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Case Studies

Port Washington High School, Wisconsin



Barresi Lab, Smith College


U Utah  

University of Utah Zebrafish Core Facility


Dr. Traver in his lab  

Traver Lab, University of California, San Diego


Dr. Tamily Weissman-Unni of Lewis & Clark College is lighting up the brains of zebrafish to create maps of their neural networks  

Lewis & Clark College

Somewhere over the brainbow Dr. Tamily Weissman-Unni of Lewis & Clark College is lighting up the brains of zebrafish to create maps of their neural networks. Read More...

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Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory

Regenerating hope with zebrafish research.

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Seattle Children's Research Institute

A core facility designed for future expansion.

Visit Seattle Children's Research Institute


Port Washington High School, Wisconsin

Jeff Callies and Sean O'Brien, science teachers at Port Washington High School, share the exciting ways students are using the eRack in the classroom:

Port Washington High School has received a two shelf stand alone education rack from Aquaneering in the fall of 2016 after writing a proposal for an eRack giveaway. The eRack will be used as a cornerstone of research and exploration for the STEM curriculum in Project Lead The Way (PLTW) classes as well as AP Environmental Science and other traditional courses (chemistry, biology, etc.). The high school is itself going under some renovations and next year there will be a new science wing with a separate room designated for using the eRack and an aquaponics tank. Students will have the opportunity to work with zebrafish to study heart and genetic diseases along with other research topics.

Port Washington High School Students record and document temperature and water chemistry in the eRack.

After receiving the eRack, it was set up and cycled to make sure everything was working well. Temperature and water chemistry (pH, hardness, nitrates) were monitored for a stabilized environment to receive zebrafish.

Once the eRack was up and running, Dr. Michael Pickart of Concordia University – Wisconsin was helpful in going over the practical matters of setting up monitoring, schedules and testing to ensure a healthy environment for the zebrafish. Some of the details, such as how to correct water chemistry, establishing feeding schedules, room lighting, water exchanges, and cleaning were discussed. Many of the additional considerations for the eRack (food, water supplies and additives) were purchased and set up to prepare for receiving zebrafish.

Port Washington High School student using their Aquaneering eRack

The zebrafish adapted nicely to our rack set up, and students from PLTW and Ecology were invited to take a look at our system. Students were really excited about this as a functioning education tool. They had many questions for the teachers as to what will be studied, how did we monitor the chemistry, what was the feeding schedule like. Whenever new things happened with the fish, they were very eager to see and participate with what was going on.
Some students who were really engaged by the eRack and what was going on were asked if they liked to help out with monitoring and feeding. This provided those students with authentic record keeping and journaling of the conditions and making observations of the fishes’ behavior. It also provided us with information about the care and maintenance of the system from different points of view. Their concern and ownership of the fish was exciting as a new step into this endeavor.

Zebrafish swimming in tank, Port Washington High School eRackIt was noted that some of the fish were getting larger than the others. Since we had all the tanks occupied with different genders, it was obvious that the fish were spawning. Behaviors such as settling on the bottom or in a corner were good indicators that they were laying embryos. The fish were also consuming the embryos, because we never saw any of the evidence during the day.

It was then that it was decided to separate the fish from one tank from the bottom where the embryos could settle. A tank was chosen that had a fish that was ready to drop embryos and used the insert with grating on the bottom of it. After 2 – 3 days, it was observed that embryo sacks were at the bottom of the tank.

The embryos were moved to one of the smaller tanks at the top. The fish that had been separated using the insert were then moved back into the full tank so they had more room to move.

Using a stereoscope, an image of the larvae and its beating heart was shared with students.

Currently, all the fish we started with are doing well. Water is being turned over regularly and temperature and water chemistry is checked and recorded into a lab notebook. The larvae have grown into tiny fish at this point and although we have had some attrition of the larvae, many of them are doing well and will soon be transferred into a different tank on the system. There are students that are engaged in the care and husbandry of the zebrafish and have inquired about doing further research with them.

This summer will be a time of transition and as the installation of a more permanent location for the eRack at the new building happens, Concordia University – Wisconsin (CUW) will help that transition take place. Many thanks go out to Dr. Michael Pickart and CUW for their time and valuable help in this wonderful opportunity for our students. Also, thanks to Scott Schmutzler of Aquaneering for making the delivery of the eRack easy and quick. Thanks to Beth Freeman and Bobbi Baur of Aquaneering for keeping us in the loop, answering questions and being a valuable resource for novice zebrafish curators.


