Superfund trainee Casey Lindberg has received a research fellowship from the North Carolina Sea Grant and the Water Resources Research Institute to complete a one-year research project. Casey is one of only five students statewide selected to receive this highly competitive fellowship. She works in Dr. Richard Di Giulio’s lab on Project 3 of the Superfund Research Center related to PAH exposures and development.
Many aquatic systems along the eastern shore of the United States are at-risk for multiple stressor scenarios. Most research is based on understanding the effects of one pollutant or environmental change alone, but it is far more likely that organisms face many potential sources of stress and toxicity at once in “real world” (as opposed to laboratory) environments. Casey’s project will look at the impact two prevalent stressors, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and hypoxia, have on a fish species native to estuaries along the east coast.
PAHs are a group of toxic compounds produced during the incomplete combustion of organic matter such as fossil fuels. At a Superfund site in the Elizabeth River that is highly contaminated with these chemicals, researchers in the Di Giulio Lab have found that a local fish species, Atlantic killifish, are resistant to the toxic effects associated with exposure to PAHs.
PAH-resistant killifish could potentially be more vulnerable to other anthropogenic or environmental stressors, including hypoxia, a condition when the oxygen content of water is below a critical concentration for organisms to properly function. Both the Chesapeake Bay, home to the Elizabeth River Superfund site, and the Cape Fear River system in North Carolina, another aquatic system known to have sites highly contaminated with PAHs, are prone to hypoxic events.
The goal of Casey’s project is to provide an in-depth look at interactions between PAHs and hypoxia and the effects of co-exposures on a local fish species. She will also examine genetic, physiological, and whole-organism responses to each stressor alone and in combination in PAH-resistant killifish to better understand how adaptations to PAHs impact the ability of organisms to withstand toxic effects of hypoxia. This research could potentially be used to identify population-level responses and information for ecological risk models relevant to several regions of the United States.
Link to award announcement: https://ncseagrant.ncsu.edu/news/2016/10/five-students-receive-ncsgwrri-funding-to-study-water-resources/
Link to Casey’s page on the Di Giulio Lab website: http://sites.nicholas.duke.edu/ecotoxicologylab/casey-lindberg/
Our past blog posts about Casey: http://sites.nicholas.duke.edu/superfund/a-day-in-the-life-of-a-superfund-trainee-in-pictures-fieldwork-on-the-elizabeth-river/