W. Nelson Beyer, Ph.D.
Dr. Beyer works primarily on Natural Resource Damage Assessments for the Department of the Interior. At Palmerton, Pennsylvania, along the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, he studied phytotoxic effects on the forest from Zn smelter emissions. He documented injury to birds from lead or zinc in the Coeur d’Alene River Basin, the Southeast Missouri Lead Mining District and in the Tri-Sate Mining District. Over the years, he developed the premise that soil ingestion may be a major pathway of exposure in wildlife for some contaminants, measuring rates of soil ingestion for many species and demonstrating poisoning by this route in waterfowl and songbirds.
He has recently started two studies, one investigating the hazards of metals to robins preying on earthworms and the other relating the bioavailability of lead in soil, fed to quail, to its bioaccessibility, measured by laboratory tests designed to mimic gastric conditions in wildlife.
- B.A. (Biology), Columbia University, New York, N.Y., 1971
- Ph.D. (Ecology, Terrestrial Ecology, Evolution), Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y. 1976
Dr. Beyer has served on the committees of graduate students from the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and the University of Maryland. He remains active in the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry and, in 2012, received the Government Service Award from the Society.
Science and Products
The Challenge: As a rule, plants and animals contain lower concentrations of lead than are present in soils that support them. Lead does not biomagnify along trophic levels in ecosystems but instead remains relatively immobile in soil. The exposure of wildlife to soil lead depends mainly on the incidental ingestion of soil. The native earthworm, Eisenoides lonnbergi, is anomalous in its ability to concentrate lead from acidic soils. This raises the question what makes this earthworm so different from other organisms that have been studied. As a rule, plants and animals contain lower concentrations of lead than are present in soils that support them. Lead does not biomagnify along trophic levels in ecosystems but instead remains relatively immobile in soil. The exposure of wildlife to soil lead depends mainly on the incidental ingestion of soil. The native earthworm, Eisenoides lonnbergi, is anomalous in its ability to concentrate lead from acidic soils. This raises the question what makes this earthworm so different from other organisms that have been studied.
The Challenge: The Department of the Interior (DOI) and the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration are trustees for a wide variety natural resources that belong to all Americans. Additional natural resources are overseen by Native American tribes, states, and other federal agencies. Migratory birds are an example of a trust species for DOI, under the US Fish and Wildlife Service. When wild birds have been injured by pollution, DOI may sue the party responsible for direct injury to birds, or for loss of habitat. The recovered damages are usually spent in restoring or buying habitat; in some instances funds are spent to benefit wildlife populations directly. Consequently, biologists from the USGS and the Fish and Wildlife Service have been studying various sites contaminated from mining and smelting of zinc, lead and other metals to determine if birds have been injured. Data on such injuries provide the basis for possible litigation and provide benchmarks for restoration activities.
This data set includes metal concentrations measured in a species of earthworm (Eisenoides lonnbergi) collected at various locations on the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center.
The exposure of white-footed mice (Peromyscus leucopus) to lead and cadmium and the potential associated toxic effects were examined at three sites contaminated with lead in the Southeast Missouri Lead Mining District and at a reference site.
Biomarker responses of Peromyscus leucopus exposed to lead and cadmium in the Southeast Missouri Lead Mining District
Biomarker responses and histopathological lesions have been documented in laboratory mammals exposed to elevated concentrations of lead and cadmium. The exposure of white-footed mice (Peromyscus leucopus) to these metals and the potential associated toxic effects were examined at three contaminated sites in the Southeast Missouri Lead Mining...Beyer, W. Nelson; Casteel, Stan W.; Friedrichs, Kristen R.; Gramlich, Eric; Houseright, Ruth A.; Nichols, John W.; Karouna-Renier, Natalie; Kim, Dae Young; Rangen, Kathleen; Rattner, Barnett A.; Schultz, Sandra
An evaluation of inorganic toxicity reference values for use in assessing hazards to American robins (Turdus migratorius)
When performing screening-level and baseline risk assessments, assessors usually compare estimated exposures of wildlife receptor species with toxicity reference values (TRVs). We modeled the exposure of American robins (Turdus migratorius) to 10 elements (As, Cd, Cr, Cu, Hg, Mn, Pb, Se, Zn, and V) in spring and early summer, a time when...Beyer, W. Nelson; Sample, Bradley E.