Barresi Lab, Smith College
Dr. Michael Barresi and graduate student Carla Velez observe zebrafish in a crossing tank

Dr. Michael Barresi is a Renaissance Man in the zebrafish research field. Whether it's research, teaching, student outreach, or art, Dr. Barresi's work seeks the answer to the basic question, why are we the way we are? The desire to find answers to this question led Dr. Barresi to become a developmental neurobiologist using the zebrafish as his model research system. Starting from the tank bottom up, Barresi created Smith College's first zebrafish facility housing to become the director of the Zebrafish Research Center, the largest such facility at a liberal arts school. With the help of a considerable NIH grant, Dr. Barresi plans to expand the facility to house 35,000 fish and transform the facility into a hub of interdisciplinary research for Smith College faculty.

The NIH grant will also fund Dr. Barresi's research on the role of neural stem cells in spinal cord development. Zebrafish have the amazing ability to regenerate their spinal cord, whereas in humans, spinal damage is always permanent and paralyzing. Dr. Barresi wants to find out how this is possible by studying how stem cells affect regeneration. He also plans to investigate how genetic defects can cause brain tumors.

Dr. Barresi's lab investigates the molecular and cellular mechanisms governing how the nervous system is built by delving into three major topics: How are neurons created? How does the nervous system get wired? Which environmental factors impact neural development? In 2011, Dr. Barresi won a National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER award for his project, "The role of glial cells during commissure formation in the zebrafish forebrain," which provided a "molecular, cellular, and behavioral understanding of how neuron-glial interactions occur in the live developing brain."

As associate professor of biological sciences, Barresi considers teaching and research to go fin-in-fin. His students are encouraged to pursue their own research projects using zebrafish. Zebrafish are ideal for student research projects as the embryos are transparent and mature quickly. But Barresi's interest in cultivating students' passion for science isn't limited to the college level. He also created an outreach program called Student Scientists that introduces zebrafish into the science curriculum at underserved public schools.

Beyond scientific research, Dr. Barresi is also a talented artist and photographer. He graduated from Merrimack College with a major in Biology and a minor in Studio Art in a fusion of art and science. He uses his artistic ability to visually represent his research, such as using discarded slide film from his doctoral research to create a mosaic of an adult zebrafish or illustrating the development of a zebrafish embryo.


University of Utah Zebrafish Core Facility
University of Utah CZAR Central Filtration System

Aquaneering recently installed a 200 GPM Central Filtration System at the University of Utah Zebrafish Core Facility.

The University of Utah Zebrafish Core Facility, under Director Maurine Hobbs, Ph.D., supports the research of 15-20 principal investigators with more than 150 undergraduate students, graduate students, and post-doctoral fellows. Their research interests cover topics as diverse as Developmental Biology, Diabetes, Heart Disease, Muscular Dystrophies, Cancer Biology, Bacterial Pathogenesis, Neurobiology, Behavior, Eye Development and many more.

For more information on CZAR, visit their website.

University of Utah CZAR System Racks

Traver Lab, University of California, San Diego

David Traver, Ph.D., is eminent in the field of zebrafish research and experimental hematology. With fifteen years of experience in the field, Dr. Traver heads his laboratory and acts as Professor of Cellular and Molecular Medicine at the University of California, San Diego. In addition, he is President of the International Society for Experimental Hematology (ISEH) and keynote speaker at many zebrafish research conferences. Dr. Traver was recently the recipient of an LLS Career Development Program (CDP) grant.

Traver Lab Research

Dr. Traver and his research team use the zebrafish as a model to study blood formation in vertebrates. Specifically, the Traver lab is looking for the answer to the question: How are hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) born in the vertebrate embryo? HSCs are the stem cells that propagate all other blood cells through the lifelong process of haematopoiesis, which literally means "to make blood". Although there are several waves of blood cell formation during the development of all vertebrate animals, HSCs are produced in the final wave and have the unique ability to self-renew for life. Other questions the group seeks to answer are how this self-renewal program is bestowed upon HSCs, and how cancer-initiating cells inappropriately adopt these programs to engender leukemias and other cancers.



The Traver lab also studies how immunity develops in the zebrafish embryo, with a particular emphasis on antigen-presenting cells (APCs). APCs act to orchestrate the immune response to infection, and his group is working to image their behavior in vivo in the translucent zebrafish. In some cases, inappropriate activation of APC subsets, such as microglia present in the brain, has been suggested to underly the etiology of certain neurodegenerative disorders. The Traver lab is thus studying the role of microglia in the development of an autism spectrum disorder termed Rett Syndrome. They hope to help determine the genetic underpinnings of this and other related disorders by utilizing the unique strengths of the zebrafish system.

Using the zebrafish as a research model offers several advantages to study the ontogeny of hematopoiesis and immunity, including easy visualization of blood cells in the translucent embryo and the ability to dissect genetically the pathways important for blood cell specification, maintenance, and function.

Dr. Traver will be chairing several sessions of the ISEH Annual Meeting, held this year in San Diego, California from August 25th to 28th.

For more information on Dr. Traver and his research, visit:

The Traver Lab Homepage
Zebrafish: A New Way to Study Leukemia
Meet Dr. David Traver



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