Whitney Conard

Conard 2019 Biophotoweb

Graduate Student
Contact: wconard@nd.edu

I am a Ph.D. candidate studying contaminants in Great Lakes food webs. My dissertation research includes projects on microplastics, heavy metals, and PFAS (per- and poly fluoroalkyl substances).

In collaboration with Dr. Graham Peaslee (ND Physics), we are developing a cost-effective application for fish tissue based on an existing technique called Particle-Induced Gamma-ray Emission (PIGE) spectroscopy. We isolate organic fluorine, which are all man made, then PIGE detects total fluorine in samples as a proxy for PFAS. Using PIGE dramatically reduces the price of sample analysis, as it is possible to screen hundreds of samples quickly and then focus only on those samples that are elevated in fluorine for expensive LC–MS–MS analysis. Our research will be the first to use PIGE for fish tissue, assess PFAS accumulation differences across all major fish tissue types, and systematically assess PFAS in the Lake Michigan food web. 

Outside of my own research, one of my favorite parts of being a graduate student is assisting and mentoring undergraduate students. I have had the privileged to collaborate with 9 undergraduate students and 2 high school students in my time at Notre Dame. It is rewarding to watch students discover their individualized interests in ecology.

Waterquality Sampling Web

Prior to Notre Dame, I earned a BS in Biology at Indiana University Bloomington and a MS in Conservation Ecology at the University of Michigan with Professor Jim Diana. While at the University of Michigan, I studied Northern madtom, a small catfish, which was previously believed to be extirpated in the Huron-Erie Corridor but had returned when constructed reefs were built to assist other Great Lakes fish.