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WestConn Prof Honored For Research Into How Animals Adapt To Environment

Newtown resident Michelle Monette is an assistant professor of animal physiology at Western Connecticut State University’s Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences.
Newtown resident Michelle Monette is an assistant professor of animal physiology at Western Connecticut State University’s Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences. Photo Credit: Western Connecticut State University

DANBURY, Conn. – Her research into how animal adapt to changes in the environment has earned a top honor for a Newtown woman who is a professor at Western Connecticut State University in Danbury.

Michelle Monette, assistant professor of animal physiology in the Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences, is the recipient of the Board of Regents 2017 Research Award for Western Connecticut State University.

The award recognizes faculty members who are doing exceptional research and creative work at their Connecticut State Colleges and Universities home institutions.

“My research is focused on understanding how animals regulate physiological function in order to respond to changes in their environment,” Monette said. “My current program uses a multi-level approach — from molecule to organism to population — to understand the mechanisms of internal salt balance in vertebrates from fish to humans.”

Monette teaches human and animal physiology courses at WCSU. Last summer, she took six students to conduct research at the Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory in Salisbury Cove, Maine. She will do this again this summer as part of her Group Senior Research course.

Her research projects include the physiological, cellular and molecular mechanisms of osmoregulation in migratory Atlantic salmon; the evolutionary adaptation to environmental salinity in the Threespine stickleback; and the structure, function and regulation of cation chloride cotransporters.

“The importance of my research is two-fold: First, my investigations address fundamental questions relevant to highly conserved mechanisms of salt balance in vertebrates, and the understanding of these processes in comparative systems may aid in the treatment of human diseases," Monette said. "Second, determining how natural and human-driven changes in our environment affect physiological function of aquatic vertebrates is critical to the proper management and conservation of endangered or economically important species.”

In his nomination of Monette, professor of biological and environmental sciences Patrice Boily said, “Dr. Monette’s research activities are of great benefit to the scientific community and have a significant impact on our students’ educational experience and professional development. ... She obtained six grants to directly support her research and another to reduce the cost for students to enroll in a research course that included a field experience at a prestigious laboratory in Maine. She mentors many undergraduates in her projects, providing them with meaningful research experience.”

The awardees were introduced and recognized at the BOR Faculty Advisory Committee's Annual Conference at Central Connecticut State University last month.

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