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Misha McCaughan

Position/Title: M.SC. by coursework

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I previously completed my BSc. in Animal Biology here at the University of Guelph where I developed a keen interest in animal nutrition and the ways by which feed ingredients impact animal health. After completing my undergraduate degree in 2020, I was eager to continue learning about toxins found in animal feed which led me to pursue a graduate degree.

I am currently completing my Master's by coursework under the supervision of Dr. Niel Karrow. My project investigates the effects of individual versus binary exposure of Fusarium mycotoxins in a larval zebrafish model. Mycotoxins, which are secondary metabolites of filamentous moulds, are found in over 70% of the world’s cereal grains meaning essentially everything both animals and humans consume is contaminated with more than one mycotoxin. However, the majority of the research that has been carried out to date on mycotoxin toxicity focuses on individual mycotoxin exposure painting an incomplete image of the dangers of mycotoxins. To investigate the toxicity of mycotoxins, I expose larval zebrafish to either individual or binary mixtures of mycotoxins and monitor their survival over the course of 48 hours. Based upon their survival I will be able to determine whether the combinations of mycotoxins are more or less toxic than their individual counterparts. So far, I have seen a slight synergistic interaction when Zearalenone and Beauvericin, both Fusarium mycotoxins, are exposed together meaning they are more toxic together than when they are exposed individually. The implications of these results could mean that production animals may be consuming toxic levels of mycotoxins due to the synergistic nature of these toxins. The next step of this research is to determine the mechanisms by which these mycotoxins incite their damage.

Outside of academia, I enjoy staying involved in the Animal Biosciences department as an events coordinator, and spending time outdoors biking, hiking, and photographing wildlife. In the future, I am looking forward to an exciting and fulfilling career in the environmental industry.