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Lab chief tackles toxic chemicals’ role in feminizing fish

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Heiko Schoenfuss received the College of Science and Engineering’s 2006-07 Faculty Research Award. He also was named 2006-07 Adviser of the Year.

Heiko Schoenfuss’ lengthy research resume speaks volumes about his commitment to scientific inquiry.

His most recent work is shared with the world in the June 4, 2007, issue of Newsweek magazine. Schoenfuss has exposed young, male fathead minnows to estrogenic chemicals called alkylphenols — which come from some common industrial and household cleaning products — and discovered that as adults, they failed to defend their territory. They were unable to reproduce successfully because they allowed other males to invade their nesting areas and eat their offspring. In tests at 40 sites along the Mississippi River, Schoenfuss also documented male fish producing egg yolk because their endocrine systems are affected by high concentrations of contaminants.

Schoenfuss, a professor of biological sciences, heads of the aquatic-toxicology lab at St. Cloud State University. His work has been published in journals such as Aquatic Toxicology and the Journal of Zoology, Royal Society of London. He has presented at conferences such as the International Conference on Pharmaceutics and Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals in Water. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Geological Survey and Minnesota Pollution Control Agency are among the organizations that have provided external funding for his research.