Graduate STEM Fellow Profile

John Mischler

Project Title: Project Extremes
Thesis: The Effects of Pesticides and Fertilizers on Parasite-induced Human Disease
College/University: University of Colorado Boulder
Research Advisor: Alan Townsend
Degree Sought: Ph.D., Biology
Department: Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Research Focus: Water quality monitoring and parasite identification and experimentation
Teaching Partner(s): Laurel Henry, Kaleena Kreager, Traci Dunnuck, Kristy Kowalczyk

Description of Research

I work predominantly with parasites in aquatic ecosystems. When pesticides or fertilizers run off into ponds and streams, they can change the structure of the ecosystem so that certain diseases become more common. For example, aquatic snails are known to be the first intermediate hosts for parasites that commonly infect humans. If fertilizer is added to their aquatic environment, this may cause an increase in algal growth (which is the food for the snail). The snail population will become more dense, and this will increase the total number of infected snails in the pond that are then able to pass that infection on to humans. My research deals with the connections between things like fertilizers and their effects on parasite-snail-human systems.

Example of how my research is integrated into my GK-12 experience

One of the units of instruction in my class involves the water cycle. I plan to discuss how rain can wash all kinds of substances from the land into lakes, ponds, and streams and how these substances can affect both the aquatic ecosystems and us living on land. Other general applications include how to use question-driven curriculum to spur learning and how to model a more genuine application of the scientific method.