Snails and copper: an intergenerational story of toxicity, adaptation and death

Speaker: Rod Ubrihien

Location: 11:30 am to 12:30 pm in Building 6, Level C, Room 12

Mining, urban, industrial and agricultural use has greatly increased the concentration of copper in the biosphere. Despite being an essential element, copper is toxic when present at concentrations above biological requirements. Copper sulfate has been used as a pesticide to control freshwater snails in rice fields for over 40 years. The chemical properties of copper and repeated use means that copper will accumulate in these areas. This will result in organisms being exposed to toxic sublethal levels of copper. My study investigates the lethal and sublethal effects of copper to the freshwater snail Isidorella newcombi, and the potential for the development of resistance in populations exposed to copper over multiple generations. Molecular, cellular and population level responses were assessed to determine the response of I. newcombi to copper exposure.

About Rod Ubrihien

Rodney Ubrihien is a PhD student at the Institute for Applied Ecology. He completed a Bachelor of Applied Science (Environmental science – honours 1st class) at the University of Canberra.  His research interests are in the areas of environmental chemistry and toxicology and have focussed on the effects of metal contamination on molluscs and the use of molluscs in environmental assessment. Rodney’s research investigates responses ranging from molecular through to population levels. Of particular interest is the integration of genomic techniques into the assessment of the effects of contaminants in the environment. He is currently finishing his PhD which investigates the effects of copper on an Australian endemic freshwater snail, linking transcriptomic responses to those seen at cellular, individual and population level.