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Marine ecotoxicology

Research questions

To what contaminants are seabirds exposed in different parts of the ocean?

How do contaminants impact seabirds?

Frigate Is. (2).JPG

To answer these questions, I measure metals like mercury and anthropogenic chemicals like persistent organic pollutants (POPs) in seabirds' blood and feathers.

Related publications
Synopsis: Latex balloons are often marketed as "biodegradable" although many chemicals need to be added to latex sap to manufacture objects we recognize and use as balloons. We quantified latex balloons' behaviors in freshwater, saltwater and industrial compost by measuring changes in mass, tensile strength, and their chemical surfaces via FTIR. Balloons did not meaningfully degrade over 16 weeks.
Gilmour, M.E., S.A. Trefry Hudson, C. Lamborg, A.B. Fleishman, H.S. Young, S.A. Shaffer. 2019. Tropical seabirds sample broadscale patterns of marine contaminants. Science of the Total Environment 691(15):631-643.
Synopsis: Boobies and frigatebirds sampled in four ocean regions had both mercury and POPs. The composition of different types of POPs and the concentrations of POPs and mercury varied more between colonies than between species. These results suggest that wide-ranging seabirds are good samplers of regional contaminant patterns. This is especially important given that the tropical ocean is under-sampled for contaminants.

Gilmour, M.E., J.L. Lavers, C. Lamborg, O. Chastel, S.A. Kania, S.A. Shaffer. 2019. Mercury as an indicator of foraging ecology but not the breeding hormone prolactin in seabirds. Ecological Indicators 103:248-259.

Synopsis: Mercury concentrations were significantly different between sympatric Flesh-footed Shearwaters and Great-winged Petrels. But, we did not detect a relationship between mercury and prolactin. Mercury may affect these seabirds on longer timescales than was measured in our study.
Synopsis: Mercury concentrations were different between inshore-foraging Gentoo and Rockhopper Penguins and more pelagic King and Royal Penguins. Modern feather samples had lower mercury than museum specimens for King and Royal Penguins.
Philpot, S., J.L. Lavers, A.L. Bond, M.E. Gilmour, I. Hutton, and D. Nugegoda. 2019. Trace element concentrations in feathers of seven petrels (Pterodroma spp.). Environmental Science and Pollution Research
Synopsis: Several heavy metals were measured in Pterodroma petrels across Australia. Selenium (Se) and lead (Pb) exceeded threshold levels.
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