Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2017VT89B

Global to local assessment of cyanotoxins in fish

Institute: Vermont
Year Established: 2017 Start Date: 2017-03-01 End Date: 2018-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $39,859 Total Non-Federal Funds: $74,873

Principal Investigators: Jason Stockwell, Todd Miller

Abstract: Large accumulations of cyanobacteria or cyanobacterial harmful algal blooms (cyanoHABs) pose serious environmental, socioeconomic, and public health problems. CyanoHABs can short-circuit energy transfer across food webs, shut down water supply for entire cities, result in beach closures affecting tourism, reduce property values and produce toxins (collectively called cyanotoxins) with effects ranging from skin reactions to liver cancer and neurological disorders. Vermont faces many of these problems and has established water quality monitoring programs, including water toxin analyses and citizen engagement for cyanobacteria bloom alerts, to better address public health concerns. One area that has not been addressed is the possible exposure to cyanotoxins through fish consumption. Despite a large number of studies that document cyanotoxins in fish in lakes across the world, we do not have any data on cyanotoxin concentrations in Vermont fishes and thus cannot make any assessment of the potential for fish consumption as a pathway for exposure to cyanotoxins. Moreover, no synthesis of the relationship between cyanotoxin concentrations in water and fish has been conducted despite the abundance of data in the literature. The objectives of this project are to (1) conduct a global data analysis to test the hypothesis that cyanotoxin concentrations in fish increase with cyanotoxin concentrations in water, and (2) assess cyanotoxin concentrations in water and fish from two productive lakes in Vermont susceptible to cyanoHABS - Lake Champlain and Shelburne Pond. We will use a literature review and data mining to accomplish the first objective and a field study to accomplish the second objective. Results from our research will provide a broad-scale test of the relationship between cyanotoxins in fish and the water they inhabit from across the globe, compare concentrations of toxins in water and fish from Vermont to global levels, and provide a preliminary assessment of the potential for humans who consume fish in Vermont to be exposed to cyanotoxins through this pathway. Our project is a two-year MSc project for which we have secured funds for the first year (June 2016-May 2017) and are requesting funds for the second year (June 2017-May 2018).