Jeffrey K. Wickliffe

Research Associate


Texas Tech University

Department of Biological Sciences

My current research is focused on assessing the molecular and population genetic effects environmental irradiation has on native and laboratory rodents. However, I am interested in assessing the genotoxicity of polluted environments using vertebrates as biological sentinels. The goals of using molecular and population genetics as tools for assessing environmental genotoxicity are 1) to apply and understand mechanistic interactions between pollutants and biota, 2) assess and potentially manage or monitor the risk of polluted environments to wildlife, and 3) assess and manage or monitor the risk of polluted environments to humans. In other words, if an area is contaminated, the primary questions to answer include "What is/are the genetic risk(s) associated with inhabiting or working in that area?" and "What are the long-term consequences resulting from chronic exposure to environmentally relevant levels of contamination?". Principally, "How do we detect genetic effects prior to the incidence of disease?" and essentially use molecular genetics as a predictive, prospective tool with which to assess the potential risk of any mutagen, mutagenic environment, or any contaminated environment which adversely affects population genetic characteristics. The molecular tools I use include mitochondrial DNA, nuclear DNA repetitive elements, and transgenic systems (Big BlueŽ Mutagenesis Rodent Assay System). Standard molecular techniques are employed including PCR, nucleotide sequencing, and several cloning assays (phage and plasmid-based). Data analyses include population genetics (unique polymorphisms, genetic diversity) and mutation analysis (mtDNA heteroplasmy, transgenes). I am also interested in the developing technologies such as gene expression profiling and microarray (DNA and mRNA) analysis. All of these continue to serve as valuable endpoints of genotoxicant and toxicant-induced stress ranging from the molecular to the population level of biological organization.

A uniquely interesting site from which biological samples are currently taken from is an area approximately 1.5 km WSW of the Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant (CNPP) in northern Ukraine. I am working with Dr. Robert J. Baker, Dr. Ron K. Chesser, and Dr. Brenda E. Rodgers. Dr. Baker's expertise is in the field of mammalian systematics and biology, Dr. Chesser's expertise is in the fields of population genetics and radiation dosimetry, and Dr. Rodgers' expertise is in the field of cytogenetics. Several species of rodent inhabit areas contaminated with extremely high levels of environmental radiation. Long-lived radioisotopes including 137Cesium and 90Strontium persist in several areas which restrict human activity. The animals and plants in these areas have incorporated these radioisotopes internally. In fact, one species we have conducted a considerable amount of research on, the bank vole (Clethrionomys glareolus), harbors the highest internal burdens of radiocesium ever documented. In contrast to the nuclear desert typically envisioned, the radioactive exclusion zone is ecologically vibrant and dynamic. Several species including moose (Alces alces), gray wolf (Canus lupus), Russian boar (Sus scrofa), masked dormouse (Dryomys nitedula), Whooper Swan (Cygnus cygnus), river otter (Lutra canadensis), red fox (Vulpes vulpes), raccoon dog (Genus species), Black Stork (Ciconia nigra), Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos), and Fish Eagle (Haliaeetus sp.) have been observed within the exclusion zone and are rarely or never outside where human activity is not restricted and habitat is primarily used for agriculutural purposes.

Web Sites of Interest:

Texas Tech University (Department of Biological Sciences)

The Institute of Environmental and Human Health

Texas A&M University (Dr. John W. Bickham's WWW site)

Slavutych International Laboratory of Research and Technology (International Radioecology Laboratory)

Federal Government Sites--

Environmental Protection Agency

send e-mail

[home]  [English]  [Russian] [Ukrainian]