Fishing and Hunting Science Team

Science Center Objects

The Fishing and Hunting integrated science team focuses on contaminant and pathogen exposures in the environment that could impact the presence and vitality of fish and wildlife populations that drive commercial, recreational and subsistence activities such as hunting and fishing. If actual risks are identified this project will inform how to economically and effectively minimize risk by providing scientific data and understandings about the environmental transport, fate, and exposure pathways of contaminants and pathogens. Emphasis will be placed on addressing these issues on public and Department of the Interior managed landscapes. 

Scientist holding a brook trout with gloved hands

A National Park Service researcher holds a brook trout in Mount Rainier National Park, Washington. Scientists have found low levels of mercury found in fish from National Parks in Western States.

(Credit: Collin Eagles-Smith, Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center. Public domain.)


Fish and wildlife that are healthy, abundant, and safe to eat drive many economically valuable commercial, recreational, and subsistence activities, and are a treasured part of the American landscape. Contaminant and pathogen exposures are known to influence these natural resources. Team scientists together with other federal, state, and university collaborators, conduct scientific research that provides information to economically and effectively minimize risk to fish and wildlife by understanding the environmental transport, fate, exposure pathways, and potential effects of contaminants and pathogens. Because fish and wildlife can move over sometimes large distances, we study if and how they are exposed to contaminants and pathogens across landscapes, particularly on public lands and those managed by the U.S. Department of the Interior.


Current Science Questions and Activities

  • Are sport fish in the Northeast U.S. exposed to chemical contaminants that are adversely affecting their health, reproduction and populations?
  • How important are contaminants in relation to other risk factors (climatic, water quality, parasite, pathogen) influencing adverse health effects in Northeast United States sport fish?
  • What is the susceptibility of black bass to formation of intersex from exposure to endocrine disrupting contaminants?
  • Determine if exposures to endocrine disrupting contaminants during early development cause adverse outcomes later in life or in subsequent generations that lead to population-level declines in wild fish.
  • The direct effects of contaminants on waterfowl are usually easily detected and therefore are well studied (for example waterfowl found dead at a contaminated site). However waterfowl that survive a contaminant exposure may still die from the contaminant through secondary causes (for example a sublethally poisoned waterfowl may die from starvation). Are sublethal contaminant exposures causing waterfowl mortalities due to secondary factors such as starvation?
  • What is the extent of environmental contaminants in tissues of sport fishes caught in various Missouri waterbodies? Do these contaminants pose a health risk to the fish or people who harvest the fish?
  • What are the land use, habitat, and ecological factors that control pesticide and mercury exposures in sportfish from the Columbia River Basin?
  • Are pesticide and mercury concentrations correlated with biomarkers of adverse health impacts of sportfish in the Columbia River Basin?
  • Is there a human health risk due to pesticide and mercury in sportfish harvested from the Columbia River basin?
  • Is the body condition of ducks harvested by hunters in the Pacific Flyway adversely impacted by environmental mercury exposures?
  • Is there a human health risk due to mercury in ducks harvested in the Pacific Flyway?
  • The presence of liver tumors in the white sucker is currently used as a biomarker of contaminant exposure that is used to define Areas of Concern within the Great Lakes region. Are these viruses risk factors associated with the genesis of liver or skin tumors?