Nathan Mckean

Summer- Fall 2017
Is Ranavirus transmission sexually mediated?


What is the focus of your research and why is it important?

Nearly one third of all known species of amphibians are at risk of extinction.  A primary cause is die outs caused by disease.  Our disease of interest, Ranavirus, is among the Iridoviridae family, a diverse group of viruses known to infect vertebrate hosts such as amphibians, fish, and reptiles.  Infected organisms experience systemic hemorrhaging and cellular death which often results in organ failure within a few days to two to three weeks of exposure to the pathogen.  Our goal was to investigate the possibility of Ranavirus behaving similarly to a sexually transmitted disease.  This project is important because with a better understanding of how disease spreads and persists we may be able to mediate future epidemics.

What have you learned about conducting research?

I've learned that conducting research takes a lot of persistence, patience, and hard work.  Data doesn't always look nice and lab procedures don't always work. It is important to learn from your mistakes and to not be afraid to make them.  Some of the most valuable lessons I have learned over the summer were right after I messed something up.

Describe a memorable research experience at Rice Creek Field Station.

Our group of researchers were at Rice Creek two to three times a week over the summer.  This one particular week we wanted to diversify our sampling locations so we headed to a rather muddy spot next to the creek. In about an hour, one of us had been bitten by a snake, another sunk waist deep into mud, and someone was embarrassingly frightened of a very large snake that slithered by. I  won’t mention any names!  At the end of the day it was all in good fun and no one was seriously harmed.  I left feeling grateful that I am able to call a day like that my "job".

Where did you grow up and how did you become interested in science?

I grew up right in the city of Oswego.  There's not much entertainment around here, so growing up I spent a lot of time outdoors, hiking, camping, etc. Bill Nye is a huge inspiration for me.  I have always admired his enthusiasm and respect for scientific development and that fueled my own curiosity.  Biology has been a vector for my own personal fulfillment.

What are your plans for the future?

I would love to work in a brewery doing quality control work in a lab setting.  I love being in the lab and working, whether it be conducting procedures or just analyzing data.  As my career progresses I would like to find myself involved with more research projects.