To what contaminants are seabirds exposed in different parts of the ocean?
How do contaminants impact seabirds?
To answer these questions, I measure metals like mercury and anthropogenic chemicals like persistent organic pollutants (POPs) in seabirds' blood and feathers.
Gilmour, M.E., J.L. Lavers. 2020. Latex balloons do not degrade uniformly in freshwater, marine and composting environments. Journal of Hazardous Materials. In press. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jhazmat.2020.123629
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. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2019.07.147
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. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecolind.2019.04.016