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Dr. Keith Grasman and students from Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Michigan, take measurements of herring gull chicks at the Saginaw Bay Area of Concern. Photo by Jeremy N. Moore/USFWS.

Dr. Keith Grasman and students from Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Michigan, take measurements of herring gull chicks at the Saginaw Bay Area of Concern. Photo by Jeremy N. Moore/USFWS.

Study Considers Fish-eating Birds as Indicators for Reassessing
Wildlife Reproduction and Health Impairments

Dr. Lisa Williams and I, both contaminant specialists in the East Lansing, Michigan Ecological Services Field Office, recently co-authored “Fish-eating Birds as Indicators for Reassessing Wildlife Reproduction and Health Impairments in the Saginaw Bay and River Raisin Areas of Concern,” which was presented at the 35th annual meeting of the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry North America.

A herring gull chick with a crossbill found at the River Raisin Area of Concern, Monroe, Michigan. Photo courtesy of Dr. Keith Grasman.
A herring gull chick with a crossbill found at the River Raisin Area of Concern, Monroe, Michigan. Photo courtesy of Dr. Keith Grasman.

The study was presented by fellow co-author and principal investigator Dr. Keith A. Grasman, Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Michigan. This ongoing assessment investigates the effects of contaminants on reproduction and immunological health of fish-eating birds in the Saginaw Bay and Raisin River Areas of Concern. Preliminary data indicate that embryonic non-viability rates are higher at the Saginaw River and River Raisin Areas of Concern compared to other reference sites.

In addition, biomarkers of immune response indicate immune suppression compared to reference sites in herring gulls (51-57%), Caspian terns (45-50%) and black crowned night herons (39%) in the Saginaw Bay Area of Concern and 52% in herring gulls of the River Raisin Area of Concern. Further, two herring gull chicks have been found at the River Raisin Area of Concern with a cross-bill, a deformity associated with PCBs and dioxins.

Finally, data was presented on herring gulls of Bellows Island, Grand Traverse Bay, a non-Area of Concern with considerable levels of persistent dioxins and furans. Herring gull chicks of Bellows Island exhibited immune suppression comparable to the Saginaw Bay and River Raisin Areas of Concern.

This ongoing project is funded by the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

By Jeremy N. Moore
East Lansing, Michigan Ecological Services Field Office

Herring gulls at Pipe Island Twins, on the St. Mary's River, Michigan. Photo by Jeremy N. Moore/USFWS.

Herring gulls at Pipe Island Twins, on the St. Mary's River, Michigan. Photo by Jeremy N. Moore/USFWS.

 

Last updated: January 5, 2015