Ecological Effects of Contaminants

Science Center Objects

Whereas the other themes of the Contaminant Ecology Research Program focus on where, why, and how contaminants cycle and bioaccumulate in ecological systems, this theme is focused on determining what happens at environmentally relevant concentrations.

It is specifically designed to measure the effects of contaminants on biological functioning across a gradient of ecological scales. Individual metrics vary depending on the specific taxa, ecosystems, and contaminants associated with each project, but the primary responses of interest can be categorized as: (1) Biochemical-level (e.g., stress biomarkers, cellular damage, endocrine response); (2) Individual-level (e.g., behavior, growth, mortality); and (3) Population-level. Perhaps the most important component of this theme is the overarching goal of integrating the effects at all levels of organization to form a more cohesive understanding of the emergent responses to contaminant exposure. Specifically, the goal is to not only understand how various exposure regimes induce responses at discrete scales, but also how effects at one scale contribute those at other scales. Additionally, this theme seeks to understand how contaminant-induced effects interact with other ecological stressors (e.g., disease, climate, predation, nutrition, and other disturbances) to quantify the cumulative role that contaminants play on natural resources.

Active Projects

  • Mercury Effects on Avian Reproduction in San Francisco Bay
  • Assessing the Risk of Non-lead Environmental Contaminant Exposure on the Health and Potential to California Condors
  • Monitoring Contaminant Exposure and Physiological Stress in Scavengers on the Pacific Coast: Implications for the California Condor Reintroduction Program
  • Incorporating Wildlife Mercury Exposure and Risk Estimates Using Biomagnification Factors into BOG California Lake Monitoring
  • Mercury Contamination in Waterbird Eggs and Risk to Avian Reproduction at Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge and Great Salt Lake
  • Mercury Bioaccumulation in Terrestrial Songbirds and the Influence of Aquatic Energy Subsidies
  • Mercury Exposure and Risk to Purple Martins Breeding in the Willamette Valley, Oregon