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ARI Post- Docs, and Doctoral Candidates - Sarah Barker

Sarah’s interest of aquaculture and fish diseases, in particular fish parasitology, began whilst studying BSc (Hons) Zoology at the University of Manchester, U.K. She then went on to undertake her masters in research (M.Res) at the University of Aberdeen where she began to carry out research at the Fisheries Research Services laboratory in Aberdeen, Scotland on the host-parasite interactions between sea lice and their salmonid hosts. It was here that she met Dr Ian Bricknell and began work as a research scientist working on diagnostic tools for ISAV and IPNV. Sarah then went on to a PhD in aquatic veterinary sciences at the Institute of Aquaculture, University of Stirling. She received a full scholarship from the Fisheries Society of the British Isles to conduct her doctoral research on the host-parasite interactions between the haematophagous copepod parasite Lernaeocera branchialis and its host the Atlantic cod.

In early 2010, Sarah came to Maine, USA and started working for Dr Anne Lichtenwalner in the University of Maine Animal Health Laboratory developing a nested PCR-RFLP diagnostic test for protothecal bovine mastitis in Maine dairy herds. She is currently a post-doctorate research fellow in Dr Ian Bricknell’s laboratory, where she is involved in several projects, such as, studying the interactions of sea lice and ISAV and their host Atlantic salmon, selective breeding for resistance to sea lice, vaccination strategies against Vibrio anguillarum in juvenile Atlantic cod, lobster health and identification of nematodes in Maine moose.

Sarah’s interests include host-pathogen interactions, in particularly between parasites, such as the salmon louse, and their fish hosts. She is interested in how pathogens conceal themselves from or modulate their host’s immune response by mechanisms such as host molecule mimicry on their surface, or the production of pharmacologically active products, which modulate the host’s immune response for the benefit and survival of the pathogen. Subsequently how the identification of these pathogen-derived factors key to pathogen survival can be used in the production of pathogen control measures for industry. Another key interest of Sarah’s is the mechanisms behind the observed differences in host resistance to certain pathogens between species, families or individuals. Her current research is focusing on the feasibility of selective breeding of North American Atlantic salmon for resistance to sea lice and ISAV, as well as the interactions that occur between these two pathogens. The eventual goal of such research would be to try to identify molecular markers of resistance to sea lice to utilize in a breeding program for the salmon farming industry.

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