Biologist and OSU-Cascades biology instructor Ann Petersen.

OSU-Cascades researcher and biology instructor Ann Petersen.

Jan 30, 2018

Stickleback fish are models for studies about the impact of pollution on animal and human health. They are abundant in the Deschutes River and also found in the John Day and Crooked rivers.

At the upcoming Oregon State University - Cascades Science Pub, OSU-Cascades biologist Ann Petersen will share how some local populations of wild-caught stickleback demonstrate distinct types of organ and tissue abnormalities and disease, and how her research has implications for human health.  She will also share OSU-Cascades researchers' long-term plans to use the stickleback as a biomonitoring tool to help maintain healthy waterways in Central Oregon.

Petersen will present “Gonads and Goiters: Stickleback Fish Health and Disease in the Deschutes River” on February 20 at McMenamins Father Luke’s room in Bend.

A biology instructor, Petersen leads The Stickleback Project, a study that tests the genetic and hormonal effects of river pollution on stickleback fish in Central Oregon. Her research assistants include OSU-Cascades undergraduate students who explore developmental biology, ecotoxicology, wildlife disease, genetics, and endocrinology.

Humans and stickleback share about 70 percent of known human disease-causing genes. Stickleback are considered a “canary in the coal mine” for river and lake health by researchers worldwide. Health effects of aquatic pollution on this small fish are a proxy for the health impacts of aquatic pollution on all vertebrates, including humans.

Petersen  has a B.S. in marine science from Eckerd College and a Ph.D. in integrative physiology from the University of Colorado Boulder. Her research interests focus on how animals develop and survive in environmentally challenging conditions, including conditions caused by human introduced pollution. Prior to arriving at OSU-Cascades, Petersen was a member of a research team funded by the National Institutes of Health and based at the University of Oregon.  The team examined how a common aquatic pollutant, perchlorate, affects health and development in stickleback fish.

OSU-Cascades Science Pubs engage community members in the work underway by Oregon State researchers and scholars from around the state. Since 2009, OSU-Cascades has hosted Science Pubs on topics ranging from fermentation science to forest fires to autism.

Science Pubs take place from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.  Networking and food and beverage service begin at 5:30 p.m., and the presentation starts at 6:30 p.m. Science Pubs are free to community members, but reservations are required.  Space is limited to 100 guests. 

Register by 5:00pm the day prior to each Science Pub at

About OSU-Cascades: Oregon State University’s campus in Bend, Ore. features outstanding faculty in degree programs that reflect Central Oregon’s vibrant economy and abundant natural resources. Nearly 20 undergraduate majors, 30 minors and options, and three graduate programs include computer science, energy systems engineering, kinesiology, hospitality management, and tourism, recreation and adventure leadership. OSU-Cascades expanded to a four-year university in 2015; its new campus opened in 2016.