We are studying the immune mechanisms that are involved in parasite resistance in sheep. We use a breed called the Saint Croix sheep that originated in the Caribbean Islands and evolved in a location where they developed a natural resistance to parasites.
Most of the drugs that are used to kill parasites in production agriculture are no longer effective.
We’re trying to understand what immunological mechanisms they’re generating in response to the parasite and what makes them different. They’re exposed to the larval stage of the parasite and will constantly generate an immune response to larvae. We have found that they produce a hormone very early in the infection time. As a result of that, all the worms are effectively removed from their stomach.
We’ve been working with another breed of sheep called the texel, a European breed that originated in the Netherlands. And this breed produces an immune response to the adult stage of the parasite and would be a very good cross breeding type of sheep. The Saint Croix doesn't have a lot of other usefulness in commercial production.
We’re kind of on the trail of some immune markers that are different in their structure and protein makeup as well as how they are expressed in the animals. That’s a direct genetic component, then it could be selectable as something to introduce to a group of sheep through cross breeding.
If you weren’t working at WVU, what’s the most likely alternative?
I’d be doing this at another university. This is my one thing. This is what I was put here to do. I found a niche and a spot that worked for me.
Moment you knew what you wanted to study:
Moment you knew your current role was right for you:
The great thing about sheep research at WVU is that it has a very long and productive history in sheep research at a lot of different levels, from nutrition to reproduction and now more immunology. It’s nice to carry that torch for the people who have come before you.
I was working at a farm in Maine, and I was just kind of floundering in life and didn’t have a whole lot of direction. I met a guy in southern Maine who was doing this Katahdin sheep project. I think it was at that meeting that a switch turned on.
Being able to take everything I learned and come here, I was able to amplify what others had done and get a lot more specific. It’s been fun.
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
Favorite part of social distancing:
Least favorite part of social distancing:Coming up with alternatives to a constantly changing landscape. Everything is changing all the time and rules are changing of what you can and can’t do. Being able to be extraordinarily flexible has been challenging to me. Constantly coming up with alternative methods to get things done has been the most challenging.
Just for Fun
Favorite movie/TV show: Top Gun, bad reality TV
Favorite Spotify playlist/band/song: Old Crow Medicine Show, older country music
Favorite local restaurant: Puglioni’s
Favorite local activity: Going to the Botanical Gardens