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Chris M Merkes

I have always been fascinated with DNA. My primary interests are in how DNA sequences can control development or cause disease. I am also excited to be able to use forensic DNA analysis to learn more about the natural environment. Resource managers can then use that information to implement efficient and effective management practices to keep our natural resources healthy.

I began my studies at University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point as a molecular biologist testing ticks for the Lyme disease pathogen Borellia burgdorferi and tracking the movement pattern of the spirochete through a local nature reserve. Simultaneously, I was also working as a water chemist studying the effects of agricultural runoff into streams and testing private well water for human health concerns (for example: fecal coliform bacteria, arsenic, or heavy metal contamination).  I then took a job at University of Kansas (KU) as a fruit fly geneticist using recombinant inbred fruit fly lines to map genetic influences on complex traits such as caffeine, nicotine, or alcohol sensitivity. I then joined the graduate program at KU and completed a master’s project examining developmental defects in a zebrafish cancer model. My thesis work used a combination of genetic and biochemical techniques in zebrafish embryos and human cell lines to show that the Ewing’s Sarcoma Breakpoint Region 1 gene (ewsr1) helps control skeletal development by modifying the regulation of Sex Determination Region Y – Box 9 (SOX9) target genes.

I began working for the USGS – UMESC in 2013 where I use my skills in molecular biology to promote healthy ecosystems primarily in developing tools for species-specific controls and monitoring for aquatic invasive species.