Tracey's research interests have focused on the intimate cyclic relationship of oceans and humans. Her backgrounds in marine science and molecular biology followed by a shift to marine natural products chemistry (dissertation work) have facilitated a seamless transition into her current research emphasis at NIST in the field of environmental metabolomics.
Metabolomics research is a quickly growing field with broad application and a likely long-lived future for the measure of physiology or health in real time. Tracey is applying this technique to investigate effects of environmental stressors, such as chemical exposure, disease and/or abiotic changes like rise of sea water temperature, which offers the opportunity to assess systematic responses at the organismal level. The research may result in identification of novel biochemistry, potential markers of stress, information about stressor mechanisms of action, and ultimately a monitoring tool for the health of the environment. The lab has conducted metabolomics studies on a variety of conditions and organisms including oxidative stress in crustaceans, temperature effect in the coral pathogen Vibrio coralliilyticus, alternative diets for aquaculture species, and illness in green sea turtles. Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) has been the primary analytical platform for these analyses with immediate plans for LC/MS-based analyses in upcoming studies.
Tracey's research has an overarching aim of promoting best practices to produce high quality metabolomics data which includes stringent experimental designs, efficient and repeatable metabolite extraction, and reproducible metabolite measurements. Her current metabolomic studies include health assessments of samples collected and banked with the Pacific Islands team of the NIST Marine Environmental Specimen Bank and toxicology studies with sentinel species
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