Assessment of trace element accumulation by earthworms in an orchard soil remediation study using soil amendments
This study assessed potential bioaccumulation of various trace elements in grasses and earthworms as a consequence of soil incorporation of organic amendments for in situ remediation of an orchard field soil contaminated with organochlorine and Pb pesticide residues. In this experiment, four organic amendments of differing total organic carbon...Centofantia, Tiziana; Chaney, Rufus L.; Beyer, W. Nelson; McConnell, Laura L.; Davis, A. P.; Jackson, Dana
Bioaccessibility tests accurately estimate bioavailability of lead to quail
Hazards of soil-borne Pb to wild birds may be more accurately quantified if the bioavailability of that Pb is known. To better understand the bioavailability of Pb to birds, we measured blood Pb concentrations in Japanese quail (Coturnix japonica) fed diets containing Pb-contaminated soils. Relative bioavailabilities were expressed by comparison...Beyer, W. Nelson; Basta, Nicholas T; Chaney, Rufus L.; Henry, Paula F.; Mosby, David; Rattner, Barnett A.; Scheckel, Kirk G.; Sprague, Dan; Weber, John
Organic amendments for risk mitigation of organochlorine pesticide residues in old orchard soils
Performance of compost and biochar amendments for in situ risk mitigation of aged DDT, DDE and dieldrin residues in an old orchard soil was examined. The change in bioavailability of pesticide residues to Lumbricus terrestris L. relative to the unamended control soil was assessed using 4-L soil microcosms with and without plant cover in a 48-day...Centofantia, Tiziana; McConnell, Laura L.; Chaney, Rufus L.; Beyer, W. Nelson; Andradea, Natasha A.; Hapeman, Cathleen J.; Torrents, Alba; Nguyen, Anh; Anderson, Marya O.; Novak, J. M.; Jackson, Dana
Soil criteria to protect terrestrial wildlife and open-range livestock from metal toxicity at mining sites
Thousands of hard rock mines exist in the western USA and in other parts of the world as a result of historic and current gold, silver, lead, and mercury mining. Many of these sites in the USA are on public lands. Typical mine waste associated with these sites are tailings and waste rock dumps that may be used by wildlife and open-range livestock...Ford, Karl L; Beyer, W. Nelson
Utilizing thin-film solid-phase extraction to assess the effect of organic carbon amendments on the bioavailability of DDT and dieldrin to earthworms
Improved approaches are needed to assess bioavailability of hydrophobic organic compounds in contaminated soils. Performance of thin-film solid-phase extraction (TF-SPE) using vials coated with ethylene vinyl acetate was compared to earthworm bioassay (Lumbricus terrestris). A DDT and dieldrin contaminated soil was amended with four organic carbon...Andrade, Natasha A.; Centofanti, Tiziana; McConnell, Laura L.; Hapeman, Cathleen J.; Torrents, Alba; Anh, Nguyen; Beyer, W. Nelson; Chaney, Rufus L.; Novak, Jeffrey M.; Anderson, Marya O.; Cantrell, Keri B.
Toxic exposure of songbirds to lead in the Southeast Missouri Lead Mining District
Mining and smelting in the Southeast Missouri Lead Mining District has caused widespread contamination of soils with lead (Pb) and other metals. Soils from three study sites sampled in the district contained from approximately 1,000–3,200 mg Pb/kg. Analyses of earthworms [33–4,600 mg Pb/kg dry weight (dw)] collected in the district...Beyer, W. Nelson; Franson, J. Christian; French, John B.; May, Thomas; Rattner, Barnett A.; Shearn-Bochsler, Valerie I.; Warner, Sarah E.; Weber, John; Mosby, David
Phytotoxicity of zinc and manganese to seedlings grown in soil contaminated by zinc smelting
Historic emissions from two zinc smelters have injured the forest on Blue Mountain near Palmerton, Pennsylvania, USA. Seedlings of soybeans and five tree species were grown in a greenhouse in a series of mixtures of smelter-contaminated and reference soils and then phytotoxic thresholds were calculated. As little as 10% Palmerton soil mixed with...Beyer, W.N.; Green, C.E.; Beyer, M.; Chaney, R.L.
Persistence and changes in bioavailability of dieldrin, DDE and heptachlor epoxide in earthworms over 45 years
The finding of dieldrin (88 ng/g), DDE (52 ng/g), and heptachlor epoxide (19 ng/g) in earthworms from experimental plots after a single moderate application (9 kg/ha) 45 years earlier attests to the remarkable persistence of these compounds in soil and their continued uptake by soil organisms. Half-lives (with 95 % confidence intervals) in...Beyer, W. Nelson; Gale, Robert W.
Relating injury to the forest ecosystem near Palmerton, PA, to zinc contamination from smelting
The forest on Blue Mountain, near Lehigh Gap, has been injured by emissions from two historical zinc (Zn) smelters in Palmerton, PA, located at the northern base of the mountain. The uppermost mineral soil and lower litter from sites along a transect, just south of the ridgetop, contained from 64 to 4400 mg/kg Zn. We measured forest metrics at 15...Beyer, W. Nelson; Krafft, Cairn; Klassen, Stephen; Green, Carrie E.; Chaney, Rufus L.
Lead exposure and poisoning of songbirds using the Coeur d'Alene River Basin, Idaho
Previous studies have found widespread Pb poisoning of waterfowl in the Coeur d'Alene River Basin in northern Idaho, USA, which has been contaminated by mining and smelting activities. We studied the exposure of ground-feeding songbirds to Pb, sampling 204 American robins (Turdus migratorius), song sparrows (Melospiza melodia), and Swainson's...Hansen, James A.; Audet, Daniel; Spears, Brian L.; Healy, Kate A.; Brazzle, Roy E.; Hoffman, David J.; Dailey, Anne; Beyer, W. Nelson