UK Graduate Student Spotlight: Carleigh Fedorka

UK Graduate Student Spotlight: Carleigh Fedorka

Carleigh Fedorka

Photo: University of Kentucky's College of Agriculture, Food, and Environment

Name: Carleigh Fedorka
From: Meadville, Pennsylvania
Degrees and institute where received: BS in Biology from St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York

Carleigh Fedorka came to Lexington, Kentucky, after graduating from college in New York to start a career in the Thoroughbred breeding industry. During the 2011 nocardioform placentitis (a form of bacterial placentitis affecting late gestation mares that can cause abortions and abnormal placentas) outbreak, Fedorka was managing Hinkle Farms, in Paris, Kentucky. The farm’s veterinarian, Karen Wolfsdorf, DVM, Dipl. ACT, asked if they would be willing to participate in a study through the University of Kentucky Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory (UK VDL).

The study piqued Fedorka’s interest in the physiology, pathology, and disease processes that were occurring. Wolfsdorf and Erol Erdal, MS, PhD, DVM, associate professor at the UKVDL, suggested that she speak with the reproduction lab at the UK Gluck Equine Research Center. After meeting with Mats Troedsson, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACT, ECAR, professor and past chair of the department of veterinary science at UK, Fedorka decided to pursue a master’s degree in equine reproduction, which eventually became a doctoral degree.

“Although placentitis brought me to the Gluck Center, I have actually been studying the seminal plasma protein CRISP-3 and its possible effect on modulation of the inflammation that we see after breeding,” Fedorka said.

Previous research conducted by students in Troedsson’s lab focused on the effect of seminal plasma, specifically CRISP-3, on inflammation. They hypothesized that CRISP-3 protects viable spermatozoa from phagocytosis (a living cell that ingests other cells/particles) and post-breeding digestion by neutrophils (white blood cells), which are both immune system responses.

“With this in mind, we are studying the effect that this protein may have on the expression of cytokines in the endometrium of the mare post-breeding, studying both normal mares as well as mares that are found to be susceptible to post-breeding induced endometritis (PBIE),” Fedorka said. “By studying cytokine expression, we can get a picture of whether or not it is involved in numerous signaling pathways of the innate immune system, and further understand its role in the breeding process.”

Fedorka said the impact this research could have depends on the studies’ outcomes. Potentially, breeders could use the findings to modulate post-breeding inflammation and assist with uterine clearance.

Fedorka has worked on and led other research projects besides her own in her time at the Gluck Center, including a 2014 field study on placentitis that required taking blood samples from 750 Thoroughbred mares in Central Kentucky and looking for biomarkers that predict placentitis. She also worked with another graduate student to look at Acyline’s potential use for chemical castration. In addition, she has worked on numerous other research projects within the reproduction lab.

Fedorka describes herself as a “farm manager with a scientific brain.” When she joined the Gluck Center, she wanted to understand the biology and chemistry behind what happens daily in an equine operation.

“During my time at UK I have been able to answer so many of those questions, as well as further my knowledge of the reproductive system even farther than I could have imagined,” Fedorka said. “That was all that I asked for when beginning this degree, and I am happy to say that although I have discovered so many more questions, I have also answered so many of the original ones.”

After completing her degree Fedorka hopes to become a faculty member at a university and teach undergraduates.

“While I really enjoy research, I am more passionate about teaching and educating others with answers to those same questions that I had asked of my mentors,” she said. “I wish that during my undergraduate degree I had access to classes such as those taught by our own Equine Programs here at UK, and I would want to join a team such as this.”

Outside of her work at the Gluck Center, Fedorka owns two off-the-track Thoroughbreds, Dynamaker and Called to Serve, whom she competes in three-day eventing. Called to Serve is entered with Fedorka in the Retired Racehorse Project’s Makeover competition at the Kentucky Horse Park in October. Aside from training and competing, Fedorka writes her own blog called “A Yankee in Paris” that has been published on websites including Horse Collaborative, The Paulick Report, and The Retired Racehorse Project.

If you want to read more about Fedorka, as well as her horses and people, you can find her blog at https://ayankeeinparis.wordpress.com/.

Hannah Forte is a communication intern with the UK Ag Equine Programs and Gluck Equine Research Center and undergraduate student majoring in community and leadership development at UK.


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