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Student Profile: Rachel Fricke, School of Aquatic & Fishery Science

When I transferred to UW last winter, I knew I would major in Aquatic and Fishery Sciences. After my freshman year at the University of Southern California I wanted to deepen my understanding of watersheds and the organisms they are home to, and this led me to visit UW’s School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences (SAFS). With the help of SAFS advisor Sam, I had the opportunity to sit it on a watershed ecology course, and from that point forward I knew UW was where I needed to be.

While I waited to hear back on my transfer application, I interned with Spokane Riverkeeper and completed a few prerequisites at Spokane Falls Community College. My time at Riverkeeper allowed me to start conducting research in a lab at UW shortly after starting here. Through the Wood Lab I study the encystment behavior of Fasciola spp., a waterborne parasite of livestock that is increasingly infecting humans. I had the opportunity this past June to present my research at the Ecology and Evolution of Infectious Diseases Conference in Santa Barbara, CA via a Conference Travel Award from UW’s Undergraduate Research Program.

Through the support of my mentor Dr. Chelsea Wood, I also conducted research on schistosomiasis this summer with the Upstream Alliance in Saint Louis, Senegal. The Upstream Alliance is an international partnership working to find ecological levers for the control of schistosomiasis, a highly prevalent parasitic disease of humans caused by Schistosoma spp. Schistosomiasis is endemic to many regions of the developing world, and the Upstream Alliance is reintroducing native prawns above a dam on the Senegal River to eat the snails Schistosoma spp. use as intermediate hosts. As part of the Upstream Alliance team, I spent field days sampling snails in sweaty waders at rural water sites along the river, then dissected the thousands of snails we had collected in the lab to look for parasitic infections.

After I graduate, I hope to continue researching the various relationships between watersheds and human society. I’m pursuing a second degree in Environmental Studies to further my knowledge of environmental public policy, and plan to ultimately integrate my scientific and management interests by working for a non-governmental organization.