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Evaluating Effects of Persistent Environmental Contamination on Birds

The Brunswick, Georgia, area has four Superfund sites, formerly home to heavily contaminated toxic waste sites. Contaminated sediment was removed from one of the most contaminated sites in the late 1990s, but since then investigators continue to find high concentrations of toxic materials in the area. This study will evaluate the toxic levels and the effects of persistent environmental contaminants on the health and reproductive success in least terns, a colonial, fish-eating seabird living on a highly contaminated estuary near Brunswick. The researchers hypothesize that the least terns breeding around this Superfund site will exhibit compromised reproductive success and health because of the contamination of their food source. The study will provide environmental stewards with tools to effectively monitor contamination in an ecosystem and will benefit a variety of wildlife species cohabitating with least terns along rivers and coastlines across the country.

Dr. Sonia Hernandez, University of Georgia