With a research schedule that frequently takes her from the lab to the field and back again – there is no such thing as a typical day for The University of Western Australia’s Lefroy Fellow Kelsey Pool.
Made possible by a generous bequest from the Lefroy family, Dr Pool was appointed Research Associate under the Lefroy Fellowship in late 2020 to undertake her investigations into the effects of oestrogenic compounds on sheep reproduction.
“This Fellowship is one of the best opportunities I have ever taken,” she said.
“It has allowed me to work in a field I am genuinely passionate about with scientists and producers I respect and admire, and has given me the scientific freedom to investigate some fascinating questions around sheep reproduction.
“I have everything I need at UWA to do good quality research, and this is a constant source of motivation for me. I am so much happier and well-supported than I could have ever imagined.”
Image: Dr Kelsey Pool in her lab at UWA.
On any given day, Dr Pool can be found assessing sperm functionality at the Centre for Microscopy, Characterisation and Analysis after a 6am visit to the rams at Murdoch University, out in the field working with sheep at UWA Farm Ridgefield, or running between her office and the Drosophila lab down the hall to manage fly models.
“At the moment, I’m tackling my research with a multifaceted approach,” she said.
“My work ranges from assessing the impacts of phytoestrogens upon ram sperm function, to strategies for early detection of reproductive dysfunction in the ewe, to drosophila (a genus of fly) models to predict the multigenerational and epigenetic effects we may see, across species, following exposure to oestrogenic compounds.
“From here, I’ve also expanded to look at other environmental factors that could impact upon sheep reproduction such as the effects of climate change, and looking into strategies to improve offspring survival from conception onwards.”
Just five months since packing up her life in Sydney and moving to WA, Dr Pool has one study recently accepted for publication, another one just wrapping up and five more in progress.
“In the accepted paper, we found that ‘equol’ (the oestrogenic metabolite responsible for both permanent and transient infertility in the ewe) also negatively impacts the functionality of ram spermatozoa,” she shared.
“This is significant, as it was previously suggested that phytoestrogens only affected ewe reproductive function.
“For the first time in the 70 or so years of research in this area, this work brings into question whether oestrogenic pastures could also influence ram fertility.”
Dr Pool said she was excited to see the final results of research that seemed to show that the combination of exposing both parents to phytoestrogens may affect the fertility of the subsequent generation – and this effect differs depending upon the age of the parent at exposure.
Her interest in sheep reproduction was borne through her PhD studies at The University of Sydney, supervised by Associate Professor of Animal Reproduction Simon de Graaf.