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Coastal wetlands in the northern Gulf of Mexico, habitat to many species of conservation concern, have the highest mercury deposition rates in the United States. Mercury, unlike some other pollutants, is never removed from the environment and can disrupt physiological and neurological functions in animals. To learn more about the impacts of mercury exposure on wildlife health, researchers will study the health and reproductive behavior of three coastal wetland bird species in Texas – Wilson’s plover, American oystercatcher and black skimmers. The team will analyze blood and feather samples to gauge mercury load and health. They also will evaluate how mercury affects the ability of parents to effectively incubate eggs, and later effects on chick health. Throughout the project, the team will work closely with the Gulf Coast Bird Observatory and the Gulf of Mexico Avian Monitoring Group. Findings will be shared with wildlife managers and health data modelers to implement mitigation and management approaches to reduce the impact of mercury contamination on wildlife health in threatened coastal wetland habitats.

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Texas A&M University
Study country
United States
Jacquelyn Grace, PhD
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