Mikaela Howie (M.S.)

The Lateral Extent and Spatial Variation of Mercury Exposure in Birds and their Prey near a Polluted River

My thesis research investigated the spatial extent of exposure in terrestrial insectivorous birds and their prey living near the mercury-contaminated South River in western Virginia.  I found that birds and their prey had elevated levels throughout the floodplain suggesting that mercury in the river poses a problem for a wider area than previously thought.  I also investigated the mechanisms by which mercury gets transported from the river to the terrestrial food chain.  My results suggest that flood waters are an important vector but that mercury may also travel by way of biological vectors, such as emergent aquatic insects.