Two peregrine falcon chicks in a cliff
nest along the Coville River. Photo Credit: Heather Johnson/USFWS
Recent projects include summarizing two decades of contaminants data in peregrine falcons, evaluating the source and effects of elevated blood lead levels in threatened Steller's eiders, assessing the level and effects of contaminants in freshwater fish such as northern pike, and evaluating environmental contaminants in Chinook and chum salmon from the Yukon and Kuskokwim Rivers.
We are evaluating the source and effects of elevated blood lead levels in threatened Steller's and spectacled eiders. Lead levels, presumably from lead shot, are high in some nesting females and young of these rare birds. Together with the U.S. Geological Survey Alaska Science Center, U.S.G.S. Mineral Resources Laboratory, and the Alaska SeaLife Center, we are using lead isotope analysis to examine the source of lead in eiders and evaluate effects on eider populations.
Chinook and chum salmon from the Yukon and Kuskokwim Rivers are important for subsistence, and have experienced considerable population fluctuations in the last decade. We had few data on contaminant concentrations in salmon from Alaska. In 2001, we assessed the levels and effects of a large number of environmental contaminants in these salmon, including several biomarkers which indicate exposure to and effects of contaminants. The good news is that environmental contaminants are relatively low in wild Alaska salmon. Fact Sheet (pdf)
Mercury is a specific contaminant of concern in Arctic biota, including some fish that serve as subsistence foods. We've analyzed northern pike from several National Wildlife Refuges in Alaska for mercury, because these carnivorous, long-lived fish can efficiently accumulate mercury. Our data, and many others, were used by the State of Alaska in creating recently released fish consumption advice for Alaskans. This information is available at http://www.epi.alaska.gov/eh/fish/default.htm.