropical island streams are dominated by decapod crustacean species that migrate between salt and freshwater at different stages of their life cycle, we have chosen freshwater prawns as our model system to assess the impact of contaminants on behavior and nervous system function. In the lab we use various behavioral recording devices to observe and quantify locomotion and aggression in developing and adult prawns, and use techniques of immunochemistry, Western blot analysis, transcriptomics, microscopy and electrophysiology to correlate observed changes in behavior with changes in nervous system function.

Concepción Rodríguez-Fourquet, PhD

Department of Biology

University of Puerto Rico

Bayamón Campus

e-mail: concepcion.rodriguez@upr.edu

Crustacean larvae’ path to adult forms is influenced by many environmental factors such as:  chemical substances, light, tides, temperature, food availability and currents. We want to understand what environmental factors are important for the metamorphosis and settlement of the larvae of Cardisoma guanhumi, the blue land crab.  We will conduct bioassays to expose the larvae to different ranges of environmental factors including temperature, light, and food availability.  Once we know the optimal ranges for those factors, we will characterize the effects of acute and chronic exposure to chemical contaminants.

María Inés De Jesús-Burgos, PhD

Department of Biology

University of Puerto Rico, 

Cayey Campus

e-mail: maria.dejesus2@upr.edu

We will assess the impact of anthropogenic noise pollution on the nervous system of Caribbean hermit crabs (Anomura, Clypeatus; Coenobita clypeatus).  We will analyze the impact of chronic noise on the animal’s ability in decision making when facing potential predators and on temperament and defense-related behaviors. At the molecular level, we will study possible alterations of neural substrates after chronic noise exposure and we will analyze if the level of expression of biogenic monoamines and their receptors are affected. Since the brain architecture of the hermit crab is still poorly understood, our work will also help to develop the Caribbean hermit crab as an experimental model.

Martine Behra, PhD

Dept. Anatomy & Neurobiology

University of Puerto Rico

Medical Sciences Campus

e-mail: martine.behra@upr.edu

We assess the effects of a short list of contaminants, highly likely to be present in Puerto-Rican rivers, on the sensory and the motor nervous system of a classical vertebrate animal model, the zebrafish. We work mostly with embryos and young larvae and focus on the development and the regeneration of a superficial sensory structure called the lateral line. We use a series of molecular techniques like in vivo imaging in transgenic animals, immunohistochemistry and in situ hybridization. In parallel, we assess how those same contaminants affect larval swimming behaviors by using sophisticated imaging and recording devices allowing to measure several anxiety-like parameters.​


Omar Perez Reyes. PhD

Department of Environmental Sciences

University of Puerto Rico

Rio Piedras Campus

e-mail: omar.perez15@upr.edu

We combine experimental, morphological, and evolutionary analyses in collaborative research on the biodiversity, biogeography and ecology of both terrestrial and freshwater species. We are particularly interested in understanding the factors that structure and limit terrestrial and freshwater animal populations in both urban and non-urban ecosystems. Our research interests include studies of multiple components of terrestrial, and aquatic species interactions such as: 1) factors affecting the demographic, physiological growth rates, dominance status and trends of reproduction that sustain decapods and fish populations; 2) invertebrate/vertebrate community interactions in environmentally impacted and non-impacted urban and forested streams; 3) the effects of natural and anthropogenic disturbances (e.g. land use, dam construction, pollution) on aquatic habitats and biodiversity. In the PRCEN project, we will focus on understanding the effect of pollutants on the upstream and downstream migration of larvae and post larvae shrimp in impacted and no impacted stream of Puerto Rico.


María E. Ocasio Torres. PhD

Department of Biology, 

School of Natural Sciences and Technology, 

University  of Turabo

e-mail: ocasiom1@suagm.edu 

We study predator-prey interactions and other trophic interactions in freshwater systems and their effects on the behavior and morphology of the prey. In the PRCEN project will examine the effect of different chemical contaminants on the behavioral response of freshwater shrimp to different cues from predatory fishes.