On the Shore
By Dr. Jennifer Keane-Dawes
UMES scholar researches fish skin secretions in Chesapeake Bay
By the time Andriy Tkachenko decided it was time to leave Europe to expand his research interests in aquatic animals, he'd already worked as a soil scientist at the National Academy of Sciences in Ukraine. He started his master's program at Central European University in Hungary and then transferred and got his degree at University of Manchester in the United Kingdom. And one day, when he decided to search the Internet again, trying to find a university he hoped would have matching research interests, he came across the website of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore and read that Dr.Yan Waguespack, a scientist at this American university, was engaged in the research work he so dearly loved. It was a perfect moment, because with a perfect hit he'd found the perfect match. Tkachenko packed up and left his town of Bila Tservka, translated white church in English, and so named because miles into his journey, he could still see the steeple of the "white church" just below the sky. His wife, Ganna, would join him later as a master s student in the Applied Computer Science program at UMES.
Now Waguespack's advisee and a Ph.D. student in the Marine Estuarine Environmental Science program (MEES), a University System of Maryland partnership initiative, Tkachenko examines if mucin-glyproteins, secreted by fish skins, play a role in fish to develop lesions on their bodies. "More specifically," said Tkachenko, "I investigate susceptibility of mucin-glyproteins to chemical degradation by substances often secreted by pathogens and adhesion affinity of various pathogens to mucin-glycoproteins." He said research shows that since the beginning of the 1980s, estuarine fish along the East Coast of the United States have experienced major fish kill events. More than 30 major fish kills on average are reported in the Chesapeake Bay and other mid-Atlantic estuaries annually. He said that although some fish kills are associated with hypoxia, chemical spills, temperature or salinity shock, there are many kills which are unexplained and therefore labeled as "unknown." These unknown fish kills are mostly accompanied with lesions on the skin of the fish. Much of his co-authored research is published in scholarly journals including the Journal of Fish Diseases and the Journal of Inorganic Biochemistry.
Tkachenko adds that his adjustment to campus and community life has been good. "I love UMES. I've traveled a lot and lived in diverse cultures. Ukraine has very big and diverse universities. Hungary and England are very diverse countries. People who get depressed are the people who have never traveled and who know nothing about cultures other than theirs." He said the food is the same kind of food available in Ukraine: rice, carrots, beans, chicken, beef . . . He reads the Ukrainian newspapers on line everyday and tries to keep abreast of the soccer World Cup activities. "I miss soccer, and I miss my music," he said with a smile. "It's hard for Europeans to get accustomed to American music."
Jennifer Keane-Dawes, Ph.D., is interim Dean of the Graduate School at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. This is part of her series of feature articles about research and other scholarly activities performed by UMES students and faculty.