The project was designed as an ongoing long-term effort to track geographic and temporal trends in environmental quality by collecting Alaskan seabird eggs using standardized protocols, processing and banking the contents under conditions that ensure chemical stability during long-term (decadal) storage, and analyzing subsamples of the stored material to determine baseline levels of persistent bioaccumulative contaminants (e.g., chlorinated pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls [PCBs], brominated flame retardants [polybrominated diphenyl ethers—PBDEs], butyltin compounds, and mercury). The seabird egg collection is maintained in NIST’s Marine Environmental Specimen Bank at the Hollings Marine Laboratory.
Additional Technical Details:
Through funding support from the North Pacific Research Board, new information on chlorinated pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), brominated flame retardants, mercury, and organotin compounds in Alaska’s marine regions was produced by seabird egg analyses at NIST laboratories at the Hollings Marine Laboratory.
Results, suggest that eggs of murres are excellent for temporal and geographical monitoring contaminants in the marine ecosystem. Analysis of murre eggs collected in 2002-2005 confirmed earlier indications (from analysis of eggs collected in 1999–2002) of the presence of consistent geographic contaminant patterns. Persistent organic pollutant (POP) and mercury levels were generally higher in eggs from the Gulf of Alaska than those from the Bering and Chukchi seas. Also, almost 100% of the total mercury content of the eggs was found to be methylmercury. Temporal trends in the data covering the period 1999 – 2005 suggest that some POPs (e.g., PCBs, DDT, HCBs) are declining in the eggs. This does not appear to be the case for mercury.
Recent analytical results from STAMP resulted in additional support from NPRB to investigate what appear to be significantly higher levels of mercury in murre eggs from Norton Sound as compared to results from other colonies in the Bering Sea. The project is using more intensive collections of eggs from murres and gulls throughout the region to determine if this pattern is consistent and if food web characteristics or differences in mercury sources and cycling might be involved. Previous analysis of mercury stable isotopes in a subset of eggs showed that distinct isotope patterns exist over broad geographic regions. The project is now focusing this approach to the Norton Sound region by investigating the use of mercury isotopes as a proxy for sources and biogeochemical cycling, coupled with C and N stable isotopes to examine the effects of food webs on this determination.
Start Date:October 1, 2001
Lead Organizational Unit:mml
Amanda J. Moors
Related Programs and Projects:
Vander Pol, SS, PR Becker, RD Day, MB Ellisor, A Guichard, AJ Moors, D Point, and RS Pugh. Seabird Tissue Archival and Monitoring Project: Egg Collections and Analytical Results for 2002-2005. National Institute of Standards and Technology,NISTIR, Gaithersburg, Maryland (in press)
Vander Pol SS, and PR Becker. 2007. Monitoring contaminants in seabirds: the importance of specimen banking. Marine Ornithology. 35:113-118.
Point, D, WC Davis, JIG Alonso, M Monperrus, SJ Christopher, OFX. Donard, PR Becker, and SA Wise. 2007. Simultaneous determination of inorganic mercury, methylmercury, and total mercury concentrations in cryogenic fresh-frozen and freeze-dried biological reference materials. Anal. Bioanal. Chem. 389:787-798.
Becker, PR, and SA Wise. 2006. The U.S. National Biomonitoring Specimen Bank and the Marine Environmental Specimen Bank. J. Environ. Monit. 8(8):795-799.
Day, RD, SS Vander Pol, SJ Christopher, WC Davis, RS Pugh, KS Simac, DG Roseneau, and PR Becker. 2006. Murre eggs (Uria aalge and Uria lomvia) as indicators of mercury contamination in the Alaskan marine environment. Environ. Sci. Technol. 40: 659-665.
Vander Pol, SS, PR Becker, JR Kucklick, RS Pugh, DG Roseneau, and KS Simac. 2004. Persistent organic pollutants in Alaskan murre (Uria spp.) eggs: geographical, species, and temporal comparisons. Environ. Sci. Technol. 38: 1305-1312.
Vander Pol, S.S., Christopher, S.J., Roseneau, D.G., Becker, P.R., Day, R.D., Kucklick, J.R., Pugh, R.S., Simac, K.S., and York, G.W., 2003. Seabird Tissue Archival and Monitoring Project: Egg Collections and Analytical Results for 1999-2002, NISTIR 7029, NIST, Gaithersburg, Maryland.
Christopher, SJ, SS Vanderpol, RS Pugh, RD Day, and PR Becker. 2002. Determination of mercury in the eggs of common murres (Uria aalge) for the seabird tissue archival and monitoring project. J. Anal. At. Spectrom. 17:780-785.
York, GW, BJ Porter, RS Pugh, DG Roseneau, KS Simac, PR Becker, LK Thorsteinson, and SA Wise. 2001. Seabird Tissue Archival and Monitoring Project: protocol for collecting and banking seabird eggs. National Institute of Standards and Technology, NISTIR 6735, Gaithersburg, Maryland, 23 pp.