Year Established: 2020 Start Date: 2020-03-01 End Date: 2021-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $15,000 Total Non-Federal Funds: $30,001
Principal Investigators: Jennifer Latimer
Abstract: This project will address the uptake and biomagnification of lead in aquatic systems in Indiana by considering the case of Indiana River Otters, a sentinel species for human health. This project will investigate how lead moves through the aquatic environments of Indiana. River otter and fish tissues, made available by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR), and otter feces will be evaluated to understand lead biogeochemical cycling in southwestern Indiana. Otter liver tissue, which provides insight into short-term exposure, and otter femurs and tibias, which provide insight into long term exposure, will be evaluated for heavy metals, including lead. Otter feces will be evaluated to assess lead excretion, while fish tissues will be evaluated to ascertain how much lead is present in otter diets in the late fall and winter when their diet consists almost exclusively of fish. While the Indiana otter population is considered stable enough for a limited trapping season, the otters exposure to and storage of pollutants, like lead, may be an indication of declining aquatic ecosystem health and a harbinger of human health impacts and exposure to pollutants through the consumption of fish. Many Indiana waterways have fish consumption advisories due to the presence of mercury and polychlorinated biphenyls, but not as a result of lead in surface waters or fish tissues. This research will contribute to the professional development of at least three students (one Ph.D., one MS, and one undergraduate student), and the results will be used as the basis for a future National Science Foundation proposal.