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2016 Innovator Award Graduate Student Winner: Derek Nelson

Measuring environmental impact

Derek Nelson, who just completed his third semester as a biology doctoral student, performs open-heart surgery on fish in the Gulf of Mexico. His work measures the health of aquatic life, while monitoring crude oil impacts..

Previous research revealed that exposure to crude oil caused some fish to swim slower.

Working with faculty mentor Dane Crossley, professor of biology, Nelson and other researchers are trying to learn why.

Nelson implants sensors on the fishes’ hearts to monitor cardiac functions such as heart rate, stroke volume and contractility and other aspects of the heart.

His mahi-mahi study was published in Aquatic Toxicology in November and he has presented some of his findings thus far at conferences for the Gulf of Mexico Research Institute, the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, and the Society of Integrative and Comparative Biology.