Nathan Mckean


Is Ranavirus transmission sexually mediated?
(Summer to Fall 2017) 1

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. I t 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.

A sampling site at a woodland pool.

1. This study was a conducted by J. Lowery, N. Mckean, C. Monaco, J. Olori, S. Windstam.